DWS, Sunday 1st June to Saturday 7th June, 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 1st June to Saturday 7th June 2014

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National News

30 BRA men killed in clash with FC: Bugti

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: At least 30 suspected Baloch militants were killed in a fierce clash with Frontier Corps in Darnjan Nullah area of Sui in Dera Bugti district on Thursday.

QUETTA: At least 30 suspected Baloch militants were killed in a fierce clash with Frontier Corps in Darnjan Nullah area of Sui in Dera Bugti district on Thursday.

The claim was made by Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti at a press conference here. He was accompanied by Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani and FC spokesman Khan Wasey.

A spokesman for the outlawed Baloch Republican Army (BRA) confirmed the gunbattle and said seven of its fighters and a commander had been killed. He claimed that security forces also suffered severe losses.

The home minister said that two days ago BRA militants had attacked and killed two personnel of Sindh Rangers and injured seven others in Kandhkot area of Sindh, near the border with Balochistan, and fled to Balochistan.

He said that on the basis of a tip-off the Frontier Corps was carrying out a search for suspects in Darnjan area in the morning when BRA militants opened fire and killed a non-commissioned officer. Seven soldiers were injured.

The minister said that FC personnel returned fire. Both sides used heavy weapons in the exchange of fire.

“FC personnel killed 30 militants of BRA,” he claimed. Two important BRA commanders, identified as Sattar and Bokhalani, were among the dead.

Mr Bugti said FC Inspector General Maj Gen Ejaz Shahid had supervised the action against militants.

The non-commissioned FC officer killed by the militants was identified as Noor Hussain.

Mr Bugti said the gunbattle was continuing in the area, adding that at least eight militant hideouts in the rugged mountainous area had been destroyed and a large quantity of explosives and arms and ammunition had been recovered.

Answering a question, the home minister said the bodies of two BRA commanders were in the custody of FC. He added that the militants killed in the clash were involved in attacks on security forces.

They destroyed railway tracks and gas pipelines and attacked various places with bombs. Four of them were identified as Wahid, Qurban, Zahid and Marhata.

He said the documents and other literatures found in the hideouts suggested that the militants were supported by neighbouring countries.

Local people said the gunbattle was continuing and helicopters were hovering over the area.

According to AFP, the minister said the forces also freed two local Bugti men kidnapped for ransom by the militants.

Calling from an unspecified place on satellite phone, BRA spokesman Sarbaz Baloch claimed that 22 security personnel, including two officers, were killed in the clash. According to him, a helicopter was targeted and damaged.

But officials said only one officer had lost his life and seven soldiers suffered injuries.

They were taken to the Combined Military Hospital in a helicopter.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Altaf undergoes angiography

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: As Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain was undergoing angiography at a London hospital, a senior leader of his party announced on Thursday night that the MQM would observe a “Youm-i-Dua” on Friday.

KARACHI: As Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain was undergoing angiography at a London hospital, a senior leader of his party announced on Thursday night that the MQM would observe a “Youm-i-Dua” on Friday.

Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui told participants of a sit-in at Karachi’s Numaish area that Mr Hussain had talked to MQM leaders in London by phone and informed them that he would undergo angiography shortly.

Mr Hussain asked his followers to pray for his early and complete recovery. “So we have decided to observe Friday as Youm-i-Dua for the speedy recovery of Mr Hussain,” Mr Siddiqui said.

He said the MQM chief wanted his workers and supporters to remain united and continue their struggle.

According to an MQM statement, PPP leader Wajid Shamsul Hasan and Dr Asim Hussain were also present at the MQM’s international secretariat when Mr Hussain called. They also talked to Mr Hussain and gave him a message of former president Asif Ali Zardari, said the statement.

Meanwhile, the UK authorities did not allow an MQM delegation to meet their supremo currently held at a London hospital.

Talking to reporters outside the London hospital, MQM leader Babar Ghauri said his party would prove in court that the money-laundering charges against Mr Hussain were false.

Earlier, the MQM said in a statement that Mr Hussain was still in the hospital, where doctors were conducting different tests. “He will undergo a medical test today after that the doctors would decide if he is in a position to give interview [to investigators] or not.”

Earlier, DawnNews reported that the British government had allowed the Pakistani High Commission in London access to the MQM leader.

Imran Mirza, the acting Pakistani high commissioner to the UK, met Mr Hussain at the hospital.

After the meeting, Mr Mirza said that Mr Hussain was in high spirits, adding that the MQM chief thanked the prime minister and the Pakistani public for support.

He said police would question Mr Hussain after he was discharged from the hospital.

Police had concluded the search of Mr Hussain’s house which had been going on since 5:30am on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Ulema council’s fatwa declares honour killing un-Islamic

Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) has declared in unambiguous terms that murder of women or girls in the name of ‘honour’ is un-Islamic.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) has declared in unambiguous terms that murder of women or girls in the name of ‘honour’ is un-Islamic.

The PUC issued a fatwa on Thursday which said such killings were generally devoid of any legal or Islamic justification. “These murders are akin to spreading mischief on Earth.”

The decree was issued by the PUC’s Darul Iftaa.

Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Ashrafi, the chairman of the PUC, presented a draft of the decree at a national conference here. The event was attended by diplomats, religious scholars and representatives of minority communities.

Hafiz Ashrafi said the murders were usually committed due to suspicion and the killers usually didn’t have any witness to support their allegations.

The fatwa was issued on the basis that those killed were generally unmarried girls. “Unmarried girls cannot be murdered even if allegations against them are proven to be correct and there are witnesses against them,” the PUC chairman said.

APP adds: A joint declaration adopted at the conference expressed sorrow over incidents of sectarian violence and attacks on places of worship of non-Muslims.

Addressing the conference, the Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Mohammad Yousuf, urged ulema and the representatives of minority communities to forge a consensus on promoting tolerance in society.

Referring to reports about incidents of forced conversion in Sindh, the minister said such practices were prohibited in Islam.

The participants of the conference urged the government to grant legal status to a proposed code of conduct and make sure that it was implemented.

Following are the main points of the proposed code of conduct:

— Terrorism committed in the name of Islam is a violation of Islam, and the leadership of all religions and sects declare their dissociation from such acts.

— No prayer leader, cleric or speaker will debase or induce his followers to debase any prophets, companions, family members or wives of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); the four caliphs and Imam Mehdi in his speech or sermon.

— No Muslim sect will be declared non-Muslim and no Muslim or non-Muslim will be declared worthy of being killed.

— Apart from Azan and Arabic sermon, the use of loudspeakers will be completely banned.

— Publication and distribution of offensive and hateful books, literature and pamphlets will be stopped and there will be a complete ban on cassettes and online websites containing objectionable and hateful material.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Health insurance scheme for the poor

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday approved the National Health Insurance Scheme for the poorest segment of the nation.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday approved the National Health Insurance Scheme for the poorest segment of the nation.

If all goes as planned, the scheme will provide health insurance facility to 100 million people. The scheme will be implemented in phases.

In his budget speech, Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar had said that the government was keeping a provision of Rs1 billion for the health insurance scheme. It would be implemented on pilot basis during the financial year 2014-15.

The scheme, according to Senator Dar, will enable a beneficiary to obtain health insurance for tertiary and special diseases.

The prime minister gave approval for the scheme at a meeting he presided over here on Thursday. The meeting was attended by the finance minister, Chairperson of PM’s Youth Programme Maryam Nawaz, Minister of State for Health Saira Afzal Tarrar, and senior officers of health and finance ministries.

According to a participant, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with institutions like Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) and National Database & Registration Authority (Nadra) will work out methodologies to identify people who needed this insurance scheme.

According to one suggestion, beneficiaries of the scheme should be issued special health cards which they could use to claim the premium. Once covered under the health insurance, a beneficiary will be able to get the treatment at a hospital of his/her choice both in private and public sectors. With the introduction of the scheme, there will be healthy competition between private and public sectors to attract the beneficiaries.

Initially, the official said, the scheme would be implemented in selected districts on incremental basis. For example, there are many districts, where one doesn’t need to actually get into nitty-gritty to find out who are the deserving candidates for the insurance scheme. People living in slums and the countryside where healthcare facilities were non-existent will be targeted.

According to an official statement, Ms Maryam, the architect of the scheme, gave a briefing to the prime minister in which a comparative study of major health blanket models of European Union, United States and India and options for implementing the scheme in Pakistan were discussed.

During the meeting, the prime minster said that the health insurance programme was the only way forward to provide protection to the economically deprived people. He said: “The scheme is the first of its kind to introduce a grievance redressal system as well as social security safety net for the poor people. The programme will not only give the vulnerable sections of the society an access to cash free health facilities but will also help to develop and revolutionise the health infrastructure across Pakistan.”.

The prime minister said that “the scheme will also enhance public-private partnership in Pakistan and will open up further avenues for investment”.

During the briefing, Ms Maryam said that the scheme was designed on simple lines to ensure cost efficiency. The scheme would be completely apolitical and would provide a blanket cover for cash-free treatment to poor people for major diseases like cardiovascular, diabetes mellitus, life and limb saving treatment, implants, prosthesis, end-stage renal diseases and dialysis, chronic infections (hepatitis), organ failure (hepatic, renal, cardiopulmonary) and cancer treatment (chemo, radio, surgery).

The statement said the meeting decided to establish the first-ever state of the art public sector human organ transplant centre in Islamabad.

The prime minister directed the ministries of finance and health to coordinate and finalise technical modalities and implementation strategy so that an early relief could be given to people.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Woman survives murder attempt by relatives

Reuters

LAHORE: An 18-year-old girl has survived being shot and thrown into a canal by her family for marrying the man she loved, police said, weeks after the “honour killing” of another woman drew worldwide condemnation.

LAHORE: An 18-year-old girl has survived being shot and thrown into a canal by her family for marrying the man she loved, police said, weeks after the “honour killing” of another woman drew worldwide condemnation.

Ali Akbar, a police official, said Saba Maqsood had been attacked and shot at allegedly by her father, uncle, brother and aunt and thrown into the waterway in Hafizabad town in Punjab.

“It is an honour-related incident,” Mr Akbar said.

“The victim, Saba…married her neighbour Mohammad Qaiser for love five days ago against the wishes of her family. They took her to Hafizabad, shot her twice and threw her in the canal after putting her in a sack, presuming that she was dead.”

Mr Akbar said the girl had been wounded in her cheek and right hand. Her relatives fled the scene, and after minutes in the water she regained consciousness and managed to struggle to the bank, where two passers-by helped her.

“She is a brave girl. She came out of the canal and approached a nearby fuel station from where a rescue team rushed her to hospital,” he said.

Last month, Farzana Iqbal was attacked and killed in broad daylight outside a court in Lahore by suspected family members because she had married the man she loved. The case drew intense global attention, including condemnation from the United Nations.

Police official Akbar said he had recorded a statement from Saba Maqsood in which she blamed her family for the attack.

“I was tortured and shot by my father Maqsood Ahmad, brother Faisal Maqsood, uncle Ashfaq Ahmad and his wife Sajida Bibi,” he quoted her as saying.

The official added: “Her condition is out of danger and we have registered a case against her family on her complaint.”

Police raided her father’s home in Gujranwala but all the suspects had disappeared, he said.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Two colonels, 3 civilians killed in suicide attack

Mohammad Asghar

RAWALPINDI / FATEH JANG: Two army officers and three civilians were killed when a suicide bomber hit a vehicle carrying security personnel on Wednesday morning.

RAWALPINDI / FATEH JANG: Two army officers and three civilians were killed when a suicide bomber hit a vehicle carrying security personnel on Wednesday morning.

The attack took place at a railway crossing at the junction of Fateh Jang and Rawalpindi when the vehicle with two officers, a gunman and a driver had slowed down.

The bomber appeared from bushes along the road and blew himself up.

The officers, the guard, the driver and a rickshaw driver were killed.

A spokesman for the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement that Colonel Mohammad Zahir and Colonel Arshad Hussain and three civilians were killed when the bomber hit the vehicle at about 9.20am.

The deceased rickshaw driver was identified as Noor Saleem.

Six people were injured in the blast. They have been identified as Mohammad Shabbir,

Mohammad Haleem, Gul Saleem, Mohammad Khan, Akbar Ali and Najeeb.

Immediately after the attack, security officials cordoned off the area and took the injured and the bodies to hospitals.

Mohammad Shabbir and Mohammad Haleem were shifted to the District Hospital, Rawalpindi, because their condition was serious.

According to security sources, head and a leg believed to be of the suicide bomber were found from the scene. He looked like an Uzbek citizen.

When contacted, Regional Police Officer Akhtar Umar Hayat Laleka said two of the injured were in a critical condition.

He said according to preliminary investigation high-intensity explosives weighing about 2kg were used in the attack.

He said funeral prayers of the two army officers were offered at Chaklala Garrison in the afternoon.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Rashad Mehmood, personnel from three services and people from all walks of life attended the funeral.

Later, the bodies of the army officers were sent to their ancestral towns where they will be buried with full military honour.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Senate passes five bills

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: The opposition-controlled Senate on Wednesday had a hectic day as the house unanimously approved five bills, including two controversial anti-terrorism laws, which had earlier been passed by the National Assembly.

ISLAMABAD: The opposition-controlled Senate on Wednesday had a hectic day as the house unanimously approved five bills, including two controversial anti-terrorism laws, which had earlier been passed by the National Assembly.

Following a behind-the-scenes understanding between the government and opposition leaders, the lethargic upper house, which had not approved any of the bills passed by the National Assembly in its first year, managed to pass two key terrorism-related laws just days before the 90-day period for their lapse expired.

The bills passed by the house were the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2014; the Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill 2014; the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill 2014; the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2014 and the Service Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 2014. All five bills now only require the president’s ceremonial assent to be enacted as law.

Mr Ahsan said they would support the passage of the anti-terrorism bills because these were set to lapse on Thursday, when the 90-day period within which they were supposed to be passed by the Senate, would expire.

The minister thanked opposition members for their support and said he would accommodate the amendments proposed by them when the house took up the Protection of Pakistan Bill in the days to come since several clauses were common to both bills.

However, after completing legislative work, opposition members walked out of house to protest the “brutal police action” against teachers and clerks in Islamabad and the worsening security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Speaking on points of order, senators from the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) lashed out at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for its alleged failure to improve law and order in the province.

The JUI-F’s Ghulam Ali asked the federal government to play its role and demanded that the KP governor write to the KP government and warn it for its poor performance.

The two bills, seeking to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, are aimed at countering the financing of terrorist organisations through money-laundering and allowing for shoot-on-sight orders to law-enforcement agencies.

Mr Hamid informed the house that the bill had been formulated in pursuance of a Supreme Court decision.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

TTP claims Fateh Jang, Bajaur attacks

A Correspondent

Miramshah: The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has accepted responsibility for the suicide blast in Fateh Jang and attacks on border posts in Bajaur.

Miramshah: The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has accepted responsibility for the suicide blast in Fateh Jang and attacks on border posts in Bajaur.

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told Dawn by phone from an unspecified location that the bombing and the attacks were in retaliation for the killing of its men in Karachi and attacks on Taliban in other places.

“We will respond to repression in the manner as we did today.”

He claimed that the TTP was still interested in peace talks, but the government was never serious and continued to target and torture Taliban fighters.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

People don’t trust taxation machinery: Dar

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Wednesday that most of potential taxpayers in the country wanted to pay taxes but did not trust the taxation machinery.

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Wednesday that most of potential taxpayers in the country wanted to pay taxes but did not trust the taxation machinery.

It was against this background that the government introduced a new mechanism for collecting sales tax from 2.5 million retailers (fresh taxpayers) through their electricity bills like withholding tax, he told newsmen at his post-budget press briefing.

He conceded that about Rs945 billion worth of supplementary grants were being sought for approval through the next year’s budget, but said that most of these grants pertained to technical approvals and only Rs62.5bn were additional grants, including Rs44bn for increased debt-servicing.

The minister spent most of his time in denying that the budget was pro-rich and offered little to the poor, but did not answer repeated questions over continuing relaxation in capital gains tax to stock market investors and brokers and the impact of withdrawal of over Rs124bn subsidies on power tariff.

The minister enumerated the measures he had introduced last year, including an increase in pension and salary of government employees and in the size of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) which has now been renamed as National Income Support Programme (NISP) in the budget.

He hinted at merging the Baitul Maal and the federal segment of the devolved zakat responsibility because NISP allocation had been increased from Rs75bn last year to Rs118bn.

In a written statement, the minister said that apart from a 46 per cent hike in tax on airfare for club, business and first class travellers, the government had increased federal excise duty on international air travel of economy and economy plus passengers by 30pc to Rs5,000 from Rs3,840.

Mr Dar spoke in detail about his strategy to bring over 2.5m retailers in the tax net which he said had been put in place after prolonged negotiations with trader associations and other representative bodies.

He said big chain departmental stores and chain retailers having air-conditioned shopping malls with facilities for customers using credit or debit cards or with monthly electricity bills of Rs50,000 per month and above would be required to get registered for compulsory sales tax and to keep electronic cash register of approved specifications to record transactions and issue receipts to customers.

He said another category was of tier-II retailers who had agreed to pay sales tax through electricity bills because they said they wanted to pay taxes but were not ready to be in contact with the Federal Board of Revenue. “They are afraid of the taxmen and hence not ready to come into the tax net,” he said.

He said the government had studies to suggest that retailers had 60-90 times higher sales than their electricity bills which meant that a retailer consuming electricity worth Rs10,000 had at least Rs600,000 worth of sales. Through negotiations, it had been agreed that retailers having electricity bills of less than Rs20,000 per month would be charged 5pc of the electricity bill as sales tax, while those with higher bills shall be charged 7.5pc sales tax on retail sales.

Responding to a question, the minister confirmed that top bureaucrats wanted to increase their monetisation allowance from Rs100,000 per month even though they enjoyed a special preferential treatment as they were not paying normal income tax on this allowance as part of the gross salary like all other income taxpayers. But, he said, the proposal had been shot down.

He said tax measures introduced in the budget increased the share of direct taxes from 36pc to 37.5pc as new taxes were imposed on uncovered sectors, reduced distortions, plugged loopholes and increased the cost of doing business for non-compliant people who did not file tax returns.

He said there was no new tax on common food items and there was no increase in sales tax rate.

He said the government would set up Exim Bank of Pakistan to support exporters and offered the benefit of higher duty drawback on textile exports having higher value-addition.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

MQM asks transporters, traders to resume business

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: Following a telephone call from Altaf Hussain to his top lieutenants in London, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Wednesday night appealed to traders and transporters to resume their activities in Karachi from Thursday.

KARACHI: Following a telephone call from Altaf Hussain to his top lieutenants in London, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Wednesday night appealed to traders and transporters to resume their activities in Karachi from Thursday.

However, senior MQM leader Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui made it clear that the party would not end its protest sit-ins at Karachi’s Numaish area and parts of Sindh towns.

Life in Karachi remained paralysed for a second consecutive day on Wednesday as MQM workers and supporters continued their protest. However, the telephone call Mr Hussain was allowed to make by the British police resulted in an announcement that would bring some respite for the people of Karachi.

Mr Hussain is still under observation at a London hospital following his ‘arrest’ by the British authorities on suspicion of money laundering. According to the MQM, his fasting blood test had been conducted and in the light of lab report doctors would decide whether the London Metropolitan Police could ‘interview’ him or not.

The MQM leaders in London tried to meet Mr Hussain at the hospital, but the British authorities did not allow them. Later they allowed Mr Hussain to make a brief telephone contact with his party men and his 11-year-old daughter.

According to an MQM statement released from London, Mr Hussain asked his followers to remain peaceful. He said they should not take law into their hands under any circumstances.

The MQM leader said this was not a new situation for him. “I will never disappoint the nation,” Mr Hussain told MQM office-bearers in London’s international secretariat.

In Karachi, MQM leader Hyder Abbas Rizvi read out Mr Hussain’s message in front of the participants of the sit-in.

Later in the night, Dr Siddiqui thanked traders, transporters, political, religious and social leaders, labourers, school owners and people from all walks of life for showing unity after the `arrest’ of Mr Hussain, and appealed to them to resume their normal activities.

Earlier, DawnNews reported that the London police had asked for the names of three people who would be allowed to meet the MQM chief.

The people could either be related to Mr Hussain or his friends.

The development came hours after MQM leader Wasay Jalil claimed that although police wanted to question Mr Hussain, he had been shifted to hospital because of ill-health.

Mr Jalil said the MQM was cooperating with the police in their investigations into the alleged money laundering and the murder of Imran Farooq.

Police have sealed the residence of Mr Hussain after a search carried out by 40 personnel, including members of the forensic team.

DawnNews quoted London police as saying that six personnel were still at the residence, which would be handed over to the MQM chief after he got bail.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad on Tuesday to enquire after the health of Mr Hussain. They assured Mr Ibad of the federal government’s full cooperation in the matter.

According to Reuters, a spokesman for London police said Mr Hussain remained in custody and he is being questioned on suspicion of money laundering. “By this evening we will probably know if he’s going to be charged or released,” the spokesman said.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Seven troops die in militant raids from Afghanistan

Baqir Sajjad Syed

“In Bajaur early morning today, terrorists from across the border fired on Pakistani posts at Manozangal and Mukha tops. Seven soldiers died and seven others were injured, including an officer,” military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said.

“In Bajaur early morning today, terrorists from across the border fired on Pakistani posts at Manozangal and Mukha tops. Seven soldiers died and seven others were injured, including an officer,” military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said.

