DWS, Sunday 25th May to Saturday 31st May 2014

DAWN

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DWS, Sunday 25th May to Saturday 31st May 2014

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National News

Boon for PAS angers other civil service groups

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: A large section of civil servants is angry at the PML-N government for allegedly favouring the powerful Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) at the cost of the other 10 occupational groups.

ISLAMABAD: A large section of civil servants is angry at the PML-N government for allegedly favouring the powerful Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) at the cost of the other 10 occupational groups.

Formerly known as the District Management Group (DMG), PAS got a major share of the promotions of bureaucrats under a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) issued by the government on Feb 10, 2014.

The SRO has allocated 65 per cent of the Secretariat Group promotions in BPS-21 and 22 (the two highest grades for civil servants) for officers of the DMG/PAS.

The remaining 35pc has been left for the other cadres to fight over – Office Management Group, Commerce and Trade Group, Foreign Service of Pakistan, Inland Revenue Service of Pakistan, Information Group, Military Lands and Cantonment Group, Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service, Postal Group, Railways (Commercial & Transport) Group and Police Service of Pakistan.

After grade 19, officers of the Office Management Group are promoted to the Secretariat Group. In addition, some officers of the other groups also opt to join the Secretariat Group instead of remaining in their mother stream. This is why the Secretariat group promotions are officially divided among various streams.

The officers in the Secretariat group can be – and are – posted to senior levels in the federal and provincial secretariats and elsewhere in any government organisation.

Under the Feb 10, 2014 criteria, 25pc posts of Deputy Secretary (BS-19), 35c posts of Joint Secretary (BS-20), 65pc posts of Additional Secretary (BS-21) and Secretary (BS-22) will be bagged by the DMG officers, leaving 75pc, 65pc and 35pc, respectively, for the other groups.

The bureaucrats serving in different ministries at Pakistan Secretariat and Cabinet Block spend most of their working day discussing the new promotions criterion instead of focusing on their work.

“Our further promotions have been blocked,” says one of them.

An official of the cabinet division who belongs to the Office Management Group told Dawn on condition of anonymity that since the PML-N government heavily relied on the PAS officers, many of its musheers are serving or retired PAS officers.

The PML-N is known for running a ‘tight’ government, without many allies and ministers. This is how Shahbaz Sharif operates in Punjab and this is how Nawaz Sharif runs the federal government. As a result, the two brothers keep a number of portfolios with themselves and then use the bureaucracy to keep the government running. In fact, their dependence on the DMG group is an open secret.

It is in this context that this new SRO is being viewed.

The cabinet division official claims that the SRO, which encroached upon the promotion of other occupational groups, is the brainchild of a retired PAS/DMG officer who is currently serving the government as an adviser to prime minister.

However, the others are not going to go down without putting a fight.

Earlier this month, around two dozen senior bureaucrats moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the SRO. The petitioners include Senior Joint Secretaries Arshad Farooq Faheem, Arif Ibrahim, Mohammad Asghar Chaudhty, Abdul-Akbar Sharifzada, Ilyas Khan, Joint Secretary Abdul Sattar Khokhar, Director General Benazir Income Support Programme Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, DG Intellectual Property Organisation, and Hammad Shamim, DG Nepra.

The petitioners have claimed that the Feb 10 SRO has brought a major change to the Civil Servants Act, 1973, thereby adversely affecting their right to be considered for promotion in their own cadre and will also affect their seniority if officers of other groups are promoted against posts of other occupational groups.

According to the petition, about 960 civil servants will be affected by the government’s latest action.

It may be mentioned that the Secretariat Group and PAS/DMG were created because of the Administrative Reforms of 1973.

The DMG (now PAS) was created by merging the field posts in the civil administration of Districts and Divisions. These officers were also eligible for secretariat appointments through tests and interviews (i.e. lateral entry).

Similarly, the Office Management Group (which at a higher level is called the Secretariat Group) was created on April 12, 1976, by merging the posts of Deputy Secretary and above in the federal government and in the Provincial Secretariats.

Advocate Abdul Rahim Bhatti, counsel for some of the petitioners, said the Feb 10 notification violated the spirit of the Civil Service Reforms of 1973.

He said the government did not have the legal authority to make such major changes in the structure of the Civil Service Act 1973 unless it passed legislation to this effect.

He claimed that it had become difficult for the officers of other cadres to get promotion in the Secretariat Group.

The PAS officers of course do not agree. One such officer posted at the Prime Minister Secretariat argued that the SRO streamlined the promotion-related affairs within the civil bureaucracy.

According to him, promotions in the Secretariat Group were always a headache for governments due to the absence of a set criterion – the promotions would invariably get challenged in courts. “The government has settled this manner by issuing the SRO.”

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

NEC move to end disparity in development

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: Giving a new orientation to the economic policy of the country, the National Economic Council (NEC) approved on Thursday a Rs36bn initiative for stengthening national unity and the federation by removing disparities in development between the developed and under-developed parts of the country.

ISLAMABAD: Giving a new orientation to the economic policy of the country, the National Economic Council (NEC) approved on Thursday a Rs36bn initiative for stengthening national unity and the federation by removing disparities in development between the developed and under-developed parts of the country.

Under the initiative, Rs15 billion will be invested in Balochistan, Rs8bn in Sindh, Rs4bn each in KP and Fata, Rs3bn in Azad Kashmir and Rs2bn in Gilgit-Baltistan.

A meeting of the council, presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by all chief ministers, the prime minister of Azad Kashmir, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and ministers for finance and development from federal and provincial governments, also approved federal and provincial development plans of Rs1.175 trillion, a marginal increase of 1.7 per cent over Rs1.155trn for the outgoing year.

It okayed macro-economic framework for the next fiscal year, envisaging 5.1pc growth in gross domestic product, to be supported by a 3.3pc growth in agriculture, 6.8pc in industrial output and 5.2pc in the services sector.

The framework put exports target of $27 billion for the next year, investment at 15.7pc of GDP, savings at 14.6pc of GDP and current account deficit at 1.1pc of GDP or $2.8bn.

Under the development programme, the federal government has earmarked Rs525bn against current year’s allocation of Rs540bn, showing a decline of about 2.8pc. The four provincial governments will, however, spend Rs650bn against combined allocation of Rs615bn for the current year – an increase of 5.7pc.

In addition to federal and provincial budgets, the power sector organisations like Wapda and the National Transmission and Dispatch Company will spend another Rs135bn out from their own resources.

The power sector has been given top priority with the highest allocation of Rs260bn. Power generation sector has been given a lion’s share of Rs155bn – Rs84bn for hydropower, Rs23bn for thermal power and Rs48bn for nuclear power. Another Rs105bn will be spent on improvement and expansion of transmission lines.

Some of the key power projects are Diamer Bhasha dam, Karachi Coastal Power Project, Dasu hydropower project, Neelum-Jehlum hydropower project, Chashma Nuclear, Jamshoro power project, Tarbela Extension IV project, Nandipur power project and Chichon ki Malyan power project.

The prime minister said the allocations showed the seriousness and commitment of the government to tide over the power scarcity.

The transport and communications sector got second priority position with an allocation of Rs163bn, including Rs114bn for the National Highway Authority and Rs40bn for rehabilitation and revival of Pakistan Railways.

Some of the important infrastructure projects are Lahore-Karachi Motorway, Hasanabdal-Havelian-Mansehra road project, Peshawar Northern Bypass, Raikot-Islamabad project, Gwadar airport, Gwadar Free Economic Zone and construction of a jetty and infrastructure development at Gadani Power Park.

The prime minister said Rs53.5bn was the cost of land acquisition for the Lahore-Karachi Motorway project and of that Rs25.5bn had already been released.

The federal government will continue supporting education, health and population welfare projects throughout the country, despite these being devolved subjects with an allocation of Rs51 billion.

While discussing development projects in his province, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch pointed out delays and corruption in the Quetta water supply scheme. He said Rs10bn had been spent, but there was no visible progress.

The prime minister ordered an inquiry into the matter and asked the chief minister to monitor the projects himself.

The NEC approved five cancer hospitals – four to be set up in the provincial capitals and one in Islamabad. Mr Sharif said a plan should be prepared for one cancer hospital each in Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK and Fata.

Senior Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Sirajul Haq raised the issue of delay in completion of Lowari Tunnel project due to paucity of funds.

The prime minister said he would look into the matter and would visit the project area along with the chief minister and the governor of KP to see the situation on ground.

The KP governor is reported to have complained about lack of development funds for tribal region affected by the war on terror. Mr Sharif said that special attention should be given to Fata in overall development strategy.

The Balochistan chief minister raised the issues of funding for transmission lines in far-flung areas in his province and power shortage and a water supply scheme for Gwadar.

The prime minister said vast resources of solar energy should be tapped and a feasibility report should be prepared for installing solar power panels in Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Warrants for Gilani, Fahim in trade subsidy scam

Ishaq Tanoli

KARACHI: An anti-corruption court on Thursday issued arrest warrants of former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, former commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and others in a multi-billion trade subsidy scam.

KARACHI: An anti-corruption court on Thursday issued arrest warrants of former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, former commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and others in a multi-billion trade subsidy scam.

The non-bailable arrest warrants of the PPP stalwarts were issued after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) named them, along with seven others, as absconding accused in the final investigation report submitted in the court earlier in the day.

The judge of Special Federal Anti-Corruption Court-I, Mohammad Azeem, accepted the final charge-sheet for hearing and issued warrants of absconders with a directive to FIA to arrest them and produce before the court on June 17.

Mr Gilani and Mr Fahim, along with former and serving officials of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), have been booked for their alleged involvement in approval and disbursement of fraudulent trade subsidies.

According to the final investigation report, the ministry of commerce had announced 25 per cent freight subsides under the trade policy for 2002-03 to promote export of non-traditional items which brought less than $5 million annually.

The FIA report claimed that Faisal Siddique Khan and M. Firdous had visited the Prime Minister’s House to give Rs5 million to the former prime minister for allegedly directing the chief executive of TDAP to approve subsidy claims filed by Faisal Siddique. It said Mohammad Zubair, deputy secretary (personal) to the PM secretariat, had received the money.

The major share of funds disbursed to various firms went into the hands of Faisal Siddique through his front men Mian Tariq, Mehr Haroon Rasheed and others, it added.

The report said on the directives of former minister for commerce Amin Fahim, Farhan Junjeo, an officer (BPS-18) under suspension and facing departmental inquiry, was requisitioned from the Sindh government and inducted into the ministry in August, 2009, regardless of the fact that his case was pending. Farhan Junjeo was made director in the commerce minister’s office and he issued directives in subsidy cases, it added.

He worked in the commerce ministry without salary since the accountant general of Sindh had not issued last pay certificate over his unauthorised absence, thus his appointment was against the law, the report said.

Besides the two PPP leaders, Mohammad Zubair, Farhan Junejo, Faisal Siddique, Mehr Haroon Rasheed, Anisul Hasnain, Mian Tariq and Imran Sabir have been shown absconders in the report.

Among the names in the charge-sheet were those of the TDAP’s former chairman Tariq Iqbal Puri and its two director generals.

Dozens of connected cases about trade subsidy scam against TDAP officials and private persons are pending before the court.

Our Lahore Bureau adds: Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Thursday he would appear in the accountability court in Islamabad on June 4 and the ATC in Karachi in the TDAP case.

Talking to Dawn, he claimed he had been implicated in different cases by the government on political grounds. “Bring out all the cases against me and my sons in order to avoid the implications of a double jeopardy,” he called upon the interior ministry.

The former prime minister said he was the only politician who received notices and appeared in courts.

He said if the competent appointing authority was to be held responsible no one could be spared. He lamented that no case in the country was completed without implicating him whether it was the case of Ogra, NICL, NRO, TDAP or the Haj scam.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Three troops die in Bannu mine blast

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

BANNU: Three security personnel were killed and two others, a captain among them, injured in a roadside landmine blast in Frontier Region Bannu on Thursday.

BANNU: Three security personnel were killed and two others, a captain among them, injured in a roadside landmine blast in Frontier Region Bannu on Thursday.

Sources said security men were patrolling Seentanga area in FR Bannu near the border of volatile North Waziristan region when their vehicle was hit by a landmine.

Three personnel — Muzaffar, Nasir Ali and Jaffar Khan — were killed and two others injured. The wounded were taken to the district headquarters hospital Bannu in critical condition. Of the injured one was identified as Captain Obaid.

After the incident, a search operation was carried out in the area. However, no arrest was made.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

AFP adds: “A patrolling team was inspecting the Bannu-Miramsah road to build a military checkpost” when they were hit by the blast, a security official based in Peshawar said.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

PM orders immediate action in woman murder case

Agencies

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday demanded “immediate action” over the brutal murder of a pregnant woman who was bludgeoned to death with bricks outside a court in Lahore while police stood by.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday demanded “immediate action” over the brutal murder of a pregnant woman who was bludgeoned to death with bricks outside a court in Lahore while police stood by.

“This crime is totally unacceptable and must be dealt in accordance with law promptly,” Mr Sharif said in a statement.

He directed the chief minister of Punjab to take immediate action and submit a report to his office.

Farzana Parveen was attacked on Tuesday outside the Lahore High Court building by more than two dozen brick-wielding assailants, including her brother and father, for marrying against the wishes of her family.

Women are often murdered by relatives supposedly to defend family `honour’, but the brazen nature of Tuesday’s attack has shocked rights activists.

The fact that police officers guarding the court apparently did nothing to intervene to save the 25-year-old has added to the outrage.

“I am directing the Chief Minister to take immediate action and report must be submitted by this evening to my office,” Mr Sharif said in the statement.

Farzana Parveen, who was three months pregnant, had gone to court to testify in defence of her husband Mohammad Iqbal – who was accused by her relatives of kidnapping her and forcing her into marriage.

Mr Iqbal, 45, said the couple had survived a previous attack during the first hearing of the case on May 12 and demanded justice for his wife.

He told the BBC that police officers at the court were “watching silently” while his wife was beaten to death, despite desperate attempts to get them to act.

“One of my relatives took off his clothes to catch their attention,” he told the broadcaster.

“A naked man was crying for help in front of the High Court but nobody intervened.”

The incident gained prompt attention from the global media and international human right activists reacted to it.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the killing on Wednesday, urging the government to take “urgent and strong measures” to put an end to so-called honour killings in the country.

UK calls killing barbaric

British Foreign Secretary William Hague described the murder as “barbaric” and urged the government to fully investigate it.

“I am shocked and appalled by the death of Farzana Parveen: both for the appalling manner of her death, and the unspeakable cruelty and injustice of murdering a woman for exercising her basic right to choose who to love and marry,” Mr Hague said in a statement.

“There is absolutely no honour in honour killings and I urge the government of Pakistan to do all in its power to eradicate this barbaric practice.

“I call on the Pakistani authorities to investigate this atrocious murder fully and bring those responsible to justice.”

Last year 869 women died in “honour killings”, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Nadra unveils landmark policy for registration of orphans

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: In a landmark move, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) unveiled on Thursday a new policy to deal with the registration of parentless or abandoned children.

ISLAMABAD: In a landmark move, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) unveiled on Thursday a new policy to deal with the registration of parentless or abandoned children.

Under the new policy, the head of an orphanage where such a child lives is eligible to become that child’s legal guardian by providing an affidavit. This replaces the old practice of going to the relevant court to seek guardianship certificates for each such child.

Before this, a child could only be legally adopted if a guardian court issued a decree to the person claiming guardianship under the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890. Without a court decree, no-one could claim to be the legal guardian of a parentless or orphaned child. In the past, orphans could not be registered with Nadra because they had no legally appointed guardian, which kept them from obtaining national identity cards, the primary proof of citizenship.

The policy was disclosed before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, who ordered the chief secretaries of the four provinces to ensure that all relevant provincial departments were aware of the new policy and extended their complete assistance to the authority to ensure its implementation.

The matter was first brought to the notice of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry by philanthropist and social worker Abdus Sattar Edhi in 2011. In a letter to the then-CJ, Mr Edhi complained that Nadra was not issuing ‘Form B’ to children whose parentage was unknown or those who had been abandoned by their parents and were now living in Edhi shelters.

When Mr Edhi’s daughter, who runs the shelters, tried to adopt and register such children, her requests would be denied by Nadra in the absence of a formal certificate of guardianship.

The court had earlier framed key questions regarding the adoption of abandoned children that required interpretation from both religious scholars and legal minds. It had also appointed former high court judge Tariq Mehmood and Karachi-based legal expert Makhdoom Ali Khan amici curiae (friends of the court) in the matter.

Afnan Kundi, who represented Nadra during Thursday’s proceedings, told the court that the authority had so far registered 610 destitute children who were living in orphanages. A total of 3,087 children remained unregistered.

But with the implementation of the new policy, most of the hurdles to the registration of abandoned children had been tackled, he said.

Under section 9(1) of the Nadra Ordinance 2000, the authority is bound to register every citizen of Pakistan, inside or outside the country, who has attained the age of 18 years. The birth of a child must also be registered by a parent or a guardian not later than one month after the birth.

Under the new policy, it is mandatory that the orphanage in question is registered with Nadra, a complete record of all children previously residing there is available and all documents of the relevant authority of the orphanage are in order.

In case a child’s parentage was unknown, whatever name was recorded by the orphanage in its records would be registered with Nadra. The orphanage would be responsible for providing these details and could assign any name to the child’s parents, as long it wasn’t a generic or placeholder name, such as Edhi, Abdullah, Adam or Eve.

For each new registration, it would be mandatory for the orphanage to report each new birth to Nadra and pre-empting any future claims of parenthood, DNA tests should be conducted by the orphanage if possible.

The chairman had also decided to issue identity cards to such orphans free-of-cost, the Nadra counsel told the court.

The court held that with the promulgation of the policy, Mr Edhi’s grievance appeared to have been addressed.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Nisar hints at stepping up Karachi operation

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan gave a clear indication on Wednesday that the government was ready to up the ante in Karachi with operations against extortionists, target killers and organised crime.

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan gave a clear indication on Wednesday that the government was ready to up the ante in Karachi with operations against extortionists, target killers and organised crime.

Saying that the Karachi operation was “heading in the right direction”, Chaudhry Nisar said it was time to raise the level, and expand the scope, of the action. “The momentum achieved over the past few months must not be allowed to diminish,” he said.

The remarks came during a meeting with Sindh Rangers Director General Major General Rizwan Akhtar where the two discussed the ongoing law enforcement action in Karachi.

“The operation has the support of all peace-loving people in Karachi and we must live up to their expectations,” the minister said.

He said that improved coordination between Rangers, police and the provincial government would go a long way in helping establish lasting peace in Karachi, adding that the federal government would provide all the resources necessary to enhance the capacity of law enforcement agencies.

The decision to expand the scope of the operation comes days after the Sindh government removed Additional Inspector General Shahid Hayat, a decision that raised many an eyebrow in the federal government.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed recently asked the Sindh government to reconsider its decision. “It was opinion of all sections of society that over the last 11 months, Shahid Hayat performed remarkably well and he should remain at the post so that the operation in Karachi could be taken to its logical conclusion,” he remarked.

Reacting to the minister’s remarks, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) described the ongoing operation in Karachi as ‘misdirected’ and called for action against banned outfits “involved in bank robberies and kidnappings” in an attempt to finance terrorist activities. “Extortion continues unabated, but nobody touches the Taliban who control entire areas in Karachi,” MQM leader Tahir Mashhadi told Dawn. He said that as many as 45 MQM activists had been ‘disappeared’ so far and 29 had met their deaths while in custody.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

India dialogue may be restructured

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday that Pakistan was open to renaming and restructuring of the composite dialogue with India as long as the bilateral parleys allowed for comprehensive and substantive discussions on contentious issues.

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday that Pakistan was open to renaming and restructuring of the composite dialogue with India as long as the bilateral parleys allowed for comprehensive and substantive discussions on contentious issues.

“The (peace process) agenda has to be updated and restructured. The entire process has to be reviewed,” Mr Aziz said at media briefing on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India for attending the inauguration of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

The two prime ministers in their talks on Tuesday agreed to a meeting of their foreign secretaries for reviewing and carrying forward the bilateral agenda.

Peace talks between the two countries have remained suspended since January 2013 after the skirmishes along the Line of Control which continued late into the (last) year.

Pakistan has been long pushing for the resumption of the dialogue process to address the issues that have been souring bilateral ties. Islamabad has till recently been favouring the composite dialogue format which was started in 2004 and had eight segments dealing with diverse issues, including Kashmir, peace and security including CBMs, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage project/Tulbul Navigation project, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges.

The process was suspended after Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. It was later resumed in 2011, but without the composite dialogue title because of reservations by India. Various segments of the dialogue met in 2011 and 2012 before the process once again got stalled last year.

Sartaj Aziz said the restructured talks’ process could allow foreign secretaries of the two countries “to move forward at a different pace and under a different structure”.

He said some of the former (dialogue) segments might be clubbed, while newer ones like water disputes could be added to the talks’ agenda.

The adviser was of the opinion that the composite dialogue format had become redundant. “Lot of time has passed (since the composite dialogue began) and the foreign secretaries will sit down to carry forward the bilateral agenda,” he said.

While there has been a lot of speculation about the new dialogue format, a source disclosed that Prime Minister Sharif had in one of his meetings in Delhi shared his mind about the “new format” which he had been thinking about.

Mr Sharif, according to the source, is proposing to take Kashmir and terrorism out of the official-level talks and place them on the agenda of discussions at the level of political leadership.

Sartaj Aziz said the Indian leadership was equally keen to see the bilateral dialogue resuming. “The Indian prime minister recognised the need for a dialogue process to address all bilateral issues that stand in the way of good relations between the two countries,” he added.

Responding to criticism that Mr Sharif did not raise the issue of Kashmir in meetings with the Indian leadership and did not take out time to see Hurriyat Conference leaders, the adviser said it was a ceremonial trip during which discussions on substantive issues, including Kashmir, were not on the agenda.

He said the prime minister’s acceptance of Mr Modi’s invitation was “based on strategic calculation” of advancing the peace agenda. “Economic agenda which is a priority of both the governments cannot be advanced without peace in the region,” he said, adding that the issue of terrorism had come under discussion.

“We believe that such issues can be handled only through constant interaction between the authorities concerned of the two countries,” he said.

About India’s emphasis on trial of Mumbai attacks accused in Pakistan and terrorism, Mr Aziz said there was nothing new in it. “We have told them that the trial of the accused was a legal process and law would take its own course. Neither did we give any further assurances on Mumbai trial nor did the Indians seek any further assurances,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Zardari acquitted in polo ground case

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court, Islamabad, acquitted on Wednesday former president Asif Ali Zardari in the polo ground reference but rejected his acquittal plea in SGS and Cotecna references. The same court, however deferred its decision in two other corruption references.

ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court, Islamabad, acquitted on Wednesday former president Asif Ali Zardari in the polo ground reference but rejected his acquittal plea in SGS and Cotecna references. The same court, however deferred its decision in two other corruption references.

Judge Mohammad Bashir will announce his verdict on June 4 on the acquittal plea of Mr Zardari in ARY gold and Ursus Tractors corruption references.

The judge also summoned evidence in the SGS and Cotecna references on June 9 to resume trial of Mr Zardari.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed the polo ground corruption reference in the Accountability Court in 2000, and implicated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Mr Zardari along with two former CDA chairmen, Shafi Sehwani and Saeed Mehdi. The former chairmen were alleged to have constructed a polo ground at the Prime Minister House during Benazir Bhutto’s first term in office.

Names of Ms Bhutto and Mr Sahwani had been dropped from the reference after their demise.

It was alleged in the reference that the polo ground was constructed on verbal orders of Mr Zardari and Mehdi and an estimated Rs52.29 million was spent from the national coffer.

Rejecting the acquittal plea of Mr Zardari in SGS and Cotecna references, the judge observed that an inquiry was “being conducted by Justice Mohammad Anwarul Haq of the Lahore High Court by the order of Administration Committee with reference to judgment passed in the present case in favour of the co-accused.”

It may be mentioned here that the day when the Accountability Court reserved judgment on Mr Zardari’s applications for acquittal in five corruption references, NAB submitted a letter of the Lahore High Court (LHC) regarding inquiries to ascertain how three court judgments carried identical text in paragraph after paragraph and anomalies in separate cases acquitting all co-accused of former president in the corruption references.

Last year, the LHC initiated an inquiry after it received various complaints filed by people based on newspaper reports according to which in at least three major corruption cases against Mr Zardari – Cotecna, SGS, and ARY gold references – the authors of judgments used similar words, expressions and even paragraphs.

Referring to SGS and Cotecna corruption references, Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir stated in the order that “allegations against present accused (Zardari) in the reference included that unprecedented concern was shown by the petitioner/accused Asif Ali Zardari regarding affairs of pre-shipment inspection companies, and he intervened to secure facilities to them.”

Mr Zardari had been accused of taking kickbacks in awarding contracts in both the references.

The stance of Farooq H. Naek, the counsel of Zardari was that his client neither received kickbacks or commission, nor had any role in the award of contracts.

He said in that after the overthrow of Ms Benazir Bhutto’s regime in 1997, the caretaker government implicated Mr Zardari in fake cases. He said Ehtasab Act was promulgated for arm-twisting political rivals and to keep them out of political scene. Being spouse of Ms Bhutto, Mr Zardari was targeted and implicated in fake cases, Mr Naek added.

Judge, however, observed that “NAB cases, no doubt are complicated, and specific allegations are raised against petitioner/accused. Co-accused Jens Schleglimich had already been declared a proclaimed offender. Therefore, prosecution cannot be deprived to produce evidence as they had mentioned in their reply to petition under section 265 (K) criminal procedure code (for acquittal of Mr Zardari).

After the court order, Mr Naek accused NAB of applying same tactics similar to those used by the Ehtasab Commission of former Senator Saifur Rehman against Mr Zardari.

He alleged that the submission of the letter of the LHC Administrative Committee before the Accountability Court was illogical.

“I will discuss this matter with Mr Zardari and after getting his advice will formulate future strategy” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Govt eyes 5.1pc growth rate in next financial year

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The National Economic Council (NEC) meets here on Thursday to approve a long-term development blueprint — Vision 2025 — for the country with an initial consolidated development programme of Rs1.310 trillion and economic growth rate of 5.1 per cent during the next financial year.

ISLAMABAD: The National Economic Council (NEC) meets here on Thursday to approve a long-term development blueprint — Vision 2025 — for the country with an initial consolidated development programme of Rs1.310 trillion and economic growth rate of 5.1 per cent during the next financial year.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will preside over the meeting to be attended by chief ministers of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, the prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and federal and provincial ministers for finance and development.

Under the vision, the government aims to achieve export target of $150 billion, transform Pakistan into an upper-middle income country, reduce multi-dimensional poverty level from 49pc at present to less than 20pc by 2025.

To achieve the vision, the maximum focus of public sector investment will be on promotion of small and medium enterprises, the higher education commission and knowledge economy to meet challenges of globalisation. The vision is based on seven priority pillars like the social sector, economic inclusive growth, the energy sector, productive development, collective governance, competitiveness and connectivity.

The NEC is expected to approve a Rs1,175bn development programmes for federal (Rs525bn) and provincial (Rs650bn) governments, besides a Rs135bn expenditure by Wapda and the National Transmission and Dispatch Company from their own resources as recommended by the Annual Plan Coordination Committee early this week. Some increase in development allocations could not be ruled out if the prime minister and chief ministers find some fiscal space in their respective areas, an official said.

The meeting will also approve macro-economic annual plan for the next fiscal year, envisaging 5.1pc growth in gross domestic product, to be supported by a modest 3.3pc growth in agriculture, a respectable 6.8pc improvement in industrial output and 5.2pc growth in the services sector.

This will depend on better energy supplies, normal weather conditions, positive investor confidence and political stability, according to a working paper on annual plan 2014-15 available with Dawn.

The government will focus on three core areas – taxation, investment and export – for increasing growth.

Inflation is estimated to grow by 8pc, while investment is targeted at 15.7pc of GDP against current year’s 14pc. Fixed investment is estimated to grow to 14.1pc of GDP from current 12.4pc while national savings rate is expected to improve from 12.8pc of GDP this year to 14.2pc in 2014-15.

Trade deficit is estimated at $17.2bn on the basis of $27bn exports and $44bn imports, showing an increase of 5.8pc and 6.2pc, respectively. The current account deficit is projected at $2.8bn (1.1pc of GDP) against current year’s $2.6bn (1pc of GDP).

The NEC is also expected to issue guidelines for a uniform education standard and curriculum across the country and do away with more than 200 schemes launched on political basis or those facing repeated delays for more 7-8 years.

The meeting will issue directives to complete all projects with 70pc physical progress within a year and those having more than 50pc progress in two years. A total of 303 new projects with an estimated cost of Rs1.6trn will be made part of the PSDP.

The power sector is being given top priority with highest allocation of Rs260bn, apart from Rs135bn self-financing by Wapda and the NTDC. The transport and communication sector got the second priority position with an allocation of Rs163bn, including Rs114bn for the National Highway Authority and Rs40bn for rehabilitation and revival of Pakistan Railways.

Rs45bn would be allocated for Karachi-Lahore Motorway’s land acquisition whose construction will be undertaken on build, operate and transfer basis and the Chinese investment. The prime minister’s dream project – Pak-China Economic Corridor – will also be a major focus of development programme with an investment of about Rs51bn while new initiative of Rs36bn will be launched by the prime minister for national integration through reduction in development disparities.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Key group breaks away from TTP

Sailab Mahsud

LADDHA: The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan split into two factions after a major group based in South Waziristan quit the TTP and accused its leadership of having fallen into invisible hands and turning the TPP into an organisation providing safety to criminals.

LADDHA: The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan split into two factions after a major group based in South Waziristan quit the TTP and accused its leadership of having fallen into invisible hands and turning the TPP into an organisation providing safety to criminals.

“We announce separation from the TTP leadership which has deviated from its path”, Azam Tariq, spokesman for commander Khan Said alias Sajna, said in a statement.

The new group will be led by Sajna who would now be known as Khalid Mahsud, it said.

It accused the TTP leadership led by Mulla Fazlullah, the fugitive commander from Swat believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, of indulging in a baseless propaganda campaign against Afghan Taliban.

“Besides, other brother Jihadi organisations like Al Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban have been harassed with interference in their organisational affairs,” another statement separately issued by the Sajna group said.

It accused the TTP leadership of indulging in robberies, killing for money, extortion and kidnapping for ransom with the help of a group of conspirators.

It also accused the TTP leadership of killing religious scholars, extorting huge amounts of money from madressahs, carrying out bombings at public places on payment of money “from outside” and accepting responsibility for the bombings under assumed names and creating discord among different militant groups.

“It is now an established fact that they are using the TTP’s platform for their vested interests,” the statement said.

It pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban leadership and said the Sajna group would continue the policy of slain TPP leader Baitullah Mehsud to establish Caliphate.

It said extortion, kidnapping for ransom and bombing of public places were anti-Islam acts and invited all Muslims to join them in jihad.

There was no word from TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid on the allegations.

Significantly, Azam Tariq’s statement also referred to the bombing of shrines and killing of Mashaikhs and accused the TTP leadership of trying to impose its own creed and beliefs on others.

This, according to analysts, is an indication of a split on ideological grounds between the Punjpeeri and Deobandi schools of thought.

“This will have a snow-balling effect,” said Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former bureaucrat who is a member of the government committee for holding the now-stalled peace talks with the TTP.

“The split may end the centrality of the TTP leadership and lead to further disintegration,” he said. “It may make it easy for the government to hold talks with those who want peace and take on anti-statement elements.”

The dramatic announcement came after more than a month of clashes between two factions led by Sajna and Sheheryar Mehsud, in which more than 50 fighters from both sides have been killed.

Senior leaders of the TTP and Afghan Taliban tried unsuccessfully to broker a truce between the two sides. Both groups are led by Mehsud tribal commanders from South Waziristan which has served as the headquarters of the TTP.

“Sajna has the support of a large number of Mehsuds and foreign fighters and also enjoys the backing of Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network,” a security official said.

“The split will have its impact. We may now see intensification in fighting between the two groups which will not remain confined to South and North Waziristan,” he said.

“It will also have its reverberation elsewhere, including Karachi,” he said, adding that the country’s financial hub was a major source of funds raised by militant groups through extortion.

The split is one of the most serious setbacks for the TTP which was already shaken by the death of its leaders, including its founder Baitullah Mahsud in a US drone strike in Aug 2009.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Avoid accusations, Sharif tells India

Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may have felt privileged to be in Delhi, which he said he did, to watch the inauguration of India’s first far right prime minister, but his comments following a bilateral meeting with Mr Narendra Modi on Tuesday seemed to vent a degree of unease too.

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may have felt privileged to be in Delhi, which he said he did, to watch the inauguration of India’s first far right prime minister, but his comments following a bilateral meeting with Mr Narendra Modi on Tuesday seemed to vent a degree of unease too.

“Engaging in accusations and counter-accusations would be counter-productive, I emphasised,” Mr Sharif said of his meeting with Mr Modi, which he otherwise described as good and constructive. “After all, we owe it to our people to overcome the legacy of mistrust and misgivings,” he said, stressing an overused cliché though he might have really meant it.

There were parallel narratives about how the Sharif-Modi meeting went about, a familiar obfuscation not unusual in an India-Pakistan context. What seemed to be a win-win visit for both sides, however, abruptly turned into Mr Modi’s ‘direct’ message to his guest on terrorism.

There should be a complete halt to cross-border attacks in India, and the court case on the Mumbai nightmare should be speeded up with the guilty punished. The way the Indian media repeated it over and over it created the impression that little else was discussed. This was of course not the case.

Before checking out from his tightly guarded hotel, Mr Sharif shared his faith with the media in discussing “all issues between the two countries in a spirit of cooperation and sincerity”.

His government stands ready to discuss all issues with India, in a spirit of cooperation and sincerity.

“We agreed that our meeting in New Delhi should be a historic opportunity for both our countries. I pointed out that we were at the beginning of our respective tenures, with a clear mandate. This provides us the opportunity of meeting the hopes and aspirations of our peoples that we will succeed in turning a new page in our relations. The one and a half billion people of the two countries want us to focus on their well-being and welfare,” he said.

During his 45-minute meeting, Mr Sharif said he also recalled his invitation to then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to visit Lahore in February 1999 and that he “intended to pick up the threads of the Lahore Declaration, from where it had to be left off in October 1999”.

Mr Sharif told Mr Modi that they had a common agenda of development and economic revival, which is not possible to achieve without peace and stability in the region.

“I urged that together, we should rid the region of instability and insecurity, that have plagued us for decades,” he said.

“Consequently, it was important for us to work together for peace, progress and prosperity. Finally, I urged that we had to strive to change confrontation into cooperation. Engaging in accusations and counter-accusations would be counter-productive, I emphasised….After all, we owe it to our people to overcome the legacy of mistrust and misgivings.”

Both leaders agreed that this common objective could be facilitated by greater people-to-people exchanges, at all levels.

“Prime Minister Modi warmly reciprocated my sentiments and remarked that my visit to New Delhi was seen as a special gesture by the people of India. He stated that it was incumbent on both of us to work together, to achieve our common objectives for peace and development.

“I take leave of this historic city. I do so with a strong sense that the leaderships and the peoples of our two countries share a desire and mutual commitment to carry forward our relationship, for the larger good of our peoples,” Mr Sharif added.

The Indian recap of the meeting located the fulcrum on Mr Modi’s concerns with Pakistan over terrorist violence emanating from its soil. Mr Modi asked Pakistan to abide by its commitments on the issue. There were two versions about the role of foreign secretaries. Mr Sharif said they would meet soon to take the discussions forward. India’s foreign secretary Sujatha Singh appeared to believe that the foreign secretaries were required to be in touch, which could take place in a meeting or even on the phone.

However, Mr Modi and Mr Sharif agreed that the foreign secretaries of the two countries would be in touch to see how they could move forward on bilateral relations.

Briefing the media on the meeting between the two leaders, Ms Singh said Mr Modi raised India’s concerns relating to terrorism.

He remarked that Pakistan must abide by its commitment to prevent territory of Pakistan and the territory under its control to be used to spread terrorism in India.

Mr Modi also hoped that necessary steps would be taken to expedite the Mumbai terror attack case trial in Pakistan and ensure punishment to the accused.

According to her, Mr Modi said the two countries could move towards trade normalisation on the basis of the September 2012 roadmap on political and economic relations.

Asked whether Mr Modi raised the issue of the presence of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, Ms Singh said many things including terrorism were discussed. “I don’t want to speak more on this.”

On whether Kashmir issue was discussed, Ms Singh said the two foreign secretaries would be in touch to see the best way to move forward.

On trade, she said the two leaders discussed the issue of non-discriminatory market access to be given by Pakistan and said the two countries were fully ready to resume normalisation of trade relations at the earliest.

Asked whether Mr Modi would travel to Pakistan, Ms Singh said invitations had come and they had been accepted but no dates have been finalised. “Dates have to be worked out,” she said.

About the India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue process, she said the foreign secretaries would meet to find a way forward.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Woman beaten to death with bricks by father, brothers

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: A young woman was beaten to death with bricks by her family near the Lahore High Court on Tuesday morning allegedly for marrying a man of her choice.

LAHORE: A young woman was beaten to death with bricks by her family near the Lahore High Court on Tuesday morning allegedly for marrying a man of her choice.

The brutal act took place on Fane Road, one of the busiest roads in the city, when Farzana, 25, of Nankana Sahib, her husband Mohammad Iqbal and in-laws, left the office of her counsel for going to the court.

The alleged killers, the woman’s father Azeem, brothers Zahid and Ghulam Ali and other family members, intercepted her and started beating her with bricks.

Her family had got an abduction case registered against her husband and she had filed a petition in the LHC to get the case quashed. She was to appear before the court on Tuesday to record her statement in favour of her husband.

Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Kharal was pleading the case.

Eyewitnesses said Farzana was crying and seeking help of passersby but no-one came forward to rescue her and even police personnel present there acted as silent spectators.

The woman suffered serious head injuries and died on the spot. Her husband and in-laws also suffered injuries.

All the assailants managed to escape.

Mozang police took Farzana’s body to the city morgue and got the injured medically examined.

Investigating Officer Rana Akhtar Mahmood told Dawn that a case had been registered against six suspects on the complaint of the woman’s husband.

He said a raiding team had been sent to Nankana Sahib to arrest the accused.

Farzana married Iqbal in January this year and she was three months pregnant.

Her family alleged that she was engaged to her cousin but Iqbal abducted her and married her forcibly.

Reuters adds: Around 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every year by their families in honour killings, according to Aurat Foundation.

The true figure is probably many times higher since the Aurat Foundation only compiles figures from newspaper reports. The government does not compile national statistics. Campaigners say few cases come to court, and those that do can take years to be heard. No one tracks how many cases are successfully prosecuted.

Even those that do result in a conviction may end with the killers walking free.

Law allows a victim’s family to forgive their killer, but in honour killings, most of the time the women’s killers are her family, said Wasim Wagah of the Aurat Foundation. The law allows them to nominate someone to carry out the murder and then forgive him.

“This is a huge flaw in the law,” he said. “We are really struggling on this issue.”

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Apex court judge worried by defamation of institutions

Nasir Iqbal

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Khawaja, had taken up the case of 35 prisoners who went missing from a military internment centre in Malakand. However, when Interior Secretary Shahid Khan and the Director General of Intelligence Bureau, Aftab Sultan, appeared before the court, the judge deplored the ‘incendiary’ and ‘defamatory’ campaign that had cropped up virtually overnight in the capital.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Khawaja, had taken up the case of 35 prisoners who went missing from a military internment centre in Malakand. However, when Interior Secretary Shahid Khan and the Director General of Intelligence Bureau, Aftab Sultan, appeared before the court, the judge deplored the ‘incendiary’ and ‘defamatory’ campaign that had cropped up virtually overnight in the capital.

“They are incompetent and ignorant (na-ehl and ghafiloon),” Justice Khawaja observed while referring to his detractors in proceedings on a Geo TV petition. Both officials were earlier summoned by the court on Monday and were asked to appear before the same bench again on Wednesday to explain the mystery behind the banners.

The controversy cropped up on Tuesday when Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt submitted a sealed confidential report before the bench in the matter of 35 missing persons, but Justice Khawaja observed that the court would like to deal with the matter later and referred to a television talk show aired on Monday night which contained scurrilous accusations against the judge. In the show, it was alleged that the judge had a personal bias and harboured a grudge against the armed forces.

“If I have a grudge then I should be proceeded against. Otherwise the people of this country should be told the truth,” Justice Khawaja observed, adding that such accusations were creating ill-will against institutions of the state.

“We have already reached the brink and this has become a joke,” the judge observed, wondering who was behind these allegations.

The court also asked the attorney general to read out a transcript of the talk show and observed: “Everybody knows this is a lie”. The court then asked the AG to find out who was sponsoring this campaign against national institutions.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Nation has rejected ‘terrorist ideology’, says Gen Raheel

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has claimed that ‘terrorist ideology’ has been rejected by the nation.

ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has claimed that ‘terrorist ideology’ has been rejected by the nation.

“The whole nation has rejected the misplaced ideology of the terrorists, who have clearly lost their cause already and are being marginalised,” he told troops and locals during his visit to South Waziristan on Tuesday.

During the day-long trip, being described by military analysts as very significant for being the first detailed visit by the army chief to South Waziristan, Gen Raheel toured several parts of the tribal agency and went up to the area separating South Waziristan from North.

ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asim Bajwa, who accompanied the army chief, told Dawn that the crux of Gen Raheel’s message to the tribal people and troops in Waziristan was that “we have to get rid of the menace of terrorism and take the country forward”.

It was evident from the messaging from the military side following the visit that the army was comfortable with the public support for its counter-terrorism operations.

Military commanders, including former army chief Gen Kayani, had in the past underscored the need for public support, but have never so categorically claimed to have won the public opinion.

Most of South Waziristan has already been cleared of militants and more displaced families will be returning to the region soon.

In North Waziristan, the armed forces last week carried out aerial strikes against militant hideouts in which close to 80 insurgents were killed. “The targeting was more precise,” an officer said.

The way political parties and the general public responded to the attacks in Machis Factory area, near Miramshah, may have led the army to believe that public support was finally on its side.

Gen Raheel paid tribute to the soldiers deployed in Waziristan and said their sacrifices were “bringing peace and normalcy to the troubled regions”.

The army chief reviewed the development projects being undertaken by the army, particularly the construction of Central Trade Corridor, a 714km road network linking Pakistan’s Indus Highway and Waziristan agencies with the Afghan Ring Road.

The trade corridor, he said, would be a “game changer” for the region.

While visiting a recently established cadet college at Spinkai Raghzai, Gen Raheel said investment in youth was the best investment for future.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Illegal entry points on Afghan border closed

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: The government has closed all illegal entry points on its border with Afghanistan, Federal Secretary of Defence retired Lt-Gen Asif Yaseen Malik said on Tuesday.

QUETTA: The government has closed all illegal entry points on its border with Afghanistan, Federal Secretary of Defence retired Lt-Gen Asif Yaseen Malik said on Tuesday.

“We have closed all illegal crossing points on the Pak-Afghan border. The Pakistan Army will not replace the Frontier Corps on the Pak-Afghan border, but the army personnel will stay on the border points where they are already deployed,” he said at a briefing after visiting the Chaman border along with the chief of Balochistan Frontier Corps.

The secretary said Pakistan had been digging a long trench on its side of the border and urged the Afghan government to take similar steps to strengthen border security and to stop illegal cross-border movement of people.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanted to strengthen bilateral relations with all neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, and had formed a committee in this regard, Asif Yaseen Malik said. “I am a member of the committee which will review and furnish its recommendations on issues pertaining to Pak-Afghan border security to the prime minister,” he added.

During the trip to Chaman, the defence secretary, the IG of FC and other officials also visited the Pak-Afghan border and met FC personnel deployed there.

During the visit, the border was closed for one hour. Earlier, they were given a warm welcome at the FC Fort in Chaman where Commandant of FC in Chaman, Col Haider Ali Khan, briefed them on the border situation.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Eight siblings among 16 killed in Swat accident

Jamal ud Din

MINGORA: At least 16 people, eight siblings among them, were killed and seven others injured when a truck plunged into a ravine near Kalam valley on Tuesday.

MINGORA: At least 16 people, eight siblings among them, were killed and seven others injured when a truck plunged into a ravine near Kalam valley on Tuesday.

According to police, a truck carrying about 27 residents of Utror Kalam skidded off the road in the Pishmal area, about 95km off here, and fell into a deep ravine.

Local people and police took the injured and the bodies to the Saidu Sharif Hospital.

Eight children of Mohammad Nazir, identified as Samina, Amina, Faheem, Anjum Abbas, Saliqa Bibi, Nazila, Intayatullah and Ummaya, were among the dead.

Three brothers, Shakirullah, Sohail and Ihsanullah, and their father Noor Mohammad were also killed.

Three other dead included Zahida Bibi, Salma and Saeed.

Five of the injured were identified as Gul Mohammad, Mohammad Nazir, Akhtar Shaheen, Jan Bibi and Mohammad Zaman.

Deputy Commissioner of Swat Mahmood Aslam Wazir told reporters that an emergency had been declared in the Saidu Sharif hospital.

He said heirs of the dead and the injured would get compensation in accordance with the government policy.

The victims of the accident were returning from Punjab where they had gone for harvesting wheat.

Residents of Utror Kalam blamed the dilapidated condition of Kalam road for the accident.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

No US troops in Afghanistan after 2016: Obama

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he plans to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he plans to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

“At the beginning of 2015, we will have approximately 9,800 US service members in different parts of the country, together with our Nato allies and other partners,” the president said in a statement he read to his nation from the White House Rose Garden.

“By the end of 2015, we will have reduced that presence by roughly half, and we will have consolidated our troops in Kabul and on Bagram Airfield,” he said.

“One year later, by the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we’ve done in Iraq.”

The troops that stay in Afghanistan between 2014 and 16 will only have a limited mission.

“I’ve made it clear that we’re open to cooperating with Afghans on two narrow missions after 2014: training Afghan forces and supporting counter-terrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda.”

Even this will only be possible if the Afghan government signs a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, providing a legal cover to US troops stationed there after 2014.

“We will only sustain this military presence after 2014 if the Afghan government signs the Bilateral Security Agreement that our two governments have already negotiated,” he said.

“This agreement is essential to give our troops the authorities they need to fulfil their mission, while respecting Afghan sovereignty.”

Mr Obama made a surprise visit to Bagram on Sunday where he consulted his ambassador and senior military commanders before returning to Washington on the Veterans Day on Monday.

In an address to his troops near Washington on Monday, President Obama announced that “by the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will finally come to end”. “The bottom line is that it’s time to turn the page on more than a decade when so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.

His new strategy, Mr Obama claimed, would not only allow him to bring his troops home but will also allow the US to “redirect some of the resources saved by ending these two wars to respond more nimbly to the changing threat of terrorism, while addressing a broader set of priorities around the globe.”

The US president acknowledged that the Americans had learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them.“Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century – not through signing ceremonies, but through decisive blows against our adversaries, transitions to elected governments, security forces who take the lead and ultimately full responsibility.”

The drawdown, however, does not end America’s commitment to Afghanistan. “We remain committed to a sovereign, secure, stable, and unified Afghanistan.”

Mr Obama said that on Wednesday he would go to the West Point military academy near New York and speak to America’s newest class of military officers to “discuss how Afghanistan fits into our broader strategy going forward”.

He said he was confident that “if we carry out this approach, we can not only responsibly end our war in Afghanistan and achieve the objectives that took us to war in the first place, we’ll also be able to begin a new chapter in the story of American leadership around the world.”

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Modi is now PM, sees ‘glorious future’

Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI: It was an unusual gathering of film stars and sadhus, eager South Asian leaders and sulking regional satraps, of senior diplomats watching Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inaugural and a tea vendor from a leftist university commandeered as a mascot for the social mix that marked the glittering swearing-in ceremony at the British-built Presidential Palace here on Monday.

NEW DELHI: It was an unusual gathering of film stars and sadhus, eager South Asian leaders and sulking regional satraps, of senior diplomats watching Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inaugural and a tea vendor from a leftist university commandeered as a mascot for the social mix that marked the glittering swearing-in ceremony at the British-built Presidential Palace here on Monday.

Several old hands found berths in the new cabinet with Sushma Swaraj being assigned the foreign ministry despite her initial differences with Mr Modi. She is said to be planning to start work at 8am on Tuesday, hitting the ground running, as the new prime minister prepares to hold bilateral talks with his key guests from South Asia during the day.

Ms Swaraj has worked closely with the media from India and Pakistan, though as information minister in 2002 she is thought to have played a hand in the abrupt ending of the Agra summit.

This time her brief is entirely different and her role in bilateral talks with Mr Sharif’s foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday will aim to underscore the point.

Senior leader Arun Jaitley has been assigned the defence ministry though his primary responsibility will be as the new finance minister. He will probably present the budget in July.

Other senior portfolios include Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh who will be the home minister. Other portfolios include: Ananth Kumar — parliamentary affairs and additional charge of chemicals and fertilisers; Nitin Gadkari — surface transport and shipping; Sadanand Gowda — railways; Venkaiah Naidu — urban development and parliamentary affairs; Ravi Shankar Prasad — telecom, law and justice; Maneka Gandhi — women and child development; Najma Heptullah — minorities; Smriti Irani — human resource development; Radha Mohan Singh — agriculture; Nirmala Sitharaman — minister of state for commerce; Piyush Goel — minister of state for power (independent); Prakash Javadekar — minister of state for information and broadcasting; Ram Vilas Paswan — food and civil supplies; Uma Bharati — union minister for water resources and Ganga; and Jual Oram — cabinet minister for tribal affairs.

In a message on the prime minister’s website addressed to fellow Indians and citizens of the world, Mr Modi said the people had delivered a mandate for development, good governance and stability.

“As we devote ourselves to take India’s development journey to newer heights, we seek your support, blessings and active participation. Together we will script a glorious future for India. Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development.”

Mr Modi said he envisioned his website “as a very important medium of direct communication between us”.

He was a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world. “I hope this platform creates opportunities to listen, learn and share one’s views.”

As was to be expected, given the wide support he enjoyed among India’s business captains, a galaxy of industry leaders, including Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Sunil Mittal and Ashok Hinduja, attended the star-studded swearing-in ceremony.

The who’s who of corporate India rubbed shoulders with political bigwigs and diplomats on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan at its biggest-ever ceremony with close to 4,000 people attending Mr Modi’s inauguration.

Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani, his wife Nita and two sons, his brother Anil and family, and their mother Kokilaben Ambani were in attendance, as were Adani Group head Gautam Adani and his wife.

Hinduja Group of Companies (India) Chairman Ashok Hinduja as well as Essar head Shashi Ruia and its CEO Prashant Ruia were present.

The Mittal brothers — Sunil, Rajan and Rakesh, DLF vice-chairman Rajiv Singh, Hero MotoCorp Managing Director and CEO Pawan Munjal, Suzlon Group Chairman Tulsi Tanti and Videocon Group’s Rajkumar Dhoot were also present.

From the aviation sector, Jet Airways founder Chairman Naresh Goyal and CEO of new entrant AirAsia India Mittu Chandilya were present.

Film industry stalwarts including Rajinikanth, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Lata Mageshkar, Rekha, Vivek Oberoi, Anupam Kher, Javed Akhtar, Salim Khan and others were invited to attend the ceremony. While some celebrities were present, some skipped the ceremony.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Ahmadi surgeon shot dead in Chenabnagar

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

CHINIOT: A Pakistani-American cardiac surgeon belonging to the Ahmadi community was shot dead in Chenabnagar (Rabwah) on Monday. He was 50.

CHINIOT: A Pakistani-American cardiac surgeon belonging to the Ahmadi community was shot dead in Chenabnagar (Rabwah) on Monday. He was 50.

Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar, who settled in the US during the 1990s, had come to Chenabnagar town two days ago to serve in Jamaat Ahmadiya-run Tahir Heart Institute.

He, along with his wife and two children, visited the graves of his ancestors in a nearby graveyard in the morning. On his return, he was fired upon by two armed men riding a motorcycle at the exit gate of the graveyard.

Police said Dr Qamar died on the spot and the assailants managed to escape. Chenabnagar police registered a case under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and started investigation.

According to his autopsy report, the surgeon received nine bullets.

Chenabnagar SHO Rana Anwar said police were investigating and it was premature to say if it was a result of family enmity or target killing.

Saleemuddin, a spokesman for the Jamat Ahmadiyya, said in a press release that Dr Qamar had returned to the country to serve people.

“The incident is an outcome of religious hatred and part of the ongoing anti-Ahmadi target-killing campaign,” he said.

The spokesman said the cardiologist had no enmity with anyone.

“The murder of the doctor who served fellow human beings without discrimination is most painful. Murder of a doctor who had recently come to serve his compatriots was a crime against humanity. This painful incident is part of the ongoing anti-Ahmadi killing campaign. Anti-Ahmadi activists openly publish hate material calling for murder of Ahmadis. In the past hateful leaflets declared that getting treatment in Tahir Heart Institute was haram. In order to put a stop to murders in the name of faith it is essential to ban hate-promoting literature, and those who issue fatwas legitimising murder of innocent people should be brought to justice,” he said.

He demanded that authorities trace the killers of Dr Qamar and punish them in accordance with law.

Dr Qamar left behind a wife and three sons.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Rs1.31tr development plan approved

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The Annual Plan Coordination Committee (APCC) cleared on Monday a plan for the fiscal year 2014-15 envisaging a consolidated development programme of Rs1.310 trillion, economic growth rate at 5.1 per cent and inflation at 8pc.

ISLAMABAD: The Annual Plan Coordination Committee (APCC) cleared on Monday a plan for the fiscal year 2014-15 envisaging a consolidated development programme of Rs1.310 trillion, economic growth rate at 5.1 per cent and inflation at 8pc.

A meeting of the APCC, presided over by Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal and attended by provincial ministers, also decided to do away with hundreds of politically motivated projects, discretionary schemes for parliamentarians under the People’s Works Programme and Tameer-i-Pakistan Programme and other old but slow-moving projects.

Talking to journalists after the meeting, Mr Iqbal said the committee had also recommended to the National Economic Council, headed by the prime minister, to authorise the launch of 303 schemes at a cost of Rs1.6trn, a few new initiatives and the vision 2025 programme to pick up as part of the next year’s development programme to transform Pakistan into an export-oriented country. This will be done through focus on taxation, investment and export growth.

He said the highest-ever Rs1.310trn plan would include a federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of Rs525 billion, provincial annual development plans of Rs650bn and separate projects of Rs135bn to be launched by Wapda and the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) from their own resources. The PSDP will have a foreign exchange contribution of Rs102bn.

The minister said the PSDP would be 23pc higher than the revised estimate of Rs425bn for the current fiscal year.

In reply to a question about the announcement of higher outlays and then cutting down the development plans due to a shortfall in revenue collection, Mr Iqbal said the PSDP would remain protected because it had been finalised after deliberations with the prime minister. Mr Sharif himself attended at least three meetings.

The power sector has been given top priority with the highest allocation of Rs260bn, apart from Rs135bn self-financing by Wapda and NTDC. The generation sector has been given a lion’s share of Rs155bn — Rs84bn for hydroelectricity, Rs23bn for thermal power and Rs48bn for nuclear power generation. The sector will get another Rs105bn from the federal budget for improvement and expansion of transmission lines.

The transport and communication sector will get Rs163bn, including Rs114bn for the National Highway Authority and Rs40bn for rehabilitation and revival of the Pakistan Railways.

Mr Iqbal said the transport sector had been neglected for 15 years and because of this it was unable to support a growing economy. The sector would be revived through improvement in tracks and locomotives so that it could provide logistic support for transportation of coal for power generation.

The minister said the federal government would allocate Rs51bn for education, health and population welfare projects across the country, although these subjects were devolved. Another Rs12.5bn will be allocated for a new initiative to achieve millennium development goals in two to three years. With the current pace, the MDGs could not be achieved even until 2040 which was shameful for the country, he added.

Mr Iqbal said the government was launching a programme for human resource development through an endowment fund of Rs1bn which would be increased to Rs10bn in four years. It will be used for providing scholarships to poor students on merit for vertical social mobility of talent.

An amount of Rs45bn will be allocated for acquisition of land for the Karachi-Lahore motorway. It will be constructed on a build, operate and transfer basis with Chinese investment.

The minister said the Pakistan-China economic corridor would also be given priority in next year’s development programme.

Another new initiative of Rs36bn would be launched by the prime minister for national unity and strengthening of the federation by removing disparities in development and mainstreaming of underdeveloped areas across the country and in the provinces, except Punjab. Under the initiative, Rs15bn will be invested in Balochistan, Rs8bn in Sindh, Rs4bn each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, Rs3bn in Azad Kashmir and Rs2bn in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Another scheme will be launched with an initial allocation of Rs500 million for directing over 7000 PhD holders towards practical development and industrial projects through a technology fund.

Another scheme will reach out to poor students and educate them to the level of PhD at public expense.

The minister said Rs100 million would be allocated for mainstreaming Madressah education.

The implementation of PSDP would be monitored through a newly created delivery unit at the Planning Commission.

Mr Iqbal said the APCC had decided to complete projects with 70pc progress next year and with 50pc progress in two years and give up low priority politically motivated projects on which 25pc money had been spent.

He said the government had set a target of $27bn for exports next year, investment at 15.7pc of GDP, saving at 14.6pc and the current account deficit at 1.1pc of GDP, or $2.8bn.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Court wants poster, banner mystery unravelled

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court judge directed officials concerned on Monday to find out who had placed defamatory and critical posters and banners against him in the city.

ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court judge directed officials concerned on Monday to find out who had placed defamatory and critical posters and banners against him in the city.

Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, who resumed hearing on a petition filed by Geo TV, read out for four times the banners which said: “Mir Shakil ki Behen Justice Jawwad ki Bhabhi; Bhabhi Muddayi aur Daiwar judge; Faisla Aap Samajh Saktay Hain (Mir Shakil’s sister is the sister-in-law of Justice Jawwad; sister-in-law is complainant and brother-in-law judge; you can anticipate the verdict). The banners have purportedly been placed by Farzand-i-Islam, an unknown organisation.

Justice Khawaja said he never treated Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the owner of Geo TV, as a close relative because neither he had ever visited him nor Mir Rahman had come to his house.

Showing the pictures of the banners and posters against him and images of a vilification campaign in social media, the judge said he wondered how such banners could spring up overnight in the heart of the capital, even in the red zone supposed to be a high security area, under the nose of police, intelligence agencies and the shadow of CCTV cameras.

The federal government cut a sorry picture of helplessness, he deplored and said that whoever was behind this was playing with fire the consequence of which would be dangerous and far reaching.

The court asked Interior Secretary Shahid Khan and Director General of Intelligence Bureau Aftab Sultan to find out who had put up the banners. The officials sought time and said they had no concrete evidence but could unravel the mystery in a day or two. The court asked them to come up with the information on Wednesday.

Justice Khawaja said: “It has become a jurisprudential question whether institutions like the judiciary could ever function freely and independently on the face of derogatory and defamatory banners like these affixed at almost all the lampposts of the capital city.”

But, he said, as a judge he was not bothered and would never succumb to scurrilous and defamatory campaign against him.

Justice Khawaja requested senior lawyer S.A. Rehman to read out the verses from Surah Nisa and Al-Baqarah of Holy Quran and Hadith to try to establish that besides the code of conduct for judges, the Holy Scripture also ordained a judge to dispense justice even if a close relative was before him.

He cited the verses of Hafiz Sheerazi and Shah Hussain to establish that the one who submitted himself to the will of Allah Almighty could be truly called a free man.

He recited a Quranic verse which said that honour and disgrace were in the hands of Allah.

He said if persons could place banners without any check, forces inimical to the state could also enter the capital city to carry out their nefarious designs.

The court disposed of the petition of Geo TV when Advocate Ibrahim Satti, representing the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), assured it that the regulator would abide by the terms set in the Aug 13, 2012 Supreme Court judgment on a similar case jointly filed by ARY and Geo TV. The verdict had held that cable operators had no authority to block or reshuffle any private TV channel unless punitive action in the shape of cancelling of its licence had been taken by Pemra.

Senior counsel Akram Sheikh, who was representing Geo TV, said he was satisfied with the stand taken by Pemra.

He told reporters that the court had issued a notice to Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt for Wednesday on the petition seeking the court’s intervention to stop a hate campaign launched against Geo TV by different media outlets.

The court asked ARY TV anchor Mubashir Lucman to wait for the decision to be made by the chief justice on his application seeking transfer of the case to another bench.

The highlight of Monday’s proceeding was an order dictated by Justice Khawaja in Urdu. While the order deplored that the national language was not being promoted in violation of Articles 28 and 251 of the Constitution to the disadvantage of the common citizens it almost repeated whatever he had said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Bar Council has taken notice of the abhorrent attempts made by certain media outlets to malign the judiciary, particularly certain judges, and called upon the government to launch an inquiry into the distasteful attacks on judiciary.

The council, in a resolution, vowed to uphold freedom of expression and independence of judiciary.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Glittering ceremony in Delhi today

Agencies

NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi will be sworn in on Monday as prime minister at a glittering ceremony that will be as much a show of his determination to be a key player on the global stage as a celebration of his stunning election victory.

NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi will be sworn in on Monday as prime minister at a glittering ceremony that will be as much a show of his determination to be a key player on the global stage as a celebration of his stunning election victory.

For the first time in India’s history, a clutch of South Asian leaders will be among the guests watching Mr Modi’s inauguration at the presidential palace in New Delhi, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies swept India’s elections this month, ousting the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in a seismic political shift that has given his party a mandate for sweeping economic reform.

Mr Modi’s decision to invite Mr Sharif for his inauguration and bilateral talks came as a surprise and raised hopes for a thaw in relations between the two countries, particularly frosty since 2008 Mumbai attacks.

In a goodwill gesture, Prime Minister Sharif on Sunday ordered the release of 151 Indian prisoners. The Pakistani leader’s attendance will be a first in the history of the two neighbours which remain divided over the disputed region of Kashmir and other issues.

“Pakistan has always held that the issue of prisoners in our respective countries is a humanitarian one and should be taken in that spirit,” a senior Pakistani official said.

India’s foreign ministry said Pakistan had notified New Delhi of its intention to free the prisoners as a “goodwill gesture”.

“Modi has already displayed his political dexterity and diplomatic skills in inviting Nawaz Sharif, among other leaders, to his swearing in,” wrote columnist Prashant Jha in the Hindustan Times.

“But will he be able to stay the course? What happens after the first terror attack?”

Vikram Sood, former head of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, said that inviting all the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was “an astute” diplomatic gesture.

“This augurs well for the region, and an improvement of relations all over the region is possible if these moves are followed by other steps, bilaterally and multilaterally,” he said.

Even before his inauguration, Mr Modi made waves on the global stage, where once he was treated by many with suspicion — and by some as a pariah — for a rash of Hindu-Muslim violence that erupted 12 years ago in Gujarat, the state he ruled.

Mr Modi, 63, has spoken with the presidents of the United States and Russia, and he has become one of only three people that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe follows on Twitter.

The US administration denied Mr Modi a visa in 2005, but President Barack Obama has now invited him to the White House.

Many supporters see Mr Modi as India’s answer to the neo-liberal former US president Ronald Reagan or British leader Margaret Thatcher. One foreign editor has ventured Mr Modi could be so transformative he turns out to be “India’s Deng Xiaoping”, the leader who set China on its path of spectacular economic growth.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Complaints commission for electronic media likely

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The proposed Media Complaints Commission (MCC) — an initiative of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif aimed at removing ambiguities from the code of conduct for media houses — seems like it may become an electronic media-centric body.

ISLAMABAD: The proposed Media Complaints Commission (MCC) — an initiative of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif aimed at removing ambiguities from the code of conduct for media houses — seems like it may become an electronic media-centric body.

According to official records available with Dawn, representatives of the print media, who were invited to the first meeting convened to discuss the modalities of the proposed commission, have now been excluded.

The commission was envisioned as a platform to adjudicate public grievances against the media and to ensure effective implementation of a code of conduct for media houses.

A committee, headed by Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Irfan Siddiqui, reportedly took the decision at the request of Aslam Kazi of the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), according to the official record of the meeting.

It was pointed out at the meeting that the print media was already governed under the Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance, 2002. It was argued that a code of conduct for newspapers already existed and was being implemented through the Press Council of Pakistan.

Therefore, an earlier decision to incorporate a member each from the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors and a professional journalists’ body was rescinded.

In their place, it has been proposed that the PBA be given two more slots in the 11-member commission, bringing the total number of PBA seats to four. These members will include the PBA chairman and one representative each from entertainment channels, news channels and FM radio stations.

This decision was also supported by the law ministry. Law Secretary Zafarullah Khan was of the opinion that following the 18th Amendment, jurisdiction over matters relating to the print media had been devolved to the provinces. However, broadcasting is still exclusively a federal subject and amendments could be made in the laws governing broadcast and electronic media.

The committee has resolved to form a separate commission to deal with the issues around electronic media. The proposed commission would be chaired by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, who will either be selected by the chief justice, or picked from a shortlist of three names proposed by PBA members.

Other members may include a representative of the academia, nominated by the Higher Education Commission, and one civil society member. The chairperson of the National Commission on Status of Women, the secretaries of the ministries of information and law and the chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) will also be part of the commission.

The committee also agreed to take away the implementation function on the code of conduct from Pemra and may assign the task to the new body. The proposed commission will be primarily responsible for addressing and adjudicating on complaints filed by citizens, media organisations and the government. It will also have suo motu powers to act against code of conduct violations.

The commission is expected to be a forum to punish code of conduct violators as well. Punitive actions available to the MCC may include pre-emptive restraining orders, warnings or notices of reprimand, asking for an apology, imposition of fines and the suspension or termination of media licences, albeit as a last resort.

The Siddiqui-led committee also recommended the immediate enactment of a right to information law at the federal level as well as enactment of new laws governing social media and cyber crime laws to meet changing requirements.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Do Sharif, Modi have a fish to fry?

Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI: Mediaeval rulers freed slaves to mark auspicious events. Pakistan is releasing 151 Indian fishermen to observe Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Delhi as a key guest at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Monday.

NEW DELHI: Mediaeval rulers freed slaves to mark auspicious events. Pakistan is releasing 151 Indian fishermen to observe Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Delhi as a key guest at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Monday.

Other Saarc leaders have been invited, but the Delhi media has focused exclusively on Mr Sharif.

“The irony would be lost on none,” wrote The Hindu. “After criticising caretaker Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for serving biryani to the former Pakistan PM, Mr Modi will now preside over his first banquet in office to which he has invited the Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.”

Does the welcome relief to the bunch of routinely harassed fishermen presage a larger agenda between the two leaders when they have their first and abruptly conjured bilateral meeting here on Tuesday? If so, neither Mr Sharif nor Mr Modi has given out any clues.

Possibly the most clueless are the Kashmiris. Mr Sharif’s first visit to India as prime minister could turn out to be the only occasion since 1994 when Hurriyat Conference leaders were not invited to meet a high representative from Islamabad on a Delhi visit. Pakistani sources in Delhi felt that the last word on the issue may not have been said.

Moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said he expected to watch the developments from Srinagar.

“Kashmiris will be closely watching the developments between India and Pakistan,” he said in a statement. “If we see any signs of a serious and courageous effort to find a solution, Kashmiris will definitely respond with an even greater sense of seriousness and courage.”

Opponents of the meeting have been quicker to articulate their view. Some of them are thought to have tried to subvert the Modi-Sharif meeting with a botched assault on India’s consulate in Herat in Afghanistan. The political will in Delhi was resolute this time and was not going to be waylaid by the detractors.

This was also how former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee played it, when he ignored the killing of several Hindus in Kashmir on the eve of his visit to Lahore in February 1999. Pakistan’s foreign minister was in Delhi when the Mumbai massacres happened in 2008, indicating the distance that opponents of Indo-Pak peace initiatives can go.