It was the third incident of cross-border terrorist attacks on Pakistani posts in 10 days and the deadliest for Pakistani troops.

The terrorists appear to have changed their tactics after facing a forceful response during their last attempted intrusion on May 31 in which 16 of their fighters were killed.

This time, instead of crossing the border they fired at the Pakistani posts from across the border.

Pakistani Taliban who had fled military operations in Bajaur and Swat are believed to have carried out the attacks from their sanctuaries in Kunar, Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has turned a blind eye to these sanctuaries from where the terrorists have been carrying out cross-border raids since 2011.

The Afghan charge d’affaires was once again summoned to the Foreign Office to receive a protest over the latest attack.

The Pakistani Embassy in Kabul simultaneously raised the issue with the Afghan foreign ministry.

The demand for “concrete steps” for stopping the use of Afghan territory against Pakistan was restated during the protest lodged in Islamabad and Kabul.

The government reaffirmed its commitment to supporting all efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif termed the attacks “cowardly and shameful” and said in a statement: “We cannot be cowed down by such timid actions.”

In the evening, four more soldiers were injured in a roadside explosion of an improvised explosive device in Bajaur, the military’s public relations wing said.

Afghanistan has in the past avoided taking action against sanctuaries of Pakistani militants on its soil on the pretext that Afghan Taliban had hideouts on the Pakistani side of the border.

Anwarullah Khan adds from Khar: “Our forces responded with full firepower and engaged terrorists with helicopter gunships,” a security official said.

He said the number of casualties suffered by militants was yet to be ascertained.

The official said soldiers were setting up a post atop a mountain in the area to stop militants based in Kunar from infiltrating into Pakistan.

“The militants have six bases just across the border. Some of them are within the visible range,” the official said. “They use those bases to infiltrate into Pakistan.”

He said the bases belonged to militant groups from Mohmand and Bajaur.

“There has been an escalation of attacks from across the border with the advent of summer,” the official said.

A local tribal elder said that around 10 militants, including two of their leaders, were killed and several others injured in heavy clashes that continued till the evening.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Relief for the rich, peanuts for the poor

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government unveiled its second budget on Tuesday which provided harsh cuts as well as populist measures. As a result, cuts in subsidies and increase in gas rates rubbed shoulders with incentives for the youth and business while the party’s signature infrastructure projects were also present.

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government unveiled its second budget on Tuesday which provided harsh cuts as well as populist measures. As a result, cuts in subsidies and increase in gas rates rubbed shoulders with incentives for the youth and business while the party’s signature infrastructure projects were also present.

Consequently, the government estimates that it will have an additional revenue of Rs405 billion to spend in the next fiscal year (2014-15). It has reached this figure by generating an additional Rs230bn through taxation, saving Rs120bn by reducing subsidies and earning around Rs58bn by increasing the Gas Development Infrastructure Cess (GIDC).

In an unusually long budget speech, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also made an ambiguous announcement about phasing out concessions in the tax structures, popularly called statutory regulatory orders (SROs), in the next three years. He added that this would start with the “withdrawal of tax exemptions for five major sectors – textiles, leather, carpets, surgical and sports goods – on their domestic sales”.

Gas revenue 

The budget also envisages increased gas rates for industrial, commercial, fertiliser and captive power plants, which is expected to yield Rs145bn next year. This year, these rates yielded Rs88bn.

In order to achieve this target, the GIDC rates on all gas consumers, except residential ones, were hiked by up to 200 per cent – this was done under a commitment made to the International Monetary Fund.

The GIDC rates were increased from Rs100 per MMBTU to Rs300 for captive power plants, fertiliser, Wapda and independent power plants, commercial consumers including ice factories and industrial consumers. The rates for CNG stations were increased from Rs263 per MMBTU to Rs300.

The government has also reduced subsidies by Rs120bn. This year, it allocated Rs323bn for subsidies. Of the reduced amount, the largest chunk – Rs115bn – will now be paid by power sector consumers of which Rs35bn will be coughed up by K-Electric’s buyers.

Good news for employees

The minister also announced an increase in the minimum labour wage for the private sector and increased by 10 per cent the salaries and pensions of all federal government employees as ad hoc relief, in addition to some increases in medical and conveyance allowances for employees in grade 1-15.

Envisioning the expenses

The overall budget outlay for the next year has been estimated at Rs4.3 trillion, about 7.9pc higher than the current fiscal year, and the overall fiscal deficit has been estimated at 4.9pc of GDP (gross domestic product) or Rs1.422tr with the help of a cash surplus of about Rs289bn.

This includes current expenditure of Rs3.46tr, including repayment of foreign loans and development expenditure of Rs838bn (which is slightly lower than Rs858bn spent in the current year). From this amount, the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) has been allocated Rs525bn while in the current year this allocation was Rs540bn.

The finance minister said that next year’s total expenditure had been budgeted at Rs3.937tr compared to the revised estimates of Rs3.844tr during current year, showing an increase of two per cent, which he said was lower than the inflation rate.

With an allocation of Rs700bn, the minister said the budgetary needs of the armed forces had been duly addressed for which he gave himself a pat on the back.

Of the current expenditure estimate of Rs3.13tr, interest payments will consume Rs1.325tr while in the current year Rs1.187tr was used for it.

The total allocation for pensions has been set at Rs215bn of which a major chunk of Rs163bn will be consumed by military pensioners, leaving Rs51bn for retried civilians.

Running the civil administration will consume Rs290bn of which Rs113bn will be spent on expenses other than salaries. The salaries will eat up Rs174bn next year, against Rs148bn spent this year, showing a substantial increase of 17.6pc.

Optimistic revenue estimates

The availability of total resources has been estimated at Rs4.073tr of which it will raise Rs3.2tr internally. Of this amount, Rs289bn will come from provincial surpluses and capital receipts will provide Rs2.225tr.

The government hopes to collect Rs3.129tr from taxes; Federal Board of Revenue has been tasked to collect Rs2.810tr for next year while another Rs319bn will be raised from sources other than the FBR. In addition, the government aims to collect Rs816bn from sources other than taxes.

After transferring Rs1.72tr to the provinces, the federal government’s net revenue receipts have been estimated at Rs2.225tr, leaving a federal fiscal deficit of Rs1.711tr. This will be brought down, the government claims, to Rs1.422tr with provincial assistance of Rs289bn.

However, these measures have not impressed economists.

Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan said the tax collection target for FBR was grossly unrealistic. “Mark my words. FBR is not going to collect Rs2.810tr in taxes; they will end up collecting between Rs2.6 and 2.65tr.”

He also expressed doubts about the government’s calculations of the revenue they would collect from the various tax measures. “The government had expanded the withholding tax regime, which shows that the tax machinery’s collection capability has failed. They are taxing at source because they cannot collect taxes. Why do they need the 2,500 people who work for FBR?”

Tax relief for the rich?

In a major concession to stock investors and brokers, the government decided to put off increasing capital gain tax from 10 to 17.5pc, which they had promised to impose from January 1, 2014, in the last budget. However, under pressure from the brokers, it has backtracked and imposed 12.5pc capital gain tax for securities held for 12 months and 10pc for up to 24 months.

The finance minister also announced reducing corporate tax rate from 33 to 20pc till June 2017 to encourage investment in construction and housing projects. He also removed customs duty on import of plastic coverings, mulch film, anti-insect nets and shade nets for tunnel forming. The budget also reduced tax on marriage functions from 10 to 5pc. These measures will benefit various businesses.

Promoting business and export

The minister announced setting up Exim Bank of Pakistan with an initial capital of Rs10bn for which a legal framework would be announced later. This measure has been part of past budgets as well but it has never materialised.

The government also announced reducing the mark-up rate on export finance from 9.4 to 7.5pc and reducing the mark-up rate on long-term financing facility for 3-10 years from 11.4 to 9pc, with effect from July 1 to reduce cost for transporters.

Mr Dar also announced that the government would revive the export development fund and establish the Pakistan Land Port Authority to deal with human trafficking and smuggling.

For the textile industry, the government announced conditional refunds if they increased exports.

The minister also announced credit guarantee scheme for small and marginalised farmers under which the State Bank will use Rs30bn to help microfinance banks provide loans up to Rs300,000 to farmers.

In addition, a reimbursement crop and livestock loan insurance scheme will be launched for natural calamities and climatic diseases.

Mr Dar also announced Rs20bn for housing loans.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Altaf arrested in London for interrogation

From the Newspaper

LONDON: Altaf Hussain, the London-based chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was arrested by the British police here on Tuesday on suspicion of money-laundering.

LONDON: Altaf Hussain, the London-based chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was arrested by the British police here on Tuesday on suspicion of money-laundering.

He was arrested in northwest London where he has been living in self-imposed exile since 1992.

Police said a 60-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of money-laundering during a morning raid at a residential address but declined to confirm his identity. Officers were searching the building, they said.

A spokesman said the man was escorted to a pre-arranged hospital appointment during the day and remained in custody late on Tuesday.

An MQM leader at the party headquarters in London confirmed that Mr Hussain had been arrested at his home in the morning as part of an ongoing investigation and said he was happy to help police with their inquiries.

“While these inquiries are taking place, the party leadership calls for calm from our millions of party members and supporters in Pakistan and across the world,” Nadeem Nusrat said in a statement. “The party is prepared to assist the British police with all of their enquiries as neither Mr Altaf Hussain nor the party have anything to hide.”

He said: “We appeal to all the workers to control your emotions.”

He said Mr Hussain had been feeling unwell and was about to go to a hospital for medical tests when detectives arrived at his home with a search warrant.

Police in Britain do not name suspects until they are charged. But when asked about Mr Hussain, the Metropolitan Police said a 60-year-old man had been detained at a residence in northwest London on Tuesday morning.

Mr Hussain gained British citizenship in 2002 after leaving Pakistan when a military operation was launched to end ethnic unrest in Karachi.

His residence in London was raided on suspicion of money-laundering in 2012 and 2013 by British police.

In 2010, Imran Farooq, one of MQM’s founding members and a confidant of Mr Hussain, was murdered in London.—Agencies

Our Staff Reporter in Karachi adds: The MQM said on Tuesday evening that Mr Hussain had been taken to a London hospital from a police station for medical check-up.

The MQM coordination committee said in a statement that Mr Hussain would remain in the hospital overnight and doctors would conduct a fasting blood test on Wednesday at around 11am GMT.

“The doctors will decide after looking at the fasting blood test report if Mr Hussain is medically fit to be interviewed by the police or not,” the statement claimed.

Mr Nusrat, the London-based party leader, had said while addressing a press conference in Karachi by phone earlier in the day that Mr Hussain was about to be taken to a hospital when the London Metropolitan Police raided his house and took him to a police station.

DawnNews quoted the Scotland Yard as saying that the investigation would continue for 24 hours.

Mr Hussain has been facing investigations on suspicion of money-laundering of at least 400,000 pounds, as well as for inciting violence and the case of Dr Farooq’s murder.

MQM leader Farooq Sattar had disclosed at a public meeting in Karachi last week that Mr Hussain’s bank accounts in London were being frozen.

A London-based journalist said that if proven guilty for committing a crime in the UK, a person would not be able to leave the country and would be prosecuted only in Great Britain.

Another journalist said it was possible that Mr Hussain might have been arrested only for a statement and he might be freed after 24 hours.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Eight killed in Kurram IED attack

Hussain Afzal

PARACHINAR: Eight passengers were killed and seven others injured when a bomb blast ripped through a pick-up in Khumsa area of central Kurram Agency on Tuesday.

PARACHINAR: Eight passengers were killed and seven others injured when a bomb blast ripped through a pick-up in Khumsa area of central Kurram Agency on Tuesday.

The pickup was going to Sadda in Lower Kurram from Para Chamkani in Upper Kurram. When it reached Khumsa area an improvised explosive device planted by unidentified men along the road went off. Four people died and 11 others suffered injuries and the vehicle was destroyed by the impact of the blast.

The injured, among them women and children, were taken to a Parachinar hospital where four of them died.

Political Agent Riaz Mehsud said several tribesmen had been arrested, their shops closed and vehicles impounded under the collective responsibility clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

He said the administration had announced Rs300,000 to be paid to the family of each deceased in compensation and Rs100,000 for each injured. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Additional taxes to yield Rs231bn

Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government has imposed Rs231 billion new taxes in its second budget with relief measures for industrialists and foreign investors.

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government has imposed Rs231 billion new taxes in its second budget with relief measures for industrialists and foreign investors.

The focus of tax proposals is to increase share of direct taxes in overall taxes, document the economy, remove distortions in tax laws, and promote foreign direct investment and industrialisation.

For the first time in history of the tax department, revenue measures – sales tax, excise duty and customs duty – will not be implemented from June 4 because there was no legal cover for it.

The Federal Board of Revenue will now have to withhold implementation of revenue measures till the passage of the budget by parliament later this month.

Last year, the Supreme Court had struck down the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1931, which empowered the tax department to implement revenue measures from the next day of presentation of the budget.

Two tax commissions on reform and rationalisation of general sales tax were constituted.

The budget proposes to raise Rs231bn through new taxes and withdrawal of SROs – direct and indirect taxes.

The total revenue to be generated through withdrawal of SROs is estimated at Rs103bn, including Rs36bn through income tax, Rs35bn through sales tax and Rs32bn through customs duty.

An amount of Rs128bn, including Rs108bn in income tax, Rs16bn in sales tax and Rs4bn in customs duty, will be collected through additional revenue measures.

Due to inflation and economic growth, nearly Rs304bn will be raised outside the tax measures. The government hopes these measures will help achieve a revenue target of Rs2,810bn. The revenue target for 2013-14 was revised downward to Rs2,275bn.

Income tax measures: The government has exempted profits and gains earned by coal mining projects in Sindh that supply coal exclusively to power generation projects from payment of tax.

It also decided to tax their dividends at a reduced rate of 7.5pc; capital gains tax proposed to be 12.5pc for securities held up to 12 months and 10pc for securities held for a period between 12 and 24 months.

Five-year income tax exemption will be given for setting up processing plants for locally-grown fruits in Balochistan, Malakand Division, Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata. Customs duty and sales tax will also be exempted on import of equipment for these areas.

A reduced rate of 20pc on investment in new industrial undertakings to be set up by June 2017 and at least 50pc of the project cost, including working capital, is through FDI in equity; corporate tax rate is reduced to 33pc from 34pc; 50pc reduction in tax liability of disabled persons on income up to Rs1m; and the government withdrew the income support levy introduced last year.

To facilitate the non-residents, it is proposed that if one member of the joint venture is a company, it should be taxed separately at the applicable rate while the individuals should be taxed as an AOP separately; the income tax concessions at Gawadar coast given to China Overseas Ports Holding Company.

The rate of withholding tax on functions and gatherings has been reduced to 5pc from 10pc; exemption granted to Sindh Pension Fund; the entire amount of flying allowance exceeding an amount equal to the basic salary be taxed at a concessional rate of 7.5pc; Rs1 per unit of electricity consumed with electricity bill will be charged from every steel melter, steel re-roller, composite unit of melting, re-rolling and MS cold.

Withholding tax rate has been reduced to 14pc from 15 pc, airlines may collect advance tax at the rate of 3pc on the sale of first class and club / executive class air tickets if the passenger is a compliant taxpayer, and 5pc tax if the passenger is a non-compliant person.

An adjustable advance tax will be collected on purchase of immovable property at a rate of 1pc for compliant taxpayers and 2pc for non-compliant persons. However, properties whose values do not exceed one million rupees and schemes introduced by the government for expatriate Pakistanis will be excluded.

The government will collect 7.5pc advance tax from domestic electricity consumers on a monthly bill of above Rs100,000.

The government introduced additional tax for those persons who did not file income tax returns – 5pc for dividend income, 5pc for interest income above Rs500,000, 0.2pc for cash withdrawals from banks and 0.5pc in case of advance capital gains tax collected from seller of immovable property. This tax will be in addition to the tax collectable from return filers.

In addition, currently the highest rate of tax is for vehicles above 2000CC. It has been proposed that two higher slabs may be added for vehicles from 2501 to 3000cc and above 3000cc with higher rates of tax. For non-filers the rates will be double.

Another proposal was that debt securities be included in the definition of securities. However, companies shall be excluded from such deduction. An alternative corporate tax at 17pc is proposed to be imposed on accounting income, excluding the exempt income of companies, to avoid tax evasion.

The rate of deduction of tax on services for corporate taxpayers was increased to 8pc from 6pc and for non-corporate to 10pc from 7pc; the rate of initial depreciation on buildings is proposed to be reduced to 10pc.

It is proposed that non-profit entities be granted a 100pc tax credit instead of exemption; obtaining NTN a compulsory condition for obtaining commercial/industrial electricity and gas connections.

The rate of tax on advertising agents has been raised to 10pc from 5pc; exemption from deduction of withholding tax be withdrawn on foreign news agencies; the rate of tax on dividend distributed by Mutual Funds to companies in respect of interest income shall be 25pc, instead of 33pc, applicable to companies.

It was proposed that bonus shares be treated as dividend and tax deducted at a rate of 5pc of the ex-bonus price of the shares. Foreign institutional investors will be brought under the withholding tax regime.

The rate of withholding tax has gone up for commercial importers by 0.5pc, resident and non-resident contractors by 1pc, suppliers by 0.5pc, payments made by exporters/export houses on account of services of stitching, dying, printing, embroidery, sizing, weaving by 0.5pc, petrol pump operators by 2pc and commission agents by 2pc.

However, they will have the option of filing returns and accounts. In such case the current rates of tax deduction will be minimum tax rates for them. If an individual chose not to file the return, the tax deducted will be final tax.

It is proposed that advance income tax be collected by Excise and Taxation Departments on transfer of private motor vehicles for a period of 5 years. The rate of tax will be the same as that for registration of a new motor vehicle and will be reduced by 10pc in every subsequent year.

Sales tax and federal excise measures: A levy of 17pc was proposed on rapeseed, sunflower seed and canola seed; 17pc sales tax on import of finished articles of leather and textile. The government proposed 5pc sales tax on import and supply of plant and machinery not manufactured locally; impose 17pc sales tax on remeltable scrap; 5pc sales tax imposed on oilseed for sowing, and raw and ginned cotton. However, local supply of raw and ginned cotton shall remain exempt. The rate of sales tax at 5pc proposed on soyabean meal, oil cake and directly reduced iron, and 17pc sales tax on purpose-built taxis.

Sales tax on the steel sector, ship-breakers and steel melters operating in sugar mills will be rationalised.

The Federal Excise Duty (FED) on international travel will rise to Rs5,000 from Rs3,840 on economy and economy plus, Rs10,000 from Rs6,840 on club, business and first class; 16pc on chartered flights on full amount charged; replacement of capacity tax on aerated waters to charge normal tax rate of 16pc; FED on cigarettes increased; on cement the specific FED was replaced by 5pc on retail price.

The FED on locally-produced cigarettes has been raised by 13.21pc if retail price exceeds Rs2,286 per thousand cigarettes, and by 23.30pc if retail price does not exceed Rs2,286 per thousand cigarettes.

To bring the undocumented retail sector in the tax net, retailers will be registered on a two-tier system – retailers part of national and international chains, located in air-conditioned malls having debit and credit machines will pay tax at 17pc; chargeability of the sales tax at 5pc in case of monthly electricity bill up to Rs20,000 and at 7.5pc of the monthly electricity bill exceeding Rs20,000.

To restrict undue claims of input tax, the government has introduced electronic scrutiny and intimation system to conduct all checks and analysis objectively; further tax charged at 1pc on supplies made to unregistered persons is being specifically excluded from the purview of output tax.

The 10pc withholding tax is likely to be withdrawn on locally manufactured motor cars, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and other motor cars exceeding 1800cc; sales tax exemption to high efficiency irrigation equipment and greenhouse farming equipment; reduction in sales tax rate on local supply of tractors; exemption of sales tax import and supply of Cochlear Implants System; reduction in FED rate from 19.5pc to 18.5pc on telecommunication services; specific rates of sales tax on mobile phones; exclusion of FED on telecommunication services subject to provincial sales tax is being proposed.

The government introduced minimum tax at 0.5pc for oil marketing companies, oil refineries, SSGC/SNGPL for the cases where annual turnover exceeds Rs1 bn; PIA Corporation, poultry industry including poultry breeding, broiler production, egg production and poultry feed production.

A minimum tax rate of 0.2 pc will be for distributors of pharmaceutical products, fertilisers and cigarettes; petroleum agents and distributors; rice mills and dealers and flours mills; 0.25pc for motorcycle dealers and 1 pc for all other cases.

Customs duty measures: The maximum customs tariff is reduced to 25pc from 30 pc; the zero slab is replaced by 1pc customs duty; imposed regulatory duty on 60 items; customs duty on UPS reduced to 15 pc from 20 pc; on petroleum coke not-calcined reduced to1pc from 5 pc; exemption up to 50 pc granted on Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) up to 1800 cc and above 1800cc granted 25 pc.

The customs duty on networking equipment is raised from 5pc to 10pc; 10pc increase in the fixed rate of duty and taxes on used vehicles; customs duty increased to 10pc from 0pc and 5pc on flat-rolled products of alloy steel; 5pc duty imposed on import of generators above 1100 KVA; a uniform rate of 15pc customs duty is levied on dyes, except basic dyes and indigo blue dyes being used in the textile sector.

A uniform rate of 10pc customs duty on all kinds of CDs/DVDs; customs duty on flavouring powders enhanced from 10pc to 20pc to avoid misclassification. A uniform rate of 10pc is levied on liquid paraffin and white oil.