Informed sources in Delhi say Mr Sharif was heading to be the only South Asian invitee at Mr Modi’s swearing-in ceremony, which is already bursting at the seams with an unwieldy list of domestic invitees. Turning the occasion into a Saarc-centric jamboree was an after-thought, a deft move to save Mr Modi possible embarrassment with Hindutva hardliners in his flock.

The Indian Army too chipped in as a road clearing party for the Modi-Sharif talks. On Sunday said there has been no infiltration of militants from across the Line of Control into the valley so far this year though troops were on alert to take on any challenge along the LoC and the hinterland.

“No infiltration has taken place. We are prepared and our counter-infiltration grid is in place. The troops are alert. We are ready to take on any challenge,” General Officer Commanding in chief of Army’s Northern Command Lieutenant General Sanjiv Chachra told reporters in Srinagar.

On another occasion, the Army could have spoilt it for the leaders. It did not play up a recent incident on the LOC where some Pakistanis were accused of laying mines to trap Indian soldiers.

The bafflingly good atmospherics for a seemingly ‘sudden meeting’ between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan will find a chord in a comment by former Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari in May last year. Mr Gadkari revealed that it was the late Reliance chairman Dhirubhai Ambani who met President Bill Clinton in Mumbai in March 2000 and pressed the American leader to get Mr Sharif’s life spared from the military ruler who toppled him. Mr Ambani claimed, according to Mr Gadkari, that Mr Sharif was a close friend. The current chairman of Reliance Group has been among the leading supporters of Mr Modi’s lavish election campaign.

The fishermen will go home happily, but there may be bigger fish to fry between the two countries.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

MQM criticises UK for freezing Altaf’s accounts

Azfar-ul-Ashfaque

KARACHI: A senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement disclosed here on Sunday that bank accounts of the party’s chief Altaf Hussain in London were being frozen and asked MQM’s wor­kers and supporters at a large meeting here to continue their ‘peaceful struggle’ agai­nst the British government.

KARACHI: A senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement disclosed here on Sunday that bank accounts of the party’s chief Altaf Hussain in London were being frozen and asked MQM’s wor­kers and supporters at a large meeting here to continue their ‘peaceful struggle’ agai­nst the British government.

“Today’s rally is against white Englishmen,” MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar said in his speech at the rally held to demonstrate solidarity with Mr Hussain. “Altaf Hussain is cooperating with [UK] police but why they are harassing him. The British measures against him are a political problem.”

A large number of people, women and children among them, converged on the M. A. Jinnah Road and both tracks of the city’s main artery were filled from Tibet Centre to the Quaid’s Mausoleum.

Mr Hussain, who has been living in London for over two decades and is now a British citizen, did not address the meeting held to condemn money-laundering investigations against him by the UK authorities.

While Dr Sattar harshly criticised the British authorities, other speakers adopted a soft tone and requested Prime Minister David Cameron to ease the problems of Mr Hussain who, they said, was an important force for solidarity of Pakistan.

Dr Sattar said Mr Hussain and MQM were fully cooperating with the British officials investigating the money-laundering charges. “But don’t they see the money laundering by the Pakistani elite… why don’t they ask about their wealth in the UK?”

He said the British authorities had taken away the Ipad and laptop of Mr Hussain’s 11-year-old daughter and had not returned her gadgets. “What is the connection of an 11-year-old with money-laundering charges? Why don’t they return her Ipad and laptop? They are obstructing her education.”

He said the MQM wanted to know why the British authorities were stopping Mr Hussain from ‘saving Pakistan’. Why they were freezing his bank accounts when there was no case and why they wanted to keep Mr Hussain away from the process of policymaking in Pakistan, he asked. He said the MQM would continue its peaceful struggle and also move courts on steps taken by the British authorities against its chief.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

8 Levies men killed in attack on checkpost

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA/KHUZDAR: Gunmen attacked a checkpost near Wadh area, about 70km south of Khuzdar town, on Sunday morning, killing eight Levies personnel and injuring four others.

QUETTA/KHUZDAR: Gunmen attacked a checkpost near Wadh area, about 70km south of Khuzdar town, on Sunday morning, killing eight Levies personnel and injuring four others.

The gunmen cordoned off the area before firing indiscriminately with automatic weapons at the Johar checkpost on the Quetta-Karachi National Highway. They also hurled hand-grenades at the post and a vehicle parked there.

“Six Levies personnel, two head constables among them, were killed on the spot. They suffered multiple bullet wounds and were hit by splinters of grenades,” said Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Durrani who rushed to Khuzdar after receiving information about the attack.

He told Dawn that two of the injured died in Wadh hospital.

Sources said the attack was so sudden that the Levies personnel could not take positions to resist and retaliate.

But the in-charge of the checkpost, Noorullah, who also was injured said the personnel had returned fire resulting in a gunbattle which continued for some time. He claimed that the attackers also suffered losses.

According to the sources, over 20 gunmen who took part in the attack had come in vehicles with tinted glasses.

Officials said the Levies personnel had resisted the attack but when their stock of ammunition was exhausted, the assailants entered the checkpost and snatched official weapons from them.

The home secretary said that two days ago Levies personnel had intercepted some suspects in the area and one of them was injured in an exchange of fire. The same people might be behind the attack, said Mr Durrani who visited the area along with Kalat Division Commissioner Dr Akbar Harifal and the DIG Kalat range.

Soon after the attack, a heavy contingent of Levies and Frontier Corps personnel cordoned off the area and launched a search for the assailants.

The home secretary said the search operation would continue till the arrest of the attackers.

Levies officials told Dawn that some suspects had been taken into custody during an operation in the mountainous areas of Waheer village.

No-one claimed responsibility for the attack till late Sunday night.

According to AFP, the home secretary said one officer was wounded in the attack but survived, adding that after stabilisation of his condition police would find out from him how the fighting occurred and who the gunmen were.

Balochistan Chief Minster Dr Abdul Malik Baloch condemned the attack and directed law-enforcement agencies to ensure immediate arrest of the attackers. He also sought a report on the incident in two days.

The chief minister said in a statement that attacking Levies personnel who were protecting people’s lives was a cowardly and anti-people act. He said the elements involved in the attack would soon be brought to justice.

He announced that the government would compensate the families of the deceased Levies personnel and extend all possible help and cooperation to them.

FUNERAL: The bodies of the personnel were brought to Khuzdar and their funeral was held at the Levies Line. It was attended by Home Secretary Durrani, Kalat Division Commissioner Dr Akbar Harifal, Khuzdar Deputy Commissioner Abdul Waheed Shah, the DIG Kalat range, senior Levies officials and other people.

Seven of the personnel were identified as Gul Muhammad and Zafarullah (head constables), Abdul Hadi, Naseer Ahmed, Muhammad Karim, Abdul Shakoor and Dhani Bakhsh. The identity of the eighth could not be ascertained. They all belonged to Wadh area of Khuzdar district.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Sharif accepts Modi’s invitation

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will travel to New Delhi on Monday for a two-day visit to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Indian prime minister-designate Narendra Modi.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will travel to New Delhi on Monday for a two-day visit to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Indian prime minister-designate Narendra Modi.

He was invited to the ceremony by Mr Modi on May 21.

The government expects that the prime minister’s “courtesy gesture” may lead to resumption of the peace dialogue between the two countries that has been stalled since early last year because of skirmishes along the Line of Control.

The prime minister consulted his top aides before deciding to attend the event. Although there was no public consultation with the military on the matter, it is widely believed that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif discussed the Indian invitation with Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on behalf of the prime minister during their meeting on Friday.

“In response to the invitation to the oath-taking ceremony of prime minister-designate of India, Narendra Modi, the prime minister will be travelling to New Delhi on May 26,” a Foreign Office statement said.

He will be accompanied by Sartaj Aziz, Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and his personal staff.

Khursheed Shah, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, welcomed the prime minister’s decision, saying it would help rebuild ties. Hardline positions, he added, would serve neither country’s cause.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari said it was a “politically correct and wise” decision.

However, Jamaatud Dawa leader Abdur Rehman Makki said that Kashmiris had boycotted the Indian elections and “now that Nawaz Sharif is going to attend the inauguration of the prime minister of the government formed as a result of those elections, how is he going to answer them”.

Besides attending the oath-taking ceremony and a reception Mr Modi will host for the visiting regional leaders, Mr Sharif would meet Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and the new prime minister on Tuesday.

NO EXPECTATIONS: How­ever, expectations about the coming Sharif-Modi meeting are not very high.

“It is primarily to break the ice and for the two leaders to establish rapport and reaffirm their commitment to fostering peace between Pakistan and India,” a Foreign Office official said.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman too tried to play down the expectations. She told media persons in Delhi that Prime Minister Sharif’s meeting with Mr Modi would be a “courtesy call” that could not be described as “bilateral talks” in the strictest sense because it would not have any set agenda.

No decision on full-scale NWA action yet: Nisar

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The government has not yet decided to launch a full-scale military offensive in North Waziristan and talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have not been called off, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Saturday.

ISLAMABAD: The government has not yet decided to launch a full-scale military offensive in North Waziristan and talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have not been called off, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Saturday.

Talking about the ongoing air strikes against militant hideouts in the TTP stronghold, he said this ‘limited military action’ was in line with the policy that calls for a calibrated and measured response to acts of terror against civilian or military targets.

A senior military official also told Dawn that Wednesday’s air strikes, in which the military claimed to have killed around 60 terrorists, were launched with the sanction of the civilian leadership in Islamabad. These strikes, he added, were a reply to terrorist attacks that have rocked Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Karachi.

The remarks from both sides seem to dispel an impression that the government and the military were not on the same page about the peace process.

In a statement released on Saturday, the interior minister refuted the content of a news wire report about the proceedings of a recently-held security meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The report claimed that the army chief and the prime minister disagreed over the fate of the talks with the outlawed TTP and that the army chief had told the PM that the time for talks was over.

Chaudhry Nisar said the meeting was held in a positive atmosphere and a wide range of issues pertaining to national security, including the security situation on the borders, was discussed. “No decision was taken to launch a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan. There was no decision to call off the dialogue process either, and there was no such demand from either side,” he said.

The minister also said that it had not yet been decided whether the army should be called in to take over the security of Islamabad and other major cities, nor was the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) involved in this process.

He said efforts to strengthen the capacity of police and other civilian law-enforcement agencies through the support of the armed forces were being taken, adding that this had been misinterpreted by press reports on the matter.

He stressed that this was not a recent decision and the plans had been under the hammer for quite some time. “Since this entire exercise is still under consideration and open to discussion, it is too early to pass judgments what form this coordination will take”, he observed.

An interior ministry official explained that a decision had already been taken to reply to terrorist attacks after the TTP called off the ceasefire, adding that doors for dialogue were still open. “The other side has been told that talks and terrorism cannot go on simultaneously and that any anti-state activity will elicit a strong response.”

He said the government was continuing to give peace a chance and had demonstrated its commitment to the peace process. Even after the end of the ceasefire, the government kept trying to restart talks, he said, adding that the government had decided to pursue another round of direct talks with TTP leaders. “We are waiting for the other side to give a date and time.”

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

Eight troops among 18 killed in blasts, clashes

Dawn Report

GHALANAI/LANDI KOTAL: Eight security personnel, nine militants and a peace committee volunteer were killed in roadside blasts and clashes in Mohmand, Khyber and Bajaur agencies on Saturday.

GHALANAI/LANDI KOTAL: Eight security personnel, nine militants and a peace committee volunteer were killed in roadside blasts and clashes in Mohmand, Khyber and Bajaur agencies on Saturday.

Six security personnel were killed and three others injured when an explosive device planted along the roadside went off in Pandyali tehsil of Mohmand Agency.

Officials said personnel of Khushhal Scouts were going to inspect the place where a school was blown up by militants in Tamanzai area recently. When they were within a stone’s throw of the place, an improvised explosive device planted by suspected militants went off.

Four personnel were killed on the spot while three others suffered injuries. The injured were airlifted to Peshawar, but two of them died on way to hospital.

The dead were identified as Habib, Wajid Khan, Sabir Khan, Hazrat Noor, Sohail and Hameed.

Funeral prayers for four of them were held at the headquarters of Mohmand Rifles in Ghalanai and later the bodies were dispatched to their native villages.

Khasadar and Levies personnel rushed to the site, cordoned off the area and started a search operation.

Sources said that 31 tribesmen were arrested under the collective territorial responsibility clause of the FCR. The detained persons were sent to Ghalanai lock-up for interrogation.

The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban, Mohmand chapter, claimed responsibility for the attack on security forces and blowing up of the school in Tamanzai.

The emir of the TTP Mohmand Agency Ijrai Commission, Umar Khurrassani, told newsmen by phone from an undisclosed place that the attack was a revenge for air strikes in North Waziristan. “It is a routine activity as we have boycotted the peace negotiations. The government has already started military operation in North Waziristan.”

Earlier, miscreants blew up the Government Middle School, Malik Sher Tamanzai, in Pandiali Tehsil by planting an IED in the building.

Said Mohammad Khan, Mohmand Agency’s education officer, said that 126 schools had been destroyed in the agency, depriving over 20,000 children of basic education.

LANDI KOTAL: Two security men and eight militants, including a key `commander’, were killed in an armed clash in Landi Kotal near Hamza Baba mausoleum when a security vehicle was ambushed by militants.

Sources said that in the gunfire that ensued after the attack, two FC men were killed while another three were injured.

They said one assailant was killed and another was arrested. The motorcycle used by terrorists in the attack was seized. The attackers are said to be affiliated with Tamanche Mula group which is allegedly involved in some deadly attacks against Nato vehicles and security forces in the area.

According a press release issued by the ISPR, eight militants were killed during the exchange of fire with militants in the area.

BAJAUR: A volunteer of a local peace committee was killed and an official of Levies force and another man were injured in two roadside blasts in Bajaur Agency.

Officials of the tribal administration said that two volunteers of the village defence committee in Ghakhi area of Mamond tehsil were returning to their home from bazaar when a landmine went off. Khan Zeb, volunteer of the peace committee, was killed on the spot while Matiullah suffered critical wounds.

The locals took the injured to the agency’s headquarters hospital in Khar.

In another incident, an official of Bajaur Levies force was injured when a remote-controlled bomb went off in Kamar Sar area of Mamond tehsil.

Officials said that the incident took place when Abdul Wali, hawaldar in Bajaur Levies force, was on his way to a nearby check-post on the main Inayat Killi-Laghari road.

He suffered critical wounds and was taken to AHQ hospital in Khar.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

Five top militants died in N. Waziristan air assault

Pazir Gul

MIRAMSHAH: Security officials claimed on Saturday that five top militant leaders, one of them an Uzbek national, were killed in an air assault on suspected positions in North Waziristan Agency.

MIRAMSHAH: Security officials claimed on Saturday that five top militant leaders, one of them an Uzbek national, were killed in an air assault on suspected positions in North Waziristan Agency.

Sources said the ‘commanders’ were eliminated in an air strike on Wednesday. The Uzbek national was identified as Abu Ahmad and the others as Qanooni, Sabir, Gilam and Jihad Yaar. Sabir was said to be a trainer of suicide bombers.

The official claim, however, could not be verified from independent sources because the media has no access to the volatile area.

The sources said military’s jet fighters and helicopter gunships had pounded several suspected positions in Miramshah, Mirali and Datakhel over the past three days, killing about 80 people.

Some locals claimed that women and children were among the dead.

Meanwhile, the administration relaxed curfew in Miramshah and other parts of North Waziristan for some time on Saturday. Widespread damage was visible in Machis Camp, near Miramshah, where security forces destroyed dozens of houses during a clean-up operation.

Fear-stricken people were trying to retrieve their belongings from the debris of their destroyed houses.

Authorities gave a three-hour notice to local people on Thursday to vacate their houses. Displaced families took shelter in relatives’ homes in Miramshah and villages in surrounding areas.

Gul Daraz Khan, a resident of Machis, burst into tears when he saw his flattened house. His father was killed in the air strike. “My aged father was not a terrorist,” he lamented.

Haji Pir Mohammad, another affected resident, said security forces had detained his relatives who had taken shelter in the basement of a house during the air strike.

North Waziristan, including its headquarters Miramshah, has been without electricity since Wednesday. This has led to shortage of drinking water in the area. The main transmission line has been damaged in the air strike.

Shops opened during the curfew break. However, the prolonged curfew and the closure of main roads has caused shortage of essential commodities. Offices and educational institutions remain closed. The administration had imposed the curfew on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

Footprints: Made in Pakistan

Aurangzaib Khan

THE closest to Syed Tasawar Hussain’s craft is a spider busily weaving a web.

THE closest to Syed Tasawar Hussain’s craft is a spider busily weaving a web.

Hussain, 28, sits in a hall at Phedra, a sports goods factory in Sialkot’s Industrial Estate. Every now and then, he pulls out a hexagonal leatherite panel to stitch into the patchwork that is a football’s skin.

Eighteen years of stitching footballs has synchronised Hussain’s hands and mind into a needlework sequence that is impressive in its precision. He thrusts needles held in both hands into alternate holes, stitch after deft stitch. He finishes with a tight pull at the twine, neatly suturing the hexagonal panels together.

“Football stitch-work has spread out from Sialkot into surrounding districts,” says Hussain, inserting a bladder in the football body, synchronising the hole in the bladder with the one in the football coat and beginning the “toughest part of his job”: stitching together the last two of the 32 panels. “Labour is cheap elsewhere. Workers from all over also come here.”

For decades, Sialkot has been putting Pakistan on the map of the world’s leading football manufacturing countries. Since the Fifa World Cup 1982 in Barcelona, Spain, when the Sialkot-based Sublime Soccer manufactured the official handmade match ball Tango for Adidas, the rise of local football industry has been heady.

Sialkot’s repute as a major sports goods hub harks back to British India. Traditionally, the people of Sialkot have been craftsmen, specialising in merchandise as diverse as surgical goods, music instruments, cutlery and leather goods.

“The first export of a football from Sialkot was to Singapore in 1922,” says Prof Safdar Sandal, CEO of Phedra Industries, whose father had sports warehouses in Bombay, Lucknow and Colombo. “The first generations of football-makers were Muslim craftsmen working with industries owned by Hindus. These craftsmen became second-generation manufacturers after Partition. The third-generation manufacturers became ambassadors for Sialkot, exploring foreign markets in the ’80s and ’90s. The fourth generation today is the younger, tech-savvy lot. They didn’t just bring in foreign brands but also created their own.”

The city now boasts over 2,000 small- and medium-scale industrial units manufacturing footballs. Until 2007, Pakistan used to export some 40 million footballs annually, with the Sialkot industry covering 45pc of the world’s demand for hand-stitched footballs.

With Fifa announcing new standards in 2006, the local industry that heavily relied on hand-stitched footballs suffered a reversal of fortunes. “There was a snag between 2009 and 2013 when the focus shifted from handmade to machine-made and then thermo-bonded footballs,” says Professor Sandal. “Sialkot lagged behind because we didn’t have the technology.”

Since then, the demand for hand-stitched footballs has dipped by nearly half. With foreign companies reluctant to place orders with manufacturers that employed child labour and Pakistan not able to keep up with the new mechanised standards, the global market became dominated by manufacturers from China, Thailand, India and Hong Kong. It was a sombre moment for football manufacturers in Sialkot when in the Fifa World Cup 2010, Pakistan’s handmade Teamgiest lost to China’s machine-made Jabulani.

Come 2014, though, and the mood in a city that boasts a golden monument of a football atop a trophy at its heart is upbeat. Forward Sports, a local football manufacturer that has worked with leading international sports brands since its inception in 1990, has clinched the deal to supply Brazuca, the Official Match Football of Adidas for the 2014 Fifa World Cup. According to Phaedra’s Prof Sandal, 42 million footballs will be exported from Sialkot-based industries ahead of the World Cup.

Khawaja Masood Akhtar, the CEO of Forward Sports, tries to keep a calm appearance as he rushes through a gruelling routine juggling foreign delegations, keeping appointments with national and international media representatives and, of course, sample-testing individual Brazuca balls produced at the factory.

“We already had the technology since we were producing footballs for several [champion] leagues but Brazuca is a different ball altogether,” he says. It comprises six panels — not geometric but artistic — that are thermo-bonded together. “Adidas wanted machinery developed for customised production. We only had 33 days for something that takes at least six months. The machines we developed are without human touch, computer-operated and high precision.”

Sialkot brings $1.65bn annually through exports and aims to increase this by $15bn by 2025 through diversifying export products. It has allayed international concerns about child labour and labour standards. Major international certification agencies based in the city provide consultancies on international standards. The city’s industrialists have also built an international airport and a dry port.

“The government needs to create a nucleus where international models can be adopted and created, where workers can come together to learn and display their expertise,” says Sarfaraz Bashir, president of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industries. “When machine-made footballs became the new international standard, we created the Sports Industries Development Centre to embrace technical evolution. With time, international players found that machine-made footballs were not all what they were hyped to be, so we continue producing machine- and handmade footballs.”

Why, then, for a country that excels in producing footballs for champion leagues, have we hardly any players to boast of? “Halwai apnay hath ka banaya hua halwa nahi khata,” says Prof Sandal — the confectioner doesn’t eat his own fare. “However, things are changing. Once we used to have street cricket. Now I see the kids playing football in the playground next to my house. So there is hope that we will have a team of our own one day.”

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

At-source deduction of power dues of provinces approved

APP

ISLAMABAD: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved on Thursday a mechanism for at-source deduction of outstanding power sector dues of the provinces.

ISLAMABAD: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved on Thursday a mechanism for at-source deduction of outstanding power sector dues of the provinces.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar informed a meeting of the CCI, presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, that the process of at-source deduction would become effective from July 1 through the federal adjuster.

The participants stressed the need for reconciling old dues. It was decided that representatives of the provinces would sit together to sort out the issue of old dues within 30 days and present a report at the next CCI meeting.

The council approved the Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill 2014 for its placement before the parliament.

The bill proposes framing of a national policy on energy conservation and suggesting measures. It will create awareness among people about energy conservation.

The meeting approved an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 for restoration of executive magistracy.

The prime minister expressed displeasure over the delay in an inquiry into the Kachi Canal project and directed that it be held through international auditors to fix responsibility. He also ordered a technical and financial audit of the project.

An agenda item, the sixth population census, was deferred to the next meeting. The prime minister directed that concerns raised by the Balochistan chief minister be discussed with the provincial government and a report submitted within two weeks.

The CCI also approved amendments to the Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) Act. It was decided that the GPA chairman would be a nominee of the Balochistan chief minister.

The council approved permanent absorption of federal employees transferred to provincial governments after devolution through the 18th Amendment. The meeting decided to expedite the process.

The finance minister told the meeting that in order to improve the debt management operation, the government had initiated a process of preparing a comprehensive medium-term debt strategy in consultation with all stakeholders. The strategy would help in taking strategic decisions for new borrowing, including an appropriate mix between domestic and external loans, to finance the budget deficit, he added.

The meeting endorsed a framework for the 11th five-year plan (2013-18) and Pakistan Vision-2025.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

China sending special envoy to India

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: China is sending Foreign Minister Wang Yi as its special envoy on June 8 to boost ties with India even as Premier Li Keqiang spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to secure what Beijing promises would be a robust partnership with the country.

NEW DELHI: China is sending Foreign Minister Wang Yi as its special envoy on June 8 to boost ties with India even as Premier Li Keqiang spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to secure what Beijing promises would be a robust partnership with the country.

Mr Modi, who has paid a few visits to China while he was denied visa to the United States, extended through Premier Li an invitation to President Xi Jinping to pay a visit to India later this year.

Describing China as a “priority” in India’s foreign policy, Mr Modi told Premier Li that he was keen on working closely with the Chinese leadership to deal with any outstanding issues in bilateral ties.

According to Press Trust of India, Premier Li telephoned Prime Minister Modi and conveyed his government’s desire to establish robust partnership with the new government of India for further development of ties.

Thanking Mr Li for his earlier message of felicitations, Mr Modi underlined his government’s resolve to exploit the full potential of “our strategic and cooperative partnership with China” and his keenness to work closely with the Chinese leadership “to deal with any outstanding issues in bilateral relations by proceeding from the strategic perspective of our developmental goals and long-term benefits to our peoples”.

Mr Modi also welcomed greater economic engagement between the two countries. The two leaders agreed to maintain frequent high-level exchanges and communication. Mr Modi, on his part, noted that China was always a “priority” in India’s foreign policy.

Mr Li’s phone call to Mr Modi came after Chinese government’s decision to send its Foreign Minister Wang Yi on June 8 as special envoy to meet Indian Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Earlier, China had congratulated Mr Modi soon after the poll results were announced. China had formally greeted Modi and sent a special message through Indian Ambassador to Beijing, Ashok K. Kantha during his meetings with Wang and State Councillor and Special Representative for the border dispute Yang Jiechi.

Mr Li had also formally greeted Mr Modi immediately after he was sworn in as prime minister.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Sharif asks political rivals to wait for next elections

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked his political rivals planning to undertake train and long marches to be patient and wait till next elections for trying to reach the corridors of power.

LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked his political rivals planning to undertake train and long marches to be patient and wait till next elections for trying to reach the corridors of power.

Addressing a ceremony held here on Wednesday to mark the 16th anniversary of nuclear tests by the country, he said: “I can’t comprehend the agenda of train marchers and long marchers as the politics of 80s and 90s will no longer work and no-one will believe in false accusations now.

“Those interested in politicking can do so at the time of election when the masses will decide their fate. They should patiently wait for four years.”

Mr Sharif said only those who delivered would succeed in politics. “The people of Pakistan are a better judge about our government after witnessing our performance and what we have delivered.”

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is reportedly planning a long march from Lahore to Islamabad on Aug 14, while Awami Muslim League of Sheikh Rashid has announced a train march on June 20.

Mr Sharif urged his opponents not to politicise development projects and said his agenda was economic and not political. “We are working with sincerity for the welfare of Pakistani citizens and not playing politics for personal gains.”

He said those holding protests were against development and people’s welfare.

The prime minister hinted at his desire to rule the country for another five years after the current term when he said that his party would take the country to prosperity “if given 10 years to work”.

Greeting the nation on the Youm-i-Takbeer, he said Pakistan was fully capable of defending itself against any aggression. But he regretted that the only Muslim nuclear power was deficient in energy. “What kind of atomic power it is where extremism, lawlessness, loadshedding are rampant all over?”

He said his government was trying hard to meet the electricity demand for 30 years and he would not rest till the curse of loadshedding was eliminated.

Mr Sharif said the country could progress only after the menace of terrorism was eradicated.

He said the Karachi mass transit plan would be initiated soon and it would be a priority of the government to complete all projects within its tenure.

The prime minister defended his India visit and termed it constructive. He said relations with the neighbouring country were moving forward in the right direction.

He said Pakistan wanted to have friendly ties with all its neighbours for the sake of progress and prosperity of its people.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Obama stresses need for transparency in strikes

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that “a strategy that involves invading every country that harbours terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable”.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that “a strategy that involves invading every country that harbours terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable”.

In a policy speech at the West Point military academy, New York, President Obama also emphasised the need to take direct strikes (such as drones) only when faced with a continuing, imminent threat and only where there’s near certainty of no civilian casualties.

“For, our actions should meet a simple test: we must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield,” said the US leader while outlining his strategy for dealing with future global issues.

In an indirect reference to the CIA, which runs the drone programme for Pakistan, President Obama noted that the US intelligence community had done outstanding work. “But, when we cannot explain our efforts clearly and publicly, we face terrorist propaganda and international suspicion; we erode legitimacy with our partners and our people; and we reduce accountability in our own government.”

Mr Obama said he believed the US should be more transparent about both the basis for its actions and the manner in which they were carried out — “whether it’s drone strikes, or training partners. I will increasingly turn to our military to take the lead and provide information to the public about our efforts.”

On Tuesday, Mr Obama outlined his Afghan policy, which aims to wrap up US military involvement in Afghanistan by 2016.

The strategy unveiled on Wednesday seeks to build partnerships for combating terrorism and underlines the need to use force only when necessary. “To say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution,” the president said.

Mr Obama, who is also the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, assured America’s future military leaders that like most Americans he too believed “America must always lead on the world stage”.

He assured them that the military “always will be the backbone of that leadership” but US military action “cannot be the only — or primary — component of our leadership in every instance.”

President Obama also noted that since he took office, the United States had ended the Iraq war and was preparing to end the Afghanistan conflict, decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and eliminated Osama bin Laden.

The speech touched all major issues that interest or affect the US as a superpower and Mr Obama assured the international community that the US would not dodge its responsibilities but would perform them smartly.

“By most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away — are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics,” he declared,

The president reminded those who support continued US military engagement around the world that: “Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures. Just because we have the best hammer, does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

He assured his nation that the United States would “use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it” but “we still need to ask tough questions about whether our action is proportional, effective and just.”

International opinion matters, “but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, or our way of life”, he added.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Hasina says ready to work with Modi

AFP

TOKYO: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Wednesday she was ready to work with her new Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, despite his hardline image.

TOKYO: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Wednesday she was ready to work with her new Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, despite his hardline image.

Ms Hasina, who is serving as premier for the third time, said she had dealt with four different Indian governments — “This is the fifth one” — and was keen to maintain a working relationship with her powerful and populous neighbour.

“He has his own ideas. Now he has become the prime minister of India, I hope he will also act as the prime minister of India,” she told a press conference in Tokyo, on the fourth day of her visit to Japan.

Modi, sworn in on Monday after a landslide election victory earlier this month, has an image as a hardliner, even within his own Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

He is regarded with deep suspicion by many in Pakistan after deadly anti-Muslim riots erupted in his western fiefdom of Gujarat in 2002.

However, Hasina said Bangladesh has had good relations with India where differences have been resolved through discussions, such as concluding a treaty on water resources.

“What I believe is that through bilateral discussions, if there is any problem, we can solve it,” she said.

She stressed the region shares a “common enemy” in poverty, which it needs to fight through economic development. —AFP

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Bombs disturb talks, says Swaraj

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: India wants good relations with Pakistan but Islamabad must stop “terrorist activities” directed against New Delhi as talks will get subdued under the “din” of bomb blasts, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Wednesday.

NEW DELHI: India wants good relations with Pakistan but Islamabad must stop “terrorist activities” directed against New Delhi as talks will get subdued under the “din” of bomb blasts, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Wednesday.

Press Trust of India quoted her as saying that her priority would be to showcase India’s strengths to the world and improve relations with neighbouring countries, strategic partners, Africa, ASEAN member countries, Europe and others.

On this week’s visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, she said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had conveyed to his guest that talks between the two countries would not be effective if bomb blasts continued.

“We told Pakistan that we want good relations with it. But for good relations, the talks can be effective and successful only if terrorist activities (directed against India) stop,” she was quoted as saying.

“The voice of talks gets lost in the sound of bomb blasts. That is why bomb blasts should stop so that we can talk and our voices can be heard. Talks will get subdued under the din of bomb blasts. He (Modi) conveyed it to Sharif in these many words,” 62-year-old Swaraj told reporters after assuming charge as External Affairs Minister.

She said India asked Pakistan to ensure speedy trial in 26/11 terrorist case being held in Pakistan. The Pakistani side said they were working on it, according to PTI.

She said the talks Mr Modi had with Saarc leaders, who had come to attend his swearing-in ceremony, were successful.

“He told the leaders that Saarc could not make an identity in the world because of bilateral issues. He said if bilateral contentious issues are left between the respective countries, then Saarc can emerge as a strong power,” Ms Swaraj said.

“I would like to say that for the first time the Saarc leaders felt that a government and a prime minister who thinks out of the box has assumed power in India,” she said.

Asked what would be the new government’s approach towards the United States, Ms Swaraj referred to telephonic conversation President Barack Obama had with Mr Modi and the invitation extended to him to visit US by the American president.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

India visit a success, insist Sharif aides

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to the federal capital on Tuesday evening where he was greeted by a volley of criticism from the media, which was up in arms that he had not mentioned Kashmir during his visit to India while he had been greeted by the T word (terrorism).

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to the federal capital on Tuesday evening where he was greeted by a volley of criticism from the media, which was up in arms that he had not mentioned Kashmir during his visit to India while he had been greeted by the T word (terrorism).

However, it did not take long for the prime minister’s senior aides to jump into action and address the criticism. They tried hard to convince many that the meeting had been a success.

“Mr Modi’s promise to visit Pakistan, the resumption of secretary level talks, and taking forward the Lahore declaration signed by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and then Indian Prime Minister [Atal Behari] Vajpayee back in 1999 which has a clear mention of the Kashmir issue,” shot back a member of the delegation, when asked to list the reasons the trip should be seen as a success for Pakistan.

He said the two prime ministers had two meetings — a delegation level interaction followed by a one-to-one chit chat, adding that one would easily assume that the two must have discussed irritants between the two countries.

“Yes, the two countries have stated positions on the issue of Kashmir, which need to be discussed and both have agreed to take it up in their future meetings,” said the official.

He pointed out that the BJP’s mood can be judged from the fact that Prime Minister Sharif was received by the new Indian Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, when the former went to visit Mr Vajpayee at his residence.

The frail looking Mr Vajpayee, the official told Dawn, was happy to see Mr Sharif once again and expressed hope for the normalisation of ties between the two countries.

“What else, one can expect from such a short visit?” asked the official.

He gave more examples of the warm welcome Mr Sharif was given during his various visits — to the president of India, Indian corporate giants and during his visit to Delhi’s Jama Masjid.

While the reaction on the television talk shows in the evening was not too encouraging, the political parties were less critical.

Talking to media persons at the parliament house, Syed Khursheed Shah didn’t find any fault with the outcome of the visit.

Explaining that the two countries had to first improve the atmospherics before thorny issues such as Kashmir and distribution of water could be discussed, he added that “I personally believe the visit by Prime Minister Sharif to India will pave the way towards that direction.”

On the other hand, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), wasn’t too happy with the statement the prime minister had made in India.

Talking to Dawn, the PTI information secretary, Dr Shireen Mazari said, “While Mr Modi spoke on terrorism and gave the Indian position versus Pakistan, our PM did not demand that India stop supporting terrorism inside Pakistan especially Balochistan. Nor did he mention Kashmir in his officially prepared text.”

She added that it seemed that the PML-N government had no clear India policy apart from promoting business links.