Customs duty on dryers is increased from 5pc to 10pc; a uniform rate of 15pc is levied on starches; customs duty on colouring matters is enhanced from 5pc to 10pc; customs duty on satellite mobile phones whether or not functional on cellular networks is reduced from 25pc to 10pc.

The collector of customs will collect the advance tax at the rate of 1pc on import of industrial undertaking importing remeltable steels directly reduced iron for its own use; persons importing potassic fertisers; persons importing urea; 2pc on persons importing pulses; 3pc on commercial importers of SRO1125; 4.5pc on ship-breakers on import of ships; 5.5pc on industrial undertakings; 5.5pc on companies and 6pc on other persons not covered in other schemes.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

President gives top marks to govt

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Giving high marks to the one-year performance of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government, President Mamnoon Hussain reserved some finger-pointing for unspecified state institutions and the country’s media while opening the new parliamentary year on Monday.

ISLAMABAD: Giving high marks to the one-year performance of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government, President Mamnoon Hussain reserved some finger-pointing for unspecified state institutions and the country’s media while opening the new parliamentary year on Monday.

In his first mandatory address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate, which did not come about trouble-free, the president was all praise of the “successful” first year of the PML-N government following a historic transition after another elected government completed its constitutional five-year term for the first time in the country’s history.

He received repeated applause from ruling party lawmakers in his 30-minute Urdu speech which ranged from the start of new power projects and youth business loans to free laptops for hardworking students.

But the shine of the event, also watched by provincial governors and chief ministers, armed forces chiefs and foreign diplomats, was somewhat dimmed by an unexpected boycott by most opposition parties in the Senate to demonstrate their anger at the prime minister for his failure to attend the upper house even once during the past one year.

The mercurial independent member of the National Assembly from Punjab, Jamshed Ahmed Dasti, also tried to interrupt the president’s address at its start but his objection was not heard in the galleries, getting drowned in the desk-thumping from the treasury benches. He was finally persuaded by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed to end his protest.

Mr Dasti chipped in again from his front row seat to object to the president not having specifically mentioned the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) while praising the role of the armed forces and other military institutions.

Another irritation came from the back benches when a lawmaker, who could not be immediately identified, shouted “it is a lie” when the president referred to the government’s concern for non-Muslim minorities.

It was much after narrating the government’s achievements that the president referred to the “prime need of the hour”: cooperation among state institutions and the government’s wish that media devise a code of ethics for themselves.

The references seemed linked to the government’s perceived troubles with the military in recent months starting with the indictment of former military president Pervez Musharraf for high treason, which were precipitated by the government’s handling of an attack by unknown gunmen on a talk show anchor of a private television channel, whose reporting of the incident on a Karachi road had blamed the ISI.

The president cited it as an encouraging fact that “when our enemies are active to spread conflict and discord among us”, all civilian and military institutions were performing their duties with diligence and patriotism.

It was probably to counter the allegation that the government had not come forward to defend the ISI after the April 19 shooting in Karachi that the president also talked of “other military institutions working day and night with devotion” along with the armed forces in defending the borders.

As if the government were not fully satisfied with their role, President Mamnoon Hussain came to the subject of state institutions again towards the fag-end of his speech, saying that “they should perform their duties according to the country’s laws without making political like or dislike their touchstone”.

And then he included the aim to “further promote cooperation and unity among state institutions” in a list of six points he asked parliament to vow for.

The other pledges he sought for were: eradicate terrorism from the country; put aside political and party differences to ensure endurance and stability of democracy; struggle together against corruption, injustice, exploitation and inequality; and encourage religious, ideological and intellectual harmony.

Media and civil society

Urging civil society to give consideration to law, national traditions and feelings of the masses while performing its role, Mr Hussain said the people of Pakistan felt that the media should also realise its responsibilities and boundaries while exercising their freedom.

He said the government did not believe in imposing any restrictions, however, it expected the media to formulate a code of conduct for itself.

Foreign relations

Speaking on foreign relations, the president said the government was ready to promote friendly and constructive relationship with the new leadership in India and Afghanistan and reiterated Pakistan’s traditional stand that it wanted a solution of the Kashmir issue with India on the basis of UN resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

Referring to the prime minister’s recent visit to Iran, Mr Hussain said the planned Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project would be completed “one day for sure”.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Another Rs701bn lost due to terrorism

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Economic losses suffered by Pakistan due to terrorism continued to pile up as the country lost another Rs701 billion ($6.9bn) during the first nine months (July-March) of 2013-14.

ISLAMABAD: Economic losses suffered by Pakistan due to terrorism continued to pile up as the country lost another Rs701 billion ($6.9bn) during the first nine months (July-March) of 2013-14.

The country has lost Rs8264.4bn ($102.5bn), both in direct and indirect costs of incidents of terrorism, during the past 13 years of its engagement with war on terror, Economic Survey 2013-14 released on Monday said.

It was, however, important to note that the losses during the outgoing fiscal year had declined by 32.9 per cent as compared to last year. Losses during 2013-14 had scaled back to the 2007-08 in terms of dollar value. The declining trend for losses had started in 2011-12 and has continued since then.

Pakistan lost the most in 2010-11 for any single year when its losses due to terrorism were calculated to be Rs2,037bn ($23.77bn).

The impact of terrorism on the economy was measured by a finance ministry-led inter-ministerial committee comprising representatives of ministries of interior, foreign affairs, commerce and inter-provincial coordination.

The Economic Survey said that the “rise of violent extremism and increase in terrorism … disrupted Pakistan’s normal economic and trading activities, which not only resulted in higher costs of business but also created disruptions in the production cycles, resulting in significant delays in meeting the export orders around the globe. As a result, Pakistani products have gradually lost their market share to their competitors.”

This led to slowing down of economic growth, declining tax collection and loss of foreign investment.

The blame for growing extremism and terrorism in Pakistan was put on “instability and conflict” in Afghanistan.

The breakdown of the losses given by the Economic Survey showed that while all other sectors suffered less than previous years, foreign investment took the biggest hit during this period. It is estimated that the country lost foreign investment worth $3,260m during the last year as compared to $210m during the previous year.

Lost foreign investments roughly made up half of the total losses incurred by the country due to terrorism.

Losses in terms of exports ($323m), industrial output ($129.6m), and tax collection ($1,732.4m) reduced significantly over the previous year.

Lower figures quoted for the compensation paid to affectees ($13.97m) and damage to physical infrastructure (437.36m) this year was clear indication that despite some high-profile incidents, damage caused by terrorism decreased.

The Economic Survey said Pakistan “needs enormous resources to enhance productive capacity of the economy by repairing damaged infrastructure and to create a favorable investment climate”.

It said the security situation was a “key determinant” of future flow of the investment.

The survey further noted that Pakistan’s economy needs an early end to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

New budget: govt pins hopes on slashing subsidies, reducing tax exemptions

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will be presenting the PML-N government’s second budget in the National Assembly on Tuesday. The finance bill for the fiscal year 2014-15 includes fiscal adjustments of more than Rs300 billion (about 1 per cent of the gross domestic product), achieved by slashing subsidies and cutting back on tax exemptions.

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will be presenting the PML-N government’s second budget in the National Assembly on Tuesday. The finance bill for the fiscal year 2014-15 includes fiscal adjustments of more than Rs300 billion (about 1 per cent of the gross domestic product), achieved by slashing subsidies and cutting back on tax exemptions.

A meeting of the federal cabinet, to be presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, will be held in the afternoon to formally approve the budgetary measures before they are tabled in parliament.

A source close to the finance minister said the federal government’s total expenditure over the next year had been estimated at about Rs3.87 trillion, including a Public Sector Development Programme worth Rs525bn.

According to sources, the only relief measures the government has envisaged would be the 10-15 per cent increase in the salaries of the civil and military workforce as well as a 15-20pc increase in their pensions.

The budget will propose steps to expand the tax base by reducing tax exemptions, improving audit and incentives for documented sales and purchases. The government is looking to curtail subsidies by about Rs110bn to Rs225bn next year – as a rise in electricity tariff is expected to lead to an increase in revenue equivalent to about 0.4 per cent of the GDP, while a similar rise in gas tariff may yield an increase equivalent to 0.3pc of the GDP.

“Actual work (towards reviving the economy) would start now,” the finance minister said ahead of budget presentation. “We will take additional steps to ensure value addition in the textile sector to make the most of GSP-plus status from the European Union,” he said, adding that a 42pc increase was witnessed in raw cotton exports in FY2013-14.

Stressing that the government would never compromise on national security, Dar maintained that it would make sufficient allocations for defence in this budget.

He also said the government would continue with its agenda of reform to increase the economic growth rate by one per cent every year. Defence allocations stand at Rs700bn, up from Rs636bn in FY2013-14, which could be increased by an additional Rs20bn in case the military launches an operation in the tribal areas.

The estimates for next year’s tax revenue have been put at Rs3.94trn, of which the Federal Board of Revenue’s target is being set at Rs2.81trn. The provincial share in the national divisible pool has been estimated at Rs1.7trn and the overall tax to GDP ratio is projected to grow from 10.5pc this year to 11.3pc next year.

The federal government’s fiscal deficit has been estimated at about Rs1.63trn, almost the same level as FY2013-14. But the provinces have reportedly committed to providing a cash surplus of Rs225bn to limit the overall fiscal deficit to about Rs1.41trn or 4.8pc of the GDP – down from the revised deficit of 5.7pc in FY2013-14.

Total expenditure on mark-up payments for FY2014-15 has been projected at Rs1.35trn, up from the previous revised estimate of Rs1.2trn.

Pensions are estimated to consume about Rs220bn as compared to Rs186bn in FY2013-14, while the government’s wage bill would increase slightly from Rs270bn to about Rs290bn in FY2014-15.

Public debt will probably go up from Rs15.5trn to about Rs16.9trn. But because of increase in the size of the economy, the public debt-to-GDP ratio may come down to 60.2pc from 62.7pc in FY2013-14.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Economic Survey: more targets missed than achieved

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: Launching the Pakistan Economic Survey for 2013-14, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar played down the government’s missed targets, saying that it had “achieved 90 per cent” of the targets it set for itself.

ISLAMABAD: Launching the Pakistan Economic Survey for 2013-14, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar played down the government’s missed targets, saying that it had “achieved 90 per cent” of the targets it set for itself.

Mr Dar said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had spent its first year fire-fighting to show those who had predicted a default that they were wrong. Work to revive the nation’s economy would begin in earnest next year, the roadmap for which would be presented in the budget on Tuesday.

He said the national economy grew by 4.14 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) against a target of 4.4 per cent and last year’s revised growth rate of 3.7 per cent. “For the first time in six years, the growth rate moved past the 4 per cent mark and if you are still not satisfied, we are ready to do more,” he told reporters on Monday.

But this is not entirely accurate, as the economic survey from 2009-10 put the economic growth rate at 4.1 per cent, which was revised below 4 per cent the year before that. A former government official pointed out that the growth rate in FY2013-14 was likely to face downward revision to about 3.8 per cent because the government had taken large-scale manufacturing (LSM) growth at 5.3 per cent for the July-March period instead of the 4.7 per cent that was reported in the first 10 months of FY2013-14.

When asked for details, the finance minister refused to go into the specifics, but said that he could arrange a special briefing with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to explain these issues in some detail.

Simultaneously, the minister tried to manage expectations for the coming year. “We may have to revise our strategy of setting difficult targets. Next year’s targets may not be as aggressive,” he said, articulating a decision already made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to set next year’s economic growth target at 5.1 per cent of the GDP instead of the 5.5 per cent originally discussed with the International Monetary Fund.

He said the growth rate would be improved at the rate of 1 per cent every year, culminating in 6 per cent growth by 2015-16 and 7 per cent by 2016-17.

The minister said the industrial sector grew by 5.84 per cent of the GDP against a nominal growth of 1.37 per cent in the previous fiscal year. A major factor in this was the improved supply of electricity and gas following the resolution of the circular debt issue.

A 5.31 per cent increase in LSM, against last year’s 4.08 per cent, also contributed towards this growth.

The minister also played up improvements in the construction sector, which posted a growth of 11.3 per cent this year as against a 6.15 per cent decline last year.

The services sector, Mr Dar said, grew by 4.29 per cent as compared to last year’s figures of 4.85 per cent. He attributed the decline to a 30 per cent cut in general services by the government through expenditure control. He said the real impact of services sector reforms was expected next year as they required a longer gestation period.

On the agriculture front, the minister conceded the government had been lacking and promised to analyse its weaknesses and address them in the upcoming budget. He said the sector grew by 2.12 per cent against 2.88 per cent growth achieved last year. The agriculture growth target was set at 3.8 per cent for FY2013-14.

He attributed this weak performance to a drop in cotton production, which stood at 12.77 million bales this year as compared to 13.03 million bales produced last year. Some minor crops also showed decline, but a rise in wheat, rice and sugarcane production balanced things out.

The minister said inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose by 8.69 per cent in the first 10 months of FY2013-14, against a 7.75 per cent rise last year. This year’s target at 8 per cent was missed. He said the core inflation grew by 8.24 per cent in 10 months against 9.91 per cent of last year.

Mr Dar, however, claimed victory on this front saying that international institutions were projecting inflation at 12 per cent following an increase in oil and electricity prices, but the inflation was contained to a single digit due to the appreciation of the Pakistani Rupee, reduced government borrowing and an improved monetary policy.

The current account deficit increased to $2.162 billion in the first 10 months of FY2013-14, against $1.574 billion last year. This was, however, supported by a robust 11.5 per cent growth in remittances from overseas Pakistanis.

He said foreign investment flows into Pakistan stood at $2.98 billion over the first 10 months of FY2013-14, including $2 billion in Eurobonds against last year’s foreign investment of $1.277 billion.

The minister said the per capita income in dollars recorded a growth of 3.5 per cent as compared to 1.44 per cent last year. The per capita income stood at $1,386 this year as opposed to $1,339 last year.

He said the stock market index, which stood at 19,916 basis points on election day, May 11, 2013, had now risen to 29,700. While total investment increased in absolute numbers, the government missed the target set for investment-to-GDP ratio, achieving 14 per cent against a target of 15.1 per cent.

National savings were expected to grow by 14 per cent of the GDP in FY2013-14 but ended up at 12.9 per cent of the GDP, lower even than last year’s 13.5 per cent national savings-to-GDP ratio.

He said the fiscal deficit had been contained at 3.2 percent of the GDP in the first nine months of FY2013-14, against 4.7 per cent in the same period the previous year.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Lesco bosses booked for ‘selling electricity’

Khalid Hasnain

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister’s Adviser on Water and Power announced on Monday that the head of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) and one of the company’s directors have been sacked and FIRs registered against them. The announcement comes as an inquiry into allegations of illegal diversion of electricity incriminated the two men, Dawn has learnt.

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister’s Adviser on Water and Power announced on Monday that the head of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) and one of the company’s directors have been sacked and FIRs registered against them. The announcement comes as an inquiry into allegations of illegal diversion of electricity incriminated the two men, Dawn has learnt.

Lesco Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Arshad Rafique and Director for Operations Mehboob Ali are said to have illegally diverted electricity to areas of their choosing and took money from ‘influential clients’ to keep their electricity running during forced or scheduled power shutdowns.

Accompanied by newly-appointed Water and Power Secretary Nargis Sethi, special adviser Musadiq Malik told a press conference in Islamabad on Monday that both the senior officers were accused of illegally diverting electricity to factories in Lahore. “The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is investigating and everyone behind this scam will be brought to justice,” he said.

“(The two men) are accused of manipulating loadshedding schedules by cutting the supply of electricity to residential areas and diverting it to factories,” Mr Malik said, adding that the two men were also guilty of misreporting figures on line losses in their jurisdiction to the ministry.

Mr Malik also revealed that the accused had fudged figures sent to the ministry.

“They told us that Lesco faced 11 per cent theft, but when we verified these numbers, theft was found to be more than 22 per cent,” he said.

The two men were picked up from their residences at around 1am on Monday. According to a senior FIA officer in Lahore, they were arrested on the basis of information provided by Mehboob Ali, alleged cohort of Rafique. He told investigators he was just following orders, saying: “How we can disobey his orders? So we followed these orders, which ended up inconveniencing the public at large.”

According to Ali, the official said the mismanagement in Lesco was massive and was done only for vested interests.

The official said that while describing the CEO’s actions, Ali told the inquiry: “If eight hours of loadshedding was scheduled for residential localities, power would remain suspended for 10 hours. The electricity saved this way would be diverted to areas of the CEO’s choosing, such as factories. If the schedule called for 10 hours of outages for industries, their power was cut for longer and the surplus electricity routed to specific residential or commercial localities in exchange for kickbacks”.

In his statement, Ali alleged that this practice had been going on for some time and that others, including some of Lesco’s executive engineers (XENs), were also involved in the load management scam.

The official revealed that Rafique was also found to be involved in the purchase of substandard transformers and he made money off construction projects as well. “However, inquiries into these allegations have yet to be concluded,” he said.

FIA officials said that they would consider treating Ali as the ‘approver’ of the case against his boss in view of his cooperation with investigators.

Meanwhile, Lesco General Manager Abdul Rehman assumed acting charge as the company’s chief executive on Monday and, as his first act, attended an emergency meeting at the Ministry of Water and Power. “In the meeting, the secretary focused on Lesco and ordered Mr Rehman to follow the loadshedding and power shutdown schedules to the letter,” a Lesco official told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Revenue, GDP growth targets missed

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will launch on Monday the Pakistan Economic Survey 2013-14, which is expected to be a mixed bag of missed targets and improved performance in various sectors.

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will launch on Monday the Pakistan Economic Survey 2013-14, which is expected to be a mixed bag of missed targets and improved performance in various sectors.

The three-time finance minister would, however, like to play up the ‘better than last year’s performance’ aspect and will be looking to build on hopes for ‘beginning economic revival’ going forward.

While announcing the budget last year, the government had set itself an economic growth target — as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) — of 4.4 per cent for FY2013-14 on the basis of 3.8pc growth in agriculture, 4.8pc improvement in the industrial sector and a 4.6pc rise in the services sector.

The GDP growth rate target was missed as it improved by 4.14pc instead of 4.4pc. It was, however, higher than the 3.7pc growth posted in FY 2012-13, the last year of the PPP’s tenure.

Except for industry, which exceeded its target for this year, the two other major sectors — agriculture and services — not only missed their targets but effectively pulled down the economic growth rate.

The main contribution came from the manufacturing sector, which posted a growth rate of 5.5pc against a target of 4.5pc and an output of 3.7pc in FY2012-13. Large-scale manufacturing contributed significantly to this with a growth rate of 5.3pc, against a target of 4pc and the FY2012-13 figure of 2.8pc.

On the other hand, the agriculture sector grew by a mere 2.12pc — far below its target of 3.8pc and even lower than the growth rate of 2.9pc posted in FY2012-13. This was despite the fact that the sector showed mixed trends with crops growing by 3.7pc this year as against 1.2pc in FY2012-13.

The performance of other crops (potato, tomato, fruits and onion etc), as per the economic survey, was below par as it recorded negative growth of 3.5 per cent, a significant deceleration from the impressive 6.1 per cent recorded in FY2012-13.

The services sector grew by 4.29 per cent against a target of 4.5 per cent. The current performance was not even as good as the FY2012-13 figure of 4.86 per cent.

The government has also missed its target for the investment-to-GDP ratio. Against a target of 15.1 per cent, the ratio actually stood at 14 per cent this year, below even the 14.6 per cent ratio achieved in FY2012-13. Both domestic and foreign direct investment contributed to this downward movement, according to official papers.

National savings were expected to grow by 14 per cent during the current fiscal year but ended up at 12.9 per cent, lower than last year’s 13.5 per cent national savings-to-GDP ratio.

On the fiscal front, even though the government was able to contain the fiscal deficit below target, it failed to achieve its tax collection target by a large margin. Inflation stood at 8.5 per cent against a target of 8 per cent and 7.5 per cent from FY2012-13.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Little to celebrate as parliament begins its new year

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: There will be more to regret than celebrate as parliament begins its new year on Monday, awaiting some new mantra to do better.

ISLAMABAD: There will be more to regret than celebrate as parliament begins its new year on Monday, awaiting some new mantra to do better.

President Mamnoon Hussain’s address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate to open the new parliamentary year also comes three days before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is to complete its first year in office and seems embroiled in dire issues both inside and outside parliament.

But the performance of parliament in its primary task as the country’s top legislature has been most dismal in the past one year, without a single bill making through both houses to become an act.

Some element of hubris or lack of tact on the part of the managers of the ruling PML-N could be blamed for this state of affairs where none of a total of 10 bills — besides the Finance Bill — that the government pushed through the 342-seat National Assembly, where it has absolute majority, could yet get through the 104-seat opposition-controlled Senate.

That is in sharp contrast to the record of the previous PPP-led coalition government, which credited a policy of so-called “reconciliation” with political opponents engineered by then president Asif Ali Zardari for the adoption of most of more than 100 bills passed during its five-year term with consensus, including landmark amendments to the Constitution.

Prime Minister Sharif seemed to be taking a leaf out of Mr Zardari’s book when he recently agreed to accommodate more opposition amendments after a key, but controversial, government legislation against terrorism was bulldozed through the National Assembly but was blocked by the opposition in the Senate.