However, she did concede that the prime minister did reflect the true sentiments vis-a-vis the need for better relations with India.

She also criticised Mr Sharif for not meeting the delegation of Hurriyat Conference.

Jan Achakzai, the spokesperson for the JUI-F, said that the prime minister failed to offer a counter-narrative on terrorism and flag other national concerns versus India.

He too felt that a meeting with the delegation of Hurriyat Conference would have helped the prime minister on home soil.

However, he did say that the secretary-level talks, Mr Modi’s acceptance of a visit to Pakistan and the convergence of trade ties were good signs.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Fata action to deal with terror threat: US

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

WASHINGTON: Terrorists pose a serious threat to the Pakistani state and citizens and the current military action in Fata is aimed at dealing with this threat, says the US State Department.

WASHINGTON: Terrorists pose a serious threat to the Pakistani state and citizens and the current military action in Fata is aimed at dealing with this threat, says the US State Department.

“These actions are being conducted solely by Pakistani security forces, because we know the threat that terrorism has certainly been in Pakistan — for Pakistani citizens, and the government,” said the State Department’s deputy spokesperson Marie Harf, when asked to comment on the action.

She also noted that Pakistan had described these actions as retaliatory in nature.

“We have certainly worked with them very closely on counter-terrorism and on how they can increase their capacity to fight the threat that they face,” said Ms Harf when asked if the United States supported the move.

The State Department official refused to comment on a recent congressional hearing where former US officials told the lawmakers that some elements of the Pakistani military continued to support the terrorists.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Egypt extends election amid low turnout

Reuters

CAIRO: Egypt’s presidential election was extended by a day on Tuesday in an effort to boost lower than expected turnout that threatened to undermine the credibility of the frontrunner, former army chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

CAIRO: Egypt’s presidential election was extended by a day on Tuesday in an effort to boost lower than expected turnout that threatened to undermine the credibility of the frontrunner, former army chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

After Sisi called for record voter participation, low turnout would be seen at home and abroad as a setback for the field marshal who toppled the country’s first freely elected leader, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi. The two-day vote was originally due to conclude on Tuesday but was extended until Wednesday to allow the “greatest number possible” to vote, state media reported.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

UK police name two men in Imran Farooq’s murder

AFP

LONDON: British detectives investigating the 2010 murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq in London named two men on Tuesday they want to trace in connection with the killing.

LONDON: British detectives investigating the 2010 murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq in London named two men on Tuesday they want to trace in connection with the killing.

Farooq, 50, a founding member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was stabbed and beaten to death in Edgware, northwest London, as he returned home from work on Sept 16, 2010.

The two men police want to trace are both Pakistani nationals who left Britain in the hours after the murder, Scotland Yard police headquarters said in a statement.

Detectives said they were looking for 29-year-old Moshin Ali Syed, who was in Britain from February 2010.

They also want to speak to Muhammad Kashif Khan Kamran, 34, who was in Britain from early September 2010.

The two men lived in Stanmore, a suburb neighbouring Edgware, prior to the murder, police said.

“The men are known to have registered to study at a college in east London having entered the UK on student visas,” the statement said.

They said they had pieced together a “significant picture” of the men’s movements in Pakistan and London, but wanted more information about their whereabouts in the days immediately prior to the murder, and on their travel out of Britain in the hours afterwards.

“Dr Farooq’s murder would have required careful planning and help from other people, some of whom may have provided assistance or information unwittingly,” they said.

“We are appealing to anyone who has not yet come forward but knew either man in Pakistan or during their time in the UK to contact the investigation team.

“The two men are believed to be in Pakistan at this time and officers continue to liaise with Pakistani authorities.

“Scotland Yard also released images of the two men.

Faisal Sabzwari, a senior MQM leader in Karachi, told AFP the party wanted Farooq’s killers brought to justice, and said they were “diligently” cooperating with the British investigation.

But he insisted they knew nothing of Syed or Kamran.

“We don’t know about the existence of those two men whose pictures have been released,” Sabzwari told AFP.

“They are not members of the MQM or any of its affiliate groups. “Farooq claimed asylum in Britain in 1999.

A 52-year-old man arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder remains on police bail pending further enquiries.

The man was arrested in June 2013 at London’s Heathrow Airport after landing on a flight from Canada.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Footprints: Clouds of distrust

Saher Baloch

THE blackened walls and a burnt holy book lying on an elevated stone inside the Jai Ram Das Darbar has become a talking point for the residents of Madheji’s Shahi Bazaar in Shikarpur district. On May 7, a huge fire burnt down the temple belonging to the Hindu community and the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. The incident came into focus recently when Sikh protesters, angry at the government’s delayed response, stormed the parliament in Islamabad.

THE blackened walls and a burnt holy book lying on an elevated stone inside the Jai Ram Das Darbar has become a talking point for the residents of Madheji’s Shahi Bazaar in Shikarpur district. On May 7, a huge fire burnt down the temple belonging to the Hindu community and the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. The incident came into focus recently when Sikh protesters, angry at the government’s delayed response, stormed the parliament in Islamabad.

Situated in a covered market from the pre-partition era, the Darbar is frequented more by Hindus who also believe in the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib. There are 1,500 Hindus in a town of 30,000 people, with Muslims as the dominant community and “not a single Sikh family around”, according to locals.

The mukhi (head) of the Hindu Panchayat Madheji, Sunder Das, is called for quickly as I make my way inside the small entrance of the Darbar. A modest place, it has the Guru Granth Sahib in a corner room, facing a spacious area for praying. The surrounding four walls are adorned with pictures of Hindu deities as is the tradition in countless temples scattered across Sindh. Soon after the incident, a police guard was posted outside the temple to provide security.

Everyone speaks at once. “It was eight in the morning, when Jai Kumar, a shopkeeper, came inside to pray,” says Das, putting his hand on the shoulder of a bespectacled man sitting next to him. “I came in and prayed for 10 minutes and left,” says Kumar. “It was early, so the shops had not yet opened. Suddenly, a roadside fish vendor I know came running up to inform me about a cloud of smoke that had gathered around the back of the temple.”

On reaching the temple which, he says, is hardly a minute’s walk from his shop, he found that the room where the holy book is kept was engulfed in fire. For the next half an hour, people who had made it to the market fought the flames.

Now, there’s debate over what exactly occurred and why. No-one saw anyone coming into the Darbar when Kumar left. An FIR was registered against unidentified people, and that is all for the moment. The head muharrir of the Madheji police station, Altaf Ali Shah, says that they collected ashes from the site and sent the evidence to the forensics department in Karachi. “It’ll take a week for a complete report to come in,” he adds, while another officer calmly comments that, “[The incident] may not be as huge as it is being made out to be.”

However, the mukhi is angry with the investigation officer for stating in his report that the fire was caused by a burning oil lamp (diya) kept right beside the book. “We don’t light a diya in the morning,” he says. “There is one but it is kept beside a staircase which we light up at night before closing the Darbar. How can it cause a fire of such scale? It took us half an hour to put it out completely.”

Also, Kumar says that the Darbar is usually open to everyone. “People come in here to use the toilet and drink water. This was definitely done by someone who wanted to create a rift between Hindus and Muslims,” he believes.

The accounts of various people in the area suggest that an incident like this has never happened before. Most people, however, blame “mischief-makers” for starting the fire. “There’s religious harmony here,” explains Das with a slight irritation in his voice. “Honestly, we are shocked to hear about it ourselves as we don’t share an animosity with anyone on the basis of religion.” He insists that the residents include a large number of businessmen and vendors who have no “time or inclination to indulge in religious debate with someone which could eventually result in something so extreme”.

But representing the Pakistan Sikh Council, Ramesh Singh, has his doubts and blames the Hindu Panchayat. “This is the seventh incident since last year,” he says. “We have 17 gurdwaras in Sindh and nothing even slightly ominous is ever reported from there. It is only the ones we share with the Hindu Panchayat which have been attacked so far. I have my doubts, and who wouldn’t?”

He says that it all began last year in Shikarpur. An official of the Jai Samadha Ashram was pictured drawing a symbol on the Guru Granth Sahib which was considered offensive by the Sikh community. The picture was shared by young Sikhs on Facebook and Twitter. “The young on both sides almost clashed violently which we averted by stepping in,” says Singh. “If the Hindu Panchayat wants to keep our holy book, they’ll have to follow the Sikh code of conduct. Otherwise, we will take legal action this time around.”

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Sharif woos Indian investors

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Suddenly everyone wants to do business with new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said here on Monday he had an edge because both the leaders had a reputation of embracing business-friendly policies.

NEW DELHI: Suddenly everyone wants to do business with new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said here on Monday he had an edge because both the leaders had a reputation of embracing business-friendly policies.

“I am here to turn a new page in India-Pakistan relations,” Mr Sharif told the Hindustan Times ahead of his globally watched handshake with Mr Modi, the first foreign leader to do so after the Indian leader was sworn-in in a magnificent ceremony at the British-built Presidential Palace.

The two will hold a bilateral meeting on Tuesday.

“We (India and Pakistan) have a historic moment to open a new chapter. The new government under Mr Modi has a strong mandate and I look forward to picking up the relationship from where I and (A.B.) Vajpayee left it in 1999,” Mr Sharif said.

On his first official trip to India as prime minster (he last came for Rajiv Gandhi’s funeral), Mr Sharif looked set to drive an agenda of “trade and economics” at his bilateral meeting with Modi, The Hindustan Times said.

“I am regarded as a friend of businessmen and we are regarded as a business-frie­nd­ly government. Modi too is perceived as a business-frie­ndly person. He has a model of development,” the Pakistan premier said. “We can easily work with each other.”

Indeed, Indian companies such as the Adani Group have proposed producing electricity to be sold to Pakistan. But such proposals have not taken off, the paper said. On Monday, Mr Sharif once again reminded Indian businesses of such opportunities.

“I will be happy to have Indians invest in Pakistan. We have an acute shortage of energy. If Indians come, they will find Pakistani markets very attractive, with returns as high as 30 per cent.”

Asked if he was willing to give an assurance that terrorism would no longer be sponsored from Pakistani soil, a point likely to be taken up at his meeting with Mr Modi, the Pakistani premier was positive.

“We have lost thousands of lives. Our economy has suffered at the hands of terrorists. Who can be more serious than us regarding eliminating terror from the region,” he said Sharif took care to avoid answering any qtuestions relating to his relationship with his army chief or statements issued by jihadi hardliners such as Hafiz Saeed, who had warned the Pakistani premier against his trip to India.

The Pakistan premier is among the six South Asian leaders invited for the ceremony. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa are also in Delhi.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and US President Barrack Obama were among the leaders to greet and woo Mr Modi after he took the oath of office. Premier Li said China viewed India as a “natural cooperative partner” and it was ready to work with the Narendra Modi-led government to take their strategic cooperative partnership to a “new level”.

Congratulating Mr Modi on being sworn in as India’s 15th prime minister, the Chinese premier said: “China and India are important neighbours to each other and the top two emerging markets in the world. China-India relations have moved beyond the bilateral scope and taken on global and strategic significance.”

“By working together for peaceful, cooperative and common development, China and India will not only bring benefits to their own people but also contribute to peace, stability and prosperity of Asia and beyond. China stands ready to work with India to bring China-India strategic cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity to a new level,” he was quoted as saying in an official statement.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Eurosceptic election surge rocks EU

Reuters

BRUSSELS: Stunning victories in European Parliament elections by nationalist, Eurosceptic parties from France and Britain left the European Union licking its wounds on Monday and facing a giant policy dilemma.

BRUSSELS: Stunning victories in European Parliament elections by nationalist, Eurosceptic parties from France and Britain left the European Union licking its wounds on Monday and facing a giant policy dilemma.

Across the continent, anti-establishment parties of the far right and hard left more than doubled their representation amid voter apathy, harnessing a mood of anger with Brussels over austerity, mass unemployment and immigration.

While the centre-right and centre-left will continue to control more than half of the 751 seats in the EU legislature, they will face an unprecedented challenge from noisy insurgents determined to stop business as usual in the 28-nation bloc.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the breakthrough by Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration, anti-euro National Front, which topped a national vote for the first time and pushed his Socialists into third place, a political “earthquake”. He rapidly countered by offering more tax cuts to spur an economy which is flat-lining.

Another tremor on the other side of the Channel raised new doubts about Britain’s long-term future in the EU. Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party, which advocates immediate withdrawal, defeated the opposition Labour party and Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives.

The anti-EU vote was amplified in many countries by a low turnout of just 43.1 per cent, but the pro-European centre ground held firm in Germany, the EU’s biggest member state with the largest number of seats, as well as Italy and Spain.

France is one of the EU’s founder members and the weakness of President Francois Hollande may leave German Chancellor Angela Merkel without a strong partner for the next leg of European integration which economists say is vital to underpin a single currency but leaves voters, who want hope of better times to come, cold.

“The legitimacy of Europe is weakened, the legitimacy of France in Europe is weakened further,” said Dominique Moisi of the French Institute of International Relations.

“To function, Europe needs a strong balance between France and Germany. But France is moving the way of Italy or Greece in economic terms and moving the way of Britain in its relationship with Europe.”

Earlier, a jubilant Le Pen told cheering supporters the French people had made clear “they no longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by EU commissioners and technocrats who are unelected. They want to be protected from globalisation and take back the reins of their destiny.”

In Britain, Cameron rebuffed UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s call for an early referendum on an EU exit, sticking to his plan to renegotiate membership terms if he is re-elected next year, and put the result to an in/out plebiscite in 2017. However, some analysts said UKIP’s surge may force the prime minister to toughen his stance on Europe and could scare more pro-European voters in Scotland into opting to leave Britain in a September referendum.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

China claims busting 23 groups, arresting 200 suspects in Xinjiang

Reuters

BEIJING: Chinese police in the far western region of Xinjiang have taken down 23 “terror and religious extremism groups” and caught more than 200 suspects in May, state media said, days after the region’s deadliest attack in years.

BEIJING: Chinese police in the far western region of Xinjiang have taken down 23 “terror and religious extremism groups” and caught more than 200 suspects in May, state media said, days after the region’s deadliest attack in years.

China has announced year-long “anti-terrorism” operations in restive Xinjiang, home to a large Muslim Uighur minority, as well as across the country, following a series of bloody incidents that Beijing blames on Islamists and separatists from the region.

Police busted the groups in the southern Xinjiang prefectures of Hotan, Kashgar and Aksu and seized more than 200 explosive devices in raids, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Sunday.

Many of those captured were in their 20s and 30s, and had learned how to make explosives by watching online videos, Xinhua said.

“They exchanged their experiences of making explosives and propagating jihad through chatting tools, text messages and illegal preaching sites,” the news agency said, citing the regional public security department.

China has said five suicide bombers carried out an attack at a morning vegetable market in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi on Thursday, which killed 31 people and injured 94.

It was the second attack in Urumqi in just over three weeks, after a bomb went off at a train station in late April, killing a bystander and wounding 79.

“We must truly turn violent terrorists into rats scurrying across the street, with everyone shouting to beat them down,” state media cited Zhang Chunxian, the ruling Communist Party chief in Xinjiang, as saying at a Sunday meeting on the latest Urumqi attack.

At least 180 people have been killed in attacks across China over the past year.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

US, India to expand ties

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

WASHINGTON: The United States hopes to expand its strategic partnership with India for years to come, the White House said on Monday.

WASHINGTON: The United States hopes to expand its strategic partnership with India for years to come, the White House said on Monday.

Congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the new Indian government on their swearing-in earlier in the day, the White House said the US and India shared “a deep bond and commitment” to promoting economic opportunity, freedom, and security for our people and around the world.

“We look forward to working closely together with the new government to continue to strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership for years to come,” the White House said.

The statement also noted that US President Barack Obama had called Mr Modi soon after his election and had expressed the desire to further strengthen ties.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Pope prays at separation barrier, calls for Mideast peace

Reuters

BETHLEHEM: Pope Francis made a surprise stop on Sunday at the wall Palestinians abhor as a symbol of Israeli oppression, and later invited presidents from both sides of the divide to the Vatican to pray for peace.

BETHLEHEM: Pope Francis made a surprise stop on Sunday at the wall Palestinians abhor as a symbol of Israeli oppression, and later invited presidents from both sides of the divide to the Vatican to pray for peace.

In an image likely to become one of the most emblematic of his trip to the holy land, Francis rested his forehead against the concrete structure that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and prayed silently as a child holding a Palestinian flag looked on.

He stood at a spot where someone had sprayed in red paint “Free Palestine”. Above his head was graffiti in broken English reading: “Bethlehem look like Warsaw Ghetto”, comparing the Palestinians’ plight with that of the Jews under the Nazis.

Such imagery seemed likely to cause unease among Israel’s leaders, who say the barrier, erected 10 years ago during a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings, is needed to secure its security. Palestinians see it as a bid by Israel to partition off territory and grab land they want for their future state.

On the second leg of a three-day trip to the Middle East, Francis delighted his Palestinian hosts by referring to the “state of Palestine”, giving support for their bid for full statehood recognition in the face of a paralysed peace process.

But, speaking at the birthplace of Jesus in the Palestinian-run city of Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, he made it clear that a negotiated accord was needed, calling on leaders from both sides to overcome their myriad divisions.

Francis invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to come to the Vatican to pray for an end to the enduring conflict, just a month after the collapse of US-backed peace talks.

“In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace,” the Pope said at an open-air Mass in Bethlehem.

Peres and Abbas both accepted the invitation, their respective staff said. Palestinian official Hana Amira said the encounter would take place on June 6, just under two months before the veteran Israeli leader leaves office.

But it seemed unlikely that Peres would receive any mandate from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate with Abbas on renewing direct talks.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Obama in Kabul to meet troops, not Karzai, says White House

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: With President Barack Obama on board, US Air Force One touched down at Afghanistan’s Bagram Airbase on Sunday under the cover of darkness, the White House announced.

WASHINGTON: With President Barack Obama on board, US Air Force One touched down at Afghanistan’s Bagram Airbase on Sunday under the cover of darkness, the White House announced.

There are no meetings scheduled with either President Hamid Karzai or the two candidates in the run-off elections in the country, Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani. The White House said the president wanted to make the trip purely focused on US and internationals troops and not to get involved in internal Afghan politics.

During the short visit, which lasted only a few hours, President Obama met Ambassador James Cunningham and the commander of US and allied forces Gen Joseph F. Dumford Jr., and got a battlefield update. He also discussed post-war plans, focusing on US troop levels after December 2014, when the United States plans to withdraw most of its troops from Afghanistan.

Mr Obama also visited wounded troops in the military hospital at Bagram. Only US troops attended this event where country star Brad Paisley, who accompanied the president, entertained them.

Air Force One departed Andrews Air Base near Washington on Saturday night. This is Mr Obama’s fourth visit as president to Afghanistan, and his first in two years.

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Senior Director National Security for Afghanistan Jeff Eggers, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, and counsellor to the president John Podesta, who has a son serving in Afghanistan, accompanied the president.

Briefing journalists on the visit, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that the administration saw the trip as “an opportunity for the president to thank American troops and civilians for their service”.

Explaining the decision to purely focus on the troops, Mr Rhodes said “we didn’t want to get in the middle of election season”.

Mr Rhodes also noted that the visit came at an important time, as Mr Obama considered the size of the post-combat US force for Afghanistan to train Afghan forces and support anti-terrorism operations.

“We also of course are making some decisions about the future of our commitment to Afghanistan.”

Mr Rhodes underlined that there still needed to be a bilateral security agreement in place before there could be a post-2014 force in Afghanistan. He noted that though Mr Karzai had failed to sign the deal, the two candidates in the run-off have said they would be ready to sign it.

“We could expect to hear additional clarity” about the president’s thinking in Afghanistan over the coming days, Mr Rhodes said, noting the West Point speech, and a Nato defence ministerial meeting on June 14.

He said the Afghan political calendar also explained the decision not to meet Mr Karzai, but added that the president had spoken to him several times recently, including after a deadly landslide in Afghanistan

“We just don’t want to take any risks with the president’s security,” said Mr Rhodes while explaining why the visit was not announced.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

US to prepare strategy with Pakistan’s help

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

WASHINGTON: The United States wants Pakistan’s cooperation in formulating its future counter-terrorism strategy for Afghanistan and the rest of South Asia, the White House said on Sunday.

WASHINGTON: The United States wants Pakistan’s cooperation in formulating its future counter-terrorism strategy for Afghanistan and the rest of South Asia, the White House said on Sunday.

Briefing the media on President Barack Obama’s surprise visit to Kabul earlier in the day, his Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said the US had not yet decided how many troops to keep in Afghanistan after 2014 but all US allies in the region would be consulted before making any major decision.

“We’ve been looking broadly at counter-terrorism and how do you have a counter-terrorism strategy in Afghanistan, in South Asia, in cooperation with Pakistan that keeps Al Qaeda core on its heels,” said Mr Rhodes.

A transcript released by the White House quoted Mr Rhodes as saying that while preparing a future counter-terrorism strategy, the United States would also see “how does it fit into the broader counter-terrorism challenge across the entire region all the way to North Africa.”

The president is expected to highlight some aspects of this strategy in a policy speech next month.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Border post in Bajaur attacked

Anwarullah Khan

KHAR: Five assailants were killed and five security personnel injured when suspected militants crossed the Afghan border and attacked a military post in Mamond tehsil of Bajaur Agency on Sunday evening, an official said.

KHAR: Five assailants were killed and five security personnel injured when suspected militants crossed the Afghan border and attacked a military post in Mamond tehsil of Bajaur Agency on Sunday evening, an official said.

The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack and said 11 security personnel were killed in the assault.

A local administration official said a group of militants entered Pakistani territory from Afghanistan’s Kunar province and attacked the border post in Manozangal area, about 39km from agency headquarters Khar.

He said the militants fired rockets and mortar shells at the post, injuring five personnel of the Frontier Corps. “The security personnel, however, managed to repulse the attack, killing five of the assailants in the process,” he said.

Two key militant leaders were among the dead, the official said.

Residents said the fighting between the security personnel and militants continued till late in the evening and the two sides used heavy weapons against each other.

The security forces also claimed to have seized control of the strategic Kaga Pass in Mamond tehsil. The militants previously used the pass for attacking border posts.

They said that after taking control of the area they had established bunkers there.

Our correspondent in Miramshah adds: TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told journalists by phone that Taliban militants had taken control of almost all the military bunkers and posts in the Manozangal area.

He said suicide attacks would be carried out on the last post held by the security forces in the area to take complete control of the region.

Shahid claimed that a total of 11 security personnel had been killed in the fighting in Bajaur Agency. The bodies of the slain personnel had been seized by the militants.

He said only one TTP man was killed in the attack.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Yemeni embassy official escapes kidnapping bid

Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD: Four persons who introduced themselves as police officials tried to kidnap the Yemeni embassy’s deputy head of mission Dr Abdul Rab Abubakar Bingabr from his residence here on Sunday, but fled following resistance put up by the diplomat and his family.

ISLAMABAD: Four persons who introduced themselves as police officials tried to kidnap the Yemeni embassy’s deputy head of mission Dr Abdul Rab Abubakar Bingabr from his residence here on Sunday, but fled following resistance put up by the diplomat and his family.

According to sources, the men rang the doorbell of Dr Bingabr’s house in sector G-10 at about 2am and introduced themselves as policemen, but could not tell the reason of their visit.

The diplomat got suspicious and started shouting. He also called his neighbours for help and asked his son to bring a weapon and shoot the suspects.

Meanwhile, doors of the neighbouring houses opened and the suspects ran towards their car parked on the roadside and sped away.

The diplomat had been receiving threats from a group and some men had broken into his house and taken away his car last year. He had informed the Foreign Office several times about the threats but security had not been provided to him.

The Superintendent of Police of the area, retired Capt Muhammad Ilyas, said he was not aware of the incident and police had not received any complaint.

Dr Bingabr said he had informed the Yemeni government about the incident and taken up the issue with the authorities here.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Footprints: Kargil’s leftovers

Mehreen Zahra-Malik

He picked up the ball and clutched it longingly to his chest as he scoured the expanses of the pitch in front: a silted, sluggish creek, about thirty metres wide, the bushes on its opposite bank calling out the challenge.

He picked up the ball and clutched it longingly to his chest as he scoured the expanses of the pitch in front: a silted, sluggish creek, about thirty metres wide, the bushes on its opposite bank calling out the challenge.

“I can kick it all the way to the other side,” Wafadaar boasted, putting the ball on the floor and positioning his foot firmly on its curved edge. The other kids gathered around him, some bent over with their hands on their knees, a few fretfully running their fingers through their hair.

Wafadaar bounced the ball a couple of times and, finally, booted it as far into the opposite direction as his little body could manage, comfortably landing the ball into a bush on the other side of the water. The children roared.

“Now we have to go to the other side and get the ball,” Wafadar said. Before I could stop him, my self-appointed guide, he was racing down the narrowing street, avoiding heaps of rubbish and craters in the ground, dribbling an invisible ball, always moving — on grass and on gravel, on the road and on mud and through water, disappearing behind a cluster of houses. I needed a new guide to help me find the elusive colony of people displaced by the Kargil conflict and living somewhere behind Islamabad’s Bari Imam shrine. Wars between Pakistan and India have claimed thousands of victims but forgotten among them are the living victims of the Kargil war who have sought uncertain refuge in the squalor of shanty towns around the country.

Across a bridge and up and down narrow streets lined with palm trees and mud and brick houses, their doors painted in shades of orange and green, Baqir, our pied piper, led me and a long line of local children to a small hamlet teetering on the edge of the creek. A sheepish Wafadar found us again somewhere along the way. “Why did your family move here?” I asked him. “I don’t know,” Wafadaar said. “Ask my father.” Something terrible had happened to Wafadar’s father — something senseless but dreadfully common among hundreds and thousands of people who have been displaced from several parts of Pakistan brutalised by war.

A sepahi in the Pakistan army, Shah returned to his village across the border from Kargil one morning to find that an Indian shell had crashed through the roof of his two-storey house and left his son and daughter dead. His second daughter, 10-year-old Sidra, was lying semi-conscious under a tree, her skull crushed by the bombardment.

As he gathered his children’s bodies, Shah says he remembers fretting that the bales of hay stacked on the roof for the goats’ winter fodder had caught fire during the shelling. He worried for his animals. A few days later, after India blocked water to the area, Shah fled, his bleeding daughter bundled in his arms. Sidra died a few days later.

But grief and remorse trailed him to Islamabad, combining with other stresses: financial troubles and the absence of support from relatives and friends. Fifteen years later, Shah is a driver at the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, surviving on a meagre salary and a Rs5,000 pension. He blames Nawaz Sharif. “Kashmir was in our hands,” he told me at his house, sitting in a blue plastic chair under harsh fluorescent lights and a clock that read 6:54, no longer keeping time.

“But then Sharif went to the United States and we had to give Kargil back.” For Shah, and his neighbours, many of them ex-army men, Sharif’s greatest betrayal was calling the Kargil fighters mujahideen. “Kashmiri mujahideen?” he scoffed. “He said we were mujahideen! I’m retired from the army. He disowned his own army.” While Shah has never been compensated for what he left behind, and several trips to the GHQ have borne nothing, Sharif will travel to India next week to make gains for the future.

A neighbour’s son Ali Raza, now 20, also remembers shells: exploding Indian shells dripping like rain every day on his way to school. A shell fell near his school bus once, so close it rocked the bus from the side to side. He tells me about the 12-year-old girl whose nose was sliced off by shrapnel. He also tells me about how the war changed children’s lives — and their toys too.

“They [army] would give us one gola (grenade) each and send us to throw them on the Indians,” Ali, a cook at Nadra, said. “The children were small and were hard to detect at night. And plus we knew all the inside routes that even the adults didn’t. So they gave us a gola each and off we went, running up the hills.”

As Ali tells me about the unusual toys and the invented games, his infant daughter plays with a rattle by his feet. She chuckles. At least for her, one can pray, the war is over.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

FBR proposes audit of tax returns before submission

Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD: The government is expected to introduce fresh regulations in the next finance bill to rein in sales tax evasion by outsourcing the task of verifying the authenticity of filed returns to chartered accountants.

ISLAMABAD: The government is expected to introduce fresh regulations in the next finance bill to rein in sales tax evasion by outsourcing the task of verifying the authenticity of filed returns to chartered accountants.

This is one of the main proposals sent by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to the finance ministry for inclusion in next month’s budget.

Under the new rules, returns filed by commercial entities will have to be verified by a chartered accountant, so that any irregularities are weeded out.

The government hopes this will curtail sales tax evasion which costs the exchequer an estimated Rs500 billion every year.

Sources tell Dawn this proposal is inspired by the United Kingdom’s model, which has been using this practice to minimise tax fraud and ensure a better tax-to-GDP ratio.

But according to former FBR chairman Abdullah Yousuf – who is also a chartered accountant – the proposal is not likely to capture the imagination of the top leadership, adding that such measures are more effective in documented economies where all expenditure of tax payers’ money is a matter of public record.

Mr Yousuf said the quantum of tax evasion is higher in Pakistan because the economy mostly operates on cash transactions, which are undocumented. He recommends that the FBR would be far more successful if it were to focus on enforcement.

However, the FBR holds that problems such as input or output adjustment of sales tax and the issue of flying and fake invoices can be addressed by incorporating accountants into the process.

There is an impression within the tax department that certain ‘unscrupulous tax advisers’ are helping taxpayers evade their liabilities. However, this claim cannot be substantiated through documentary evidence.

According to the fresh proposal, the filing of 12 monthly sales tax returns should be replaced by four quarterly filings. As a test case, quarterly filings may be made mandatory for certain select sectors.

This move will also make things easier for commercial entities, which won’t have to file monthly returns.

In order to be submitted, these returns must be certified by a chartered accountant who will vouch for the authenticity of the information that has been declared. In case fraud is detected, the accountant concerned will also be held accountable and penalised accordingly.

The tax department will not accept returns that are not duly endorsed and bear the certificate of a chartered accountant.

A tax official told Dawn the chartered accountant certifying returns would be held personally accountable for their actions and omissions. Therefore, the accountant will have to ensure that no tax fraud has been committed in the sales tax returns filed.

Moreover, the chartered accountant would be carrying out an audit of the company every quarter, which would ensure timely depositing of tax in the national exchequer. “The onus of substantiating the declared returns would be on the chartered accountant,” the official added. But Dr Ikramul Haq, an accomplished tax lawyer, went one step further and recommended that tax officials also be held responsible for massive instances of tax evasion.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

Obama puts drone strikes in Pakistan on hold: CNN

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has put drone attacks in Pakistan on hold, CNN reported on Saturday, noting that Islamabad’s decision to step up its military actions in Fata contributed to the decision.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has put drone attacks in Pakistan on hold, CNN reported on Saturday, noting that Islamabad’s decision to step up its military actions in Fata contributed to the decision.

The report pointed to a combination of factors which contributed to the cessation of dro­ne strikes in Pakistan since the beginning of the year. These included President Obama pushing for a more calibrated use of drone strikes, decimation of “high value” targets in the tribal areas and a strong “pushback” from the Pakistani public and governm­ent who saw the drone strikes as a violation of their sovereignty. “And the fact that the Pakistani government is stepping up its own military operations” also encouraged the US to reduce strikes, the report added.—Correspondent

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

Editorial News

Split in TTP

From the Newspaper

A LONG-rumoured and much-encouraged — both by the military before and the PML-N government now — split in the TTP appears to have come to pass. A chunk of the so-called pro-state, pro-peace Mehsud fighters in the TTP has rejected the leadership of Mullah Fazlullah, the emir of the TTP, in a move that could have significant ramifications for internal security and foreign policy in the weeks and months ahead. To begin with, the so-called Sajna faction of the Mehsuds in the TTP’s verbal and actual fighting with other elements in the proscribed group may presage a resumption of the government’s dialogue process, but this time with just the militants who do want to cut a deal with the government. The government would paint such an outcome as a validation of its dogged pursuit of dialogue. But would it really be a victory?

A LONG-rumoured and much-encouraged — both by the military before and the PML-N government now — split in the TTP appears to have come to pass. A chunk of the so-called pro-state, pro-peace Mehsud fighters in the TTP has rejected the leadership of Mullah Fazlullah, the emir of the TTP, in a move that could have significant ramifications for internal security and foreign policy in the weeks and months ahead. To begin with, the so-called Sajna faction of the Mehsuds in the TTP’s verbal and actual fighting with other elements in the proscribed group may presage a resumption of the government’s dialogue process, but this time with just the militants who do want to cut a deal with the government. The government would paint such an outcome as a validation of its dogged pursuit of dialogue. But would it really be a victory?

A basic problem is the ideological affinity and political allegiances of the Sajna-linked TTP militants: they lean heavily towards the Haqqani network and Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban — which means that the price for agreeing not to fight against the Pakistani state inside its territory will likely be a demand to turn a blind eye to stepped-up activities across the border in Afghanistan. That, just as the Obama administration has signalled its intention for an Iraq-like withdrawal from Afghanistan over the next couple of years, could have a destabilising effect at the very moment that some kind of stability is needed to help the incoming Afghan administration pursue its own negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban. Moreover, does Pakistan really want to be in the position internationally of officially giving space to militants with an avowed agenda of fighting in a neighbouring country?

If the foreign dimension is troubling enough, what would it mean for internal security if the TTP is split and at war with itself and encouraged to do so by the state? Surely, state and society will themselves become collateral damage. Already, there is speculation of fresh violence in Karachi, because involuntary migration from Fata in recent years has replicated many of the militants fault lines there in Karachi itself. Beyond that, while the Fazlullah-led group —including TTP Swat, Mohmand and Bajaur — is seeing its influence wane and its ability to strike inside Pakistan hampered by a leadership hiding in Afghanistan, it would be foolish to underestimate Fazlullah and his men. After all, he is the man who was all but written off after his fiefdom in Swat was taken away — and yet he returned to snatch the leadership of the TTP. Setting all of that aside, there still remains a fundamental problem in the government’s dialogue-driven quest for peace: ought there really to be space for a group such as the Sajna-led militants in Pakistan going forward?

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Baloch hunger striker

Editorial

IN a country where most of the ruling elite is seen to be insensitive to the people’s plight, small gestures by holders of public office can mean a lot. In this respect, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch’s visit on Wednesday to a protest camp set up by the Balochistan Student Organisation-Azad in Karachi was a welcome step. The proscribed outfit set up the camp after the abduction of its leader Zahid Baloch in Quetta in March. A student activist, Lateef Johar, has been on hunger strike since April 22 to protest the abduction. Dr Malik can, of course, identify with such causes as he has been a political worker and a nationalist leader. He can relate to the people’s agitation and sympathise with their plight. Compare his outreach efforts to the unusually insensitive behaviour of the last occupant of Chief Minister House in Quetta.

IN a country where most of the ruling elite is seen to be insensitive to the people’s plight, small gestures by holders of public office can mean a lot. In this respect, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch’s visit on Wednesday to a protest camp set up by the Balochistan Student Organisation-Azad in Karachi was a welcome step. The proscribed outfit set up the camp after the abduction of its leader Zahid Baloch in Quetta in March. A student activist, Lateef Johar, has been on hunger strike since April 22 to protest the abduction. Dr Malik can, of course, identify with such causes as he has been a political worker and a nationalist leader. He can relate to the people’s agitation and sympathise with their plight. Compare his outreach efforts to the unusually insensitive behaviour of the last occupant of Chief Minister House in Quetta.

However, the irony is that despite the feel-good factor attached to Dr Malik’s visit to the protest camp and his request for an end to the hunger strike, all he could do was promise that the Balochistan government would register an FIR against Zahid Baloch’s abduction (which police officials in Quetta had reportedly refused to do). There were no promises that the abducted man would be returned or produced in court. Perhaps this best illustrates the helplessness of Balochistan’s top elected official. This also shows that those involved in abducting Baloch activists consider themselves above the law. The BSO-A may be a proscribed outfit. But under no circumstances can the intelligence agencies — widely believed to be responsible for the ‘disappearances’ in Balochistan and elsewhere — be allowed to illegally take people away. If the state has solid proof of the BSO-A chief’s involvement in illegal activities it should register a case. Unfortunately, the impunity of some within the intelligence apparatus in flouting the law when it comes to abducting people refuses to end, despite even the Supreme Court’s intervention. As long as a parallel law-enforcement system exists that allows people to be abducted, tortured and killed, anti-state feelings harboured by insurgents of all stripes will grow. The state should remember that there is no room for such a parallel system in a democracy.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Politics then and now

Editorial

IF Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes that the country’s political climate is different today from the one prevailing in the ’80s and ’90s, when the major parties employed mass protests to exert pressure to bring governments’ tenures to an untimely end, he is certainly speaking with experience. His party, after all, was one of those instrumental in popularising the tactic back then. On Wednesday in Lahore, the prime minister admonished his political rivals, saying they ought to wait out the four years before the next elections are scheduled. He was referring to the ‘long march’ that the PTI is planning from Lahore to Islamabad on Aug 14, and the ‘train march’ that the Awami Muslim League has announced for June 20. If he says he “cannot comprehend [such an agenda] now”, is he finally conceding that the Russian roulette that was played with governance in Pakistan all those years ago was ill-conceived, and not in the best interests of the nation? Talking about the politics of the ’80s and ’90s, he also said that “no one will believe in false accusations now”. Does that mean he’s admitting that this was a mischief-making tactic used by his party, as well as by others, to weaken and discredit the governments of their rivals?

IF Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes that the country’s political climate is different today from the one prevailing in the ’80s and ’90s, when the major parties employed mass protests to exert pressure to bring governments’ tenures to an untimely end, he is certainly speaking with experience. His party, after all, was one of those instrumental in popularising the tactic back then. On Wednesday in Lahore, the prime minister admonished his political rivals, saying they ought to wait out the four years before the next elections are scheduled. He was referring to the ‘long march’ that the PTI is planning from Lahore to Islamabad on Aug 14, and the ‘train march’ that the Awami Muslim League has announced for June 20. If he says he “cannot comprehend [such an agenda] now”, is he finally conceding that the Russian roulette that was played with governance in Pakistan all those years ago was ill-conceived, and not in the best interests of the nation? Talking about the politics of the ’80s and ’90s, he also said that “no one will believe in false accusations now”. Does that mean he’s admitting that this was a mischief-making tactic used by his party, as well as by others, to weaken and discredit the governments of their rivals?

Whether this realisation was prompted by the fact that he is once again at the helm of a government that is deflecting attempts by others to discredit it, or whether it stems from altruistic motives of strengthening democracy, it is heartening that it is finally there in the prime minister’s mind. For Mr Sharif is perfectly correct. While every political party does, of course, have the right to protest, hold rallies and to mobilise its workers, why this is being done on such a large scale, and with such seeming urgency, when the next election isn’t even on the horizon, is mystifying. The country’s political parties need to calm down; the country’s political landscape is indeed different.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Who is a terrorist?

Editorial

IT may not be the job of the army chief to make political-sounding statements on what the nation does or does not think, but then the military here understands its role very differently to what others — perhaps even the nation — believe it should be. Still, now that Gen Raheel Sharif has ventured into political terrain once again by claiming the nation has rejected the “misplaced ideology of the terrorists”, it is pertinent to ask what ideology and which terrorists he has in mind. For too long, perhaps from the very inception of the fight against militancy, the country’s leadership, both military and civilian, have avoided spelling out the basic definitions and categories that are necessary when a state fights an insurgent threat based inside its borders. Without that definitional clarity, a winning strategy cannot be crafted — and that’s what has left the country with wonky ideas like the prioritisation approach and limited retaliation.

IT may not be the job of the army chief to make political-sounding statements on what the nation does or does not think, but then the military here understands its role very differently to what others — perhaps even the nation — believe it should be. Still, now that Gen Raheel Sharif has ventured into political terrain once again by claiming the nation has rejected the “misplaced ideology of the terrorists”, it is pertinent to ask what ideology and which terrorists he has in mind. For too long, perhaps from the very inception of the fight against militancy, the country’s leadership, both military and civilian, have avoided spelling out the basic definitions and categories that are necessary when a state fights an insurgent threat based inside its borders. Without that definitional clarity, a winning strategy cannot be crafted — and that’s what has left the country with wonky ideas like the prioritisation approach and limited retaliation.

So, what is this ideology that Gen Sharif referred to and who are the terrorists? Are they all groups with an explicit political orientation and goal that are committed to achieving their purpose through violence? Or is a terrorist only a particular kind of non-state actor who turns on the state instead of abiding by the security establishment’s national security goals? Does the now-denounced ideology cover all strands of the extremist version of Islam or are there certain strands of radicalism, violence and intolerance that are still acceptable? And where does Gen Sharif’s statement leave the so-called peace deals in parts of Fata that the military has struck and that are still extant? Can there be a tactical reason for the military to strike years-long peace deals with certain militant groups but no reason for the political government to do the same? The more Gen Sharif’s seemingly blunt statement is parsed, the more questions arise. Another question: are fierce words said to the troops merely thinly veiled efforts to try and boost their morale or do they mean something more in terms of genuine policy turnabout?

While the army leadership’s seemingly clarion calls often end up adding to the overall fog, the civilians themselves are not contributing to clarity. For instance, successive governments may have banned certain extremists groups, but what are they doing about reining in their ever-active leaders? Inaction goes hand in hand with propounding ridiculous theories, the latest of which came in the form of a warning by Imran Khan that military action in North Waziristan was creating an East Pakistan-like situation. While the people of Fata have surely suffered at the hands of the state for decades, to suddenly paint the Taliban as the ones who speak on behalf of and represent all tribals is outrageous. Not only is the PTI’s obsession with dialogue at all costs absurd it is now reaching dangerous proportions.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Murder suspects named

Editorial

NEARLY four years after the brutal murder of MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq in London, Scotland Yard seems to be closing in on the suspects believed to be responsible for the politician’s killing. On Tuesday, the British authorities released the names and pictures of two men they want to trace in connection with the homicide. Both individuals are Pakistanis who left the UK soon after Dr Farooq’s slaying. The British police must be commended for not giving up and for doggedly pursuing this case, investigating all angles in order to establish the facts behind the Muttahida leader’s murder. In Pakistan, where the murders of even heads of state and government remain unsolved for years thanks to official ineptitude and obfuscation, the authorities would do well to learn from Scotland Yard’s determination. The British police took advantage of modern technology coupled with scientific investigation methods to home in on the suspects. CCTV footage of Dr Farooq was used in the investigation to determine his movements prior to the murder, while footage of the suspects was also reportedly studied. Thousands of people were interviewed in the investigation process while British police also examined how the two suspects managed to get UK visas from Pakistan, zeroing in on the London college they were supposed to be studying at.

NEARLY four years after the brutal murder of MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq in London, Scotland Yard seems to be closing in on the suspects believed to be responsible for the politician’s killing. On Tuesday, the British authorities released the names and pictures of two men they want to trace in connection with the homicide. Both individuals are Pakistanis who left the UK soon after Dr Farooq’s slaying. The British police must be commended for not giving up and for doggedly pursuing this case, investigating all angles in order to establish the facts behind the Muttahida leader’s murder. In Pakistan, where the murders of even heads of state and government remain unsolved for years thanks to official ineptitude and obfuscation, the authorities would do well to learn from Scotland Yard’s determination. The British police took advantage of modern technology coupled with scientific investigation methods to home in on the suspects. CCTV footage of Dr Farooq was used in the investigation to determine his movements prior to the murder, while footage of the suspects was also reportedly studied. Thousands of people were interviewed in the investigation process while British police also examined how the two suspects managed to get UK visas from Pakistan, zeroing in on the London college they were supposed to be studying at.

The naming of the suspects and the general progress in the case should be welcomed by all in Pakistan, especially the MQM, as Dr Farooq was a front-rank Muttahida leader, once considered the party’s prime ideologue. The party said it is “diligently cooperating” in the investigation and we hope such cooperation continues till Imran Farooq’s killers are brought to justice. As some media outlets have reported, the two suspects are believed to be in the custody of Pakistani intelligence. If indeed these individuals are in Pakistan, then the government must also cooperate with British authorities in order to solve Dr Farooq’s case. Moreover, local law enforcement authorities would gain tremendously by taking a leaf out of the British police’s book when it comes to investigating homicide. The Karachi police can especially benefit, considering that the metropolis witnesses hundreds of sectarian, ethnic and politically motivated killings every year.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Death of compassion

Editorial

EVEN in a country where violence against women is routine and ‘honour killings’ remain an appalling reality, the crime that occurred in Lahore on Tuesday was particularly horrific. On one of the city’s busiest roads, a bustling area abutting the Lahore High Court and dominated by lawyers’ offices, a young woman was beaten to death with bricks and stones in broad daylight, in full view of the public. Her transgression? She had married according to her own wishes, and she had filed a petition in court against the abduction case her family had had registered against her husband. At the time of the attack, she was on her way to record a statement in court in favour of her husband. Her killers? Her father and two brothers.

EVEN in a country where violence against women is routine and ‘honour killings’ remain an appalling reality, the crime that occurred in Lahore on Tuesday was particularly horrific. On one of the city’s busiest roads, a bustling area abutting the Lahore High Court and dominated by lawyers’ offices, a young woman was beaten to death with bricks and stones in broad daylight, in full view of the public. Her transgression? She had married according to her own wishes, and she had filed a petition in court against the abduction case her family had had registered against her husband. At the time of the attack, she was on her way to record a statement in court in favour of her husband. Her killers? Her father and two brothers.

Those who shake their heads over the grotesque attacks on women in the name of some antediluvian notion of ‘honour’, tend to raise the point that these are dark crimes usually committed behind closed doors — that the victims are quietly erased from the public memory and the perpetrators, mostly close relatives, remain unprosecuted and unpunished. The most shocking aspect of this killing, however, is that all the people witnessing the crime, even the law enforcers, were silent spectators as a woman was bludgeoned to her death. They turned their backs as she screamed for help. How are we to understand this? Was it because the victim was a woman, and the attack concerned ‘honour’, and the spectators were overwhelmingly male and saw the murder as some internal ‘family matter’ where no intervention was due? Did they shut out her cries and think this was what she deserved? Had it been a man, would people have intervened? Or has society become so brutalised that all human compassion has vanished? Whatever the case, all indications are that a twisted psyche dominates, and that society is no longer willing or able to look at itself in the mirror because what it would see there would be nothing short of frightening.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Pak-India: more of the same?

Editorial

As ever, there are tough questions to be asked about the intentions and/or capacity of both sides to deliver on their rhetoric of peace. Is Mr Modi really interested in moving forward on normalisation of ties with Pakistan? A couple of days into his prime ministership that is impossible to know. The generous explanation would cast Mr Modi’s invitation to Mr Sharif as a signal that the new Indian government wants to work on improving ties with Pakistan immediately and perhaps even meaningfully. The less charitable explanation would be that Mr Modi has cleverly bought himself goodwill internationally by hosting Mr Sharif, but did so in a way that really conceded nothing: the invitation itself was one to Saarc leaders and the selective leaks to the media after the prime ministerial meeting yesterday suggested that Mr Modi stuck to a hawkish script instead of a more peaceable one. With Mr Modi having run a campaign that focused almost entirely on domestic issues, there is little yet to go by on what a Modi-led BJP foreign policy will look like over the next five years. South Asians may be eternally hopeful, but peace between states that have been historical rivals needs something more.

As ever, there are tough questions to be asked about the intentions and/or capacity of both sides to deliver on their rhetoric of peace. Is Mr Modi really interested in moving forward on normalisation of ties with Pakistan? A couple of days into his prime ministership that is impossible to know. The generous explanation would cast Mr Modi’s invitation to Mr Sharif as a signal that the new Indian government wants to work on improving ties with Pakistan immediately and perhaps even meaningfully. The less charitable explanation would be that Mr Modi has cleverly bought himself goodwill internationally by hosting Mr Sharif, but did so in a way that really conceded nothing: the invitation itself was one to Saarc leaders and the selective leaks to the media after the prime ministerial meeting yesterday suggested that Mr Modi stuck to a hawkish script instead of a more peaceable one. With Mr Modi having run a campaign that focused almost entirely on domestic issues, there is little yet to go by on what a Modi-led BJP foreign policy will look like over the next five years. South Asians may be eternally hopeful, but peace between states that have been historical rivals needs something more.

On the Pakistani side, Mr Sharif’s mantra of business, trade and economy may be music to some ears, but it is in the security arena that many of the key decisions will need to be taken — and the battle for control fought. Unpleasant as it may be for Pakistanis to constantly be reminded of the Mumbai attacks when the Pakistani political leadership has been restrained about criticism on Kashmir or the ever-growing water-sharing problems, there is a domestic division of power that needs to be addressed. With Mr Sharif’s relationship with the army clearly going through a tense phase, is there really the capacity or the will here on both the civilian and military side to work together on crafting a new beginning with India?

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Official HR commission

Editorial

IT was in May 2012 that an act was passed for the establishment of a National Commission on Human Rights. The process of setting up the NCHR has been slow but it is better late than never in a country that has a history of political parties in government attempting to undo the initiatives of previous dispensations. That a real effort is on to set up the commission indicates parliamentary continuity. Even though its pursuance has required a strong nudge from senators belonging to the PPP, under whose government the act mandating the NCHR was passed, it is still an occasion marking Pakistan’s advance towards a mature democracy. The Ministry of Law has sent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a summary about the selection of nine members that the commission is to be comprised of. The sooner its gets Mr Sharif’s attention the better, for this is one area where his government needs to make a strong statement. Earlier, it had sent a negative signal by doing away with the human rights ministry. A quick approach to creating the NCHR might improve the government’s image. The PPP on its part has, in this instance, shown its ability to push for an objective, post its stint in power. The selection of the commission members which involves the prime minister’s interaction with the opposition leader in the National Assembly will be another opportunity for the PPP to send a message that it is a responsible party with a meaningful presence in parliament.

IT was in May 2012 that an act was passed for the establishment of a National Commission on Human Rights. The process of setting up the NCHR has been slow but it is better late than never in a country that has a history of political parties in government attempting to undo the initiatives of previous dispensations. That a real effort is on to set up the commission indicates parliamentary continuity. Even though its pursuance has required a strong nudge from senators belonging to the PPP, under whose government the act mandating the NCHR was passed, it is still an occasion marking Pakistan’s advance towards a mature democracy. The Ministry of Law has sent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a summary about the selection of nine members that the commission is to be comprised of. The sooner its gets Mr Sharif’s attention the better, for this is one area where his government needs to make a strong statement. Earlier, it had sent a negative signal by doing away with the human rights ministry. A quick approach to creating the NCHR might improve the government’s image. The PPP on its part has, in this instance, shown its ability to push for an objective, post its stint in power. The selection of the commission members which involves the prime minister’s interaction with the opposition leader in the National Assembly will be another opportunity for the PPP to send a message that it is a responsible party with a meaningful presence in parliament.

The proposed NHRC appears to be an essential requirement for a country with a record of widespread rights violations. There are certain areas which are placed outside its reach including the armed forces and the secret agencies. But even where the commission has jurisdiction — the authority of a civil court with powers to ask a magistrate to investigate a matter — a lot will depend on how the rules are interpreted and the space created for its functioning. The interpretation has to be one that ensures that the NHRC, like some other ‘independent’ authorities that have come up during the current wave of democracy in Pakistan, is not reduced to a government commission merely in name, with no implementing teeth.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

‘Mystery’ banners

Editorial

BANNERS, posters and graffiti containing defamatory, incendiary and provocative material are nothing new in cities across Pakistan. But when banners inscribed with defamatory material targeting a sitting judge of the honourable Supreme Court ‘mysteriously’ start popping up across Islamabad, supposedly the most secure and watched city in the country, there is reason for concern. In this regard, the state, specifically the security apparatus, needs to discover who is behind the recent display of banners targeting the integrity of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja. The judge rightfully wondered during a hearing on Monday how the provocative material, linking him to the owner of the Jang group, could have come up in Islamabad without the capital administration or intelligence agencies getting wind of it. As he pointed out, the material was also placed in the ‘red zone’, which is supposed to be a high-security area. What makes matters even more puzzling is that they were reportedly put up by an entity called Farzand-i-Islam; interestingly, this organisation has never been heard of before.

BANNERS, posters and graffiti containing defamatory, incendiary and provocative material are nothing new in cities across Pakistan. But when banners inscribed with defamatory material targeting a sitting judge of the honourable Supreme Court ‘mysteriously’ start popping up across Islamabad, supposedly the most secure and watched city in the country, there is reason for concern. In this regard, the state, specifically the security apparatus, needs to discover who is behind the recent display of banners targeting the integrity of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja. The judge rightfully wondered during a hearing on Monday how the provocative material, linking him to the owner of the Jang group, could have come up in Islamabad without the capital administration or intelligence agencies getting wind of it. As he pointed out, the material was also placed in the ‘red zone’, which is supposed to be a high-security area. What makes matters even more puzzling is that they were reportedly put up by an entity called Farzand-i-Islam; interestingly, this organisation has never been heard of before.

This is not the first time ‘mysterious’ material has been publicly displayed in Islamabad. A few weeks earlier, in the aftermath of the Geo-ISI tussle following the attack on Hamid Mir, banners started appearing in the federal capital bearing the picture of the serving ISI chief, as if he were running in a local election. These banners were signed off by an obscure traders’ body. It is difficult to believe the Capital Development Authority and the intelligence agencies have no inkling of who placed the material targeting Justice Khawaja. The capital administration usually acts quickly to remove any unauthorised material. How these banners escaped its vigilant eyes needs to be explained. Such character assassination on the streets of the capital is totally unacceptable. Both the CDA and the intelligence agencies need to make an effort to trace those responsible. If this trend is not nipped in the bud, the evil will spread, with the list of targets being expanded constantly.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

No clear Afghan strategy

Editorial

WITH so much emphasis — many times rightly, but also often wrongly — on Pakistan’s role in a settlement that can help secure a relatively peaceful and stable Afghanistan post-2014, it is sometimes forgotten that there are at least two other principal players. And rarely has disarray in those camps been more evident than at the moment. For all the blame heaped on Pakistan and its tacit support for the Afghan Taliban, the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai has clearly fallen far short of even the most basic of goals that could have been set and achieved. Now, on his way out and with his favoured candidate in the presidential election reduced to a dismal showing in the first round, President Karzai appears to have little left to offer beyond digging in his heels, trying to secure some kind of post-presidential relevance for himself and playing the nationalist card with gusto. Quite how far he has gone in alienating and angering the very countries that helped instal him in power more than a decade ago was evident when US President Obama did no more than telephone the Afghan leader while staying in Afghanistan for roughly four hours.

WITH so much emphasis — many times rightly, but also often wrongly — on Pakistan’s role in a settlement that can help secure a relatively peaceful and stable Afghanistan post-2014, it is sometimes forgotten that there are at least two other principal players. And rarely has disarray in those camps been more evident than at the moment. For all the blame heaped on Pakistan and its tacit support for the Afghan Taliban, the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai has clearly fallen far short of even the most basic of goals that could have been set and achieved. Now, on his way out and with his favoured candidate in the presidential election reduced to a dismal showing in the first round, President Karzai appears to have little left to offer beyond digging in his heels, trying to secure some kind of post-presidential relevance for himself and playing the nationalist card with gusto. Quite how far he has gone in alienating and angering the very countries that helped instal him in power more than a decade ago was evident when US President Obama did no more than telephone the Afghan leader while staying in Afghanistan for roughly four hours.

Yet, as poor as the last chapter of Mr Karzai’s presidency may be, even that cannot help obfuscate the almost complete and total breakdown in any kind of meaningful planning by the American side of what to do about Afghanistan after the end of this year. A large chunk of the policy confusion appears to stem from a White House — or perhaps just a coterie of Obama foreign policy architects within it — that is at odds with much of its own foreign policy establishment. Beyond getting American troops out of Afghanistan, Mr Obama does not appear to have much hope for or even interest in the region anymore. Having given his military the surge troops it wanted in Afghanistan, he now appears to be turning towards legacy issues and doing things the way it is clear he wanted to do in Afghanistan all along. What that means is the least possible military engagement. Surely, as that diminishes to virtually non-existent on the ground in Afghanistan, so will diminish all the other elements of engagement with Afghanistan.

What ought to be done, however, remains as obvious as ever, and perhaps now that the forcefulness of US ambitions in the region has lessened it may even be achievable: the focus must remain on reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban and a way to keep the writ of the Afghan government in Kabul over the country both tenable and credible. For all the suspicions and latent acrimony on the Pakistan, Afghanistan and US sides, the situation is surely not already hopeless. However, first the US side needs to get its own act together on Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Housing policy rethink

Editorial

ACROSS Pakistan’s towns and cities, it is evident that the model of ‘development’ adopted by the state and city administrations is divorced from the needs of the people. Consider, for example, the vast tracts of land that are handed over for development to the private sector on a commercial basis. These are used largely for establishing high-profile housing societies and constructing glass-and-chrome towers that lie outside the imagination of most of the cities’ inhabitants. While we can argue there’s no harm in this, here’s the rub: hardly anywhere is it possible to discern a cohesive effort to also make housing options available to low-income groups. Swathes of the country’s urban poor have been left to set up homes as best as they can, wherever they can. This, as the recent protests in Islamabad over an attempt to demolish a low-income settlement reminds us, is what leads to encroachments, takeover of land and the creation of slums. So large is the number of such low-income families that one would have expected the state to have made efforts to make housing options available a long time ago. Yet the unpalatable fact is that Pakistan faces a housing shortage of nearly 7.6 million units; the gap increases every year by at least 500,000, and 85pc of this gap in demand comprises households earning less than Rs20,000 a month. And while the problem is particularly acute at the lowest economic stratum, it extends to even middle-income families.

ACROSS Pakistan’s towns and cities, it is evident that the model of ‘development’ adopted by the state and city administrations is divorced from the needs of the people. Consider, for example, the vast tracts of land that are handed over for development to the private sector on a commercial basis. These are used largely for establishing high-profile housing societies and constructing glass-and-chrome towers that lie outside the imagination of most of the cities’ inhabitants. While we can argue there’s no harm in this, here’s the rub: hardly anywhere is it possible to discern a cohesive effort to also make housing options available to low-income groups. Swathes of the country’s urban poor have been left to set up homes as best as they can, wherever they can. This, as the recent protests in Islamabad over an attempt to demolish a low-income settlement reminds us, is what leads to encroachments, takeover of land and the creation of slums. So large is the number of such low-income families that one would have expected the state to have made efforts to make housing options available a long time ago. Yet the unpalatable fact is that Pakistan faces a housing shortage of nearly 7.6 million units; the gap increases every year by at least 500,000, and 85pc of this gap in demand comprises households earning less than Rs20,000 a month. And while the problem is particularly acute at the lowest economic stratum, it extends to even middle-income families.

There is much the state can and must do to make affordable housing available. For one, there is enough data to indicate that access to secure housing plays a considerable role in helping people lift themselves out of poverty. For another, making access to housing a priority is one of the most basic responsibilities of the state. There are estimates that families that earn in the range of Rs10,000 to Rs20,000 per month spend as much as 40pc, in some cases more, of their incomes on rent. This could be put towards owning a home if the state were to create a better system of mortgages, loans and home-financing than is currently the case. The country’s last housing policy is now 13 years old; some creative thinking is required.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

A procession of rallies

Editorial

IT was no less than a dilemma for the conscientious Pakistani. There were so many rallies on Sunday to choose from, and each one appeared to be tied to a noble cause. In Faisalabad, while Imran Khan threatened to take the rulers to the cleaners at the Dhobi Ghat, he did call for the unveiling of the voting truth and for electoral reforms that, as we have always maintained, are essential to our democratic good health. A few days ahead of ‘Yaum-i-Takbeer’ and a day before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Jamaatud Dawa’s Hafiz Saeed in Karachi reminded all of us at a worthy gathering how nuclear power guaranteed our security. Karachi was in fact awash with committed workers making up large congregations of hope. On the same day, the MQM took out a solidarity rally in the city which among other things acted as a counter to a gathering in Karachi by the Jamaat-i-Islami under its new emir. That wasn’t all in this procession of rallies. The PML-Q also managed to make its presence felt with its own pro-army demonstrations in various cities of Sindh and Punjab.

IT was no less than a dilemma for the conscientious Pakistani. There were so many rallies on Sunday to choose from, and each one appeared to be tied to a noble cause. In Faisalabad, while Imran Khan threatened to take the rulers to the cleaners at the Dhobi Ghat, he did call for the unveiling of the voting truth and for electoral reforms that, as we have always maintained, are essential to our democratic good health. A few days ahead of ‘Yaum-i-Takbeer’ and a day before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Jamaatud Dawa’s Hafiz Saeed in Karachi reminded all of us at a worthy gathering how nuclear power guaranteed our security. Karachi was in fact awash with committed workers making up large congregations of hope. On the same day, the MQM took out a solidarity rally in the city which among other things acted as a counter to a gathering in Karachi by the Jamaat-i-Islami under its new emir. That wasn’t all in this procession of rallies. The PML-Q also managed to make its presence felt with its own pro-army demonstrations in various cities of Sindh and Punjab.

There are a few parties which appear at the moment somewhat incapacitated and unable to organise their own processions. Otherwise a rally or two by the likes of the PPP and ANP would have provided us with an even more complete weekend edition of Pakistani politics which is so wrongly and so often blamed for lacking in diversity. It appeared that, from among those with the capacity to hold a rally, only Tahirul Qadri failed to utilise the opportunity that was Sunday, May 25. But then, the allama did manage to make good use of the auspicious day by coming up with his announcement of bringing about a revolution, starting July. That has certainly upped the bar for the next round of rallies in the country.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

The confusion continues

Editorial

THE inherent tension in the dual-track approach of the government pursuing dialogue with the outlawed TTP while the military is allowed to retaliate when the security forces are targeted means that problems will bubble up every little while or so. Current events suggest that the tension is increasing and problems are mounting: a military-lite type of action is taking place in parts of North Waziristan while in Islamabad the dialogue process being run by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan appears to be stuck in limbo, with neither the military nor the government really looking to up the ante. So talk of dialogue will continue while the military will hit back against militants without publicly clarifying what exactly is the nature of its kinetic activities in North Waziristan. This, once again, seems to be the age-old fallback option when a policy itself is confused and contradictory: do just enough to be seen to be doing something and hope that is enough to buy just enough time for events to change for the better. If that looks closer to a non-strategy than a strategy, it is. But in reality, it tends to happen quite frequently.

THE inherent tension in the dual-track approach of the government pursuing dialogue with the outlawed TTP while the military is allowed to retaliate when the security forces are targeted means that problems will bubble up every little while or so. Current events suggest that the tension is increasing and problems are mounting: a military-lite type of action is taking place in parts of North Waziristan while in Islamabad the dialogue process being run by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan appears to be stuck in limbo, with neither the military nor the government really looking to up the ante. So talk of dialogue will continue while the military will hit back against militants without publicly clarifying what exactly is the nature of its kinetic activities in North Waziristan. This, once again, seems to be the age-old fallback option when a policy itself is confused and contradictory: do just enough to be seen to be doing something and hope that is enough to buy just enough time for events to change for the better. If that looks closer to a non-strategy than a strategy, it is. But in reality, it tends to happen quite frequently.

Perhaps though there comes a time where internal contradictions need to be sorted out firmly and decisively. The dialogue process that the interior minister is running was, in the words of the prime minister and the interior minister themselves, never meant to be the open-ended process it appears to have become. What was meant to be weeks has turned into months with no end in sight. Perhaps the PML-N was never honest with the public to begin with, that its goal was always to bring violence down in the short- and medium-term rather than to find a long-term solution to militancy. But for a government elected for five years, why put so much on the line for a few weeks or months of relative quiet? The government would like to cast its efforts on the dialogue front as determination, but to many analysts and observers of militancy is looks like desperation. Dialogue can always be brought back on the agenda – once the militants are under enough pressure to see no alternative other than to push for some kind of deal themselves.

Yet, if the government’s approach is flawed, the military’s piecemeal, ad hoc retaliation framework makes even less sense. The best that can be said about retaliation is that it raises the costs on the militants when they attack the security forces, but, from a national perspective, that just encourages the militants to hit soft, civilian targets. And that of course would further undermine the government’s push for dialogue. Unhappily, neither the government nor the military appears willing to genuinely resolve the contradictions in the approach to tamp militancy down nationally.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Factory tragedy

Editorial

THE surprising aspect of the tragedy in Karachi recently is not that it happened, but that it doesn’t happen more frequently. The Memon Goth firecracker factory where the explosion occurred on Tuesday is replicated in similarly dangerous iterations across the country, across all sectors. In this factory’s case, the explosion killed five of the 35 children that worked there, and left six others badly burned, some of whom continue to battle for their lives. They worked for the promise of a paltry Rs3,000, and as the investigation officer concerned pointed out, the reason why they were employed is obvious. Given the levels of poverty that are prevalent across the country, many millions face a stark choice: increase the household income in any way possible, including by sending children out to work, or starve. As the father of two of the injured boys told this newspaper’s reporter, he too spent his childhood working. “There is no other way to earn money,” he said.

THE surprising aspect of the tragedy in Karachi recently is not that it happened, but that it doesn’t happen more frequently. The Memon Goth firecracker factory where the explosion occurred on Tuesday is replicated in similarly dangerous iterations across the country, across all sectors. In this factory’s case, the explosion killed five of the 35 children that worked there, and left six others badly burned, some of whom continue to battle for their lives. They worked for the promise of a paltry Rs3,000, and as the investigation officer concerned pointed out, the reason why they were employed is obvious. Given the levels of poverty that are prevalent across the country, many millions face a stark choice: increase the household income in any way possible, including by sending children out to work, or starve. As the father of two of the injured boys told this newspaper’s reporter, he too spent his childhood working. “There is no other way to earn money,” he said.

The fact of the matter is that millions of the country’s poor, such as the families affected in this incident, are failed twice over by the state that runs affairs in their name. First, it does little in meaningful terms about combating poverty, raising living standards and creating an economic climate which is conducive to people managing to pull themselves out of poverty. Indeed, as several surveys have pointed out, more and more Pakistanis slip below the poverty line every day. And secondly, there is the glaring failure to regulate workplaces and stringently apply laws that would protect workers from being exploited by their employers. Reportedly, the doors to this facility were in routine barred from the outside, so that when the explosion occurred, the children could not escape the blaze. But this level of workplace safety is the norm in Pakistan rather than an aberration. There are laws that require government functionaries to inspect workplaces, while minimum safety standards such as emergency exits and fire-fighting equipment are provided for on paper. But the failure of administrations to do much to apply them means that the workers remain unprotected. Tragedies such as the one in Memon Goth are but a natural outcome.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Cost of economic stabilisation

Editorial

FINANCIAL stability is vital for rapid economic growth. It is hard to imagine a financially unstable economy attracting new investments, growing and creating jobs. However, the stabilisation process can be long and policies brutish for the majority. Caring governments try to take measures that help mitigate the painful and nasty effects of financial stabilisation on ordinary people by making the wealthy shoulder a bigger burden of stabilisation policies. Sadly, this isn’t the case in Pakistan. It is always the low- to middle-income segments of the population that are made to bear the major portion of stabilisation costs. The powerful are always spared. The last one year testifies to this. Fiscal adjustments made by the government in its first budget or outside it to cut the deficit, for example, by implementing new indirect taxes, reducing energy and other subsidies, and increasing electricity prices have largely hurt the common man.

FINANCIAL stability is vital for rapid economic growth. It is hard to imagine a financially unstable economy attracting new investments, growing and creating jobs. However, the stabilisation process can be long and policies brutish for the majority. Caring governments try to take measures that help mitigate the painful and nasty effects of financial stabilisation on ordinary people by making the wealthy shoulder a bigger burden of stabilisation policies. Sadly, this isn’t the case in Pakistan. It is always the low- to middle-income segments of the population that are made to bear the major portion of stabilisation costs. The powerful are always spared. The last one year testifies to this. Fiscal adjustments made by the government in its first budget or outside it to cut the deficit, for example, by implementing new indirect taxes, reducing energy and other subsidies, and increasing electricity prices have largely hurt the common man.