Both sides have since pondered over a series of opposition amendments aimed at mitigating some of the harsh provisions like authorising law-enforcement agencies to shoot terrorism suspects at sight, detain them for up to 90 days without trial and holding secret trials.

But an amended consensus draft of the Protection of Pakistan Bill — based on two presidential ordinances — is yet to come before the Senate.

The president’s constitutionally mandated address, due at 11am, will be watched for any change of course advised by the prime minister for law making.

Contrary to the parliamentary low, the president is likely to speak high about the government’s claims of beginning an economic turnaround, explain the present state of the government’s stalled peace talks with Taliban rebels and reiterate the country’s traditional foreign policy goals.

The main opposition PPP has said it will not raise any protest during the presidential address, but the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, which is agitating against alleged rigging in the May 11, 2013 general elections, is yet to take a decision.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Nargis Sethi takes ‘power’

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Nargis Sethi, once dubbed Pakistan’s most powerful woman, is back in the limelight. She will now be a key part of the government team that is responsible for reining in loadshedding, as the new secretary of the Ministry of Water and Power.

ISLAMABAD: Nargis Sethi, once dubbed Pakistan’s most powerful woman, is back in the limelight. She will now be a key part of the government team that is responsible for reining in loadshedding, as the new secretary of the Ministry of Water and Power.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to make the appointment over the weekend, inducting her into a top-level team that includes Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Federal Minister Khawaja Asif, Minister of State Abid Sher Ali, a parliamentary secretary and a special adviser.

Before her latest assignment, Ms Sethi had been working as the secretary for the Economic Affairs Division, which now will be run by her husband Saleem Sethi, a grade 22 officer with the Secretariat Group. Mr Sethi previously represented Pakistan at the International Monetary Fund’s head offices in Washington.

Saifullah Chattha, the additional secretary in charge of the Ministry of Water and Power before Ms Sethi’s appointment, has been transferred to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Ms Sethi, who is a DMG officer, had closely worked with the government of the Pakistan People’s Party. She rose to fame when she was famously called the ‘Condoleezza Rice of Pakistan’ by former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Ms Sethi served Mr Gilani as principal secretary for nearly three years before going on to manage the all-important Cabinet Division. Under Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, she held the additional charge of the Ministry of Water and Power for a few months, where she is said to have done a good job.

Soon after the PML-N took power, Ms Sethi’s name was suggested to the Sharifs to fill an important post, but her longstanding association with the PPP is said to have worked to her disadvantage, a source privy to the development told Dawn.

But her satisfactory performance as the boss of the Pakistan Power Park Management Company earned Ms Sethi her new assignment, the official said.

The power company is used as a one-window facilitator to promote private sector participation in the power sector, which the government is counting on to generate over 6,000 megawatts through power plants at Gadani in Balochistan.

Many are asking why the government took so long to appoint Ms Sethi to this key post, especially since she is due to retire by the end of the current year.

However, an aide of the prime minister told Dawn that her superannuation was not an issue and that her services could be retained if she performed well, “The prime minister is personally involved in managing the power sector and he must take every aspect into account before selecting someone for this important assignment”.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Analysis: Taming the economy

Farhan Bokhari

When Finance Minister Ishaq Dar rises on the floor of parliament on Tuesday to deliver his annual budget speech, Pakistanis will be certain to hear a rich dose of good news surrounding the country’s economy. It will be another insightful moment to witness the now all-too-familiar gap between a powerful set of dismal realities across Pakistan versus the mood in the power corridors of the capital city.

When Finance Minister Ishaq Dar rises on the floor of parliament on Tuesday to deliver his annual budget speech, Pakistanis will be certain to hear a rich dose of good news surrounding the country’s economy. It will be another insightful moment to witness the now all-too-familiar gap between a powerful set of dismal realities across Pakistan versus the mood in the power corridors of the capital city.

That the slide of the rupee has been reversed and liquid foreign currency reserves continue to recover, are bound to form an important bedrock of Mr Dar’s message. He had taken it upon himself to halt the slide of the rupee when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Islamabad just last year.

“The downward slide of the economy has been stopped. The tide is beginning to turn,” was how Ahsan Iqbal, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, put across the official narrative in his pre-budget comments on a Sunday TV show.

It may be difficult to immediately disagree with some of these claims. Just a year ago, many Pakistanis with means to afford converting a part of their wealth to a foreign currency were clearly worried in the midst of a sliding rupee. Clearly times have changed.

The anxiety of the past has turned into a moderate comfort level, with policymakers like the accountant-turned-finance minister Dar pointing towards a robust improvement in Pakistan’s fortunes. Yet, tackling a stubbornly complicated economy like Pakistan takes far more than just an accounting exercise and stability of the rupee. While the good news is welcome, the profoundly tough question is just one — is Pakistan’s economy beginning to change sustainably?

Beyond the rupee, the PML-N’s economic mantra has been built around new infrastructure projects including some clearly fanciful if not controversial ones. Notwithstanding the destruction to environmental interests across Islamabad, the so-called metro-bus service linking the capital to Rawalpindi continues to be zealously pursued.

Meanwhile, a new urban train project with Chinese assistance has been pushed into motion for Lahore, the hometown of Prime Minister Sharif. And last but not the least, the ruling camp is keen to oversee a new train service launched from Rawalpindi and Islamabad to Murree with an onward connection to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir.

At the same time, the plan for Pakistan’s future development includes a string of motorways, notably linking Lahore to Karachi. Given Pakistan’s shrinking resources, such pursuits will have to come at the cost of other commitments.

If there was enough money in the kitty, any one or indeed all of these projects barring the ones that promise environmental destruction were worth pursuing. But life in today’s Pakistan is significantly more complicated.

Pakistan’s economic planners need to choose the right set of priorities in an electricity and increasingly water-starved country. While Pakistanis suffer in neighbourhoods with virtually non-existent street lights and intermittent power cuts, it is clear that the crisis surrounding Pakistan will not be overcome with an accelerated development programme adopted by the PML-N regime.

In the assessment of Hafeez Pasha, a former federal minister with responsibilities for economic management, chronic challenges such as bringing in the revenue to afford the planned expenditure remains a pressing question. “The revenue target is not feasible especially in an economy which is not moving,” says Dr Pasha referring to recent press reports of the government considering unveiling a higher tax collection target for the coming financial year.

It is no secret that Pakistan is one of the world’s worst performers when it comes to collecting taxes. With a tax-to-GDP ratio hovering around nine per cent, just over one per cent of the country’s population pays an income tax. The other 99 per cent are not all too impoverished to foot their tax bill. They include a large community of rural landowners with a strong representation in Pakistan’s elected legislatures.

Clearly, more than a bureaucratic exercise to widen the net around potential taxpayers, Pakistan needs a so-far-missing political will to break new ground in this area. A failure to do so will keep on forcing one regime after another to run up the national debt through financing of grand new projects while the economy’s future remains lacklustre.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks the prime minister has presided over high-profile events to oversee the launch of new power generation projects — underscoring his government’s focus on the power crisis.

Yet, long-term observers of Pakistan’s developmental scene claim that adding more power to the system deals with just part of the problem. “We have major gaps in our transmission system where Pakistan suffers from big power losses,” adds Akhtar Hasan Khan, a former senior civil servant with experience of leading the official team of national planners in Islamabad.

Clearly, the issues with tackling power losses of more than 30 per cent during transmission are widely known. Yet, seeking to ignore them for now while pursuing other high-profile ventures must put across a dangerous bottom line: Pakistan may look like it’s a changing country while it remains at a standstill.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist who writes on politics, economy and security issues

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Dar set to unveil tax-heavy budget

Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is all set to present the second budget by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is all set to present the second budget by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The finance bill, which will be tabled in parliament next week, is expected to include Rs535 billion in additional taxes and other administrative measures.

The ambitious new tax measures revolve around three pillars — documenting and taxing the rich, raising the existing withholding tax rates for non-compliant taxpayers, and increasing the income tax share in overall revenue collection.

Officials privy to the budget-making process say these proposals are aimed at offering industrialists a better environment through the lowering of customs duties. But this will not provide any relief to salaried individuals or the common man.

A well-placed source in the Finance Ministry told Dawn: “The Federal Board of Revenue has obtained approval from the prime minister for the new taxes.”

The government has projected an ambitious revenue collection target of Rs2,810bn for FY2014-15. But tax officials say this target is too high and predict that FBR may be able to collect not more than Rs2,700bn.

SALES TAX: Any change in the sales tax rates will directly affect the weaker sections of society and have an impact on inflation. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has agreed in principle to bring down the existing rate to single digit and has also approved the constitution of a commission to explore this possibility.

At present only four per cent of the total sales tax collected reaches the government, with fake receipts accounting for the bulk of the losses.

Mr Sharif has agreed to bring down sales tax to five-seven per cent and to do away with input adjustments and refunds.

A tax official said: “The reduction in sales tax rate will bring political mileage for the PML-N government,” adding that this might not go down well with the International Monetary Fund.

The government is also expected to make receipts mandatory for all transactions. Tax authorities are considering offering incentives such as a lottery scheme to encourage people to obtain receipts at shops, restaurants, etc.

While no exemptions will be withdrawn from kitchen items, stationery, pharmaceuticals and dairy products, the steel sector may see the sales tax rate climbing up to Rs7 per unit from Rs4 per unit.

A proposal is under consideration to levy over 5pc sales tax on export proceeds, which will be charged from foreign buyers.

The government appears reluctant to give the salaried class tax concessions despite the fact that in the previous year, most wealth statements were filed by salaried individuals.

Experts suggest a 15pc to 20pc income tax concession for those earning more than Rs35,000 per month, while for those earning around Rs1.2 million per month the concession may be around 10pc.

WITHHOLDING TAX: To differentiate between taxpayers and non-taxpayers, the government has decided to increase the cost of doing business for non-taxpayers by increasing withholding tax across the board.

All existing withholding tax rates will be increased by 1.5pc to 2pc for non-taxpayers. Those who are on the tax rolls and file their returns will pay the existing withholding tax rates.

For example, on cash withdrawal from banks, the withholding rate will be increased from 0.3pc to 0.5pc. Those who have NTNs and file returns will pay a lower rate. Similarly, there will be an increase in the withholding tax on interest and dividend. “We will provide all NTN and returns data to banks,” the official said.

Filers who travel abroad often will be subject to an adjustable 5pc withholding tax, while the rate for non-filers will be 10pc. The taxes will be applied only on first-class and business-class tickets.

Gas and electricity connections will also be linked to NTNs. Each transaction, whether for business or non-business purposes, will only be allowed through cross cheque and the penalties for issuing bogus cheques will be enhanced.

The FBR has no proposal to withdraw income tax exemptions on perks and privileges of judges of the superior judiciary, the president of Pakistan and services chiefs, among others.

There are several SROs which cannot be withdrawn because of their expected impact on the end-consumer. For example, the withdrawal of a sales tax exemption on crude oil will fetch Rs94 billion in revenue but it will lead to an increase in the price of oil.

There are several proposals on the cards, including the levy of regulatory duties on luxury items. The government may also increase taxes on the import of used cars.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Govt to work for uplift of all provinces, says Sharif

Akram Malik

GUJRANWALA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that equal development in all provinces is the priority of his government because he is working for progress of the nation.

GUJRANWALA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that equal development in all provinces is the priority of his government because he is working for progress of the nation.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the first phase of the Nandipur Thermal Power Project on Saturday, he said his government would start uplift projects not only in areas where the PML-N received a majority of votes, but also in those parts of the country where people did not vote for his party.

He said the government was working to overcome the power crisis, but other sectors were also not being neglected, citing proposed projects like Lahore-Karachi Motorway and upgradation of Gwadar city.

Mr Sharif said Rs40 billion had been released for purchase of land for Diamer Bhasha Dam, which would provide water for agriculture and generate 4,500MW of cheap electricity. Dasu Dam on the Indus River was also a priority of his government, he added.

Mr Sharif said he laid the foundation stone of a 1,320MW thermal power project in Sahiwal, 1,320MW power project in Port Qasim, besides other projects, recently.

He said the Neelam-Jhelum hydel power project would be completed soon, but regretted that due to negligence of the quarters concerned its cost had gone up from Rs84bn to Rs275bn.

The prime minister said that Rs55bn had been released for the purchase of land for the Lahore-Karachi Motorway.

He expressed his commitment to make Gwadar a free port like Dubai and Singapore, construct an international airport there and develop the city like Karachi and Lahore.

He criticised those who were agitating and wondered whether they were protesting against progress of the country. He asked them to join hands with the government and contribute to the development of the country.

He said the budget would look after the interests of farmers and industrialists because both were very important for national economy.

He praised Chinese and Pakistani engineers and workers on completion of the project in record time.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

PML-N lawmaker kidnapped

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

SHEIKHUPURA: Rana Jamil Hasan alias Gudo Khan, an MPA of the PML-N, was kidnapped near Sheikhupura on the motorway on Saturday.

SHEIKHUPURA: Rana Jamil Hasan alias Gudo Khan, an MPA of the PML-N, was kidnapped near Sheikhupura on the motorway on Saturday.

The member of the Punjab Assembly and his wife were going to Islamabad from his hometown Bucheki when people in two cars stopped his vehicle and dragged him out.

They asked the MPA’s wife to arrange Rs50 million within three days for his release and took him away.

Rana Jamil was elected from PP-174 in last year’s general elections.

A strike was observed in Nankana and Bucheki after the kidnapping.

The chief minister ordered the provincial police chief to recover the legislator within 24 hours.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Army posts attacked in Bajaur; 16 militants killed: military

Anwarullah Khan

ISLAMABAD / KHAR: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Saturday traded allegations following a cross-border attack allegedly by Kunar-based Pakistani Taliban on military posts in Bajaur Agency in which one soldier died and two others were injured.

ISLAMABAD / KHAR: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Saturday traded allegations following a cross-border attack allegedly by Kunar-based Pakistani Taliban on military posts in Bajaur Agency in which one soldier died and two others were injured.

The army said it had repulsed the early morning attack by a horde of militants on military posts and inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers.

The military’s public affairs division, ISPR, claimed that 16 militants were killed in retaliatory attacks by troops who were supported by helicopter gunships.

“At 5.15 in the morning today, a large number of ‘terrorists’ from across the border attacked a group of Pakistani posts on Nao Top,” a military spokesman said, adding that troops gave a befitting reply and helicopter gunships were sent in as reinforcement.

The attacked border posts are located 33km from Bajaur Agency’s main town Khar, which serves as headquarters of the political administration.

Bajaur Agency sits directly across Afghanistan’s Kunar province where a large number of suspected Pakistani militants who had fled operations in Swat and Bajaur have been living for the last few years. These people have in the past launched similar cross-border attacks.

Pakistani protests with the Afghan government and coalition forces command in the past went unheeded and authorities there turned a blind eye to their sanctuaries.

Saturday’s attack was the second allegedly by Afghan-based Pakistani militants in the past seven days. On May 25 a group had struck in Mano Zangal area. Five suspected militants were killed in that incident.

The Pakistan military said it had intelligence information that 150-200 militants belonging to the outlawed TTP Swat and TTP Bajaur had assembled in Ghund village of Kunar to launch the assault. The attackers, a local administration official said, were armed with heavy weapons.

The exchange of fire, a military official said, went on for over three hours.

The assailants later fled back to Afghanistan.

AFGHAN VERSION: Afghan officials claimed that Pakistani helicopter gunships overflew the border and carried out shelling in their territory.

The governor of Kunar, Shuja ul-Mulk Jalala, was quoted by Afghan and international media as claiming that four Afghan civilians were killed in firing by helicopter gunships.

The bombardment by Pakistani helicopters, Mr Jalala said, lasted for over two hours.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was alerted about the incident by his officials.

The Afghan charge d’affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office to receive the protest over the cross-border strike.

He was told that Islamabad hoped Kabul would take steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

He was assured that Pakistan would continue to exercise restraint and make efforts to maintain a conducive environment for constructive engagement.

The Afghan diplomat was reminded about Pakistan’s contribution to safe conduct of the first phase of presidential elections.

Afghanistan will hold the run-off polls on June 14.

“We remain committed to maintaining a tranquil border, especially in the run-up to second round of Afghan elections,” the Afghan diplomat was told.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Analysis: Why Bahadur is so vexed

Aurangzaib Khan

EVEN if a split within the Tehreek-i-Taliban signalled a success of the Pakistani state’s carrot-and-stick policy — and indeed an opportunity to wean away pro-peace elements from hardliners in the Taliban ranks — a new challenge emerged on Friday.

EVEN if a split within the Tehreek-i-Taliban signalled a success of the Pakistani state’s carrot-and-stick policy — and indeed an opportunity to wean away pro-peace elements from hardliners in the Taliban ranks — a new challenge emerged on Friday.

After weeks of a ‘surgical’ military operation in North Waziristan Agency reportedly aimed at crushing foreign militants, the ‘pro-state’ Hafiz Gul Bahadur, commander of the Taliban in NWA (Shura Mujahideen), said he was revoking the peace treaty he had signed with the Pakistani government in 2008.

In a pamphlet distributed in North Waziristan on Friday, he cited the military operation as a violation of the peace treaty. The pamphlet said Bahadur was preparing to fight the military operation and asked locals to move to safe areas by June 10.

According to security analysts, Bahadur may see his status as a key asset to the security establishment threatened by the military operation, especially the new government and military leadership who were not there when he signed the last peace treaty in 2008.

“Bahadur’s announcement couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time,” says Rustam Shah Mohmand, security analyst and member of the dormant government committee for peace talks with the Taliban. “With the Sajna group disassociating itself from the TTP, he could have mediated between him and the government for peace. The pamphlet shows he’s fed up with the government for not honouring the peace treaty. Perhaps he feels he’s not being consulted on the military operation, that it may affect his faction despite the treaty, that the authorities might take him on. The government should move quickly to placate him in order to reach out to Sajna.”

Seen from Bahadur’s perspective, says Amir Rana, Director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, the military strikes send out the message that perhaps the old equation he has had with the state holds no more. This is especially relevant now that there is new political and military leadership in place.

“He would want to keep the peace deal intact and the pamphlet is a pressure tactic because even as the military goes for surgical strikes to root out foreign elements, it will have implications for his faction,” says Rana.

And that may well be what makes the situation sticky. While Bahadur has been one of the “good Taliban”, reportedly pro-peace and pro-government, he is known to have provided sanctuaries to foreign militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Al Qaeda — as established by the military’s “selected” targeting of foreign militants.

“Bahadur has a peace accord with the government but what about the foreign militants in North Waziristan Agency?” says Zia ur Rehman, a freelance journalist and researcher who covers militancy. “We know for sure that no one can step inside the agency without a nod from Bahadur. For all we know, the military’s surgical strikes that Bahadur sees as violation of the accord may herald a wider operation to weed out foreign militants.”

While the rifts in the TTP may have thrown up the opportunity to isolate the pro-state, pro-peace elements from the hardliners and target them for peace talks, they have also created an opening whereby “bad Taliban” can be turned into “good Taliban” — a divide-and-rule policy that the state has been pursuing aggressively.

In this context, Sajna’s disavowal of the TTP’s violence against the state and rejection of the anti-state leadership of Mullah Fazlullah is significant. The split, say analysts, provides an opportunity to the government and the military to win over militant leaders like Sajna — whose group has a strong disruptive presence in Karachi. Security analysts see that in the coming days, Khan Said aka Sajna will be propped up to ally with pro-state groups. This, in turn, may cause others to feel redundant, creating insecurities that the incentives and influence they enjoyed would go to others.

However, analysts also see the present situation as one where the Pakistani state would continue to create cleavages, playing one group against the other to maintain the status quo, to keep militant “militias” embroiled in conflict till the time other powers in the region — India, Iran, Afghanistan (with Nato and the US) — reveal their cards after the American withdrawal from the region.

“The Fata insurgency is not one supported by people,” says Khadim Hussain, author of The Militant Discourse. “In North and South Waziristan people have been displaced. This policy of divide and rule wouldn’t work as it hasn’t in Sri Lanka, Britain and Tajikistan. At the heart of the matter is our foreign policy, privatisation of Jihad and freedom for militants to move around. It has to be tackled by taking the political government on board.”

On May 28, a Jirga of elders in Mirali, led by Haji Sher Mohammad, grandson and hereditary successor of Faqir of Ippi — who led an insurgency against the British in Waziristan in the 1930s and the ’40s — demanded that the government stop the military strikes and hold dialogue with the tribesmen to restore law and order. The first of its kind in nearly a decade, the Jirga’s aim was to, “establish peace in the country in general and in Waziristan in particular”.

The successor of Faqir of Ippi has considerable influence over the tribes, especially the Turi Khel tribe spread all over Waziristan. Some of Bahadur’s commanders participated in the Jirga, even called to invite media to the gathering. A journalist in North Waziristan who didn’t want to be named said that Bahadur may have perceived this as a threat — a conspiracy to create a rift in the Shura Mujahideen of North Waziristan that he leads like the one in the TTP.

“Khan Said aka Sajna, who is acceptable to Mehsud tribes as a leader, and the grandson of Faqir of Ippi may be the future allies and that may lead to the sidelining of Bahadur,” says Hussain.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Footprints: The real ‘people’s judge’

Mehreen Zahra-Malik

Courtroom No One’s marble-and-wood panelled walls, three-storey-high ceiling, skylights and subdued tone have always reminded me of libraries of old, where murmurings are the only language permitted. On Thursday morning, the courtroom felt more austere than usual, lawyers nervously listening to the proceedings, the modern quill pens on the tables whispering the long list of historic cases decided in this dignified room.