The next budget is not expected to be much different from the one for the present year as the government plans to continue stabilisation policies under the close watch of the IMF. The size of the subsidy budget is proposed to be shaved off by almost one-third, more indirect taxes imposed and electricity prices raised. Even the provinces are being asked to throw up a surplus equal to almost 0.8pc of the domestic output by reducing their development spending at the cost of jobs for the poor and socio-economic infrastructure. These steps are being taken to bring down the budget deficit to 4.8pc next fiscal from 5.7pc this year and will impact the low- to middle-income segments. No initiative is being implemented to develop direct taxes that will afford the government an opportunity to document the economy, spur investment and lessen the impact of fiscal adjustments on the common man. The government must rethink its policy of placing the entire burden of its fiscal adjustments on the common people and provide some relief to them from the impact of its policies.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

PM’s bold decision

Editorial

NAWAZ Sharif’s decision to accept the Indian invitation for the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi on Monday makes eminent sense. It shows the Pakistani prime minister’s courage in the face of stiff opposition from some right-wing religious parties.

NAWAZ Sharif’s decision to accept the Indian invitation for the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi on Monday makes eminent sense. It shows the Pakistani prime minister’s courage in the face of stiff opposition from some right-wing religious parties.

A negative decision, especially when all other Saarc heads of government have been invited, would have looked odd and may have blocked chances, howsoever remote, of a revival of the peace process. That Islamabad didn’t jump at the invitation and took its time to respond is understandable. Mr Modi’s record as Gujarat’s chief minister is controversial, and his communal bellicosity laced with anti-Pakistan rhetoric left little room for optimism.

As chief minister, he was responsible for the anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002 and was roundly condemned not only by rights organisations worldwide but by sections of India’s own media. How he behaves now as India’s prime minister, especially when he does not need other parties’ support to form the government, is of crucial importance for the future of peace in South Asia. Whether the landslide win gives him the strength to take on the hardliners in his party and reach out to Pakistan remains to be seen.

Let us note that the breakthrough in Pakistan’s relations with India came twice when Mr Modi’s party, the BJP, was in power, though it was led by a man whose understanding of the political culture in the subcontinent was clearly superior to Mr Modi’s. In 1999, Atal Behari Vajpayee came to Pakistan during Mr Sharif’s second tenure as prime minister and, again during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime, he was in Islamabad for a Saarc summit.

The visit led to the ‘composite dialogue’, which unfortunately fell victim to the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Nevertheless, the fact that a BJP government should have attempted to effect a thaw in relations with Pakistan is significant. Such an opportunity exists again, and by taking a bold decision Mr Sharif has denied an opportunity to the hawks in Indian politics and media to orchestrate a new anti-Pakistan chorus. Adviser Tariq Fatemi may appear overly optimistic when he says the visit could open a new chapter in Pakistan’s relations with India, but let us hope that Mr Modi, too, thinks that way.

Here are two contrasting phenomena: Manmohan Singh didn’t utilise Asif Ali Zardari’s offer; Mr Sharif has accepted Mr Modi’s. This round goes to Pakistan. The ball is now in Mr Modi’s court. He should respond with concrete gestures, the least of which could be a one-to-one meeting with Mr Sharif during his brief stay in the Indian capital.

Mr Sharif’s decision, coming in the wake of Raheel Sharif’s meeting with Shahbaz Sharif, obviously shows a consensus of sorts on the issue: it is unlikely the prime minister would have accepted the Indian invitation unless the security establishment was on board.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

Increase in HIV/AIDS cases

Editorial

OF the numerous health crises affecting Pakistan, tackling the spread of HIV/AIDS seems to have been relegated to secondary status as compared to other daunting health challenges, such as polio and measles. However, as figures indicate, the state and society cannot afford to ignore HIV, especially when medical experts have described the surge in AIDS cases as a “concentrated epidemic”.

OF the numerous health crises affecting Pakistan, tackling the spread of HIV/AIDS seems to have been relegated to secondary status as compared to other daunting health challenges, such as polio and measles. However, as figures indicate, the state and society cannot afford to ignore HIV, especially when medical experts have described the surge in AIDS cases as a “concentrated epidemic”.

As reported in this paper, according to the Sindh AIDS Control Programme, there has been a 300pc increase in HIV/AIDS cases over the past five years in the province. One expert quoted in the report says there has been a “continuous rise” in HIV/AIDS cases since 1996. UNAIDS offers a similar view for the nation as a whole; according to the UN programme there has been an “eight-fold” increase in new HIV infections between 2001 and 2012.

Injecting drug users have the highest prevalence of HIV, while sex workers come in second. Spouses and partners of these vulnerable groups, as well as migrants working in the Gulf and their spouses, are also at risk. Overall, around 87,000 people are said to be living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

Government efforts to halt the spread of AIDS began in the late 1980s. But after initial enthusiasm and activity, efforts appear to be suffering from “a lack of focus”, as some experts have put it. And as is the case with other areas of governance, implementation of health initiatives has shifted primarily to the provinces in the wake of devolution. Hence what is needed is a proactive response from the provincial AIDS control programmes.

The federal government can play a coordinating and supporting role while the good work NGOs have done in the field of creating awareness about HIV/AIDS needs to be recognised and encouraged. In order to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS, the UN has recommended that updated data records be maintained while expansion of testing services, especially amongst vulnerable groups, is required.

Along with efforts to prevent new HIV cases through awareness, the state must ensure those living with the condition have access to medical care and support. With information, planning and effort, the further spread of HIV/AIDS can hopefully be halted in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

Makran schools’ closure

Editorial

EXTREMISTS’ hatred of education — especially girls’ education — is nothing new in Pakistan, as the bombing of hundreds of schools by militants in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the past few years shows. What is alarming, though, is the fact that the obscurantists’ war on education seems to be spreading to other areas.

EXTREMISTS’ hatred of education — especially girls’ education — is nothing new in Pakistan, as the bombing of hundreds of schools by militants in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the past few years shows. What is alarming, though, is the fact that the obscurantists’ war on education seems to be spreading to other areas.

As we write this, private schools and English language centres in Balochistan’s Panjgur and Turbat towns have been shut for over a week. Threats issued by a hitherto unknown Islamist group caused the owners and administrators to take the drastic step. The Tanzeem Islami al-Furqan — not a known entity in the plethora of extremist groups that operate in this country — reportedly distributed leaflets in the Makran region railing against ‘Western’ and female education.

The leaflets were followed up with the physical targeting of a school building and van. While the Makran region has been affected by the Baloch nationalist insurgency, the area has a largely moderate and secular reputation where religion is concerned. However, the threats illustrate an effort to forcibly change the region’s character and promote obscurantism. Already sectarian killers have wrought great havoc in Balochistan. If the threats against educational institutions are not taken seriously it will only push the blighted province further into the abyss of religious zealotry and illiteracy.

The provincial government has taken notice of the threats, and practical steps are now needed to unveil and punish those behind them. Baloch nationalists, who claim to be struggling for the rights of their people, should start a counter-campaign to protect education in the province and resist the extremists’ onslaught.

The local people want to educate their children — both boys and girls — as a march staged by thousands of people, both men and women, in Panjgur last week to protest against the school closures demonstrated. Balochistan’s educational indicators are already woeful. Both state and society need to take a firm stand now before extremists succeed in changing the local fabric to reflect their dark worldview.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Pakistan’s growth malaise

Sakib Sherani

THE government has set a target for economic growth of 5.1pc for 2014-15. To achieve this, it is reportedly aiming to allocate Rs1.3 trillion in combined development expenditure, a large chunk of which is for ‘special’ mega projects. Though it should not be pre-judged, but it does appear that more spending is the predominant ‘vision’ that will inform the upcoming budget. If so, the government will be choosing to ignore much more potent measures, such as tax reform, that can refuel Pakistan’s growth engine on a longer-term, more sustainable basis.

THE government has set a target for economic growth of 5.1pc for 2014-15. To achieve this, it is reportedly aiming to allocate Rs1.3 trillion in combined development expenditure, a large chunk of which is for ‘special’ mega projects. Though it should not be pre-judged, but it does appear that more spending is the predominant ‘vision’ that will inform the upcoming budget. If so, the government will be choosing to ignore much more potent measures, such as tax reform, that can refuel Pakistan’s growth engine on a longer-term, more sustainable basis.

With its fixation on ‘spending’ as the silver bullet that will lift the economy from the doldrums, the question to examine is the following: will the ramping up of development expenditure alone produce durable growth — contrary to our past experience and the experience of many other countries? Or, will it leave us with swanky ‘showcase’ projects and a pile of debt to be serviced till the next generation?

The impulse to spend our way to growth is strong — and fed by half-baked but well-entrenched ideas of how Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey and China have all achieved economic prosperity. But each borrow-and-spend binge our short-of-ideas governments have indulged in since the 1990s has produced the same sorry outcome — a full-blown macroeconomic crisis — which, in most cases, have been occurring with shorter frequency and increasingly greater intensity. (What was it that Einstein had said about doing the same things repeatedly and expecting different results each time?)

On the other hand, in clear proof that there are things beyond spending that got these countries to their present status, all of these countries share a common macroeconomic experience: low-to-moderate fiscal deficits and high tax-GDP ratios. More importantly, in my belief, the governance ranking of each of these countries says it all — revealing a much stronger underlying institutional framework than Pakistan.

Hence, not surprisingly, irrespective of the size of the Public Sector Development Programme/Annual Development Programmes (PSDP/ADPs), Pakistan’s low-growth problem has refused to go away. Economists who think within a ‘Keynesian’ frame will immediately insist that Pakistan has not spent enough on development. In their (and the finance minister’s) prescription, the key to prosperity is to somehow swallow the minor inconveniences of a public debt overhang — and a declining marginal efficiency of capital — and to march boldly ahead with a spectacular increase in the PSDP.

Before embarking on this prescription, however, it is worth considering the following: over the past 10 years (since 2004), Pakistan has spent slightly more than Rs4.7tr under the head of development spending, both at the federal and provincial levels. The average GDP growth rate to show for this amount is 4.8pc per annum.

The institutional weaknesses this crude measure is starkly pointing to are:

Flawed project selection, especially where the Planning Commission is either completely bypassed or is a willing endorser of projects dreamed up by the party leadership with little or no economic rationale (as has been the case since 2005);

Faulty project implementation;

It is also worth considering the experience of other countries down in the dumps. Before the crisis, Greece seemed to performing well for a number of years with decent rates of economic growth — but all on borrowed money and borrowed time. Japan has been throwing money at its deflation since 1989 via one fiscal stimulus after another, but to little avail.

In fact, I would argue that till such time that we have built our economic revival plans on more solid institutional foundations, annual growth targets may be irrelevant at best — or a dangerous distraction, at worst. On a year-to-year basis, until we have ‘fixed’ it, growth could well be a low of 3pc or a high of 6pc — it shouldn’t matter. What we need to aim for is a sustainable 6-7pc for the next 20 years. To achieve that, we need to do much more than just construct highways or build more flyovers. As I have written on quite a few occasions, our economic malaise is not cyclical — it has structural as well as institutional roots. We can’t ride our way out of this on a metro bus.

The writer is a former economic adviser to government, and currently heads a macroeconomic consultancy based in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Oranges and apples

Asha’ar Rehman

THERE is apparently a remedy that encourages a suffering someone to drown his worries in high-profile development projects. And if this is indeed the answer to relieve tension and disconnect oneself from unwanted troublesome causes, no one comes close to self-applying it more expertly than Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

THERE is apparently a remedy that encourages a suffering someone to drown his worries in high-profile development projects. And if this is indeed the answer to relieve tension and disconnect oneself from unwanted troublesome causes, no one comes close to self-applying it more expertly than Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

In his previous term, the chief minister set about creating an altogether different province for him to develop according to his own wishes. He found a developmental escape in the Turkish model. He brought home the metro bus so many in Lahore liked then and have grown to like. Since then, in his new term, Shahbaz is partial to the China shop that offers immense solutions for him to disregard, if not totally forget, a host of urgent tasks that cry out for his attention.

The latest developmental wonder that has been promised to Lahore is a metro train, financed by China. Its first stretch, around 27 kilometres long, is to be typically vividly described as the orange line, and it will complement the highly subsidised red bus that is the source of so much envy all around and that is often used to illustrate the behind-the-times governments in other provinces.

There are other development projects that the Punjab chief minister is pursuing, acting as a model for his counterparts in other provinces. Some of these involve Chinese cooperation, most notably in the areas of energy generation. All these inspire hopes of better, less complicated days ahead, but no less poignant is the Punjab government’s inability to come up with steps to ease the frustrated minds stuck in the quagmire of unreason that is getting deeper with time.

The murder of a lawyer in Multan who was representing a blasphemy accused is old news. More people have since fallen to mock a government which is not only unable to protect lives, but which has shown little inclination of finding time out of its pet developmental project to even appear concerned at these incidents of brutal killing.

There is this image of an America-based cardiologist who was murdered a couple of days after he landed to serve the country of his origin. He was killed in the name of faith, and while there has been condemnation of the murder, there have been far too many instances in the past of the government keeping its distance from such incidents in the past for anyone to have any false expectations of action by the government.

The instance of a young pregnant woman bludeoned to death at the doorstep of the Lahore High Court will be relatively easier for the government to take up. Reports tell us that a police raiding team was already on its way to trace and arrest the accused killers a few hours after the young woman, who had committed the ultimate crime of marrying a man of her choice, went down under a volley of bricks hurled at her by her close relatives.

There were reports that the policemen watched on as she was attacked. These policemen are now open to an investigation and maybe censure, but again if the past is any guide, even police officials suspended for neglect are quietly drafted back into duty.

The chief minister is frequently constrained to ‘take notice’ of crimes. Sometimes an incident is serious enough and requires the chief minister to express his sentiment by visiting the victim’s house. But there are just too many bad things happening in areas under his watch for the one-and-only to intervene personally every time.

Too much territory, too many jobs stay unattended. Even the PML-N tribe is finding the summer and authority too much to bear, and there is a certain brand of violent streak in the ruling members of the Punjab Assembly who could do with a little bit of controlling from the top. The slap in the face of a doctor in Sumundari hasn’t quite got the television coverage given to similar acts by lawmakers in the past, which doesn’t mean that it should go un-tackled by the PML-N bosses. It is said the doctor was assaulted for not showing respect to a PML-N member of the Punjab Assembly who was then defended by a local traders’ group.

The traders found the situation urgent enough to come up with a defence for the MPA but no urgency was felt in power places that forever echo with Shahbazian vows of progress. It was a big enough occurrence to merit official or party response, for or against the MPA.

Pending a possible late reaction, nothing could be heard from the CM in the days immediately following the assault, until a set of ruling MPAs were seen attacking a group of opposition members outside the Punjab Assembly.

A visibly aggressive PML-N is upset that the opposition in Punjab wants to shift the focus away from the development projects and onto some darker aspects of people’s lives. That is a legitimate point and there is some developmental activity going on, for which the credit cannot be denied to the zealous chief minister.

At the same time, not everyone is as efficient at concentrating on the positives to an extent where the bad things disappear from view. It is a very selective view, which, just as it highlights progress elsewhere, allows, even justifies, neglect and silence elsewhere.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Structural violence

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

FROM gruesome gang rapes to targeted killings of Ahmadis, violent hate crimes co­n­tinue to cast their shadow over the body politic. Some would argue that there has be­en a distinct upsurge in such incidents, suggesting that Pakistan is progressively becoming a more violent society. This may be so, but my sense is that, more than anything else, increased media coverage is bringing more and more incidents of violence to light.

FROM gruesome gang rapes to targeted killings of Ahmadis, violent hate crimes co­n­tinue to cast their shadow over the body politic. Some would argue that there has be­en a distinct upsurge in such incidents, suggesting that Pakistan is progressively becoming a more violent society. This may be so, but my sense is that, more than anything else, increased media coverage is bringing more and more incidents of violence to light.

Perhaps understandably, we are typically overwhelmed by gruesome acts of violence that come into the public eye, and react to them accordingly. In fact, for every such incident there are more that we hear nothing about, taking place within the confines of homes, or in less direct ways in everyday settings.

In India there was mass public outcry some months ago following the gang rape and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi. Because of the relatively robust culture of democratic discussion in India, that and other similar incidents sparked off a series of debates that should have some far-reaching policy impacts.

Even in such a context, however, structures of patriarchy, caste and religious oppr­ession remain resolute. It is folly to assume that progressive legislative initiatives here and there can make a serious dent. For that matter, in Europe and other so-called developed countries, there’s a long way to go before racism and other forms of discrimination can be definitively confined to the past.

Arguably the difference between such societies and ours is that here we focus only on spectacular incidents of violence, rarely talking about everyday instances of structural violence which are perhaps less acute but no less significant. This, as I suggested in reference to the Indian example, is explained by the weakness of democratic institutions and the attendant superficiality of public debate.

The religious establishment is probably the single biggest force sustaining status quo inasmuch as it actively prevents debate on major social ills by issuing what are effectively unchallengeable religious edicts. The clerics enjoy a monopoly on interpretation of religion and anyone who ventures from what is considered proper religious conduct is subject to the most serious punishment by vigilantes who enjoy the sanction of the religious establishment.

Yet the religious right is part of a bigger problem. Structures of patriarchy, caste oppression and religious persecution that the religious right defends are also sustained by other forces, and in conjunction with other structures. Can it be taken for granted, for instance, that domestic abuse does not take place in households calling themselves ‘liberal’? Do all who consider themselves enlightened defy boundaries of biradari and caste in matters of marriage and property?

From colonial times, the composition of the elite has transcended simplistic categories such as ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’. For instance, it was the progeny of landed families that attended Aitcheson and Burn Hall and went on to become Macaulay’s renown­ed brown sahibs. Yes, the nouveau-riche conservatives that have become a political, economic and cultural force over the past few decades are qualitatively different from the more established elite, but it should not be forgotten that it was the avowedly ‘secular’ successors of the British that brought the millenarian monster to life and continue to rent the country out to the Saudis and Qataris to continue perpetuating their grand project.

The general liberal rancour vis-à-vis intolerance and bigotry — and the attendant and reactive culture of protest — is therefore neither here nor there. First, simply decrying the overwhelming power of rightist vigilantes that perpetuate violence against women, the religious ‘other’ and other vulnerable social groups does not help cut the right down to size. Second, and more importantly, the ranting actually obfuscates the significant complicity of many segments of the liberal elite in perpetuating and giving new form to oppressive structures.

Perhaps the elite’s liberal segments do not perceive themselves to be part of the problem, but then structural violence is insidious precisely because it conceals the complex interrelationships that reproduce oppression on a daily basis. I am inclined not to be so forgiving towards the liberal elite, because in many cases it consciously sustains its class privileges even while claiming to be the vanguard of movements against other forms of oppression.

If outrageous contradictions of this nature can be addressed, we can still hold out the prospect of an alliance of progressives — liberals, leftists and ethno-nationalists. But this requires a minimum common agenda and refuting what I once called the ‘headless chicken’ approach to activism, namely reacting to any and every rights violation that comes into the public eye. For each fire that we try and fight, many more will keep breaking out.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Nonsense, no less

Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

‘STRUCTURED talks’ is a piece of nonsense that was first heard in the South Asian context possibly in the ’90s. Since then, the talks charade between Pakistan and India has assumed many nomenclatures — peace process (God bless Henry Kissinger for coining this phrase), ‘composite dialogue’ in the wake of Vajpayee’s visit to Islamabad to attend the Saarc conference in 2004, and — thanks to Hina Rabbani Khar — ‘not only uninterrupted but uninterruptible’ dialogue.

‘STRUCTURED talks’ is a piece of nonsense that was first heard in the South Asian context possibly in the ’90s. Since then, the talks charade between Pakistan and India has assumed many nomenclatures — peace process (God bless Henry Kissinger for coining this phrase), ‘composite dialogue’ in the wake of Vajpayee’s visit to Islamabad to attend the Saarc conference in 2004, and — thanks to Hina Rabbani Khar — ‘not only uninterrupted but uninterruptible’ dialogue.

The prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz now adds the prefix of ‘re’ to make it an impressive-sounding epithet — ‘restructured talks’. The result is India’s unqualified victory in refusing to talk turkey, thus freezing the Kashmir issue.

Statements made on Wednesday by the two foreign policy managers now stand out in contrast, one by Mr Aziz; the other by the Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj; the latter has substance brimming with confidence bordering on arrogance; the former’s a poor attempt at claiming success which is not there. The latter was blunt to the point of crudity, mercifully after the visitors had left the former full of diplomatic clichés and inanities and pleading for the process to be “restructured and updated”.

Two points highlighted Ms Swaraj’s policy statement, made not at a press conference but given to the Press Trust of India (PTI), the official news agency, showing her eagerness to clarify the BJP government’s policy with regard to Pakistan in the wake of the swearing-in ceremony on Monday and the meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi.

Slowly but to good effect, India has begun to act on the advice of its friends in the West. How long will you remain bogged down in your obsession with the infinitely small Pakistan? If you want China status, have a higher vision, go beyond Pakistan, treat your western neighbour with contempt, think of greener pastures, and do what Ms Swaraj aptly did with all seriousness on Wednesday — ‘showcase India’s strengths to the world’.

Against this ‘showcasing’, consider her advice to Pakistan whose prime minister had met hers a day earlier — “stop terrorist activities”, because talks get subdued in the “din” of bombs. This then is Pakistan’s status in her eyes and this in a nutshell is the outcome of the prime minister’s visit to New Delhi.

Finally, we have to note what most Pakistani commentators miss. India has no reason to give relief to Pakistan, knowing well that this country is in a nutcracker situation. Half the army is either already bogged down in the west to combat the Taliban or is perhaps mobilising more troops for an operation. Balochistan is in the grip of a low-intensity insurgency. The economy is in a shambles. Blasphemy and YouTube are national issues. The ISI, one of the world’s most powerful and resourceful spy agencies, is waging a war of its own against a media group by mobilising mullahs.

Development activity has ceased to exist in three of the provinces. There are polio restrictions on Pakistani travellers. Afghanistan is breathing down our neck. America and the West consider us little better than an exporter of terrorism. China has expressed behind-the-scenes concern to Pakistan over the situation in Xingjian, and the state’s writ is absent not only in Fata but in many other areas too.

To expect India to make ‘concessions’ to Pakistan when this country is caught in such dire straits is to be naïve. India would rather add to our miseries than bend. Let’s get it straight: whatever the government in power in New Delhi, India has no intention of resuming meaningful talks with Pakistan — Mumbai and terrorism being useful, ever-green pretexts.

The writer is a member of staff.

mas@dawn.com

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2014

Who will save the system?

I.A. Rehman

THE attacks on the government are increasing day by day and the greatest cause of dismay in the speedily shrinking democratic lobby is the combatants’ lack of appreciation of the threat to the democratic polity.

THE attacks on the government are increasing day by day and the greatest cause of dismay in the speedily shrinking democratic lobby is the combatants’ lack of appreciation of the threat to the democratic polity.

Until recently, all attention was concentrated on the well-orchestrated manoeuvres against a media house and noisy agitation for electoral reforms. Nobody was talking of a possible challenge to the government. Now more and more people are referring to such a threat.

The leader of the PML-Q says the government’s days are numbered but his views about his mother party need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Then the PPP indicated a slight shift in its policy of standing by the Nawaz Sharif government when one of its leaders remarked that his party was committed to defending the system and not necessarily the existing government.

The most significant disclosure about the siege of the government came from a federal minister, Abdul Qadir Baloch, who not only confirmed the existence of a threat to his government but also identified Musharraf loyalists as the culprits.

The speed with which the Pakistani people forget, or are persuaded to forget, the bitter lessons of history is mind-boggling indeed.

For decades, politicians, students of politics and conscious citizens have been affirming the need for allowing elected governments to complete their term. Frequent disposal of representative governments has often been recognised as the greatest hindrance to the growth of democratic norms. Yet, barely a year after celebrating a democratic transition of authority from one elected government to another we see a revival of the mutual demolition game.

Another lesson the political parties had learnt related to their Himalayan blunder of treating one another as their worst enemies and in seeking the aid of non-political elements for doing in their rivals. The Charter of Democracy signed by the heads of the PPP and PML-N, and in the presence of many other leaders, was rightly hailed as proof of our political parties’ coming of age. Today, the pledge that no political party will be a tool in the hands of extra-democratic forces is all but forgotten.

This is not to deny the opposition’s right to critically scrutinise the work of any government and call for reference to the electorate if its continuance in power poses a threat to national interests. The opposition does not have the exclusive right to determine whether such a state has been reached. That right belongs to the people.

The main line of attack on the government at the moment is the alleged rigging of elections in certain constituencies last year. While there is considerable public support for electoral reform, the demand for regime change lacks justification because the present government was not in power in May 2013 and no proof of the state establishment’s involvement in poll irregularities has been forthcoming.

Besides, one can already see that the field is no longer occupied by democratic forces divided on issues of legitimacy or public interest. Nobody should be unaware of the history of anti-democratic elements’ efforts to demonise political parties by playing up incidents of electoral fraud. The people of Pakistan know better than any other contemporary society how agitation against electoral malpractices can be designed so as to rock the democratic system itself.

The Geo affair, the campaign against civil society and pressure on the judiciary have shown what kind of forces are spoiling to exploit the anti-government agitation. The consequences of ignoring Raza Rabbani’s warning that the country is drifting towards a 1977-like situation could be catastrophic. Those out to destroy the system are holding rallies that are looking like rehearsals for capturing the state through mob power.

What makes the situation extraordinarily grim is the realisation shared by a fairly large section of public opinion that the state has been weakened to an extent that it may not offer another chance for a movement for the restoration of democracy. Any disruption of the existing system is bound to weaken the foundations of the state and spell the end of the federation.

But who will save the system? This task cannot be accomplished by civil society alone, regardless of its capacity to read the situation correctly and the soundness of its advice. Nor are the state institutions strong enough to stem the tide of anarchy. Everything depends on the capacity of the politicians in authority to mobilise the people in support of the democratic system.

Unfortunately, the government is doing little to consolidate the democratic tradition. Indeed the pattern of personal rule the government is pursuing and its disinclination to take parliament into confidence on key issues — be it the military operation in the tribal areas or the trip to Delhi — are doing more harm to the system than the rant of militant adventurers. A government that cannot stop the vulgarisation of the country’s name on automobile number plates is unlikely to have the clarity of vision and the will to defend democracy. As noted by a perspicacious observer the people do not like their elected representatives to behave like kings.

Tailpiece: An Indian friend known for learning and refined sensibility has recalled W.B. Yeats (Second Coming) to describe the situation in India. The lines are equally apt for Pakistan:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned/ The best lack all conviction and the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Sunset in America

Khurram Husain

THIS week it is time to bid farewell to Washington D.C. as my fellowship draws to a close, and I look forward to writing my next column from Karachi.

THIS week it is time to bid farewell to Washington D.C. as my fellowship draws to a close, and I look forward to writing my next column from Karachi.

Washington D.C. has been an interesting place to be during the past nine months. I had an opportunity to observe very closely as the policy dialogue in this city went about the business of making sense of a rapidly changing world.

When I arrived, the conversation was all about Egypt. The fresh overthrow of a democratically elected government presented policymakers here with a vexing problem: how do you respond to a coup when the people being overthrown cannot be considered to be friendly to your interests?

It was with dismay that I, and my Pakistani peers who have seen the same situation play out in our own country, watched the case slowly being made for embracing the coup and its perpetrators. The difficulty of the situation was clear when decisions had to be made regarding the disbursement of vitally needed aid, and the policy machinery vacillated.

The difficulties were compounded when Gen Sisi went on a rampage, rounding up the leadership and street following of the Brotherhood, imprisoning Morsi and sentencing 683 of his followers to death in a single verdict in what must have been the largest mass trial in recent history.

Then came the news of the chemical attacks in Syria, and the conversation shifted comprehensively. It was surprising how quickly Egypt dropped off the radar, replaced by Bashar al-Assad, and his regime’s increasingly desperate measures to stay in power and fend off a vicious and violent challenge to his rule. Once again the policy machinery vacillated.

How should the president respond? After all, he had only a year earlier drawn a line in the sand saying that any use of chemical weapons would call forth an armed response from the US.

A tortured debate ensued, and again vacillation was the response. The president discovered that armed options were very limited, especially since he had given a commitment that ground troops would not be engaged. There is zero appetite in this city for committing troops to another war in the Middle East.

In the end the president tossed the ball into Congress’s court, where any idea of an armed response was promptly shot down.

Through both events, some spirited and highly articulate voices made the argument that America could no longer afford to shoulder the burden of policing the world. They pointed to the budget crisis at home, the steep cuts in the military.

Since March of last year, defence spending has been frozen and will remain so until Congress and the White House can agree to cut the deficit by $4 trillion. They’ve agreed on just over half that amount thus far, but since then the negotiations have hit an impasse.

Then came the government shutdown, when far-right elements in Congress refused to raise the debt ceiling until steep spending cuts were put in place first, and the superpower came within days of a potential default. A compromise was struck at the last minute.

Then came the upheaval in Ukraine, followed by Russia’s invasion and annexation of the entire eastern wing of that country. Yet again the vacillation returned. No coherent response could be mustered by the superpower and its European allies, and from the midst of that crisis, the defence secretary came to the Woodrow Wilson Centre and in a public event, called on all Nato allies to increase their defence spending and help lighten some of the burden for the United States.

Through it all, we’ve seen American trade policy run aground on India’s sophisticated protectionist urges, and the feted Transpacific Partnership sputter for support, particularly in Japan. We’ve seen deep anxiety develop in Asia towards the growing assertiveness of China, with stinging boundary skirmishes. And we’ve seen the vacillation in Washington D.C. growing in each instance.

In short, this is a superpower in deep trouble. It’s astonishing to think that only little more than a decade ago, the Bush administration peddled the belief that America was the most powerful country on earth and could impose its will on others unilaterally and by force.

Today, almost everybody here agrees that this is a superpower in decline, that it has neither the stomach nor the financial wherewithal to police the world, that it is facing a rising arc of challenges from smaller regional powers that throw their weight around in their neighbourhood with an impunity that is becoming ever more emboldened. China and Russia top the list, but even in a region like Latin America, which the superpower once considered its backyard, it treads as if walking on eggshells.

There is no room for schadenfreude here. The accelerating retreat of the US from the global stage is not likely to usher in a freer and more just world. On the contrary, the space vacated by the superpower is more likely to be filled by smaller powers with narrower outlooks, driven often by atavistic urges, and which are tyrannical in their constitutions.

I’m no fan of how the US went about securing its hegemony in our time. But I fear even more the kind of world that regional powers like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are busy ushering in.

The writer is a business journalist and 2013-2014 Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington D.C.

khurram.husain@gmail.com

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Reactive Pakistan

Sikander Ahmed Shah

ON April 24, the Republic of Marshall Islands instituted proceedings against Pakistan for breaching customary international law in failing to fulfil “the obligation of nuclear disarmament”, “the obligation of the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date”, and “the obligation to perform its obligations in good faith.” Similar proceedings are under way against the other eight nuclear-armed states.

ON April 24, the Republic of Marshall Islands instituted proceedings against Pakistan for breaching customary international law in failing to fulfil “the obligation of nuclear disarmament”, “the obligation of the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date”, and “the obligation to perform its obligations in good faith.” Similar proceedings are under way against the other eight nuclear-armed states.

Under Article 36(1) of the ICJ Statute, countries can invoke the jurisdiction of the court on matters especially provided for in special agreements entered into — treaties and conventions in force. This basis of jurisdiction is customarily limited to the interpretation and application of the treaty in question.

The basis of invoking the general jurisdiction of the ICJ against Pakistan, however, is its acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ under Article 36(2) of the ICJ Statute, which accords jurisdiction to the court among other things on “the existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a breach of an international obligation”. The 70 states that have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction have done so via declarations that define the scope of the jurisdiction by explicitly excluding certain kinds of disputes.

For instance, India has explicitly excluded disputes with the government of any state which is or has been a Commonwealth member. This exclusion led to the ICJ’s refusal to exercise jurisdiction in the aerial incident case brought by Pakistan against India when in 1999 India shot down a Pakistani naval plane in the Rann of Kutch.

India has 12 exclusions, which are specific and clear. In contrast, Pakistan’s declaration, made on Sept 12, 1960, lists only three exclusions, some of which are vague. Pakistan now finds itself in the midst of an inter-state lawsuit and the relevance of the text of this declaration cannot be discounted.

Such events make one question whether Pakistan binds itself to certain international obligations unnecessarily. A related query is whether Pakistan enters into international treaties exclusively for what it perceives as beneficial political and economic considerations without making the necessary legal assessments and without adequately deliberating on the state’s ability to implement the obligations that it is assuming.

Some argue that many states sense the rewards of assuming treaty obligations by ratification without any real intent of complying, since international law is hard to enforce absent the presence of a global supra-state police. This line of reasoning is counterproductive, as non-compliance exposes states to ridicule from all directions and legal challenges on multiple forums.

In the last decade, Pakistan has ratified a number of seminal international human rights instruments, the most recent being the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2010.

While Pakistan’s legal commitment to safeguard seminal human rights is an extremely welcome development, in practice the state has largely failed to both sufficiently amend its local laws as required under the ratified treaties or implement the conventions in any meaningful way. Such inaction is itself a violation of these treaties.

Pakistan’s compliance reporting as required under such treaty regimes has been non-existent or disappointing. Shadow reporting conducted by NGOs highlighting Pakistan’s non-compliance has portrayed the state as at worst, lacking the will or intent to conform to its international obligations, and at best, lacking the ability to implement international standards. The pivotal question to ask is whether and when a state should voluntarily assume international obligations, when it knows it cannot comply with them.

Coming back to the issue at hand, one can only speculate why Pakistan recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ in 1960 at all, and particularly without making any major exclusions in its declaration. Maybe little legal deliberation went into the decision at the time, or perhaps the absence of the hostility that Pakistan currently perceives had a part to play.

Today Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state that many countries find relevant to the global war on terror. This relevance makes Pakistan susceptible to a number of inter-state legal challenges.

The US withdrew its declaration from the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ in 1986 after the adverse judgement in the ICJ Nicaragua vs USA case. Pakistan might withdraw or replace its declaration as well in the near future, but this would be a reactive response.

Pakistan should prevent disputes from arising, or should legally protect its position in the community of nations by routinely complying with, reviewing and revising its international commitments a priori rather than defending its position after allegations of violations have already been made.

The writer is a former legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an associate professor of public international law at LUMS.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Rickety power sector

Tahir Basharat Cheema

UNTIL very recently, the nation had once again been witnessing a repeat of the last six years of long hours of power cuts hampering both life and the economy. The situation has been saved for the moment with the prime minister stepping in with gas fuel and Rs25 billion for Pakistan State Oil.

UNTIL very recently, the nation had once again been witnessing a repeat of the last six years of long hours of power cuts hampering both life and the economy. The situation has been saved for the moment with the prime minister stepping in with gas fuel and Rs25 billion for Pakistan State Oil.

Whatever the power tsars may say, the fact is that the earlier situation may resurface anytime. It is unfortunate that sectoral experts are nowhere to be seen. The crisis has not lessened at all, while comparatively cheaper generation, which, it is claimed, is in the pipeline, is not likely to manifest itself too soon.

Meanwhile, the vast spoils, reaped from the political economy of the power sector, have added to the existing complications. The undisciplined Pakistani power consumer is also a huge threat to a possible revival of the system. The endemic theft of energy (both electricity and gas) is a pointer of this and the delay in promulgating a truly powerful electricity act (drafted five years ago) speaks volumes for the kind of importance accorded to this sensitive issue by our managers. Besides, roving ministers can never replace field officers backed by strong laws.

But the situation can be saved through gaining access to power utility experts, who are presently missing. The earlier Wapda-honed experts have nearly all retired from or have left the water and power authority. Existing human resources have either been nurtured in isolation by power distribution companies, or have only superficial experience.

The situation is further compounded by political polarisation, with big-ticket defaulters, including provincial governments, simply refusing to pay up. The federal government only clears its bills once in a while. The general public thus also joins this bandwagon of defaulters.

Incidentally, the presently stalled recovery campaign and the political flares it has ignited could have been better managed in 2013. The FIA and other agencies had then been erroneously tasked with overseeing this activity.

The situation can be saved through the setting up of a power-sector advisory committee that is comprised of experts who understand the entire spectrum of power development. The committee’s terms of reference may include the preparation of an initial diagnosis of the power sector and of a broad outline of how best to operate the system, besides structuring a road map for the power sector’s revival with set milestones and a definite timeline.

It must also be responsible for preparing a security plan for the sector to counter the fallout of the state’s weakening writ and for devising ways and means to stop political appointments and intervention in the sector as well as threats posed by customer indiscipline.

The committee’s advice must be given to the Ministry of Water and Power, as well as the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority and the corporatised entities of the power sector; its advice must also cater for weekly course adjustments as required to be implemented by various stakeholders. It must keep a thorough check on existing policies and prepare a long-term strategy.

The committee may give its opinion on the viability and economics of ending load-shedding soon — especially when fully eliminating load-shedding is not economically feasible under current conditions. Because of the present crisis, one which past governments have also had to face, the economy is in the doldrums.

The committee would need to meet four times a month and issue an equal number of recommendations for implementation. The committee should be responsible to the prime minister alone.

Such a committee would be easy to formulate once experienced power-sector practitioners and professionals who have headed sectoral entities are identified. The least number of experts on the committee has to be six, and perhaps the maximum should be eight.

The committee would place power-sector operations under its magnifying glass and then send advice to the appropriate quarters to correct flawed operations. However, the committee would not be executive in nature. Its sole task should be to give advice but the latter itself should be made binding on stakeholders, and the Prime Minister’s Secretariat should take to task errant entities.

At the moment, it would perhaps be best if the committee were to have at least a one-year mandate; thereafter its composition and tenure should be based on its efficacy. Relevant ministries and other entities should not take such a committee’s work or advice as encroachment on their turf as the committee’s aim would be to support them in their hour of need, no more.

On the other hand, if this committee is not formed on an immediate basis, the power sector would keep on floundering and consequently the energy crises may never be contained.

The writer is president, Institution of Electrical & Electronics Engineers Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

Revenge as strategy

Zahid Hussain

IT is fighting season once again in North Waziristan, with air force jets and helicopter gunships pounding suspected militant sanctuaries and more soldiers dying in the battlefield. But do we have any clear strategy? These off-and-on military strikes have generated more confusion and exposed the prevailing disarray in our policy on fighting militancy.

IT is fighting season once again in North Waziristan, with air force jets and helicopter gunships pounding suspected militant sanctuaries and more soldiers dying in the battlefield. But do we have any clear strategy? These off-and-on military strikes have generated more confusion and exposed the prevailing disarray in our policy on fighting militancy.

It was the third military action against the insurgents in the volatile region this year. But like in the past the guns are silent again after a few days of fierce aerial bombings and artillery shelling killing a few dozen suspected terrorists and forcing residents to flee their homes for safer locations.

What next? No one seems to have any clear answer. The government maintains that it was just another retaliatory action by the military and there is no plan to conduct a full-fledged operation in the area.

The strikes, declared the interior minister, were a continuation of an earlier decision that “any act of violence or terrorism against civilian or military targets would meet a calibrated and measured response”. His faith in reviving the dead dialogue process, however, remains undaunted. There is no decision to call off the dialogue process, nor has any such demand been made from either side, he said.

This nonchalant stance lends credence to the impression that the government may not be fully on board on the latest military strikes, even though the authorisation must have come from the prime minister.

One is still not sure whether it is deliberate ambiguity on the part of the civilian leadership or pressure from the military that forced the decision. This makes the situation much more complicated. It seems to be a conscious move by the Sharif government to distance itself from the army action, while continuing to harp on the talks mantra. This approach is highly dangerous and undermines the battle against violent militancy.

Nothing depicts the deepening civil-military tension more than their differences over the policy to deal with the Taliban insurgency. The division has further widened with the dragging on of talks with the TTP, with no sign of them going anywhere. A Reuters wire agency report quoted a senior government official as saying that the military decided to take the matter into its own hands after running out of patience with the talks.

It may or may not be true, but this situation of no fight and no peace has taken a huge toll on our security forces generating frustration in the ranks. Many soldiers have been killed in the militant attacks since the start of the peace negotiations with the TTP. More than 20 of them are reported to have fallen last week alone. But there has hardly been any acknowledgement by the government of the growing number of casualties.

The latest offensive was triggered by the killing of nine soldiers in North Waziristan in an IED attack. Massive aerial bombing and heavy artillery shelling have now become almost a pattern following each attack on the troops. The claims of heavy militant casualties aside, such bombardments have their downside too. Collateral damage becomes unavoidable, further alienating the tribesmen.

What is most dangerous is that the revenge strikes are used as substitute for a well-defined counter-insurgency strategy. While this approach allows militant networks to regroup, it unsettles the lives of the tribesmen.

It is not only North Waziristan, the eye of the storm. Attacks on the security forces have become more frequent in other tribal areas too. Several soldiers were killed in last week’s militant raids in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies that were believed to have been cleared of the insurgents.

In the absence of a comprehensive strategy, the situation is likely to worsen despite the deployment of troops in those areas. It is true that the ongoing factional fighting has weakened and fragmented the TTP, but the terrorist network still has the capacity to continue targeting the security forces. Sporadic revenge aerial bombings are certainly not the way to deal with the grave security challenges faced by the nation.

No military can fight without the strong backing of the political leadership and public support. In the absence of public political ownership, military actions lose their effectiveness. What is most demoralising for the troops is the lack of recognition of soldiers and officers killed fighting the insurgents.

Last week, President Obama travelled across the world to meet the US soldiers in Afghanistan. But our prime minister, who also happens to be the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has not even visited the injured, let alone visited the frontline where our soldiers are fighting the enemy in a most difficult terrain.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100@yahoo.com

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

The primitive & the present

Rafia Zakaria

IN his recent book Savage Harvest, Carl Hoffman retraces the steps of a long unsolved murder mystery involving an American man who went searching for ‘primitive art’ in the remote islands of Papua New Guinea.

IN his recent book Savage Harvest, Carl Hoffman retraces the steps of a long unsolved murder mystery involving an American man who went searching for ‘primitive art’ in the remote islands of Papua New Guinea.

The man was not just any man; Michael Rockefeller was the son of one of the richest men in the United States. He would never return from that trip, the purpose of which was to make contact with and possibly collect artefacts from the Asmat, one of the world’s most remote, untouched tribal regions. There was something else notable about the people he was going to see: they were cannibals.

This central fact of the Guinean tribes and the American man’s disappearance — the fact that he could not only have been killed by the tribes, but also eaten — drives the narrative of the book. It is also perhaps why the story still garners attention so many years after March 1961, when Michael Rockefeller disappeared.

The trope of imagining non-Western cultures as primitive and being fixated on their ‘savage’ aspects was a mainstay of colonialism. After all, the existences of practices such as cannibalism (however prevalent they may or may not have been) allowed the arriving Westerners to justify their own existence within these lands and promoted the rationalisation that invasions were altruistic.

Such misunderstandings and reductions of colonialism are, of course, well known in South Asia, where the British imagined natives to be similarly gullible, childlike, somehow less complicated than themselves. Again, the aspects of the culture that were most starkly different from their own were highlighted, so that the arrival of the colonists — their greed for resources — could be packaged as a blessing.

Since the historical record of the time was largely created by the colonists themselves, it is this picture — the noble colonist educating the savage native — which remains embedded in the world’s imagination as the image of Western intervention.

In the decades since the colonists breathed their last, post-colonial theorists have railed against the distortions that such skewed and self-serving records have imposed on our understanding of the present. Like many other post-colonial nations, Pakistan is a hodgepodge of what was before, what existed during colonialism, and what remains now, over half a century after the British made their exit.

Like so many other post-colonial nations, particularly Muslim ones, there is a beguiling fascination with the past, the romance with its imagined purity. As the generation of Pakistanis who are now young will know well, the location of glory is not what we will achieve, but what we once achieved. Under this novel definition of progress, a return to the truth requires a regression, and a turning away from the future.

The irony in this present predicament is its untenable likeness to the same colonial caricatures that boxed colonised natives into either cartoons or savages. Dominated by these definitions, revivalist movements in Pakistan, preaching a return to a purer era, place almost exclusive emphasis on an embrace of primitive aspects that may never have actually existed prior to colonialism.

In this sense, they seek not to revive pre-colonial institutions that showed that the past of colonised peoples (apart from the Western lens put upon it) was actually just as complicated, rich in context and culture, and meaningful in multiple dimensions as Western society itself.

In keeping with the colonial oversimplification of the native, the contemporary religious revivalist wants to put energy not in reviving the many examples of Mughal cosmopolitanism, or the vast and complicated jurisprudential rules of the Ottoman courts. The art of miniature painting or oral storytelling has languished into near oblivion, replaced by bonfires of books, intellectual apathy, and an absolute intolerance for dissent.

In its stead, the crude caricatures of Pakistan’s current revivalisms — that centre on dress codes, or the ethics of male facial hair, or the length of trousers — imagine the pre-colonial past through exactly the stereotypes that colonial intruders applied upon their arrival. A varied legal system, with multiple schools and doctrinal flexibility, replaced by poorly drafted statues roughly imposed, the reduction of justice to visible hackings, the sudden disappearance of women.

This recreation of the past imposes the primitive on what never was primitive in the first place, and creates yet a new layer of misunderstanding and misinterpretation on one that was first imposed by Western colonists. In this definition of progress as a deliberate embrace of the visible primitive lies the particular pain of the present, the murder first conducted by colonialism now enacted a second time by those who believe going back is somehow going forward.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Bangkok under the boot

Mahir Ali

More recently, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was due to retire in September, was less ambivalent about his intentions vis-à-vis the ongoing strife in Bangkok. “This must be resolved swiftly before I retire,” he pointed out, “otherwise I won’t retire.” He said, “I will not allow Thailand to be like Ukraine or Egypt.”

More recently, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was due to retire in September, was less ambivalent about his intentions vis-à-vis the ongoing strife in Bangkok. “This must be resolved swiftly before I retire,” he pointed out, “otherwise I won’t retire.” He said, “I will not allow Thailand to be like Ukraine or Egypt.”

Ukraine and Egypt have held presidential elections in recent days, and although the road ahead is fraught with uncertainty in both cases, neither nation is demonstrably worse off than Thailand in the wake of its latest military takeover.

The army initially made a show of banging heads together at a session of talks that Thailand’s political rivals were obliged to attend, and their failure to resolve within hours disagreements that have divided the nation for nearly a decade and a half provided a cue for cancelling the latest experiment in representative rule.

According to an electoral commissioner who attended this bizarre conclave, Prayuth at one point instructed the attendees: “Everyone must sit still.” The conclusive exchange apparently entailed the general asking the caretaker justice minister whether the government was willing to step aside. The latter replied: “As of this minute, the government will not resign.” Prayuth unhesitatingly responded: “So, as of this minute, I decide to seize ruling power.”

The political rivals attending the meeting mostly ended up in military custody, ostensibly “to give them time to think”, as did former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who had been dismissed earlier this month by the constitutional court alongside several of her ministers on the grounds of abuse of power.

Since the turn of the century, when Yingluck’s elder brother, policeman-turned-billionaire businessman Thaksin Shinawatra, became prime minister on the basis of an unequivocal popular mandate, political rivalries in Thailand have revolved around his broadly rural support base and a vociferously resentful urban elite.

Thaksin went into exile after he was overthrown in the 2006 military coup, shortly after scoring an even more decisive electoral victory. He is routinely accused of taking corruption to an unprecedented level, and there is certainly evidence of rampant crony capitalism. Intriguingly, the authoritarian tendencies he displayed in unleashing bloody campaigns against drug dealers and Islamist extremists in the south are rarely highlighted by his opponents.

They are not, however, the basis of his continuing popularity in the rural north, where he is seen as someone who humbly sought votes and then lived up to at least some of his promises after assuming power by extending health facilities, micro-loans and other tools for development to a hitherto neglected sector of society.

The anti-Shinawatra protesters will no doubt be hoping that any form of polling can be postponed until some sort of method of subverting the popular will can be worked out. Opposition to the coup has, meanwhile, been manifesting itself daily in defiance of military edicts, and violent repression would only serve to exacerbate societal fractures.

It is contended that these fractures are not restricted to civil society, and that substantial sections of the military rank-and-file are inclined to sympathise with the pro-Thaksin forces. And although the deified King Bhumibol Adulyadej has ostensibly endorsed Prayuth’s assumption of power, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is believed to be close to Thaksin.

Be that as it may, the more immediate danger is that of an extended period of military rule amid efforts to safeguard entrenched privileges that have been eroded by populism and are ultimately incompatible with a modern democracy. It could be a while before Thailand emerges from its present phase of turmoil, but hopefully it will do so with the reinforced realisation that autocracy isn’t a viable alternative to representative rule, however flawed it may seem.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Fear, pride and folly

Zubeida Mustafa

SIXTEEN years ago, on May 28, 1998, we became a much-touted ‘seventh nuclear power of the world’ as one of the numerous half-page ads issued by the government in major newspapers boasted.

SIXTEEN years ago, on May 28, 1998, we became a much-touted ‘seventh nuclear power of the world’ as one of the numerous half-page ads issued by the government in major newspapers boasted.

With Pakistan descending into the abyss today, delving into the newspaper archives of May 1998 was a painful exercise for me. The drama that accompanied the explosions was a farce. A tragi-comedy.

We pretended to be gung-ho about our achievement which was actually no achievement considering how we have been destroyed by our nuclear misadventures. We were told, “On the way to glory … Step forward … to your prosperity, to national security & self-reliance”. Then we were informed: “We are a nation that stands tall.”

In this context, the thoughtful preface to Pervez Hoodbhoy’s book Confronting the Bomb, by John Polyani is worth reading. The Nobel laureate in chemistry identifies the origin of the ‘plague of nuclear weapons’ as “fear, pride and folly”. I will call it the FPF syndrome. How correct Polyani is. One may also see that when these three elements converge at a given point in time they inevitably lead to disaster.

Pakistan has nursed the FPF syndrome ever since the country’s inception in 1947. In fact, even earlier fear, pride and folly in varying degrees and at staggered intervals created conditions that made it possible for a new state to be born on shaky premises.

When I revisit these advertisements 16 years after they appeared, they smack of the FPF factor. I wonder what our nuclear power status has achieved for us.

The country has spent trillions of rupees (we will never know the exact amount) on developing our nuclear weapons, expanding and improving them and then protecting them from falling into the wrong hands. While doing this we neglected our human resources whose security and prosperity the ads so foolishly promised. Although the rich have grown richer, the poor are poorer today — 60pc of the people live below the poverty line.

Above all, the sovereignty and self-reliance we boasted of in 1998 are nowhere in evidence. As for national security and defence, we are still a ‘sovereign state’ and not under Indian occupation — our greatest fear. But is that a consolation, especially when there is a strong belief that we could have remained an independent state had we adopted a foreign policy that sought friendly ties with India and not atom bombs?

What use are our nuclear weapons when we cannot feed our children, give them education and healthcare? As they die of malnutrition, measles and other preventable childhood diseases we are paving the way for a nation of children crippled by polio because we could not give them polio drops and ensure clean water, the more effective way of wiping out this scourge.

Why do we have to submit to outsiders when we claim to be a sovereign nation secured by nuclear weapons? Remember those ads?

http://www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2014

Drivers of growth

Shahid Kardar

THE next budget needs to articulate a vision because a growth revival has become urgent. What should be the contours of this vision and how can it be realised? In this writer’s view it will have to be largely premised on broadening the export base and stimulating construction activity through policy reform.

THE next budget needs to articulate a vision because a growth revival has become urgent. What should be the contours of this vision and how can it be realised? In this writer’s view it will have to be largely premised on broadening the export base and stimulating construction activity through policy reform.

We can push ourselves onto a higher, sustainable growth path by harnessing the potential offered by vibrant regional economies. This will require a change in mindsets and attitudes and in ways of doing business; it would entail some ‘social and political compromises’ and trade-offs involving a sharp policy shift away from import substitution to exports and productivity improvements through better access to technology, complemented by adequate investment in high-quality education and skills. Addressing these issues will take time and some doing.

Growth in exports is critical for financing the import bill, especially considering doubts about the continuing robustness of remittances from the sluggish West and the heavy dependence on the economic health and stability of the GCC countries and their policies allowing for the continued inflow of workers. However, the key constraint to expanding our exports is their disproportionate geographic and product (low-tech and of sunset and low-growth industries) concentration.

Our image continues to be somewhat negative with our Global Competitiveness ranking having worsened, from 83 in 2007 to 133 in 2013. Meanwhile, the global scene has changed dramatically with Asia emerging as the new engine of growth and several Asian countries having had a head start, leaving us with little choice but to partner with them if we wish to surge ahead.

The changing environment has created new imperatives. On the one hand, our future economic growth faces a potential slowdown as demand declines in our traditional export markets. On the other, the dynamic regional markets of young consumers, as distinct from aging populations and contracting Western and Japanese markets, provide opportunities to overcome this demand insufficiency for our products and for gradually moving up the value chain for products and services.

While our exports will benefit from the G-Plus status granted by EU and from the Chinese graduating from low value-added products in general and textiles in particular, these developments may simply encourage concentration of exports in textiles. We need to think beyond the economic returns derived from just one or two sectors and incentivise the development of a diverse and vibrant exporting sector.

Consequently, the only way forward initially, given our weak global competitiveness, to attain healthy rates of growth under the evolving international ecosystem is to become an integral part of global producer-driven or buyer-driven supply/value chains that have enabled the fragmentation of production of different components in different parts of the world. With industry being facilitated to exploit this as an entry point we should be able to position ourselves for creating a deeper, diversified export base.

Today it is possible to sub-divide production processes, using modern technology and opportunities for trade provided by lower transportation costs and improved physical infrastructure and communication systems facilitating the management of supply chains over long distances.

With our productivity the lowest in South Asia and our exports disproportionately comprising a few commodities, participation in global production networks and benefiting from the dynamic complementarities associated with intra-industry value chains (eg, for textiles, leather and automotive products) provides the only realistic opportunity initially to begin a self-sustaining process of growth. This could mean us specialising in producing yarn and cloth, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in stitching garments, others designing them and using their marketing muscle. Of course, the availability of energy at affordable prices is fundamental to the successful implementation of this strategy.

Similar opportunities of being a part of global supply chains exist in the case of services, given the global market for out-sourced data and digital-based services. Today’s communication technology has enabled trade in services over time and space. Services can now be exported via e-commerce, even stored electronically and used long after they’ve been produced, becoming a potentially high value-added component in our comparative advantage in exporting labour-intensive services such as typing, data entry, low-end software programming, call centres, etc.

Pakistan has a relatively decent physical infrastructure and the availability, at relatively low wages, of a relatively large young labour force proficient in English. This can enable regional entrepreneurs to play the same role as Japanese businesses did in Southeast Asia by establishing industries across borders that benefited from lower wages. All would gain from the advantage of regional proximity.

A growth process stimulated by this strategy will have a multiplier effect, spreading and inducing change in the rest of the economy as other sectors adopt new technologies and management practices and build capacity all round, helping transform the whole economy. Capital accumulation, higher incomes and enhanced employment opportunities will augment domestic demand.

This, in turn, will reinforce the growth process on a durable basis, as an expanding middle class creates demand for housing, hotels and restaurants and retail for a wide range of consumer goods and personal services, generating jobs for even those already in the labour force but with modest education and skills.

Modifications in building and zoning regulations, rationalisation of government levies related to development, commercialisation and property taxes and the disposal of prime commercial land tied up in unproductive state functions (like elaborate housing for officials) can further facilitate the setting into motion of a virtuous circle.

The writer is a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Happy days, you bet

Jawed Naqvi

WITH Narendra Modi’s rise as a hugely mandated leader, India’s political pendulum, not for the first time, has swung firmly towards the western state of Gujarat. Before him, Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Jinnah were Gujarati leaders who played a towering role in the freedom movement. Morarji Desai was the first elected prime minister from the state in 1977. Strangely enough, Gen Zia liked him and gave him Pakistan’s highest civilian award.

WITH Narendra Modi’s rise as a hugely mandated leader, India’s political pendulum, not for the first time, has swung firmly towards the western state of Gujarat. Before him, Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Jinnah were Gujarati leaders who played a towering role in the freedom movement. Morarji Desai was the first elected prime minister from the state in 1977. Strangely enough, Gen Zia liked him and gave him Pakistan’s highest civilian award.

If Gujarati is the lingua franca of India’s bourses today, the reasons are not far to seek. Gujarat’s mercantile capitalists came from diverse religious backgrounds though this may have also impacted on the state’s evolution as a communal cauldron. Hindu, Muslim and Parsi traders exploited the tribespeople and occasionally faced their wrath. The militant Devi movement against alcohol vendors was an example of this conflict. The mercantile classes were traditional allies of the Indian state from the pre-Mughal days through colonialism till today.

While the state’s forces invariably aligned themselves with the traders, the rulers almost always found themselves on the wrong side of the peasantry’s interests. When Maratha warrior chief Shivaji raided the merchants of Surat, including Hindu and Muslim traders alike, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb sent his army to their rescue. The Mughal state’s contradiction with the Sikhs in Punjab, who too were of the peasant stock, can be explained to an extent in the trader-peasant tussle.

Nehru, the intellectual Brahmin that he was, displayed a marked aversion of the mercantile classes though Gandhi saw them — and he was one of them — as the trustees of free India. It may not be without irony that Modi’s first day in office on Tuesday coincides with Nehru’s 50th death anniversary.

It cannot be said with certainty where the trigger for Gujarat’s communal forays was precisely located. However, the fact that the British enlisted the services of the Pathans from the northwest in a failed effort to crush the Gujarat farmers’ uprising led by Patel has lingered in public memory. The tug of war over the Muslim-ruled state of Junagarh between India and Pakistan also seems to have left bitter memories.

An insightful essay by a Gujarati author in the latest Outlook suggests the state’s evolution as an abstemious entity that subscribes to a simple lifestyle that comes from its Baniya ethos rather than from its feudal past. “An illustration is whilst Modi has just three people working for him at his residence in Gandhinagar, [the prime minister’s house at] Race Course Road has 50, which again suggests the idea of efficiency in Gujarat.”

Terrorism, according to the Outlook piece, “is another issue which the Gujarati feels strongly about. So much so that even during Navaratri (a non-political platform), people dance to specially written couplets mocking terrorism and Pakistan.”

There are far too many Gujaratis, of course, who defy the stereotype that Modi identifies with. Dancer and political activists Mallika Sarabhai leads the field. Yet, the focus during much of the election has been on Modi’s business supporters, and they were tycoons from Gujarat. They own newspapers and TV channels that played a major role in advancing his campaign and in building his image as the man the country needs.

As far as Pakistan’s interest in Modi goes, his backers are the same businessmen who own an oil refinery and a major thermal power facility coming up in Gujarat. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit at Modi’s inaugural may not be as sudden as it seems.

As far as the world of sport is concerned, notice how one Gujarati after another wants to be the head of the country’s cricket administration. Of course, notice also that a large part of the betting network that has threatened the sport can be located in Gujarat, or among Gujarati business communities.

Historian David Hardiman in his study of the usurers of 18th- and 19th-century western India, has observed how speculative trade could easily turn into outright gambling. Indira Gandhi was aware of this tendency when she decreed that meteorological data pertaining to monsoon predictions be kept secret in order to pre-empt predatory moves against unsuspecting farmers.

“In Marwar, it was common for Baniyas to take bets on the rainfall. Plates and vessels were left on the roof, and adjudicators determined the extent to which it had rained by counting the number of drops on a plate or weighing the water in the vessel. Bets could be placed on the number of drops or the weight of the water. This form of betting was so common in Bikaner state in the 19th century that there was a tax on it.”

Mercantile classes across the world are leading purveyors of superstition. It is not surprising that an inordinately large number of TV channels in India cater to self-styled boon givers who may get your son or daughter married or find you promotion in a government job. A woman devotee told a clean-shaven Nirmal Baba with tears gushing that with his blessings she was able to buy a plane ticket to come for his darshan.

Hardiman quotes a story narrated by the 17th century-chronicler Muhmot Nainsi. In this story the Baniyas in Kutch suffered because of four successive years of good rain and bumper crops. They, therefore, approached a person skilled in powers of black magic who agreed to lock up the rain and cause a famine in the land.

Modi has vowed to usher happy days for India. Place your bets.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Afghan transition

Khadim Hussain

CHIEF of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif visited Kabul recently ostensibly to convert the tripartite security arrangement to a bipartisan one in the wake of the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) from Afghanistan this year.

CHIEF of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif visited Kabul recently ostensibly to convert the tripartite security arrangement to a bipartisan one in the wake of the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) from Afghanistan this year.

According to press reports, issues such as border management, bilateral security arrangements and border surveillance came under discussion during Gen Sharif’s meeting with his counterparts in Kabul. The meeting was held in the presence of Isaf field commanders. This meeting seems to have been significant for several reasons.

Political transitions both to the east and west of Pakistan are important politically, strategically and economically. While India now has a new government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Afghanistan should have a new president by the end of June. Though Pakistan needs to understand developments in both its eastern and western neighbours, it has to give special attention to Afghanistan keeping in view the emerging conditions there.

Afghanistan is passing through a tremendous transition in the political, strategic and economic spheres. It seems the country will see the first-ever peaceful transition from one elected president to another in its history.

This transition and the drawdown of Isaf forces will have two major implications for Pakistan and Afghanistan. The first pertains to the internal security of both countries. A stable and sovereign Afghanistan would mean that safe havens would be denied to foreign militants inside that country.

For this to happen, the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police need to be well trained and professionally organised. Pakistan can cooperate with Afghanistan in this regard. Moreover, intelligence-sharing, bilateral security agreements and bilateral agreements on border management will be needed on a priority basis. At present, most of the 2,200km Durand Line between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been ‘outsourced’ to militants.

Cooperation between the two states can only be successful when Pakistan accepts Afghanistan as a sovereign country and desists from supporting proxies fighting in that country. Afghanistan has already been raising the issue of safe havens to the east of the Durand Line, though for the last few years Pakistan has the same complaints regarding Kabul.

If the stability of Afghanistan is compromised, there are ample reasons to believe that eastern and southern Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan, will become the hub of militancy. Terrorism will hit both Pakistan and Afghanistan, though regional and international states will also bear the brunt.

The second and most important implication of the transition in Afghanistan pertains to the economy. A Joint Economic Commission session was held between Pakistan and Afghanistan in February this year. The JEC had pledged to “double their bilateral trade volume from $2.5 billion to $5bn and initiate economic projects of mutual interest”, Daily Outlook Afghanistan had reported.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan can benefit tremendously from mutual economic cooperation. The direct import and export volume between the two countries can be enhanced keeping in view the production of high-quality fruit in Afghanistan and dairy and poultry production in Pakistan. One of the viable industries that Pakistan can help develop and earn foreign exchange from is juice factories. In return, Afghanistan will have employment opportunities for its youth. The manufacturing sector here can have a large slice of the Afghan market given the cheap transportation cost between the two countries.

In the wake of the reconstruction of infrastructure in Afghanistan, most of the building material and personnel can come from Pakistan. Pakistani engineers and contractors can earn a great deal from this trade.

Other important sectors in which both countries can develop projects are medicine and education. Pakistani doctors and pharmaceuticals, besides expertise in hospital management, are in great demand in Afghanistan. Pakistani universities can and must sign memorandums of understanding with universities of Afghanistan in research and faculty development.

Pakistan and Afghanistan can increase their mutual economic and trade volume indirectly through solution of the transit trade problems via Karachi port. In return, Afghanistan can help Pakistan access Central Asia. The economic prospects can be increased only if the issue of the thriving undocumented economy in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan is resolved. For this to happen, an understanding of the security challenges is key.

At present, there are irritants between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the geo-strategic sphere. Cultural and educational diplomacy might be the answer to irritants between the two countries. To start with, exchange programmes of academia, cultural practitioners and media persons can pave the way for mutual understanding.

It is high time the establishments of both countries facilitate each other in becoming sovereign and stable, politically and economically viable states.

The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.

khadimhussain565

Twitter: @khadimhussain4

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

Policy disconnect

Farhan Bokhari

THE joyful reaction across Islamabad’s power corridors to a stabilising rupee, the successful sale of new 3G telecom licences and the launch of a $2 billion Eurobond ahead of this year’s budget, easily masked a more compelling reality though just temporarily.

THE joyful reaction across Islamabad’s power corridors to a stabilising rupee, the successful sale of new 3G telecom licences and the launch of a $2 billion Eurobond ahead of this year’s budget, easily masked a more compelling reality though just temporarily.

In April, the Supreme Court raised a fundamentally pertinent question surrounding Pakistan’s economy when it asked the federal government to prove that a family of two adults and two children could survive with dignity on a minimum monthly wage of an unskilled worker in the range of Rs7,000 to Rs9,000.

Under Pakistan’s prevailing circumstances, the accountant turned finance minister Ishaq Dar will face an uphill task coming up with a convincing answer to this fundamentally challenging question.

The Supreme Court’s observation was a powerful reminder of a repeated gap in Pakistan’s overall economic trends. The exercise overseen by the finance ministry annually prior to the budget this year again focused mainly on ‘macro’ dimensions of the economy with some attention to ‘micro’ aspects.

An oft-repeated mantra is likely to see some initiatives in the budget to be undertaken in the name of the ‘people of Pakistan’ through controversial populist schemes. The ruling PML-N’s economic history is rife with such pursuits ranging from the yellow cab scheme to dishing out laptops to communities of students in areas with exceedingly slow internet connections.

Ultimately, there is a powerful reality which is all too clear. Across Pakistan, a broad mainstream of poverty-stricken ‘have-nots’ suffer in a country where economic policy is driven mainly by the ‘haves’.

The emphasis by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to widen its focus on infrastructure projects such as the controversial Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus service is an ongoing case in point. While the crisis surrounding Pakistan’s electricity shortages or its shrinking water resources continues unabated, economic development at least in part appears to showcase fancy road projects. Exactly how this choice will trickle down in the short term to benefit Pakistan’s poverty-stricken population is an open question.

At a time when Pakistan faces the worst security nightmare ever seen in its turbulent history, a disconnect between economic trends versus an acute need to stabilise the country could be potentially deadly. While the economy’s macro aspects are heading towards a relative stabilisation, the unstable micro dimensions remain lacklustre.

For instance, notwithstanding the official estimates suggesting a downward trend on national inflation, the reality on the ground is far more telling. A chronic crisis of governance has essentially led Pakistan to the virtual evaporation of price-control mechanisms. Consequently, a combination of unemployment, unchecked prices and an increasingly ungoverned country are set to breed more anger and dissent.

Additionally, an accumulation of policy failures continues to be seen in trends across key social sectors, notably healthcare and education. While the new budget will seek to allocate funds for both of these fundamentally vital sectors, anecdotal evidence points towards scores of government-owned medical and educational facilities lying dysfunctional across Pakistan.

Faced with these dismal realities, turning the tide towards a reform orientation must be central to the government’s priorities. And yet, judging by the official bravado following the Eurobond launch and the uplift in the rupee, the political and finance establishments in Islamabad are likely to remain in an ill-advised comfort zone.

Going forward, with or without the support of key international institutions such as the IMF which in public continues to support Pakistan’s ruling regime, the all too overwhelming set of realities can simply not be ignored.

As the countdown to the new budget gathers speed, a pertinent question must only be one — is life beginning to change for the better for most Pakistanis? This is all the more vital as the finance minister predicts a further rise in liquid foreign currency reserves in the coming months.

And yet, Pakistan remains a land of many ironies. Notwithstanding the officially narrated upturn, many sceptical businessmen continue to watch the emerging national political scene with considerable nervousness.

Though not necessarily a matter within the realm of economic policy, the future of Pakistan’s civil-military relations continues to haunt many prospective investors. Beyond a continuing tiff between Sharif and the army’s top elite over the future of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, recent military interventions in Egypt and Thailand have demonstrated the limitations to the global journey towards democracy.