Courtroom No One’s marble-and-wood panelled walls, three-storey-high ceiling, skylights and subdued tone have always reminded me of libraries of old, where murmurings are the only language permitted. On Thursday morning, the courtroom felt more austere than usual, lawyers nervously listening to the proceedings, the modern quill pens on the tables whispering the long list of historic cases decided in this dignified room.

“Do you want a dismissal or would you rather withdraw the case?” Chief Justice Tassaduq Jillani asked the bumbling counsel graciously but firmly.

The lawyer, who had been rambling on about a washing machine, decided to withdraw.

This was the most fun this courtroom would see all day.

I watched the lawyer gather his papers and drag his black-suited body out of the courtroom, passing by a woman litigant sleeping in a back bench, her face covered with a yellow and maroon polka dotted scarf. There were no thundering observations to disrupt her nap.

I looked at my watch. Justice Jillani was done with the case in five minutes and twenty-three seconds.

“Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry heard one case in nine hours. Justice Jillani hears nine cases in one hour,” a reporter sitting next to me quipped. And then more seriously, “When Justice Jillani retires for the day, the cause list is almost always cleared. There are no pending cases.”

Next up was the case of a professor of pathology who I gathered felt he had been unfairly removed and was subsequently not given relief by a trial court.

Reading through the case notes before him, the chief justice asked for the page number of the trial court’s order.

“Page?” the chief justice asked as the lawyers furiously thumbed through the notes before him. A few seconds later, again: “Page number?”

“If this were Iftikhar Chaudhry’s court, he would have given him an earful by now and dismissed him,” whispered the reporter.

But Justice Jillani, unlike his predecessor, does not seem to think he has a tryst with destiny. He has none of Justice Chaudhry’s megalomania that had for years threatened to topple the power balance supporting Pakistan’s shaky democracy.

Today, the marbled corridors of the Supreme Court that the former CJ for years ruled with an iron grip are teaming with critics who say his courtroom victories — fighting government corruption and taking on the all-powerful military, among others — were bought at the price of Pakistan’s stability and the legal profession’s integrity. Justice Jillani, on the other hand, has largely avoided the high-profile political cases that Justice Chaudhry delighted in. Instead of taking on military generals, disqualifying heads of government and routinely summoning federal secretaries and high-powered ministers as a lord would his serfs to a royal court, the new chief justice has focused on ordinary litigants, even though their cases may not be worthy of mention on a newspaper’s front page.

One litigant, an 82-year-old man from Lahore, pleaded before Justice Chaudhry that he was a heart patient and would have to stay at a guesthouse at personal cost if the court didn’t hear his small family dispute that day.

“The CJ promised to take up the case,” a court reporter told me. “But half an hour later, he got up from the bench and retired to his chamber.” What does it mean to be a people’s judge, I asked Kamran Murtaza, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

“His judgements should reflect the sense of justice of the public at large,” he said. “And he should hear cases properly, treat lawyers with respect, follow court decorum and then pass an order on the basis of law, his intelligence, and above all his moral judgement.”

And you think this was not the case under Justice Chaudhry?

“We have our reservations,” Murtaza replied. He paused and then continued, “It will take decades for the legal profession to recover from the damage one judge has done.”

But will there ever be another Iftikhar Chaudhry in Pakistan?

Tariq Khokhar, the additional advocate general, recounts a story that appeared in The Sunday Times after Lord Denning, the controversial British judge, retired. “When Lord Chancellor Hailsham considers the field of successors, it is safe to say he will choose no one like Denning,” Khokhar said, quoting the piece. “There is no such beast on the bench of judges.”

Outside, the dozens of television crews fighting for parking spaces and camera angles in preparation for the courtroom drama that was always expected when Justice Chaudhry heard a case were nowhere to be seen. And as hard as I tried, I could not conjure the memory of frenzied crowds chanting, “Chief tayray jaan nisar, beshumaar beshumaar.”

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Sharif sends sari for Modi’s mother

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold bilateral talks with US President Barack Obama who has invited him to Washington in September, and Mr Modi will possibly meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during the annual UN gathering, official sources said on Thursday.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold bilateral talks with US President Barack Obama who has invited him to Washington in September, and Mr Modi will possibly meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during the annual UN gathering, official sources said on Thursday.

Mr Modi said in a Tweet on Thursday he was happy to receive a sari for his mother from Mr Sharif, a return gift in a way for the Indian prime minister’s gesture of sending a shawl for Mr Sharif’s mother.

“Nawaz Sharif ji has sent a wonderful white Sari for my Mother. I am really grateful to him & will send it to my mother very soon.”

On a less private note the two leaders will have plenty of work to finish before they meet at the Saarc summit in Kathmandu in November. Mr Sharif said recently that the summit agenda will be hydrocarbons and energy cooperation. Such cooperation has been discussed and speculated on with big Indian business houses, including those that supported Mr Modi’s election campaign, seen as keen to do business in Pakistan.

Given Mr Modi’s style of shunning media scrutiny, the journey from now till they meet in New York, will find the prime minister’s exchanging more than saris and shawls for their mothers. There is a whole gamut of business and political issues to earmark.

On the US front, Mr Modi has accepted an invitation from Mr Obama to have bilateral discussions in Washington in September, potentially opening a new chapter in a sometimes edgy relationship between the two countries.

Reports quoted government sources in Delhi as saying that the United States has offered September 30 as the date for the meeting, and the Indian side has asked for it to be advanced to September 26, around the time of Mr Modi’s maiden address at the United Nations General Assembly.

S Jaishankar, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, is flying to New Delhi on June 8 for consultations with South Block and the Prime Minister’s office, and will brief Mr Modi on the relationship and how to take it forward, The Hindustan Times said.

“The meeting between Modi and Obama will mean that the US view on the Indian PM has come full circle from the time it imposed a visa ban on him in 2005 in connection with the Gujarat riots three years earlier,” the paper said. The process of rapprochement started in February, when its recently retired ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, went to Ahmedabad to meet Modi, then a PM candidate.

It also comes after an especially difficult period in the relationship, sparked by the arrest and humiliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York over allegations of visa fraud, and a particularly sharp retaliation by the Indian side.

But there could be a meeting of minds on economic ties, the Hindustan Times said. Mr Modi has spoken often of the need to make India’s diplomacy trade-focused, and wants big ticket investments from mega corporations like GE, IBM and Microsoft.

The US companies, while broadly enthusiastic about India, have turned skittish of late due to stalled economic reforms, slow growth, and issues over tax, intellectual property and preferential market access.

With Modi becoming the prime minister, the Indian embassy in Washington has started serious diplomatic efforts to lure investment. For their part, some US defence contractors are keen to sell military hardware to the world’s biggest arms importer.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

IHC asks police to register case against CIA’s ex-station chief

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered the Secretariat police on Thursday to register an FIR against former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks and his legal adviser John A. Rizzo.

ISLAMABAD: Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered the Secretariat police on Thursday to register an FIR against former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks and his legal adviser John A. Rizzo.

The order came as the judge disposed of a petition filed by anti-drone activist Karim Khan. A resident of North Waziristan, Khan lost his son Zahinullah and brother Asif Iqbal in a US drone strike on Dec 31, 2009.

In February this year, Khan was ‘picked up’ from his home, days before he was due to testify before the European Parliament. But he was recovered after the Lahore High Court took up the matter of his disappearance.

Khan approached Islamabad police on Dec 14, 2010 and asked that an FIR be registered against the CIA station chief, but his request was not heeded. He tried again the next year, but remained unsuccessful.

Even a sessions court did not entertain his application, filed under section 22-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The petition sought court directions for the police to register a criminal case against officials of the US intelligence agency.

Finally, Khan filed an application in the IHC, which the court admitted for regular hearing last month and asked the station house officer of the Secretariat police station for a report on the matter.

In the written reply, police said that since the offence in question was committed in the tribal areas, an FIR could not be lodged in Islamabad. The court did not accept this argument and on Thursday, Justice Siddiqui asked SHO Abdul Rahman whether a drone attack was an offence or not? The SHO replied that it was indeed an offence.

Subsequently, Justice Siddiqui directed police to examine the application filed by Khan and proceed in accordance with the law if a cognisable offence was established.

Khan was represented by Shahzad Akbar, who has also served as legal counsel for other victims of drone strikes.

Talking to reporters, advocate Akbar said that the IHC decision vindicated his client’s stance that the families of all those who have been killed in drone strikes have a right to proceed with criminal action against CIA officials and others involved.

He said that the remarkable order also highlighted the strength and independence of the judiciary in Pakistan, which was truly safeguarding the rights of its citizens under the Constitution.

He said that police were bound to register a criminal case against both the CIA station chief and his legal adviser otherwise they would have to face contempt charges.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Judges met Musharraf before emergency proclamation: counsel

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: The counsel for former president Pervez Musharraf claimed on Wednesday that several judges of the Supreme Court visited his client before the imposition of emergency and the sacking of then chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2007.

ISLAMABAD: The counsel for former president Pervez Musharraf claimed on Wednesday that several judges of the Supreme Court visited his client before the imposition of emergency and the sacking of then chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2007.

Arguing before the special court seized with the high treason trial of retired General Musharraf, Barrister Farogh Nasim said he could not disclose the names of the judges concerned because he was in the court not to malign anyone but to fight for his case.

He requested the court to verify his claim by summoning the record of the presidency and the camp office of Mr Musharraf adjacent to the Army House in Rawalpindi.

He also requested the court to summon the record of National Assembly’s session of Nov 7, 2007, which he said endorsed the proclamation of emergency through a resolution.

He claimed that the prosecution changed the investigation report to single out Mr Musharraf by presenting selected documents in the court instead of all the evidence.

The prosecution, he said, removed from the report the dissenting note of Federal Investigation Agency Director Hussain Asghar who had opposed the singling out of Mr Musharraf. On the basis of the note the joint investigation team had unanimously recommended that the role of facilitators of imposition of emergency should be taken into account.

After Barrister Nasim concluded his arguments, the court adjourned the hearing till Tuesday when Advocate Akram Sheikh, the head of the prosecution team, would present his arguments.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Apex court lays down guidelines for deciding seniority of judges

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has observed that the president and the chief justices of high courts cannot determine seniority of judges without objective criterion.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has observed that the president and the chief justices of high courts cannot determine seniority of judges without objective criterion.

“Leaving the question of seniority to be decided by the president or by the chief justice of a high court without reference to any objective criterion may raise issues of judicial independence which is mandated under the Constitution and is essential in a democracy,” a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani said on Wednesday in a detailed judgement on a petition about seniority of judges of the Lahore High Court.

The judgement authored by the chief justice said the question of seniority of high court judges had been raised off and on either on the administrative side in the respective high courts or through representations addressed to the president. “Such issues though important for the judges concerned, yet have a potential to cause some ripple in the comity of judges and it is imperative that those be resolved in the light of some objective criterion to be laid down by this court,” it added.

The verdict said: “Judicial independence of both the individual judge and the judiciary as an institution is essential so that those who bring their cases before the judges and the public in general have confidence that their cases will be decided justly and in accordance with law.

“Judicial independence is one of the foundational values of the Constitution which is based on trichotomy of powers in which the functions of each organ of the state have been constitutionally delineated.

“The qualification for a person to be appointed as additional judge is the same as for the appointment of a regular judge. As defined under Article 260(1)(c) of the Constitution, a ‘judge’ in relation to a high court includes the chief justice of the court and also a person who is an additional judge of the court. A similar oath is prescribed for both the offices in terms of Article 194 of the Constitution and both are deemed to have entered upon the office on the day on which they make the oath (Article 255(3).

“Thus when an additional judge enters upon the office having taken oath in terms of Article 194 of the Constitution and is later appointed as a judge (under Article 193), his service in the office continues. There is no break in service and the period spent as additional judge has to be counted towards his seniority while computing the period of service of a permanent judge in the high court.

“The seniority of judges of a high court shall reckon from the order and date of their appointment as additional judges of that court and the seniority of those appointed on the same date under the same order from their seniority in age.”

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Taliban video shows dazed US soldier during handover

Reuters

KABUL: A dazed Bowe Bergdahl is led by two militants, one carrying a makeshift white flag on a stick, to a Blackhawk helicopter in eastern Afghanistan ending his five years in captivity, a video released by the Taliban showed on Wednesday.

KABUL: A dazed Bowe Bergdahl is led by two militants, one carrying a makeshift white flag on a stick, to a Blackhawk helicopter in eastern Afghanistan ending his five years in captivity, a video released by the Taliban showed on Wednesday.

In the first publicly aired footage of Bergdahl’s dramatic handover to the US military at the weekend, the clip shows Taliban cadres dotted on nearby hills armed with rocket launchers watching the transfer.

The operation, from the moment the helicopter touched the ground amid a cloud of dust to take off, was all over in a minute.

“Do not panic,” the militants shout as the Blackhawk lands in the barren valley deep in Khost province, close to the border with Pakistan.

Bergdahl, a US army sergeant, was released on Saturday in exchange for five senior insurgent leaders, who had been held in a US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since it opened in 2002.

Before his rescue, Bergdahl is seen sitting in the rear seat of a four-wheel-drive truck, blinking rapidly, apparently either dazed by the light or anxious about the events unfolding around him.

A plane and helicopters are seen circling overhead as fighters chant “long live our mujahideen” and “long live the spiritual leader”, referring to the Taliban’s reclusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

As the Blackhawk lands, two of the militants approach the helicopter, one carrying a white cloth crudely tied to a stick and the other leading Bergdahl by the hand.

Three men walk from the American chopper. One is an interpreter, the Taliban’s reporter says in the clip.

One of Bergdahl’s escorts has his faced covered by a chequered scarf and in the cloud of dust thrown up by the Blackhawk, the tension is clear. Soldiers dressed in military fatigue stand by the helicopter observing the handover.

One of the Americans steps forward to shake their hands, keeping as wide a distance as possible as though worried the militants might blow themselves up.

He quickly offers his right hand to one, his left hand to the other and simultaneously grabs Bergdahl by the arm. In the same movement, he sweeps his hand across to Bergdahl’s back.

“We told them: if he is not in good health, please tell us. We tried to communicate with them through their interpreter, but they did not wait,” the Taliban reporter says in the clip.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

11pc increase in defence spending proposed

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: The government announced on Tuesday an 11 per cent increase in defence spending for the next fiscal.

ISLAMABAD: The government announced on Tuesday an 11 per cent increase in defence spending for the next fiscal.

According to the budget documents placed before parliament, the government has allocated Rs700 billion to the armed forces for the fiscal year 2014-15 against the revised amount of Rs629.5bn for the outgoing year.

The allocation is about 18 per cent of the national budget and 2.36 per cent of the GDP.

The 11 per cent increase in defence spending appears to be significant when compared to a mere two per cent increase in the total budgetary outlay for the next year over the outgoing year.

“Budgetary needs of our armed forces as per their requirements have been duly provided for in the budget,” Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said in his budget speech in the National Assembly.

The increase has come against the backdrop of what he described as “restored health of the economy”.

This year the country has registered an economic growth rate of 4.14 per cent which is the highest in the last six years when it averaged about three per cent. Moreover, inflation has declined to 8.6 per cent and foreign exchange reserves have increased.

Of the Rs700bn earmarked for the armed forces, Rs239.6bn will be spent on employee-related expenses, including the salary and allowances of uniformed personnel and civilian staff.

Operational expenditure of the armed forces, on transportation, rations, medical treatment and training, are expected to consume Rs180.2bn. Civil works that account for maintenance of existing infrastructure and construction of new buildings will get Rs73.3bn.

An amount of Rs152.8bn has been provided for physical assets — the accounts head from which allocation for procurement and maintenance of arms and ammunition is made.

The tooth-to-tail ratio of the defence allocation, which has normally stood at around 20:80, has slightly improved to 22:78. The ratio helps compare the amount earmarked for arms and ammunition (tooth) to the allocation for logistics and maintenance of troops (tail).

As usual, the army has received the bigger slice by getting Rs331.4bn. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF); and Inter-Services Organizations and Defense Production Establishment roughly got equal share with Rs 149.7 billion and 147 billion respectively.

Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is also paid out of the allocation (Rs 147 billion) for Inter-Services Organizations’.

The navy has got the lowest share among the services with an allocation of Rs71.4bn.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Two pilots among four killed as PAF plane crashes

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft crashed into a bus terminal in Yusuf Goth area here on Tuesday, killing both its pilots as well as two civilians on the ground.

KARACHI: A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft crashed into a bus terminal in Yusuf Goth area here on Tuesday, killing both its pilots as well as two civilians on the ground.

According to a PAF spokesman, the fighter jet was on routine training mission when it went down near Baldia Town, apparently because of a technical fault. The pilots killed were identified as Wing Commander Khurram Samad and Squadron Leader Umair Elahi.

Police said a bus driver, Ali Akbar, and a painter, Sajid, were also killed at the place of the crash. Two buses were destroyed and another was damaged.

The bodies were shifted to civil hospital. Medico-legal official Dr Nisar Ali Shah said the head of Wing Commander Samad had been smashed after being hit by a ‘hard and blunt item’. He said the pilot could not eject because his parachute got stuck to his back.

The two civilians died of burn injuries, Dr Shah said.

The PAF spokesperson said that fire tenders and ambulances were sent to the scene of the crash immediately to carry out rescue work.

An inquiry has been ordered by the PAF headquarters to determine the cause of the accident.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Rs1,175bn set aside for development works

Amin Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The national development outlay for the fiscal year 2014-15 has been set at Rs1,175 billion, including a foreign aid component of Rs192bn.

ISLAMABAD: The national development outlay for the fiscal year 2014-15 has been set at Rs1,175 billion, including a foreign aid component of Rs192bn.

According to the budget documents released here on Tuesday, the federal PSDP has been set at Rs525bn with a foreign assistance of Rs102bn. The annual provincial development plans amount to Rs650bn and include a foreign aid component of Rs90bn. This PSDP is 13 per cent larger than the one initiated in 2013-14.

In the PSDP for 2014-15, major investment is envisaged in the energy sector, followed by transport and communications. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is one of the new major infrastructure development projects under the new PSDP.

Critical development projects consistent with the government’s ‘Vision 2025’, expected to have a high impact, are being given priority in fund allocation.

The plan is being executed through policies, programmes and projects that fall under seven heads: social and human capital; sustained indigenous and inclusive growth; democratic governance; institutional reform and public sector modernisation; energy, water and food security; private sector and entrepreneur-led growth; the development of a competitive knowledge economy through value addition; and modernising infrastructure and strengthening regional connectivity.

In the water resource development sector, a budgetary allocation of Rs57.8bn in 2013-14 has been reduced to Rs42.7bn for 2014-15. Out of this, resources has been allocated to ongoing development programmes to ensure their timely completion, including the construction of small and medium-sized dams, drainage projects, new canals and the improvement of the existing irrigation network.

An allocation of Rs240bn has been made for energy projects and 575MW are expected to be added to the system during the next year. The government allocated Rs12.5bn for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, mainly in the education and health sectors, by involving local communities. This will be a demand-driven programme where the government would intervene to address unmet needs.

An amount of Rs20.8bn has been proposed for different preventive and curative health programmes. All the vertical programmes in health sector would continue to be funded by the federal government during next PSDP period.

An amount of Rs5.7bn was allocated in PSDP 2013-14 for the capacity-building of teachers and the establishment, strengthening and expansion of schools and colleges. But this amount has been reduced to Rs4.2bn under the next PSDP, mainly due to the 18th Amendment.

While better governance being a key factor in ensuring effective service delivery, the government has reduced allocation in this segment to around Rs4.8bn (including a foreign aid component of Rs1.4bn) by 14 per cent from last year’s allocation.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Rs77bn allocated for Railways

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Seemingly obsessed with developing the country’s communications structure, the government has earmarked a staggering Rs77 billion to revive the fledgling Pakistan Railways. Of the total amount, Rs39.5bn has been allocated specifically for infrastructure expansion under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2014-15, while the rest of the money will go towards paying salaries and pensions of railway employees.

ISLAMABAD: Seemingly obsessed with developing the country’s communications structure, the government has earmarked a staggering Rs77 billion to revive the fledgling Pakistan Railways. Of the total amount, Rs39.5bn has been allocated specifically for infrastructure expansion under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2014-15, while the rest of the money will go towards paying salaries and pensions of railway employees.

In his long-winded budget speech on Tuesday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar lamented the fact that for most people trains were not their first-choice mode of transport. Trains are supposed to be the faster, cheaper and more convenient mode of freight and passenger transportation and in the new budget the government is looking to encourage private-sector and international investment to help improve the railways.

A chunk of Rs9bn will be spent on the procurement of 500 high-capacity passenger bogies and 40 power vans. Nearly Rs6.5bn has been allocated for the procurement and/or manufacturing of 50 locomotives during the year 2014-15 whereas Rs4.6bn will be utilised for the manufacturing or procurement of another set of 75 diesel locomotives.

Exim Bank of China has loaned Rs250 million for the procurement or manufacture of 202 new design passenger carriages while another Rs250m has been reserved for the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway.

The government also intends to spend Rs800m for the replacement of old and obsolete signal gear on the main line from Lodhran/Khanewal to Shahdara and Badami Bagh. This project has been sanctioned by the Islamic Development Bank.

For the rehabilitation of 159 dilapidated rail bridges, the government has earmarked Rs60m while Rs757m will be allocated for rehabilitation of track on the Khanpur-Lodhran section.