For Pakistan, instability surrounding the world’s only Islamic country armed with nuclear weapons could conceivably put the fragile democratic order in reverse gear. Meanwhile, on the economic front, the gap between official claims and realities across the grass roots is evident nowhere more than around scores of poor Pakistani homes. Here, the policy disconnect is strikingly obvious.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist.

bokhari62

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014

When less is not more

Babar Sattar

WITH civil-military relations in a state of free fall, the PML-N can’t afford to play the role of a disinterested bystander. Knee-jerk reactions don’t generally produce healthy outcomes. But neither does letting the rot fester. In a country like ours where a big chunk of power-wielders and opinion-makers are either not convinced that democracy is a suitable system of governance for us or are sitting on the fence unburdened by scruples ready to join the winning side, the impression that a civilian government is irrelevant can be crippling.

WITH civil-military relations in a state of free fall, the PML-N can’t afford to play the role of a disinterested bystander. Knee-jerk reactions don’t generally produce healthy outcomes. But neither does letting the rot fester. In a country like ours where a big chunk of power-wielders and opinion-makers are either not convinced that democracy is a suitable system of governance for us or are sitting on the fence unburdened by scruples ready to join the winning side, the impression that a civilian government is irrelevant can be crippling.

The military-media conflict has morphed into a civil-military conflict, whether or not it has been articulated as such by those holding top positions across the divide. The reason for the lack of a resolution of the issue is not the inability of the khakis to accept an apology when the tenderer is willing to grovel. The lack of resolution is due to concern about the future and not the past. The average khaki wishes to see redlines in stone and put on display the fate of those who transgress sacred boundaries and wander into khaki territory.

But hawks see this as an opportunity to reclaim lost space. They have felt sand slip through the fist. They have sulked at the sight of their domain being usurped by the civilian executive, the Supreme Court and media. They are done being apologists for their ‘well-meaning’ dictators. For them it isn’t about conserving power presently enjoyed, but about recapturing territory lost since Musharraf’s fall. They are fine with Pakistan’s civilian façade so long as their ability to exercise veto from behind the curtain remains intact like in the ’90s.

The civil-military conflict isn’t just about an errant two-day transmission by a media channel. That a channel could even conceive the idea of doing something so outrageous is seen as the culmination of a trend that gathered pace since Musharraf’s ouster. Under Iftikhar Chaudhry, the Supreme Court started flexing its muscle, dragging serving generals into courts and passing strictures. Taking their cue, high courts started issuing summons for ISI officials and the media started asking awkward questions about Balochistan and the missing persons.

It is disconcerting for the khakis that even after key players from the post-Musharraf era (Gen Kayani and chief justice Chaudhry) have walked into the sunset, the ‘mischief’ of trying to hold the khakis to account hasn’t died down: the PML-N has initiated the treason trial; judges have indicted Musharraf and given him the run around over the ECL matter; an FIR has been registered against a soldier over missing persons; the Supreme Court is considering if the khakis should be tried in civilian courts; and the media thinks it can treat generals just like ordinary prime ministers.

If the PML-N thinks this crisis will blow over with a slap on Geo’s wrist (ie public apology with fine and/or limited-time suspension) and life will be back to normal, it’s wrong. Geo’s insolent transmission has only brought to a boil tensions over the respective domains of the civvies and khakis that have been simmering since democracy’s restoration in 2008 and the emergence of the media and judiciary as powerful actors. The Geo transmission has only determined the timing of this conversation that the government and khakis needed to have in any event.

The timing isn’t bad for the Sharif government. While the honeymoon period is over, the country hasn’t started itching for a change of the façade just yet. Our on-demand revolutionaries have been stirred and brought out of the woods, but there’s no meaningful political alliance vying to bring the government down. Only a few months into the job, the personal relationship between Gen Sharif and Prime Minister Sharif has probably not turned septic. But do nothing and the prophecies of doom will become self-implementing.

Other than Geo’s fate there are three sets of issues that will brew tensions if left unaddressed: internal security; external security; and the extent of the military’s autonomy and immunity. Khakis consider themselves the last word on all three. The PPP regime attempted to change the equation (by changing the ISI’s reporting line and encouraging mention of civilian supremacy in Kerry-Lugar), but beat a quick retreat when checked. Now if Prime Minister Sharif wishes to change the equation, he needs to do so slowly and walk the extra mile to forge a consensus over issues.

Whether the policy is to talk and fight simultaneously or one after another, there must be no differences over what the policy is and what the government’s posturing is meant to accomplish. On the external front, Pakistan finds itself in tense regional environment. With Abdullah on the west and Modi on the east, the civilian and military leadership can’t afford to posture with each other over the shaping of our security and foreign policy. They can reach the principled agreement that status quo will prevail unless there is consensus over change.

Musharraf’s trial will remain a sticking point. The longer it drags out, just like the Geo crisis, the more damage it’ll do. Here too candidly conveying the government’s intent as opposed to communicating through signals that can be misunderstood is the way forward. The leadership challenge for Prime Minister Sharif is not to exhibit the resolve to go down fighting, but to pre-empt a street brawl. Insolent responses to khaki muscle flexing at the moment will only feed the hawks on both sides and thwart the otherwise inevitable transition towards civilian control of the military.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Attention deficit

Umair Javed

RECENTLY, the All Pakistan Alliance for Katchi Abadis, the Awami Workers Party and hundreds of residents successfully staved off a CDA-led attempt to demolish a low-income settlement in Sector I-11, Islamabad. This confrontation was the latest in a series of protests carried out to protect the residential rights of mostly informal low-income workers residing in and around the capital city.

RECENTLY, the All Pakistan Alliance for Katchi Abadis, the Awami Workers Party and hundreds of residents successfully staved off a CDA-led attempt to demolish a low-income settlement in Sector I-11, Islamabad. This confrontation was the latest in a series of protests carried out to protect the residential rights of mostly informal low-income workers residing in and around the capital city.

The coverage around this particular movement, as in the case of any involving economic and social rights, remains restricted to the news format. That means there’s a focus on the specific actors involved, the problem in its most obvious manifestation, and the various immediate outcomes that emerge from a confrontation with state authorities. Rarely, if at all, is any effort made to locate such events within the broader policy imperatives of residential security or meaningful employment.

This lack of analytical attention is reflective of a conversational consensus amongst the political elite, economic analysts and managers in multilateral institutions, which marginalises issues of social services, and accords overwhelming attention to macroeconomic stabilisation, mega projects, and fiscal health.

A few days before these events in Islamabad, a high-ranking IMF representative gave a presentation on the progress made by Pakistan as part of the Fund’s latest stabilisation programme. Much of the discussion on the current government was cautiously coated with optimism, and the words used for the finance minister, particularly, were fairly laudatory — something along the lines of ‘he’s more Catholic than the pope’, an analogy where Catholicism implied commitment to stabilisation/structural adjustment measures and the pope being the IMF.

There are, however, many valid reasons why this slant needs to be rectified, assuming that the state is serious about improving the lives of the millions living in informal settlements and working under informal arrangements.

For starters, the relationship between secure access to housing and long-term socio-economic uplift is well documented. Only recently, The Atlantic published Ta-Nehisi Coates’ remarkable account of how systemic, long-term targeting of African-American families in the shape of spatial marginalisation and forced evacuations off land has resulted in significant differences in income and wealth attainment compared to non-black households in the US.

Far closer to home, several studies on Punjab have empirically demonstrated how asset inequalities, measured most accurately by access to residential and agricultural land, remain one of the biggest contributing factors in the inter-generational persistence of poverty.

Simply put, low-income families that had access to secure dwellings a century ago are more likely to have moved out of impoverished conditions within the space of at most two generations, compared to those who were locked out of accessing residential, let alone agricultural, land. It is no surprise then that poverty in Pakistan continues to be highest amongst individuals belonging to non-land-controlling lower and scheduled caste groups.

When highlighting the state’s indifference, and making the case for enhancing residential security for the working class, three statistics make for particularly jarring reading — firstly, in case it wasn’t clear already, Pakistan is still a poor country, where nearly 40pc of the entire population subsists on less than two dollars a day.

Secondly, depending on the statistics one uses, the urban population is growing between 3.5 to 4.6pc per annum, meaning that very soon the majority of impoverished households will reside in big cities, as opposed to some rural hinterland that exists in the peripheries of our collective imagination.

Thirdly, the country faces a housing shortage of nearly 7.6 million units, with the gap increasing by a minimum of 500,000 every year; 85pc of this demand gap exists for households making less than Rs20,000 a month.

Such significant economic compulsions, coupled with skewed priorities and an entrenched system of predatory political brokerage, lead to the rise of what are often demarcated as informal settlements. These residential arrangements, which are often razed to make way for bigger roads — as in the case of the new Circular Road Project in Lahore — are nothing more than the manifestation of quiet urban resilience in the face of callous indifference.

What is even more grating is that the state actively contributes to the socio-economic mobility and consolidation of a vast majority of the middle and upper-middle class in this country, a fact that many holding relative and absolute privilege will never admit. Going by accounts of affluent professionals or entrepreneurs it appears everyone got where they are now through sheer hard work, and by waging a valiant jihad against a corrupt system.

This ‘self-made’ fable, popular particularly in urban Punjab, ignores how the state has historically subsidised the lives of at least two generations of the middle class, through state employment in the bureaucracy or the military, which guarantee pensions and stable incomes; by distributing vast amounts of residential and agricultural land as retirement benefits; and by actively encouraging — through zoning, service provisions, and road construction — a real-estate market dealing almost exclusively in suburban fantasies.

The state, it seems, has already determined what is worthy of its immediate attention, and what should be consigned to the quotidian hell of bureaucratic management. Worryingly enough, almost everyone else seems to fall in line behind this categorisation. Macroeconomic stabilisation is now the sole yardstick being used to determine whether the incumbent government is doing a good job, while everything else — such as redistribution and delivering actual services to the poor — appears to have completely fallen off the radar.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: umairjaved87

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Neglect of language

Hajrah Mumtaz

IT’S a sad reflection on Pakistan’s urban elites, but the Urdu language seems to be losing ground quite fast.

IT’S a sad reflection on Pakistan’s urban elites, but the Urdu language seems to be losing ground quite fast.

On the one side is the matter of script, one of my personal bugbears. Between text messaging and advertising, the writing of Urdu in the Roman alphabet has become common, decreasing people’s level of comfort with the script. A decade ago, at a university where I used to teach in Lahore, I asked my students — the majority of whom had studied Urdu as a compulsory subject throughout school — how many could comfortably still read Urdu. Few could, even though all of them could of course speak it.

On the other side, a couple of years ago I went looking for a children’s puzzle that featured the Urdu alphabet, the sort pre-schoolers are given where they have to fit the letter into the correct space, thus learning the sequencing. I went to the bookstore at the nearest mall in the upmarket Clifton area of Karachi. They didn’t have one, even though they had any number of puzzles for the English alphabet.

It took trips to seven or eight bookstores to finally find one. Tired of the hunt by then, I bought it quickly without reading it properly. Later, I realised that it was in fact a puzzle featuring what was probably the Arabic alphabet, since it lacked certain consonants that Urdu has but Arabic doesn’t.

Since then, every time I visit a bookstore — naturally, bookstores that are generally located in areas most easily accessible to me — I check what their stock on books in Urdu for children are. They tend to be sparse. Barring a few high-profile (and high-quality) recent publications, there aren’t many. The men at the counters at these bookshops say there isn’t much of a demand for Urdu books for children, particularly in the young adult category — barring books that discuss/explain religious tenets. At the Karachi Children’s Literature Festival a few months ago, where about a dozen publishing houses had set up stalls, I was unable to find a copy of Iqbal’s Lab Pay Aati Hai Dua.

So the urban elites don’t seem to be interested in buying books in Urdu for their children — and it isn’t hard to guess why. Language and accent has been politicised and identified with class in Pakistan. This is true to varying extents for most languages anywhere in the world; consider, for example, the differences of experiences and being that a Glasgow accent underlines as opposed to the ‘Queen’s English’ accent, or the different reception that an American versus an English accent will invoke. But our upper classes seem to neglect making sure that their children are comfortable in writing and reading Urdu, particularly in its literary iteration.

And the same can be said not just for Urdu but for several other regional languages as well; many students in Lahore’s private schools cannot speak Punjabi except for a few words or phrases, for example, even though they can understand it well. (It appears to me that the situation is better with regard to Pashto and Sindhi, but someone needs to undertake research to identify the true picture.)

This is not to suggest that Pakistan is losing Urdu, of course, for the language is alive and healthy and new writers are adding to its literary richness every day. My intention is to point out how the younger generation in particular of a certain class of people — numerically few but important because of economic and other sorts of power — are becoming alienated from the language. I know of several (private) schools where children are discouraged from speaking amongst themselves in Urdu. In one or two cases I know, students actually get pulled up for talking in Urdu.

The loss, obviously, is that of these young people. But could this also be indicative of a certain turning away from things Pakistani and from the country itself that is possible to discern amongst certain sections of society? In my opinion, regretfully, yes; and, further, it is not too hard to imagine why: Pakistan, at the juncture it stands today, is a place full of unpleasant realities and there doesn’t seem to be much anyone is doing about it.

One could bemoan the fact that powerful stakeholders in the state are distancing themselves from a key aspect of the state, but there would be no point to that. Instead, can we urge schools and parents to focus more intensively on Urdu? At the moment, more than an active turning away, many young people seem to be losing the language out of neglect; that can easily be changed.

The writer is a member of staff.

hajrahmumtaz

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

The impact on education

Huma Yusuf

WHAT must it feel like to have armed men burst into your classroom and tell you that what you’re studying is forbidden under Sharia? How much worse is that feeling than the realisation that your state is unable — or unwilling —- to keep you safe from such intimidation while you pursue your education?

WHAT must it feel like to have armed men burst into your classroom and tell you that what you’re studying is forbidden under Sharia? How much worse is that feeling than the realisation that your state is unable — or unwilling —- to keep you safe from such intimidation while you pursue your education?

Sadly, students in Panjgur, Balochistan, have had to answer these questions in recent weeks following threats and attacks against private and co-educational schools and English learning centres. The Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan, a previously unknown group, has been circulating written threats against schools with female students and teachers, warning against “vulgar, Western” education. The group has also targeted van and taxi drivers who transport girls to school. To make sure the point was well taken, the group on May 14 shot at and burnt a van on a school run.

The extremist assault against education is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan — more than 600,000 students are believed to be out of school in KP because of militancy in recent years.

Just last month, the provincial assembly debated the extent to which militancy had impacted education provision in KP. The education department claimed 160 primary and secondary schools in the province, including 13 in Peshawar, remained closed owing to the activities of militant groups. Others contested the figures, saying they were as high as 385 closed schools, including 295 for girls. The numbers are likely much higher, and do not account for the dozens of schools that have been destroyed through bomb attacks by militants since the mid-2000s.

The situation in Panjgur has invited comparisons with the activities of the Boko Haram in Nigeria, currently in the international media spotlight following the kidnapping of over 200 school girls.

It has also highlighted how militant groups are able to take advantage of the poor security situation in Balochistan, exploiting the uncertain environment to serve their own ideological agendas despite the significant military and paramilitary presence in the province. And it has once again raised troubling questions about the capacity and willingness of the government and state security forces to push back against militancy.

The school closures have no doubt taken a psychological toll on Panjgur’s population, making the future imposition of obscurantist ideas on a historically moderate society easier. But it is worth highlighting the more cynical motives behind the militants’ focus on schools. The closure of private, co-ed and English-language schools is likely to create greater space for madressahs, and by extension, more support for militant activities.

Recent intelligence reports from Islamabad have reiterated the connection between madressahs and violent extremist groups. Not only do madressahs provide new recruits and attract funds that are often diverted to militancy, they also play an important networking role, helping militant groups connect with each other. There are reportedly already 2,500 registered and 10,000 unregistered madressahs in the province.

In this context, the rise of the Furqan group brings credence to recent claims that state security forces are giving increasing leeway to extremist groups in Balochistan in the hopes that religious ideology might trump growing nationalist sentiments.

There is no shortage of reasons why the government should eradicate militancy, but its impact on education is certainly among the more compelling ones. Protests in Panjgur against government inefficacy in the face of the militant threats are an important reminder that ours is still an aspirational society, one that seeks progress and opportunity. The failure to check the impact of militancy on education will lead to the unnecessary loss of a generation.

(Admittedly, the poor state of education in Pakistan is not only a fallout of the security environment — it is well-known that the state does not consider education to be a priority. Think of interior Sindh, where the incidence of extremist militancy remains low, but where every seventh school is a ‘ghost school’.)

The negative outcomes of militancy’s chilling effects on education cannot be understated: democracy cannot function without the contributions of a literate population equipped for civic participation and critical thought. Without receiving an education, Pakistanis will also lack the skills needed to contribute to the globalised economy and thereby reap the demographic dividend. The chances of international employment for Pakistanis will also decline, dealing a blow to an economy that relies so heavily on foreign remittances. Moreover, the fact that schools in KP and Balochistan have been harder hit could fuel further inter-provincial tensions as the discrepancies in development indicators with other provinces widen.

As such, in addition to its more obvious toll in the form of loss of lives, militancy can put indirect pressures on the polity, and is likely to do so, unless checked.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

huma.yusuf

Twitter: @humayusuf

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014

Engaging Modi

Munir Akram

THE invitation to Nawaz Sharif and other Saarc leaders from Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi to attend his inauguration was even more surprising than his landslide electoral victory. To put it mildly, Modi has not always been so engaging.

THE invitation to Nawaz Sharif and other Saarc leaders from Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi to attend his inauguration was even more surprising than his landslide electoral victory. To put it mildly, Modi has not always been so engaging.

Modi’s rise has been watched with trepidation by India’s Muslims, the Kashmiris and Pakistan. The Indian Muslims have not forgotten his role in the 2002 Gujrat massacre of Muslims, even if Indian courts failed to indict him of complicity on procedural grounds. The Kashmiris resent his desire to abrogate even the token special status they were accorded under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. Pakistanis recall Modi’s words in 2002: “Hindu militancy will destroy Pakistan”.

In his electoral campaign, Modi projected his economic credentials and moderated the extremist rhetoric — an obvious tactical adjustment to broaden his appeal beyond his core Hindu constituency. It was also dictated by priorities of the Indian tycoons who funded the multimillion-dollar, high-tech electoral campaign that secured Modi’s landslide.

Optimists believe that, having gained an absolute majority in the lower house, and thus not dependent on coalition partners, the Modi government will have room for manoeuvre on both domestic and foreign policy. They see the invitation to the inauguration as a manifestation of this. An unidentified Pakistan Foreign Office official even drew a naive analogy between president Nixon’s opening to China and Modi’s putative normalisation with Pakistan.

In Pakistan, some have found solace in Modi’s emphasis on economics rather than ideology. Since development is also the declared priority of the Sharif government, it is believed that the trade and economic cooperation route to normalisation with India can be accelerated

Modi’s invitation is an astute diplomatic move and a mixed blessing for the Pakistan prime minister. Its rejection could have been construed as an unfriendly gesture and justification for future Indian belligerence. However, its acceptance, despite past and recent insults hurled at Pakistan, could cast this country in the role of an Indian satrap, more so if other South Asian leaders attend. The occasion could be utilised by Modi to set the bilateral and regional agenda. In any case, peace is not about to break out between Pakistan and India.

While Modi and the BJP have made tactical adjustments to their ideology, their Hindu hard line remains clearly visible. BJP’s electoral manifesto repeats known objectives — such as building the Ram temple on the site of the destroyed Babri mosque and abrogating Article 370 of the constitution — and some unknown ones — such as “reviewing and updating” India’s nuclear doctrine.

Some of Modi’s campaign comments about Pakistan were extremely derogatory. The best apology he offered for the Gujarat killings was that he was also saddened when a puppy was run over by a car. The open advice being offered to Modi by several former Indian foreign secretaries and high commissioners to Pakistan is to adopt a tough line and a ‘terrorism- centric’ policy towards Pakistan.

Things could get rough if Modi’s promises of economic revival fizzle out. There’s more than an even chance of this happening.

First, Modi’s vaunted economic achievements in Gujarat are not all they’ve been cut out to be. The rich have thrived, but the poor, especially Gujarat’s Muslims, have been further marginalised. Second, the Gujarat ‘model’ cannot be replicated in many other parts of India. Third, with high budget deficits and inflation, and resistance to cutting subsidies and imposing a general sales tax, Modi’s government may not have the financial capacity to stimulate high growth. Foreign investment may not surge into India for many reasons: global slowdown, endemic corruption and ‘nationalistic’ restrictions, such as on retail business, and requirements for local content and technology transfer.

If Modi’s economic programme falters, BJP is likely to turn to the usual political gimmicks to preserve domestic support, especially from its core Hindu constituency. Its manifesto’s promises on the Ram temple, Kashmir, nuclear doctrine, military build-up, would then become the first priority. Pakistan would be consigned to the familiar role of a whipping boy.

Even if Modi’s economic programme is on track, a Pakistan-India crisis could erupt notwithstanding, for instance, if popular demonstrations in Kashmir were put down brutally, anti-Muslim riots break out, ceasefire violations escalate along the Line of Control or a terrorist incident takes place in India (for which Pakistan would be inevitably blamed). Pakistan must thus hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

At this time, it is in Pakistan’s strategic interest to avoid a confrontation with India so that it can focus on promoting economic development, putting down the TTP and dealing with the transition in Afghanistan.

In New Delhi, Nawaz Sharif will need to ensure India’s respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and its national interests. Pursuing economic cooperation and trade wherever this is beneficial for Pakistan is a legitimate aim. But this will not in itself assure peace and stability. Kashmir remains a time bomb in Pakistan-India relations and requires an equitable solution. India’s conventional and nuclear build-up, and its Cold Start doctrine of sudden attack against Pakistan, have created a hair-trigger strategic environment and must be addressed in any bilateral dialogue. And Islamabad should have the courage to call for an end to India’s interference in Balochistan and support for the TTP, especially in response to India’s loose talk of Pakistan’s ‘sponsorship’ of terrorism.

While embracing Modi’s engagement, Pakistan must keep up its guard and retain the capacity for credible deterrence against India.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2014

A softening veto

Cyril Almeida

MODI tried to pull a fast one on Nawaz, and Pakistan. But Nawaz bit the bullet and may yet salvage the situation.

MODI tried to pull a fast one on Nawaz, and Pakistan. But Nawaz bit the bullet and may yet salvage the situation.

At least that’s the view here in the quarters that matter.

When the invitation came, it flummoxed the Nawaz camp. They’d really, really rather it not have come. Not at this time. Not in this way.

The civ-mil and internal situation was complicated enough. Now, the Nawaz camp felt, a hawk had tried to corner them. A trap had been sprung.

Huh? How does that work?

A rejected invitation would have given Modi the perfect excuse: look, I tried, but there’s no one over there who can or will talk to us.

The upshot: the nationalist Modi would look magnanimous and yet not have to cede anything.

Normalisation would have been chucked into cold storage for a year or two. Modi would have been able to concentrate on his domestic agenda uninterrupted.

And Pakistan would have looked petty and venal on the global stage.

But Nawaz wants normalisation and he doesn’t want to wait a year or two. So he has gambled. He’s called the Modi bluff.

The upside? Modi can’t now baulk and still pin all the blame on Pakistan.

The downside? Possible yet-more friction with the boys.

But Nawaz has chosen. He’s going to Delhi. Which means the question here is, can Nawaz change the civ-mil dynamics at home?

When it comes to India and dealing with the civilians at home, the boys have developed a new strategy: the soft veto.

The soft veto is the boys letting the civilians test their ideas, but quietly — never overtly — discouraging the stuff they really don’t approve of.

It works something along the lines of: go ahead, do your thing, try your ideas — we won’t get in the way unless we think you haven’t really thought through the implications of what you’re doing.

Of course, both the civs and the boys have thought through the implications — but the two sides disagree fundamentally on a couple of things: the pace at which the implications will play out and the degree to which they should.

Yet, the soft veto itself betrays an opportunity: if there weren’t, the blunt and direct hard veto would be preferred and still in use.

What exactly is the opportunity though?

To begin with, the system has moved on somewhat. There is space for the civilians: the boys just can’t say no and expect that to automatically carry the day.

For immediate reference, have a look at the Musharraf trial and the TTP dialogue. Add going to India for Modi’s inauguration now.

But, as Nawaz has proved and may now be trying to unprove, the civilians have their own priorities — which means they won’t necessarily or swiftly capitalise on the space the system has created for them.

Yet, if the civilians don’t — or won’t — raise their game, could the soft veto itself be set for a further softening?

The soft veto itself is born of two different, if not quite opposing, views among the boys on India: the hawkish view and the moderate one.

The hawks’ view is simple: cold peace. You, India, do your thing; we, Pakistan, do our thing — and never shall the twain meet.

Strong, muscular army; just-enough trade; controlled visa regime; arms-length cooperation on an issue-to-issue basis; and never, ever giving up on a just and equitable settlement on Kashmir.

Since Mumbai, the hawks have been in the ascendant. Because an angry India is a threatening India.

The moderates though continue to exist. And, paradoxically, this may be their time.

The moderates view is a relative one, arguably ideology blunted by pragmatism, and can also be summed up neatly: Pakistan is falling behind India.

Yes, there must be a just and equitable settlement on Kashmir, but nothing just nor equitable happens to anyone who falls far behind a rival.

Yes, India was, is and will remain the country Pakistan has to worry about the most, but those worries will only compound themselves if India pulls away too much.

Economically. Diplomatically. Militarily. Pulling away, far, far away. India hasn’t done it yet, but what if it does?

Originally, the moderates’ concern focused on India growing several times at the rate Pakistan was.

But as India’s growth slowed, Pakistan’s internal security problems pulled it even lower, which meant the relative gap remained wide — troublingly wide, perhaps on its way to irreversibly wide, as far as the moderates were concerned.

The move from the hard veto to the soft veto had much to do with the moderates’ view. It made military/security sense and the hawks were not too threatened because they still had their veto.

Now though a triple whammy may be upon us, strengthening the moderates’ case and possibly softening the hawks’ veto further.

The domestic situation is bad and Afghanistan will be in flux again. So Pakistan is likely stuck in a trough for a while. But what if Modi does exactly what he campaigned on? Ie, gets India to soar again.

The relative gap — the Pak-India gap that concerns the moderates so — would widen into a chasm. And just when a Hindu nationalist is in power.

Everything the moderates, the pragmatist-ideologues, have ever feared could come together in one, big terrible mess of a bang.

So why not hold off on the veto and see what Nawaz can get out of Modi?

This could be the moderates’ time, finally.

Now, if only Nawaz knew how to make nice with the hawks.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

An incomplete law

Basil Nabi Malik

PERIS Tobiko is a Kenyan woman whose elder sisters were pulled out of school and married off at an early age. In her own words, she was to meet the same fate. However, she was lucky enough to have teachers who were willing to intervene and prevent her from facing a similar outcome. Today, as a result, Peris Tobiko is Kenya’s first Maasai woman elected to parliament.

PERIS Tobiko is a Kenyan woman whose elder sisters were pulled out of school and married off at an early age. In her own words, she was to meet the same fate. However, she was lucky enough to have teachers who were willing to intervene and prevent her from facing a similar outcome. Today, as a result, Peris Tobiko is Kenya’s first Maasai woman elected to parliament.

According to the International Centre for Research on Women, the plight of Peris Tobiko’s sisters is not unique at all; in fact one hundred million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the next 10 years or so. Unfortunately, and without doubt, a number of those girls will be Pakistani.

Child marriages in Pakistan are a result of various factors, including poverty, attempts to prevent pre-marital relations, desires to forge family ties, as well as to protect ‘honour’.

However, such marriages have varying consequences for the children in question and society at large. Generally speaking, they tend to reduce the ability of the children to seek or continue their education and therefore to avail themselves of any future career opportunities.

Furthermore, such marriages prematurely end a person’s adolescence, and impose roles and responsibilities for which the child may not be physically, emotionally or psychologically ready.

Additionally, child brides are less likely to insist on contraceptives upon marriage. Therefore, after such marriages, girls often bear children immediately. This, however, gives rise to various risks. For example, as per a Unicef report, an infant born of a child is at a 60pc greater risk of dying in its first year of life as opposed to an infant born to a mother who is older than 19 years. Even if the child survives, he or she is more likely to suffer from lower birth weight, malnutrition or late physical or cognitive development.

It was perhaps in the light of all this that the enactment of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2014, was applauded by civil society in Pakistan. Even the media reported the enactment as a welcome step towards criminalising child marriage and protecting children.

However, if viewed in perspective, the act is not as remarkable or novel as it is being portrayed.

Firstly, the act is not revolutionary or even the first of its kind. Prior to its enactment there already existed similar legislation restraining child marriages. The act has in essence only re-enacted the previous law, albeit with certain modifications.

The present enactment, much like its predecessor, penalises a person involved in child marriage by way of imprisonment and a fine. Amongst other things, it also allows the appropriate forum to pass an injunction restraining a child marriage that is still to be arranged or solemnised.

As per the act, a child is defined as a person below the age of 18, whereas in the predecessor act, the age was set at 16 years for girls and 18 for boys. The punishment for encouraging, arranging, or solemnising a child marriage now carries a prison term of three years, as opposed to one month in the previous enactment.

A mother or female guardian can only now be punished with imprisonment for facilitating or encouraging a child marriage. Furthermore, the offence is now cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable, with the trial to be preferably concluded in 90 days.

In comparison to its predecessor, the current act is only somewhat broader in scope and stricter in punishment. Other than that, the implications and scheme of the law remain the same.

Secondly, although the media celebrated the enactment as a ban on child marriage, it is anything but that. In fact, the act could best be described as a tool to discourage child marriages as opposed to stopping them. This becomes clear from the fact that although it threatens to impose harsher penalties on persons who engage in, facilitate, or encourage child marriages, it does not annul such unions.

Therefore, although a 50-year-old man marrying a child may be liable for imprisonment for such culpable actions, shockingly, his marriage with a 12-year-old girl would continue.

Hence, although the legislation has enacted harsher punishments for the arrangement or solemnisation of child marriages, it does not seem to go far enough to remedy the actual issues at stake.

In fact, as discussed above, the recently passed legislation only seems to tweak the law as it had existed prior to its enactment, without in any way affecting or outlawing child marriage itself. Although perhaps a step towards betterment, the law at present can be considered nothing more than the proverbial slap on the wrist of an offender.

The writer is an attorney at law.

basil.nabi

Twitter @basilnabi

Inextricably linked

Ahmer Bilal Soofi

THE Supreme Court and the other courts are free in the state but not free from the state. This means that from the perspective of international law, courts in Pakistan, including the Supreme Court, are viewed as subsets of the state, and therefore their decisions are taken as acts of the state.

THE Supreme Court and the other courts are free in the state but not free from the state. This means that from the perspective of international law, courts in Pakistan, including the Supreme Court, are viewed as subsets of the state, and therefore their decisions are taken as acts of the state.

The judgements and orders passed by the judicial organ of the state have repercussions under international law — both positive and negative. Court judgements become an indication of the international position of the executive arm of government on a certain issue.

For example, the Supreme Court judgement in the Zewar Khan case, reaffirming the status of the Durand Line as the Pak-Afghan international border, is a judicial reflection of the position taken by the state itself before international forums. Pakistan refers to this case whenever doubts are raised about the sanctity of the Durand Line.

Another case decided by the Azad Jammu & Kashmir Supreme Court makes some significant comments about the legal linkage of the Northern Areas (now Gilgit-Baltistan) with the remaining territories of Pakistan. This case has important legal implications in the context of the Kashmir issue for Pakistan.

The Dalmia Cement international arbitration determined that the 1965 conflict/war between India and Pakistan did not qualify to be legally referred to as a ‘war’ as all bilateral treaties and diplomatic ties between the two states remained intact. It concluded that the hostilities had the legal status of an international ‘armed conflict’ which has different implications under international law.

The judgements of superior courts also have effect under private international law. For example, the Hubco case related to international arbitration, decided by the Supreme Court, became a somewhat embarrassing case study in international commercial circles. More recently, the Reko Diq case decided by the Supreme Court became supportive of Pakistan’s position before the International Chambers of Commerce and that is how it is being pleaded. In another commercial dispute by a foreign investor, a judgement by the Supreme Court in the Karkey matter (in which a Turkish vessel was detained pursuant to court orders) has been challenged before the ICSID, that settles investment disputes. The Supreme Court has been extensively criticised by the claimant.

In security matters, the context of international law is even more important. It is now maintained by various academics that intervention can be made in another state if the said state is unable or unwilling to control terrorism or prevent human rights abuses or fails to check the threat of proliferation of WMDs. This means that for a case to be made on this account, judicial decisions handed down by the courts regarding various conflict zones in Pakistan will have serious repercussions.

One approach that the courts can adopt to balance accountability with national security interest is to hold in-camera hearings of such matters. The result of open hearings in such cases is that judicial orders now are being reproduced in UN documents and referred to and relied upon while criticising Pakistan.

Some academics view events in Fata/Pata as a non-international armed conflict — a position being contested by the Foreign Office. The orders of the high courts and the Supreme Court as a result of these petitions filed internally and pertaining to these conflict zones, will have international legal implications in this context as well. Without realising, the court may end up determining the legal character of the conflict that may well be contradicting the diplomatic positions taken by Pakistan.

As stated at the outset, the courts are indeed free inside the state but internationally, their verdicts, orders and observations are viewed as acts of the state since they are an integral arm of the state. Under the international law of state responsibility, present and future governments need to bear the burden of such orders and judgements.

It is also in this context that although the courts may be right in acquitting terrorists on account of lack of evidence, the fact remains that in doing so they inadvertently document the state’s inability to bring to justice those who attack it.

Thus each acquittal order becomes an indictment of the weak criminal justice system. The government and judiciary need to recognise this. If relief is granted by the court to any person who is linked with any of the 400-plus entities sanctioned under UN Security Council Resolution 1267, the state of Pakistan will be viewed as failing to perform its obligations under international law to counter terrorism.

It is, therefore, in the fitness of things for the federal government to render appropriate assistance to the judiciary on the international legal implications of its judgements and observations.

The writer was formerly federal law minister in the 2013 caretaker set-up.

ahmersoofi

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