The government plans to spend Rs441m to double rail tracks from Khanewal to Raiwind and Rs1bn has been allocated for a pilot project for the mechanisation of track maintenance. Around Rs450m has been earmarked for another pilot project to manufacture five 3,000 horsepower locomotives.

The government has also launched 14 new development schemes to revamp rail network, including the earmarking of Rs60m for a feasibility study for a new rail link from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad via the Murree hill station. For this, a new company named Kashmir Railways will be established to construct and manage this exceptional project in the scenic Galiyat and Azad Kashmir.

Another Rs150m has been allocated for a feasibility study on the construction of a dedicated freight corridor to transport coal from Karachi to Lahore.

Under the list of new schemes, the government has also set aside Rs500m for the procurement of equipment to improve security.

Around Rs5m has been sanctioned for the upgradation of railway stations in Quetta, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar and Rs94m for the replacement of two 1000KW power turbines at the Railway Power House in Mughalpura, Lahore.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Yashwant Sinha jailed

AFP

NEW DELHI: A former finance minister of India was jailed on Tuesday over accusations he led 300 protesters in storming an electricity office and tying up its manager to denounce blackouts.

NEW DELHI: A former finance minister of India was jailed on Tuesday over accusations he led 300 protesters in storming an electricity office and tying up its manager to denounce blackouts.

Yashwant Sinha and 54 co-accused were remanded in custody for 14 days on assault charges by a court after refusing to pay bail, reports said.

The protest comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi struggles to fix electricity shortages that have hindered growth of the economy by keeping factories idle.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

FOOTPRINTS: STUDENT MUSEUM GUIDES OF LAHORE

Sehyr Mirza

AS I step into the glorious red-brick building, I’m struck by the aesthetics: elegantly crafted windows, castle-like balconies, opulent galleries and domes letting in the sunlight to shimmer on the several lancet arches. The enchanting dance of light and shadow highlights the traditional Islamic architecture of the Lahore Museum. With every step, I’m drawn closer to the relics of different civilisations — the artefacts and repositories of centuries-old treasures.

AS I step into the glorious red-brick building, I’m struck by the aesthetics: elegantly crafted windows, castle-like balconies, opulent galleries and domes letting in the sunlight to shimmer on the several lancet arches. The enchanting dance of light and shadow highlights the traditional Islamic architecture of the Lahore Museum. With every step, I’m drawn closer to the relics of different civilisations — the artefacts and repositories of centuries-old treasures.

On one of the benches in the Islamic gallery, Maliha Noorani, an assistant professor at the National College of Arts, and her trainee guides are engaged in final pre-tour preparations. Some students are pairing up for a group presentation while others prefer to work alone depending on area of expertise. According to NCA student Maham Mansoor, training as a museum guide “has been a great learning experience. Yesterday, we had more than 150 visitors including a small group from Germany. Interacting with the general public sometimes leads to some very interesting historical facts being unfolded.” Noor, another NCA student guide who is from Hunza, tells me: “I knew nothing about our cultural heritage before I joined these tours as part of my course ‘Weaving narratives’. It is sad that we choose to remain largely ignorant about our rich history.”

In the current times of extremism and fundamentalism, the Lahore Museum with its Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Islamic galleries stands as a symbol of co-existence. Talking to me, Ms Noorani says: “The guided tours, introduced by the NCA in 2013, are an attempt to instil in young minds the values of co-existence, a shared history and common humanity.” Using story narratives, the young students delve into the art history of the exhibits of the museum collection. Depending on their audience, they talk in English, Urdu, Punjabi or Pashto.

Our tour begins at the Gandharan Gallery with 15 passionate museum visitors. The spectacular hall houses myriad Greco-Buddhist artefacts and Gandharan antiques. The guides brief the visitors about the Indus Valley Civilisation and the art pieces on display. The main features here are the Dream of Queen Maya, a Buddhist stupa, the Miracle of Sravasti and what is considered the soul of the Lahore Museum’s collection, the statue of the Fasting Buddha. “The statue dates back to the Gandharan period in the 2nd century BC,” the guide, Tahir, informs us. “Found by Colonel H.A. Dean at Sikri, it was donated to the museum in 1894.” An impatient voice from amongst the audience calls out: “This statue draws attention because it is one of the first representations of Buddha in human form and it has also travelled for exhibitions in Japan and Sri Lanka.” “Yes, true, but also because it reflects our rich artistic heritage,” replies Tahir.

As we move towards the Hindu gallery, there is a noticeable shift from the bronze and sandstone used in Buddhist art to the terracotta and coloured stone used in Hindu art. At least 20 more people join the tour. About a statue of Lord Hanuman, Noor says: “He was popularised by the poet and author Tulsidas. Here, Hanuman is depicted as supporting a mountain in one hand and a mace in the other.” “Why?” asks an audience member. “The mace symbolises strength and the ability to destroy evil forces whereas the mountain symbolises Hanuman’s power to overcome obstacles,” she responds.

Before we head towards the Islamic Gallery, the narration about Lord Shiva is followed by an interesting question-and-answer session. The Islamic gallery exhibits metal pottery, jewellery, weapons, embroidered textiles and carpets from the Mughal era. A rather hectic conversation begins when one man asks, “Why is Mughal clothing inspired by Hinduism?” It’s inspiring to note how well the guides are trained to deal with curious visitors.

The scores of relics produced in the 18th century testify to the refinement that was the common denominator of Mughal art. Also on display are some Islamic inscriptions dating to the 7th century. The most prominent feature are the astrolabes. “Though the instrument had its origin in ancient Greece, the Mughals adopted it with great enthusiasm because of its ability to determine the prayer times,” says Hasan, our guide now. I overhear a visitor’s rather hilarious remark as the guide talks about an antique Mughal lota (vessel): “Itna khoobsurat lota kis liye istimal hota tha? (This lota is so fancy, what was it used for?)”

The tour culminates in the Miniature Paintings’ gallery, a great draw for international tourists, with its three walls of paintings by prolific painters including Rabindranath Tagore, Allah Buksh, Abdul Rehman Chughtai, Shakir Ali and Sadequain. We have to tilt our heads to look at the mural painted on the ceiling by Sadequain.

At the end of the tour, one of the visitors, Atif, says: “I have come to visit the Lahore Museum with my family from Jhang. I am happy that I unexpectedly joined the tour because otherwise, there is no visitor-friendly information available or on display.”

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Solar plane debuts with eye on world trip

Agencies

PAYERNE: A sun-powered plane made a successful test flight on Monday, clearing a vital hurdle towards its goal of a round-the-world trip next year, its pilot and mission chiefs said.

PAYERNE: A sun-powered plane made a successful test flight on Monday, clearing a vital hurdle towards its goal of a round-the-world trip next year, its pilot and mission chiefs said.

‘Solar Impulse 2’ carried out a flight lasting two hours and 15 minutes, half an hour longer than scheduled, German test pilot Markus Scher­del said. “Everything worked as expected,” Scherdel told a press conference at an air base in Payerne, Swi­tzerland. “ … it’s a good start and I’m looking forward to flying the aeroplane the next time.”

Built from carbon fibre, the 2.3-tonne plane has four electrical motors powered by solar cells.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

More warrants issued against Gilani, Fahim

Ishaq Tanoli

KARACHI: An anti-corruption court issued arrest warrants on Monday for former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, former commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and others in seven more cases pertaining to the multi-billion trade subsidy scam.

KARACHI: An anti-corruption court issued arrest warrants on Monday for former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, former commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and others in seven more cases pertaining to the multi-billion trade subsidy scam.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted to the court seven charge-sheets against the accused, raising the number of cases filed against the PPP leaders in the scam to 11.

Interestingly, the FIA in the final charge-sheets reproduced the allegations which it had included in the four similar cases filed on May 29. The investigating agency had declared Mr Gilani and Mr Fahim and some other accused as absconders.

The judge of Special Federal Anti-Corruption Court-I, Mohammad Azeem, accepted the final charge-sheets for hearing. He issued non-bailable warrants for the two leaders and other accused and directed the FIA to arrest and produce them before the court on June 17.

The PPP leaders along with some former and serving senior officials of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and private individuals had been accused of being involved in approving and disbursing fraudulent trade subsidies worth billion of rupees to several fake companies through fictitious claims and backdated cheques.

Besides the two leaders, former deputy secretary to Prime Minister’s Secretariat Mohammad Zubair, Farhan Junejo, Faisal Siddique, Mehr Haroon Rasheed, Mian Tariq, Zafar Hussain, Noman Siddiqui, Syed Mohibullah Shah and others have been declared as absconders.

The TDAP’s former chairman, Tariq Iqbal Puri, some former director generals and others have already been taken into custody.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Modi appoints former spy as security adviser

Reuters

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen a daring former spy as his national security adviser.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen a daring former spy as his national security adviser.

The choice of Ajit Doval, alongside former Indian army chief General V.K. Singh as a federal minister for the northeast region, underscores plans to revamp national security that Modi says became weak under the outgoing government.

The two top-level appointments, reporting directly to Modi, point to a desire to address security concerns with regard to Pakistan and China, both of which have nuclear arms like India.

Doval, a highly decorated officer renowned for his role in dangerous counter-insurgency missions, has long advocated tough action against militant groups, although operations he has been involved in suggest a level of pragmatism.

In the 1980s, he smuggled himself into the Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar from where Sikh militants were later flushed out, and he infiltrated a powerful guerrilla group fighting for independence from India in the northeastern state of Mizoram. The group ultimately signed a peace accord.

Doval was also on the ground in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu was hijacked by militants on Christmas Eve, 1999. The crisis was resolved when top militants were freed in exchange for hostages.

“Doval is an out-of-the-box thinker,” said an Intelligence Bureau officer with long years of service in India-held Kashmir and other Indian hotspots. “Expect him to shake things up.”

The official said he expected the new security team to push for a rapid expansion of border infrastructure and a streamlining of intelligence services, which still function in isolation and often impede one other.

Gen Singh has declared his priority is to develop the northeast in order to narrow the gap with Chinese investment in roads and railways on its side of the frontier.

India is also creating a new mountain corps and beefing up border defences, although that initiative has stalled.

Doval, 69, formerly head of the Intelligence Bureau domestic spy agency, will be only the second officer from the intelligence community to hold the post of national security adviser.

By contrast, his predecessor Shiv Shankar Menon is a member of the elite Indian Foreign Service, an expert on China and nuclear security and is known for his formidable intellect.—Reuters

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Modi lauds his decision to invite Saarc leaders

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday praised his decision to invite South Asian leaders to his swearing-in as a well-timed move, and urged academics to record his amazing electoral victory as a feat comparable to Tony Blair’s and Barrack Obama’s success stories.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday praised his decision to invite South Asian leaders to his swearing-in as a well-timed move, and urged academics to record his amazing electoral victory as a feat comparable to Tony Blair’s and Barrack Obama’s success stories.

Visiting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters for the first time after becoming prime minister, Mr Modi noted that people had a lot of expectations from his government and it was the duty of his government to keep pace with their aspirations.

Press Trust of India quoted him as telling BJP workers that democracy in the country needs to be strengthened as a result of which even the world will give India its due respect and status.

In this context, he referred to his initiative of inviting leaders of Saarc countries for the swearing-in ceremony on May 26.

“The entire world got a message and they are still talking about it, what happened, how it happened. It shows how effective a right decision taken at the right time can be,” Mr Modi told a gathering of party cadres in the presence of party president and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, among other leaders.

He said that people of the country had been disillusioned with the Congress long back and even the “experiment” of alternatives had not helped.

“The clear-cut mandate that BJP got would not have been possible had there been no undercurrent and common thought process from Kashmir to Kanyakumari,” he said.

Mr Modi told BJP workers that if government’s work could inspire people to believe that it was working dedicatedly for their welfare, they will never break their ties with the party.

On the absolute majority attained by his party, he termed the elections a “turning point” in the 21st century in which all traditional caste, religious and other political equations were ignored by voters who chose the politics of hope and aspirations above everything.

He said social scientists and political pundits should study the elections and his party’s win just as Labour Party’s first victory under Tony Blair and Barack Obama’s maiden election as the US president were discussed, spawning numerous books.

“This (election) is a significant challenge for political pundits, social scientists… If it gets due importance in the nation, if university comes ahead and we could document it all and present it before the world, it would be a big thing,” he said, noting that people in India are generally not “history-conscious”. Leading academics have accused Mr Modi of confusing history with religious myths.

The prime minister hailed party workers and recalled how happy he was when Atal Behari Vajpayee came to the BJP headquarters for the first time after becoming premier.

“When I had urged him (Vajpayee) to come to the headquarters he had asked me what was the need for it. I told him you are now PM and party workers will be so happy to have you among them. We were so enthused. Now I cannot imagine that you are honouring me so much,” PTI quoted him as saying.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Taliban term prisoner swap ‘big victory’

AFP

KABUL: Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar on Sunday hailed the release of five senior militants in exchange for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl as a “big victory”.

KABUL: Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar on Sunday hailed the release of five senior militants in exchange for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl as a “big victory”.

On his part, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed the hope that release of Sergeant Bergdahl would lead to direct US talks with the Afghan Taliban.

In a rare statement, Mullah Omar said: “I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the entire Afghan Muslim nation, all the mujahideen and to the families and relatives of the prisoners for this big victory regarding the release of five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo prison.

“I thank the government of Qatar, especially its emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad (Al Thani), who made sincere efforts for release of these leaders and for their mediation and for hosting them.”

In an interview from Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base with NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’, US Defence Secretary Hagel said: “It could, it might and we hope it will present an opening.”

He noted that the United States had engaged in talks with the Taliban before, until they were broken off in 2012, and that it strongly supported an Afghan-led effort to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban.

“So maybe this will be a new opening that can produce an agreement,” he said.

Sergeant Bergdahl, 28, was released on Saturday near the Afghan-Pakistan border after nearly five years in Taliban captivity in a surprise development that came as the United States days is winding down its 13-year intervention in Afghanistan.

Hagel credited Qatar and its emir with Sergeant Bergdahl’s release in a trade for five militants held at the prison in Guantanamo Bay. But he denied that the United States had negotiated with terrorists, as Republican critics are charging, and defended the trade as an effort to save the soldier’s life.

“This is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years,” he said. “And let’s focus on getting him well and getting him back with his family.”

Meanwhile, a source said the five militants transferred on Sunday to Qatar would spend a year in the Gulf state. “They will stay for one year in Qatar,” the source said.

Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah said that Doha mediated the swap out of humanitarian concerns. “When it comes to humanitarian matters, the emir does not hesitate,” he said.

“This is what happened in the case of the US sergeant and the five Taliban detainees,” he told a press conference.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

US lawmakers assail release as incentive for capturing Americans

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Republican lawmakers berated US President Barack Obama on Sunday for releasing five Taliban prisoners in exchange for a US soldier, claiming that the bargain had created a new incentive for capturing Americans.

WASHINGTON: Republican lawmakers berated US President Barack Obama on Sunday for releasing five Taliban prisoners in exchange for a US soldier, claiming that the bargain had created a new incentive for capturing Americans.

Also, some media reports suggested that the soldier, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, had apparently defected to the Taliban in June 2009 because he was unhappy with the war.

“Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans,” said Senator James Inhofe and Congressman Howard McKeon in a statement issued after Sgt Bergdahl’s release on Saturday. “That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk.”

Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, said the five Taliban prisoners released by the US were dangerous terrorists who might resume their activities once they returned to Afghanistan.

“These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands,” said Senator McCain, who himself was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, however, defended the bargain, saying that worrying intelligence reports about Sgt Bergdahl’s safety and health had persuaded the government to conclude the deal with the help of the Qatari government.

“It was our judgment that if we could find an opening and move very quickly, we needed to get him out of there, essentially to save his life,” he said.

Top on the list of the released prisoners is Mullah Mohammed Fazl, the former deputy defence minister of the Taliban. The 47-year old was arrested from the Kunduz province in 2001 and was brought to Guantanamo in January 2002. He was kept in extrajudicial detention and no specific charges were brought against him.

The second prisoner released from Guantanamo is Khairullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, a senior Taliban commander and former governor of Herat. Khairullah was one of the original Taliban members who launched the movement in 1994 and also served as the Taliban’s minister of foreign affairs’ spokesman, a deputy interior minister and the minister for information. He arrived at Guantanamo on May 1, 2002.

The third prisoner, Mullah Abdul Haq Wasiq, is well-respected by the Taliban as a religious leader. The Karzai government also considered him a moderate and demanded his release. He arrived at the Guantanamo detention camp in January 2001.

Mullah Norullah Noori was the Taliban governor of Balkh and also had cordial relations with Gen Rashide Dostum. He reportedly arranged a peaceful surrender of the Taliban fighters to Gen Dostum’s Northern Alliance in 2001. He arrived at the Guantanamo prison on Oct 28, 2002.

Mohammed Nabi Omari, the fifth prisoner, was not only a senior Taliban commander but had also admitted to working for Al Qaeda,

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Ukraine leader enters crucial week

AFP

KIEV: Ukraine’s new pro-Western leader entered a defining week on Sunday, seeking to head off a Russian gas cut and secure US President Barack Obama’s backing with his country threatened by civil war.

KIEV: Ukraine’s new pro-Western leader entered a defining week on Sunday, seeking to head off a Russian gas cut and secure US President Barack Obama’s backing with his country threatened by civil war.

Confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko will also attempt to arrange the first meeting by a Ukrainian leader with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the February ouster of a pro-Kremlin regime in Kiev sparked the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

The 48-year-old will cap off the pivotal week with his inauguration on Saturday as the fifth president of Ukraine after a convincing election win.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Frenchman ‘admits’ to Brussels killings

AFP

PARIS: A Frenchman who spent over a year in Syria has claimed responsibility for last week’s deadly shooting at a Jewish Museum in Brussels in a video recording, prosecutors said on Sunday.

PARIS: A Frenchman who spent over a year in Syria has claimed responsibility for last week’s deadly shooting at a Jewish Museum in Brussels in a video recording, prosecutors said on Sunday.

Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, who was arrested by customs agents on Friday on arrival in the southern French city of Marseille, is believed to have recorded the claim in a short video found in his possession along with a Kalashnikov and a handgun.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the “repeat offender” explained in the film that he had attached a GoPro camera to his bag to record his shooting rampage, but it had not worked.

Instead Nemmouche later “filmed his weapons and said he carried out the attack against the Jews in Brussels”, prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw told a simultaneous press conference taking place in the Belgian capital.

However Van Leeuw added: “We can’t guarantee that it is his voice heard on the recording.”

Molins said the suspect, who arrived in France on a bus from Amsterdam via Brussels, was also carrying a “white cloth” carrying an inscription in Arabic of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — Syria’s most extremist group.

A judicial source said he had been detained on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise.

Nemmouche, originally from Roubaix in northern France, is believed to have travelled to join Islamist fighters in Syria in 2013, and was known to the French domestic intelligence agency DGSI, said one source close to the case.

A lone gunman entered the Jewish museum in the heart of Brussels last Saturday, removed an automatic rifle from a bag and opened fire through a door before making an exit. An Israeli couple and a Frenchwoman died on the scene and a 24-year-old Belgian man was left clinically dead.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Footprints: Black badge of ‘honour’

Nasir Jamal

It is business as usual on Fane Road, a busy Lahore street where three-month pregnant Farzana Parveen was killed last Tuesday, attacked by a group of 25 people, including her father, brothers and cousins. Punished for marrying against her family’s wishes, she fell only a few steps away from the Lahore High Court.

It is business as usual on Fane Road, a busy Lahore street where three-month pregnant Farzana Parveen was killed last Tuesday, attacked by a group of 25 people, including her father, brothers and cousins. Punished for marrying against her family’s wishes, she fell only a few steps away from the Lahore High Court.

On a Saturday morning, the street isn’t too crowded. Still, there are lawyers leaving and entering their chambers. There are a few in black coats relaxing with a cup of tea outside a tea stall. Did any of these men see Farzana come under a barrage of bricks? Few are willing to talk about the brutal murder. “The incident took place early in the morning,” says a man who works at a small bustling eatery in the street. He, like others, ‘heard’ about the murder when he came to work at around nine.

For cigarette vendor Mubarak Ali scuffles between the litigants are a common sight. “It is difficult, and dangerous, to come in the way of those who are out to kill.”

A lawyer is far more frank and comes up with his own epitaph for Farzana, who was three months pregnant: “This is always the fate of women of her character.”

The accounts of witnesses speak of indifferent onlookers and of policemen protecting the court building who refused to be drawn into a ‘personal’ matter. Even her husband hid under a car when the attackers came, rather than stand by his love — a woman who had “brought immense happiness” to his life and had “died for him”.

In Mauza Sial, Iqbal sits surrounded by men of his family giving interviews to local and foreign reporters. Journalists have stormed the place ever since he brought Farzana back home to bury her Wednesday last. He rattles out emotionless statements. “I want justice, no less. I will not compromise with her killers.”

His response to a question about him diving for cover as Farzana faced the attackers is: “One has to save one’s life.” A moment’s reflection later: “You’re right. It was my duty to save her. She loved me and my children. I failed her.”

Farzana leaves behind many others who failed her. The police have tried their trusted method of taking away from the victim some of her innocence. “We have an FIR that alleges she was already married when she went away with Iqbal,” says a policeman at the Syedwala police station, an hour’s drive from Mauza Sial. Another policeman calls Iqbal a crook who had killed his first wife to marry Farzana. That murder case was quashed after the family forgave Iqbal.

In the village, all the relatives of the slain woman have left. Their homes are locked. The police have already arrested Farzana’s father, who surrendered himself immediately after the murder, and four others.

“Such killings are not uncommon in this area,” notes Zahoor Abbas, a cousin of Iqbal’s first wife. “Women are violated and murdered in the name of honour every day. Nothing gets reported in the media. Compromises are made and deals done. Farzana’s case would also have gone unnoticed had it not taken place in Lahore and in close proximity to the high court.”

He isn’t far off the mark. As many as 869 cases of honour killings were reported last year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The true numbers are said to be much higher.

A police official says the perpetrators and complainants are often from the same family. “In cases where a woman is killed by her in-laws, the victim’s family does a deal with perpetrators and accepts blood money. Blood money is perhaps the best option available to the poor who don’t have resources to pursue the case.”

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Polio booths opened at Balochistan airports

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Polio booths have been set up at three airports in Balochistan, including the Quetta International Airport, to administer drops to passengers travelling abroad.

QUETTA: Polio booths have been set up at three airports in Balochistan, including the Quetta International Airport, to administer drops to passengers travelling abroad.

Zhob and Gwadar are the other airports where the booths have been set up.

Health Secretary Arshad Bugti inaugurated the polio booth at the Quetta airport during a ceremony held on Saturday.

“For the past 22 months no polio case has been reported in any area of Balochistan and we are close to declaring Balochistan a polio-free province,” he said while speaking to reporters.

“In Balochistan 47 permanent transit points have been established to ensure children entering or leaving the province got vaccinated,” he said.

“Efforts are afoot to engage the civil society, politicians and tribal notables to make the [anti-polio] drive a success,” the secretary said.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Taliban free US soldier captured in 2009

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama announced on Saturday that the Taliban had freed the only American prisoner they had held for almost five years and expressed hope that the release would open the door for further negotiations.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama announced on Saturday that the Taliban had freed the only American prisoner they had held for almost five years and expressed hope that the release would open the door for further negotiations.

“While we are mindful of the challenges, it is our hope Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s recovery could potentially open the door for broader discussions among Afghans about the future of their country by building confidence that it is possible for all sides to find common ground,” Mr Obama said.

In a statement issued by his office, the president said the US remained committed to supporting an Afghan-led reconciliation process as “the surest way to achieve a stable, secure, sovereign and unified Afghanistan”.

Officials told reporters that the Taliban released Sgt Bergdahl in exchange for five Afghan detainees from the Guantanamo US prison camp. The Taliban had captured the US soldier on June 30, 2009.

On Saturday evening, the 28-year-old Bergdahl returned to a camp of US special forces in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. He was in good condition and able to walk, US officials said.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

SC inquiry blames former CJ’s staff officer for selective coverage of event

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: An inquiry headed by the additional registrar of the Supreme Court has found that the former staff officer of ex-chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and a TV channel’s special correspondent were responsible for the selective coverage of the full court reference held to honour and bid farewell to the former chief justice.

ISLAMABAD: An inquiry headed by the additional registrar of the Supreme Court has found that the former staff officer of ex-chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and a TV channel’s special correspondent were responsible for the selective coverage of the full court reference held to honour and bid farewell to the former chief justice.

The inquiry report, which was made public on Saturday, recommended that a warning be issued to Chaudhry Abdul Hameed, the staff officer deputed with the former chief justice.

However, the report did not recommend any action against Geo TV’s special correspondent Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui.

The inquiry found that Hameed “failed to ensure that the footage was simultaneously given to all TV channels. There appears [to be] mismanagement and a lack of proper coordination on his part in the matter, even though later on he took certain steps, including establishing contact with Mr Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui in whose possession the footage was. Had he ensured that the video made by the private cameraman was handed over to Mr Shahid Hussain Kamboyo, Public Relations Officer, or any other official of the court, the footage would have been given to all the channels simultaneously as per past practice and no cause [for] complaint [would have] arisen”.

It recommended that “a warning may be issued to him to remain careful in future”.

This matter was the first notice incumbent Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani took after assuming office on Dec 12, 2013.

Television journalists covering the full court reference on Dec 11 — the day Justice Chaudhry retired — protested after Geo TV exclusively aired footage of the former chief justice’s speech.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Kerosene price cut; petrol, diesel rates remain unchanged

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting partly the summary submitted by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), the government decided on Saturday to keep the prices of most petroleum products unchanged for the month of June. The decision would cost the government about Rs1.76 billion.

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting partly the summary submitted by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), the government decided on Saturday to keep the prices of most petroleum products unchanged for the month of June. The decision would cost the government about Rs1.76 billion.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to pass on to the users the increase in international market of the prices of furnace oil.

The prices of light sulphur furnace oil and high sulphur furnace oil have been increased by around Rs3,000 per tonne.

As a result, the price of furnace oil for the next fortnight will be between Rs75,000 and Rs88,000 per tonne.

An official of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources said there had been a minor increase in the international market of around $9 per tonne in the price of petrol and $2 per barrel in that of diesel.

A barrel of diesel has about 159 litres and one tonne of petrol 1,359 litres.

“Though it looks like a very small amount but when translated into rupees the increase for diesel comes to about Rs1.8 per litre after adding the overheads,” the official added.

The monthly consumption of petrol in the country is around 380,000 tonnes.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Editorial News

The growing threat

Editorial

AFTER the military’s strikes in North Waziristan in recent days, the twin attacks against the security forces on Wednesday may have seemed like retaliation against the retaliation. But the militants that have been targeted in North Waziristan have little to do with those who claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks. The suicide attack in Fateh Jang and the cross-border raid in Bajaur Agency have both been claimed by the Fazlullah-led Afghan-based factions of the outlawed TTP. With the onset of spring, this was always going to be the case, for Fazlullah and his supporters have long rejected dialogue with the government here and vowed to continue their violence. At this stage, there is little pretence to the regional dynamics of Fazlullah in Afghanistan: what Pakistan was long accused of doing to the Afghan government and foreign forces in Afghanistan is now apparently being done to Pakistan by the Afghan government and perhaps even the lingering foreign presence in Afghanistan.

AFTER the military’s strikes in North Waziristan in recent days, the twin attacks against the security forces on Wednesday may have seemed like retaliation against the retaliation. But the militants that have been targeted in North Waziristan have little to do with those who claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks. The suicide attack in Fateh Jang and the cross-border raid in Bajaur Agency have both been claimed by the Fazlullah-led Afghan-based factions of the outlawed TTP. With the onset of spring, this was always going to be the case, for Fazlullah and his supporters have long rejected dialogue with the government here and vowed to continue their violence. At this stage, there is little pretence to the regional dynamics of Fazlullah in Afghanistan: what Pakistan was long accused of doing to the Afghan government and foreign forces in Afghanistan is now apparently being done to Pakistan by the Afghan government and perhaps even the lingering foreign presence in Afghanistan.

Quite what Pakistan can do about this change in fortunes, with revenge against Pakistan on the minds of those who are all too willing to give space to the vengeance-seeking Fazlullah in Afghanistan, is hard to say at the moment. Surely though if cross-border violence in Pakistan is to decrease, at least three players will have to work in concert: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US, with other countries probably needing to play supporting roles. On Pakistan’s part, the civil and military leadership here will have to convince Fazlullah’s supporters in Afghanistan that they not only share a vision of a peaceful and stable border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that they are willing to play their part in both nudging the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table and discouraging cross-border militant movement from Pakistan into Afghanistan. If that has not happened for a decade, with the Obama administration having given a firm deadline to when all US troops will exit Afghanistan, now may just be the time to deliver on what the outside world has long demanded of Pakistan. Not only is it in Pakistan’s interest to do so anyway, but with outside leverage in the shape of Fazlullah’s militants in Afghanistan growing, Pakistan needs to be careful about which fires are stoked.

Yet, can the diplomatic and military channels work in concert to diminish the TTP threat emanating from Afghanistan if they are still unable to determine a concerted strategy against the Pakistan-based TTP factions? The two problems may be different, but the principals who must address them are the same — and for all the many huddles and meetings between the military and civilian leadership in Pakistan, a coherent strategy is yet to emerge. Time certainly has been bought already, by all sides: the government, the army and the various TTP factions. But the inherent contradictions are many, and cannot be suppressed indefinitely.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Peshawar extortion

Editorial

EXTORTION and kidnapping for ransom are crimes of national concern, as no major urban area in Pakistan seems to be free from this menace. Karachi has long suffered from these crimes, with criminal, political and religious groups affecting everyone from shopkeepers to much more lucrative targets in the country’s financial hub. In the recent past, increased incidents of extortion have also been reported from Rawalpindi and Islamabad; in the twin cities proscribed militant groups appear to be particularly active in these activities. However, extortionists and kidnappers have not spared Khyber Pakhtunkhwa either, especially Peshawar. In this regard, it is welcome that the KP chief minister has said that a network of extortionists has been identified and that a ‘result-oriented’ crackdown has been ordered. We certainly hope this is the case because until now, extortionists and kidnappers seemed to have been operating quite brazenly in Peshawar. Reports from the KP capital indicate that apart from terrorism, extortion and kidnapping for ransom are Peshawar’s biggest law and order headaches. Reportedly, the business community in Peshawar has been ‘advised’ by the police to arrange for their own security. Criminal gangs, militants and Afghan suspects are all believed to be involved in the extortion racket. So rampant is the menace that many businesses have relocated to relatively safer areas of the country. Politicians, doctors and other professionals have also been targeted by extortionists.

EXTORTION and kidnapping for ransom are crimes of national concern, as no major urban area in Pakistan seems to be free from this menace. Karachi has long suffered from these crimes, with criminal, political and religious groups affecting everyone from shopkeepers to much more lucrative targets in the country’s financial hub. In the recent past, increased incidents of extortion have also been reported from Rawalpindi and Islamabad; in the twin cities proscribed militant groups appear to be particularly active in these activities. However, extortionists and kidnappers have not spared Khyber Pakhtunkhwa either, especially Peshawar. In this regard, it is welcome that the KP chief minister has said that a network of extortionists has been identified and that a ‘result-oriented’ crackdown has been ordered. We certainly hope this is the case because until now, extortionists and kidnappers seemed to have been operating quite brazenly in Peshawar. Reports from the KP capital indicate that apart from terrorism, extortion and kidnapping for ransom are Peshawar’s biggest law and order headaches. Reportedly, the business community in Peshawar has been ‘advised’ by the police to arrange for their own security. Criminal gangs, militants and Afghan suspects are all believed to be involved in the extortion racket. So rampant is the menace that many businesses have relocated to relatively safer areas of the country. Politicians, doctors and other professionals have also been targeted by extortionists.

The primary impediments standing in the way of a crackdown against such criminals include matters of police jurisdiction, as well as the technical capacity, or lack thereof, of the law enforcers to bust those involved in extortion. Regarding jurisdiction, there needs to be greater integration between police in the settled areas of KP and the law-enforcement apparatus in the tribal regions in order to ensure a harmonised effort against criminals. Bureaucratic wrangling should not stand in the way of an effective crackdown. With regard to technical ability, the KP government must provide the police with the necessary tools to help bust gangs involved in extortion. A greater effort is also needed to block roaming Afghan SIMs — as ordered by the Peshawar High Court last year — as these are said to play a key role in facilitating such crimes.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Judging dictators

Editorial

THE reaction of some sections of the international community to two questionable elections in the Middle East highlights the sacrifice of moral principles at the altar of geopolitics. In pledging to work with incoming president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President Barack Obama was at least being frank when he said strategic interests played a key role in determining Washington’s policy towards Cairo. Mr Sisi got himself ‘elected’ with 97pc vote in a fraudulent election a year after he had toppled Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president. Last August, the crackdown on two Morsi camps killed 500 people. Even though the attack was ordered by the interim government headed by Adly Mansour, all power rested with Gen Sisi as army chief. The new constitution, which was approved, again, by a 90pc vote in a bogus referendum, restricts freedom of assembly and provides for the trial of certain categories of civilians in military courts. Disregarding all these violations of human rights, President Obama “acknowledged” that America’s relationship was “anchored in security”, and so “we have not cut off cooperation” with Egypt. The only sop was the White House spokesman’s concern over the “restrictive political environment in which elections were held”.

THE reaction of some sections of the international community to two questionable elections in the Middle East highlights the sacrifice of moral principles at the altar of geopolitics. In pledging to work with incoming president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President Barack Obama was at least being frank when he said strategic interests played a key role in determining Washington’s policy towards Cairo. Mr Sisi got himself ‘elected’ with 97pc vote in a fraudulent election a year after he had toppled Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president. Last August, the crackdown on two Morsi camps killed 500 people. Even though the attack was ordered by the interim government headed by Adly Mansour, all power rested with Gen Sisi as army chief. The new constitution, which was approved, again, by a 90pc vote in a bogus referendum, restricts freedom of assembly and provides for the trial of certain categories of civilians in military courts. Disregarding all these violations of human rights, President Obama “acknowledged” that America’s relationship was “anchored in security”, and so “we have not cut off cooperation” with Egypt. The only sop was the White House spokesman’s concern over the “restrictive political environment in which elections were held”.

On Wednesday, another dictator with an even worse rights record, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, ‘won’ a third term as president after securing nearly 89pc of votes. Condemnation came immediately from America, which called the election “a disgrace” and President Assad a “brutal dictator”. There is no doubt the civil war in Syria has killed over 160,000 people, and a peace settlement is nowhere in sight. But what is missing is a uniform standard for judging a regime. Saudi Arabia, too, has failed to show any consistency in its policy. While Riyadh is President Assad’s harsh critic, it lauded Mr Morsi’s overthrow and welcomed Mr Sisi’s ‘election’. The ultimate losers in both Egypt and Syria are the people, who seem destined to suffer tyrants.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

A disappointing budget

Editorial

ALMOST exactly a year from now and a day before next year’s federal budget speech, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will present the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2014-15. The survey will be a report card of sorts on the promises Mr Dar made on Tuesday in his budget speech in the National Assembly. Already, it is relatively easy to guess what the report card in the form of the economic survey will look like a year from now. In all likelihood, it will be a replica of this year’s Economic Survey: virtually all targets will be missed, though headline growth and deficit figures will be creeping in the right directions. For what Mr Dar revealed in his speech was a run-of-the-mill, business-as-usual, few-new-ideas budget that will stabilise the Pakistani economy in the short run, but that may also set up the same semi-boom, semi-bust cycle the country has suffered over the decades.

ALMOST exactly a year from now and a day before next year’s federal budget speech, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will present the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2014-15. The survey will be a report card of sorts on the promises Mr Dar made on Tuesday in his budget speech in the National Assembly. Already, it is relatively easy to guess what the report card in the form of the economic survey will look like a year from now. In all likelihood, it will be a replica of this year’s Economic Survey: virtually all targets will be missed, though headline growth and deficit figures will be creeping in the right directions. For what Mr Dar revealed in his speech was a run-of-the-mill, business-as-usual, few-new-ideas budget that will stabilise the Pakistani economy in the short run, but that may also set up the same semi-boom, semi-bust cycle the country has suffered over the decades.

Assessing the quality of a budget is necessarily linked to how effectively it addresses the particular challenges the economy is facing in any given period, but there are at least three basic elements that need to be looked at always: the revenue and expenditure sides; a growth strategy; and a vision for equitable growth that touches all sections of society. On all three counts, the government has offered little of substance. To begin with, a deficit of Rs1.4tr has been targeted by the government — a large sum in absolute and even real terms, but still an improvement in percentage terms on previous years. But it is plain to anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about how the state functions and is structured that neither the expenditure nor the revenue projections will hold up. Tax revenue projections almost as a rule never materialise and the slippages will begin almost immediately — particularly since Mr Dar seems uninterested in pursuing reforms of the tax-collection machinery. And that is before the reversals on tax measures that routinely happen under heavy pressure from special interests — as happened with SROs last year. Meanwhile, on the expenditure side, with no real attempt to restructure how and where the federal government spends the money at its disposal, the inevitable will happen to keep the budget deficit in check: development outlays will be held up. It is an age-old formula.

Yet, if little can be expected on the ways in which the government struggles to balance its books, what about economic growth, the cornerstone of the PML-N’s electoral appeal? The answer to that had already come in last week’s National Economic Council meeting where a Rs1.3tr development and infrastructure budget was unveiled. But can growth really be delivered through big infrastructure projects and large-scale public spending? Where are the policies and stimulus for the real engines of employment and growth? The agricultural sector employs nearly half of the labour force while small and medium enterprises can be a real engine of growth for employment. Where were the policies designed specifically to help those particular sectors? Tax breaks on tractors and reviving tried and failed tax incentives hardly amount to coherent policy for the agricultural sector. As for SMEs, the usual smattering of tax breaks mean little. It is difficult to find much of a strategy for meaningful, sustainable and wide-based growth in the budget.

Finally, what about equity? True to form, the PML-N has offered a number of big breaks to big business and hand-outs to the less well-off. When stacked up against each other however, the differences are towering. Continue down this path for the next year and inequality will rise. A government of billionaires may like the sound of several more billionaires in Pakistan, but in a country of some 200 million with employment, income, health and education woes, will more super-rich really be good news for everyone else?

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Altaf Hussain’s detention

Editorial

SINCE a little after noon on Tuesday, Pakistan’s biggest city has been in a state of virtual paralysis. Within minutes of the news of Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain’s arrest in London reaching Karachi, the city started going into lockdown mode. People hit the road at the first opportunity in order to get home before matters got out of hand, while panic and apprehension caused commercial centres and fuel stations to quickly close shop. The situation in many other cities in Sindh was similar. Such a reaction was expected, considering that urban Sindh, specifically Karachi, is the Muttahida’s power base. However, due to the party’s initial mature reaction, violence remained relatively low — a few vehicles were set ablaze in Karachi, while some people were wounded by gunfire resorted to by unknown individuals. Had the party not called for calm, the situation would surely have been worse.

SINCE a little after noon on Tuesday, Pakistan’s biggest city has been in a state of virtual paralysis. Within minutes of the news of Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain’s arrest in London reaching Karachi, the city started going into lockdown mode. People hit the road at the first opportunity in order to get home before matters got out of hand, while panic and apprehension caused commercial centres and fuel stations to quickly close shop. The situation in many other cities in Sindh was similar. Such a reaction was expected, considering that urban Sindh, specifically Karachi, is the Muttahida’s power base. However, due to the party’s initial mature reaction, violence remained relatively low — a few vehicles were set ablaze in Karachi, while some people were wounded by gunfire resorted to by unknown individuals. Had the party not called for calm, the situation would surely have been worse.

Having said that, keeping Karachi shut for the foreseeable future is not an advisable option. Livelihoods and the economic health of the city and country are severely being affected, while a perpetual feeling of tension pervades the metropolis. The MQM has said it will continue its sit-ins — and the party is within its democratic rights to register its protest — till it receives assurances of Mr Hussain’s health and safety. However, the Muttahida leadership must realise and communicate to its cadres that the Metropolitan Police’s actions in London have nothing to do with political victimisation. It is purely a matter of the law taking it course, and British law at that. Instead of bringing urban Sindh to a standstill, the party should prepare a solid legal defence for Altaf Hussain to prove his innocence in British courts should matters take such a turn. Shutting down Pakistan’s largest city and financial hub will not help Mr Hussain’s case. In fact, even as it protests the arrest of its leader, the MQM must realise that other, more serious allegations against Altaf Hussain may be looked into by the British authorities.

The Muttahida’s protest strategy must be such that however long it takes for Mr Hussain’s legal troubles to be resolved — days, weeks, months — Karachi and the rest of Sindh must not be shut down. The MQM must send a clear signal to traders, transporters and the citizens of Karachi that while it will continue its peaceful protest against the actions of the British authorities, the metropolis should reopen for business. They must realise that the legal system in the UK works differently and no amount of street power, whether in Pakistan or elsewhere, will influence the course of the law. Karachi should not stay shut indefinitely and its people should not be punished further.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Missed targets

Editorial

MANY had warned Finance Minister Ishaq Dar against setting unrealistic targets when he read out his first budget speech a year ago. Instead of understanding their concerns, he was sceptical. He still appears reluctant to listen to critics of his economic policies, who do not agree with his narrative of the economic turnaround he’s helped bring about in the last one year. His advice to the media to see the ‘glass as 70pc full instead of 30pc empty’ and his assertion that the targets had been ‘stretched’ to allow everyone to put in their maximum effort at the launch of the Economic Survey of Pakistan for 2013-14 on Monday does little to hide the reality that the government has missed almost every economic target it had set in the last budget. True, the ‘feel good’ macroeconomic numbers for the first 10 months of the year released in the survey show improvements in certain areas of the economy over the last year. Yet there isn’t much to rejoice about for the average Pakistani in spite of the optimism the survey exudes about the fitness of the economy.

MANY had warned Finance Minister Ishaq Dar against setting unrealistic targets when he read out his first budget speech a year ago. Instead of understanding their concerns, he was sceptical. He still appears reluctant to listen to critics of his economic policies, who do not agree with his narrative of the economic turnaround he’s helped bring about in the last one year. His advice to the media to see the ‘glass as 70pc full instead of 30pc empty’ and his assertion that the targets had been ‘stretched’ to allow everyone to put in their maximum effort at the launch of the Economic Survey of Pakistan for 2013-14 on Monday does little to hide the reality that the government has missed almost every economic target it had set in the last budget. True, the ‘feel good’ macroeconomic numbers for the first 10 months of the year released in the survey show improvements in certain areas of the economy over the last year. Yet there isn’t much to rejoice about for the average Pakistani in spite of the optimism the survey exudes about the fitness of the economy.

Domestic output, for example, is claimed to have expanded by 4.1pc for the first time in six years. What is the guarantee that it won’t be revised down when the accounts for the entire fiscal are reconciled? The previous government had also attained the same growth in 2009-10 before it was significantly adjusted downwards. Income per person has slightly increased but growth remains far below the inflation rate and half the country’s population continues to live in poverty. The industry, particularly manufacturing and construction, has expanded on ‘improved energy supplies’ and private credit spiked considerably. Nevertheless, exports are stagnating and domestic and foreign private investment declining. Such long-standing structural issues constrain growth as the dangerously low tax-to-GDP ratio, energy shortages, poor economic and social infrastructure, etc, continue to haunt the economy. Last but not least, terrorism is taking a heavy toll in terms of missed economic opportunities.

Even if the government’s claim of economic recovery is accepted, few are ready to vouch for its sustainability over a longer period. The government has successfully brought down the fiscal deficit by more than 2pc to below 6pc, improved foreign exchange reserves and overseen the appreciation of the exchange rate. Success on these fronts was possible largely because of a drastic cut in development spending, a foreign ‘gift’ of $1.5bn, the spectrum auction and loans raised through Eurobonds and from multilateral lenders. Little is being done to broaden the base of direct taxes and restructure the economy for fear of possible political backlash. Recovery will be fragile and remain vulnerable to shocks unless Mr Dar and his team implement tough but necessary economic, financial and governance reforms. So far, they have fallen short of expectations.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Lost billions

Editorial

POVERTY and terrorism — it’s the easiest connection to make and is often made with enthusiasm by those touting grandiose reforms of state and society here, but the truth is often much more complicated. And some of that complexity was on display in the numbers on poverty and terrorism-related losses estimated in the annual Economic Survey: both are down in comparison to the previous year, at least if the raw percentages are to be believed. Yet, the raw numbers are subject to varied, even contradictory, interpretations. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar himself suggested that the official measure of poverty was inadequate and if a more realistic measure of those living on $2 and less were considered, more than half of the country’s population is living under the poverty line. And that does not include the percentage of the population that is vulnerable to slipping below the poverty line, whether permanently or temporarily. At the same time, the Economic Survey has estimated — though the basis of the estimate can be rightly questioned — another year of mega losses thanks to terrorism, this time to the tune of Rs700bn, an equivalent of the annual defence budget.

POVERTY and terrorism — it’s the easiest connection to make and is often made with enthusiasm by those touting grandiose reforms of state and society here, but the truth is often much more complicated. And some of that complexity was on display in the numbers on poverty and terrorism-related losses estimated in the annual Economic Survey: both are down in comparison to the previous year, at least if the raw percentages are to be believed. Yet, the raw numbers are subject to varied, even contradictory, interpretations. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar himself suggested that the official measure of poverty was inadequate and if a more realistic measure of those living on $2 and less were considered, more than half of the country’s population is living under the poverty line. And that does not include the percentage of the population that is vulnerable to slipping below the poverty line, whether permanently or temporarily. At the same time, the Economic Survey has estimated — though the basis of the estimate can be rightly questioned — another year of mega losses thanks to terrorism, this time to the tune of Rs700bn, an equivalent of the annual defence budget.

Here, though, is the rub: how much of those hundreds of billions lost because of terrorism and spent on the military could have been saved if it were not for national security policies that encouraged, compounded and nurtured the very terrorism and militancy threat that stalks the country today? And, as a result, how many of those countless billions could have been directed towards the socio-economic uplift of the populace and so have punctured the incredible numbers on poverty that ought to be the shame of the nation? Even with the caveat that Pakistan’s poverty problem is not simply a question of throwing more resources at the problem, surely more fiscal space to address poverty would go some way to helping a number of the poor. Perhaps more relevantly, beyond annually counting the costs of this country’s failed security policies, will there ever be a push towards, first, understanding why those security policies have failed the country and, second, doing something to change those policies? At the moment, it seems the country’s leadership would rather tally the costs than help stave them off.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Pacific rivalry heats up

Editorial

THE Pacific seems to be in a crisis with America, China and Japan reaffirming their positions in a way that shows a high degree of mutual distrust. In Singapore last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his concern over the escalating tensions in the South China Sea. More significantly, speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum, Mr Abe promised to ease restrictions on Japanese military exports and said he would help Southeast Asian countries defend their territories. This would not have gone down well with China that is involved in disputes with some Pacific nations over a group of islands. This was on Friday. A day later, America and China clashed in a way seen rarely in recent years. US Secretary of State Chuck Hagel accused China of “destabilising” the region while laying claim to the disputed islands, warning Beijing that Washington would not “look the other way when fundamental principles of international order are being flouted”. Even though he took no position on the rival claims to the islands, Mr Hagel used harsh words to let the Singapore forum know what he thought of China’s stance on the issue. Provoked, Chinese delegate Lt-Gen Wang Guanzhong accused the US of “hegemonsim” and said Mr Hagel’s speech could cause “trouble” in the Asia-Pacific region.

THE Pacific seems to be in a crisis with America, China and Japan reaffirming their positions in a way that shows a high degree of mutual distrust. In Singapore last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his concern over the escalating tensions in the South China Sea. More significantly, speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum, Mr Abe promised to ease restrictions on Japanese military exports and said he would help Southeast Asian countries defend their territories. This would not have gone down well with China that is involved in disputes with some Pacific nations over a group of islands. This was on Friday. A day later, America and China clashed in a way seen rarely in recent years. US Secretary of State Chuck Hagel accused China of “destabilising” the region while laying claim to the disputed islands, warning Beijing that Washington would not “look the other way when fundamental principles of international order are being flouted”. Even though he took no position on the rival claims to the islands, Mr Hagel used harsh words to let the Singapore forum know what he thought of China’s stance on the issue. Provoked, Chinese delegate Lt-Gen Wang Guanzhong accused the US of “hegemonsim” and said Mr Hagel’s speech could cause “trouble” in the Asia-Pacific region.

The central character in this Pacific drama is Mr Abe, who has vowed to restart Japan’s nuclear reactors, currently idle, despite domestic opposition after the Fukushima disaster. More dangerously, Mr Abe has long-term plans for amending Japan’s post-war constitution, which renounces war in perpetuity. For the present, he would be satisfied if its Article 9 were interpreted more broadly to give his government greater flexibility in defence matters. There is a history of war and conflict between China and Japan, and America has done well by not taking sides on the islands issue. China and Japan being America’s biggest economic partners, Washington is in a position to help lower tensions, but Mr Hagel’s speech hardly contributed to this.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

President’s speech

Editorial

IT is in the nature of transitions that after a while form alone is no longer sufficient; substance is needed too. Yesterday, President Mamnoon Hussain gave his first address to a joint session of parliament to mark the beginning of the parliamentary year of the National Assembly. Before him, Asif Zardari managed to address a joint session of parliament six times as president. And before Mr Zardari, Pervez Musharraf managed it only once despite presiding over a controlled democracy and a parliament that was virtually handpicked. So, progress has been made and it should and has been welcomed. But the time has come for the contents of the president’s speech to go beyond platitudes and to both reflect the realities of the challenges the country faces and a more realistic approach to what can be done in the year ahead to address them.

IT is in the nature of transitions that after a while form alone is no longer sufficient; substance is needed too. Yesterday, President Mamnoon Hussain gave his first address to a joint session of parliament to mark the beginning of the parliamentary year of the National Assembly. Before him, Asif Zardari managed to address a joint session of parliament six times as president. And before Mr Zardari, Pervez Musharraf managed it only once despite presiding over a controlled democracy and a parliament that was virtually handpicked. So, progress has been made and it should and has been welcomed. But the time has come for the contents of the president’s speech to go beyond platitudes and to both reflect the realities of the challenges the country faces and a more realistic approach to what can be done in the year ahead to address them.

Take, for example, President Mamnoon Hussain’s focus on democracy and parliament’s role to buttress it. It was entirely banal, referring to the will of the people expressed through their vote, the role of the opposition and the imperative of continuity. Yet, having been elected a year ago, parliament has failed in two basic ways. The prime minister and many in his cabinet appear so infrequently in parliament that a sighting of them is akin to sighting an endangered species. As if to underline that already obvious point, the president’s speech itself was slightly delayed because of the opposition’s protest that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not graced the floor of the Senate with his presence since being elected. Second, parliament completed its first year without passing a single piece of legislation. In all likelihood, the PML-N is waiting for the Senate election next March to boost its presence in the upper house before trying to steer legislation through it. But then, the fulsome praise of the president for the opposition’s role in parliament rings hollow if the government is so reluctant to work with it.

Perhaps a way to improve the speech, the occasion and noteworthiness would be to make the speech forward-looking instead of looking back. All governments like to talk up their achievements and put a gloss on their record in office, especially when fair and reasonable assessments from other quarters, be it the media, the political opposition or the anti-democratic powers-that-be, are rare, perhaps even non-existent. Yet, a speech that works in part as a policy statement of the government in the year ahead, laying out specific areas the government intends to focus on and specific actions the government hopes to take would be far more substantive from a democratic point of view. To do so would in no way politicise an apolitical office. And, if nothing else, at least the following year the president’s words would need to echo the government’s previous commitments.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Siege mentality

Editorial

WITH human rights routinely violated in this country by a variety of actors, both state and non-state, there is no shortage of causes that motivate people to take to the streets. However, officialdom’s response to peaceful protests is either to hide behind barricades and let the people vent their understandable anger, or to crack down with the heavy hand of the law if the protesters get too close for comfort. Reaction of the first kind was witnessed on Sunday in Karachi when the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen staged a march and sit-in to highlight the unabated killings of members of the Shia community. Sectarian killings have been occurring on a near-daily basis in Karachi for the past several weeks. Though the protest remained peaceful and ended without incident, the authorities’ reaction to the march was quite inappropriate. All roads leading to Chief Minister House (the intended venue of the sit-in) and Governor House were shut off with containers to prevent even pedestrians from breaking the cordon. This reflects officialdom’s priorities: protect yourself and keep the people (and their problems) at bay. Such overkill to ensure the safety of government buildings also throws the city’s system into disarray. The other reaction of the state is to resort to brute force. Such was the case when police unleashed tear gas and batons upon a group of protesters in Islamabad in April when they tried to march to parliament to raise awareness about the missing persons’ issue. Like Sunday’s march, that protest was also peaceful and included women and children, yet the state initially showed little mercy.

WITH human rights routinely violated in this country by a variety of actors, both state and non-state, there is no shortage of causes that motivate people to take to the streets. However, officialdom’s response to peaceful protests is either to hide behind barricades and let the people vent their understandable anger, or to crack down with the heavy hand of the law if the protesters get too close for comfort. Reaction of the first kind was witnessed on Sunday in Karachi when the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen staged a march and sit-in to highlight the unabated killings of members of the Shia community. Sectarian killings have been occurring on a near-daily basis in Karachi for the past several weeks. Though the protest remained peaceful and ended without incident, the authorities’ reaction to the march was quite inappropriate. All roads leading to Chief Minister House (the intended venue of the sit-in) and Governor House were shut off with containers to prevent even pedestrians from breaking the cordon. This reflects officialdom’s priorities: protect yourself and keep the people (and their problems) at bay. Such overkill to ensure the safety of government buildings also throws the city’s system into disarray. The other reaction of the state is to resort to brute force. Such was the case when police unleashed tear gas and batons upon a group of protesters in Islamabad in April when they tried to march to parliament to raise awareness about the missing persons’ issue. Like Sunday’s march, that protest was also peaceful and included women and children, yet the state initially showed little mercy.

What has the state done in earnest to address grave problems like sectarian murders or enforced disappearances? Save a few exceptions, like the two Hazara sit-ins in Quetta in January 2013 and 2014 to protest against sectarian massacres, how many times have government officials visited the families of victims of targeted killing, or of missing persons? People are taking to the streets out of sheer frustration. Yet instead of taking action to address their concerns the state is barricading itself behind high walls, pretending the problems don’t exist. Such a callous attitude must change and the rulers must at least reach out to those who have been wronged.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Video trial and error

Editorial

WHEN freakish happenings are the order of the day, technology must also conspire with other forces at work to throw up a few instances here and there. On Saturday, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was all set to carry out its first experiment of trying an accused by video link, but just then the lights went out and the proceedings had to be put off. Wapda was doing its job — suspending the electricity to the Peshawar area’s judicial complex where the anti-terrorism courts are located, thus cutting off the video link from the latter to the city’s central jail where the accused facing charges of terrorism is detained. It is understandable that Wapda couldn’t come to the rescue of the authorities on this one, for Wapda works by its own schedule and the distress caused to the consumers is not its headache. The mystery is why those involved in arranging the video link were unprepared for the shutdown. Eyes were focused on an innovation that experts say could greatly influence the trial process in the country, and the organisers could have averted the false start by having an alternative plan, such as one including the services of a power generator, ready. These small things matter even more when disillusionment is rife and the people’s belief in the system lies shattered. The organisers of this trial unnecessarily contributed to the growing public sentiment against officials who appear to take their work non-seriously.

WHEN freakish happenings are the order of the day, technology must also conspire with other forces at work to throw up a few instances here and there. On Saturday, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was all set to carry out its first experiment of trying an accused by video link, but just then the lights went out and the proceedings had to be put off. Wapda was doing its job — suspending the electricity to the Peshawar area’s judicial complex where the anti-terrorism courts are located, thus cutting off the video link from the latter to the city’s central jail where the accused facing charges of terrorism is detained. It is understandable that Wapda couldn’t come to the rescue of the authorities on this one, for Wapda works by its own schedule and the distress caused to the consumers is not its headache. The mystery is why those involved in arranging the video link were unprepared for the shutdown. Eyes were focused on an innovation that experts say could greatly influence the trial process in the country, and the organisers could have averted the false start by having an alternative plan, such as one including the services of a power generator, ready. These small things matter even more when disillusionment is rife and the people’s belief in the system lies shattered. The organisers of this trial unnecessarily contributed to the growing public sentiment against officials who appear to take their work non-seriously.

Experts — police, lawyers and other close observers of the legal system — have long been calling for the introduction of trial by video link. The option does not only enable the police to avoid the tricky task of transporting dangerous undertrial prisoners whenever necessary, it is considered to be a cheaper choice saving police resources. But even this seemingly simple method needs practice to run as smoothly as possible. The sooner the glitches are overcome the easier it will be to silence the doubters who predict that nothing ever works in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Still in the dark

Editorial

RUMOUR, speculation and vague promises by senior government officials that the PML-N will consult various political leaders and other so-called stakeholders before deciding on the next course of action in the talks-or-military operation dialectic is all the public is being served on the most fundamental issue of how to defeat militancy inside Pakistan. The secretiveness with which the government is ostensibly steering the country out of the militancy mess while possibly dragging the country deeper into it has grown to worrying proportions. As if to underline that what happens in Waziristan does not stay in Waziristan, reports in various sections of the media have rightly highlighted the Waziristan-Karachi nexus: as the government tries to prise apart the various factions of the TTP in Fata, the repercussions could well be felt very quickly in Karachi. Yet, if the government’s secretiveness is bad enough, the military’s opaqueness is adding to the sense of foreboding. What exactly are the kinetic activities of the military in parts of North Waziristan in recent days all about? The silence is deafening – certainly louder than whatever ordnances may be exploding in North Waziristan at the moment.

RUMOUR, speculation and vague promises by senior government officials that the PML-N will consult various political leaders and other so-called stakeholders before deciding on the next course of action in the talks-or-military operation dialectic is all the public is being served on the most fundamental issue of how to defeat militancy inside Pakistan. The secretiveness with which the government is ostensibly steering the country out of the militancy mess while possibly dragging the country deeper into it has grown to worrying proportions. As if to underline that what happens in Waziristan does not stay in Waziristan, reports in various sections of the media have rightly highlighted the Waziristan-Karachi nexus: as the government tries to prise apart the various factions of the TTP in Fata, the repercussions could well be felt very quickly in Karachi. Yet, if the government’s secretiveness is bad enough, the military’s opaqueness is adding to the sense of foreboding. What exactly are the kinetic activities of the military in parts of North Waziristan in recent days all about? The silence is deafening – certainly louder than whatever ordnances may be exploding in North Waziristan at the moment.

As in so many other areas, the government is struggling to calibrate its approach to sharing information with the public and the politicians on its strategy against militancy. Where earlier the team charged with handling the dialogue with the outlawed TTP was leaking like a sieve, now the architects of the dialogue process have gone into lockdown mode and appear reluctant to share even the most rudimentary of information. But this is not just some Goldilocks problem of the government struggling to get its information-sharing approach right; it also hints at the government’s talks strategy itself being flawed and pulled in opposite directions. Having originally rejected the idea of talking and fighting simultaneously, the government opted solely for talks, but then was effectively forced into conceding some fighting back by the state because of the military’s policy of retaliating when attacked directly. Now, the government is itself moving towards a talk-and-fight policy based on differentiating between so-called pro-peace and hardliner camps. But the complications of overlaps between foreign militants and local and Afghan-centric and Pakistan-centric militant groups means the government could end up talking to and fighting with the wrong groups.

By this stage, it is quite clear that the government is adamant that talks with some sections of TTP must not only continue but that there is also more than a reasonable chance of success. But everything turns on the definition of success. What the government is doing is essentially to try and replicate what the military has done in Fata for much of the past decade. Peace deals buy the veneer of stability while in reality setting up much bigger problems that will eventually need to be addressed.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Taxing tobacco

Editorial

TO mark World No Tobacco Day, observed on Saturday, numerous measures and proposals were announced by the government and civil society to aid efforts to kick the smoking habit. The minister of state for national health services said the government was going to further tighten regulations governing tobacco ads while anti-smoking activists called for an increase in taxes levied on cigarettes. That we have a tobacco problem is obvious. The national Tobacco Control Cell estimates that between 22 to 25 million Pakistanis are smokers while 100,000 people are believed to die every year due to tobacco use. Activists have pointed out that Pakistan ranks amongst the biggest tobacco consumers in Asia while the World Health Organisation believes tobacco use in Pakistan is rising fast. Apart from lighting up, Pakistanis also consume ‘smokeless’ tobacco products such as gutka and naswar, as well as tobacco-laced paans. Keeping these facts in mind, it is no wonder some anti-tobacco campaigners have said tobacco use in Pakistan can turn into a ‘national epidemic’. In this regard, raising taxes on cigarettes may help: higher prices should reduce consumption and increase tax revenue, which can be spent on health and social programmes, as per WHO’s recommendation.

TO mark World No Tobacco Day, observed on Saturday, numerous measures and proposals were announced by the government and civil society to aid efforts to kick the smoking habit. The minister of state for national health services said the government was going to further tighten regulations governing tobacco ads while anti-smoking activists called for an increase in taxes levied on cigarettes. That we have a tobacco problem is obvious. The national Tobacco Control Cell estimates that between 22 to 25 million Pakistanis are smokers while 100,000 people are believed to die every year due to tobacco use. Activists have pointed out that Pakistan ranks amongst the biggest tobacco consumers in Asia while the World Health Organisation believes tobacco use in Pakistan is rising fast. Apart from lighting up, Pakistanis also consume ‘smokeless’ tobacco products such as gutka and naswar, as well as tobacco-laced paans. Keeping these facts in mind, it is no wonder some anti-tobacco campaigners have said tobacco use in Pakistan can turn into a ‘national epidemic’. In this regard, raising taxes on cigarettes may help: higher prices should reduce consumption and increase tax revenue, which can be spent on health and social programmes, as per WHO’s recommendation.

But there is a catch: raising taxes will be pointless until the rampant smuggling of cigarettes into the country is stopped. Most smuggled cigarettes originate from Afghanistan. There is no check on the quality of such cigarettes entering Pakistan, which are easily available from Karachi to Peshawar. Most smuggled packs do not contain health warnings in Urdu, while some contain no warnings at all. Militants in the border areas are also reportedly making good money off smuggling cigarettes. Until the smuggling racket is busted, efforts like increasing taxes or carrying out awareness campaigns will have little effect. Though a demanding task considering the long, porous border we share with Afghanistan, the state must keep a strict watch on known smuggling routes. Also, the state needs to regulate and crack down on other tobacco products such as gutka and naswar. Gutka, for example, is hugely popular with large segments of the population, particularly the youth. Hence anti-tobacco campaigns must also raise awareness about the harms of this concoction.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Hockey disgrace

Editorial

THE 13th edition of the Hockey World Cup which commenced at The Hague on Saturday promises to be an exciting event with 12 leading teams of the world competing. Unfortunately, conspicuous by their absence in the prestigious tournament are Asian giants Pakistan who have, for the first time, failed to qualify for the World Cup. The greenshirts, who were required to finish among the top three teams in last year’s Champions League — which also served as World Cup qualifiers — failed to do so and had to stay out of the mega event. For a nation that so brilliantly dominated world hockey for over three decades, spanning the period from the 1960s to the 1990s, and that produced dozens of legendary players, the disqualification is a new low. It hurts even more when one is reminded that it was Pakistan that introduced the World Cup to the game some four decades ago and won the coveted title no less than four times.

THE 13th edition of the Hockey World Cup which commenced at The Hague on Saturday promises to be an exciting event with 12 leading teams of the world competing. Unfortunately, conspicuous by their absence in the prestigious tournament are Asian giants Pakistan who have, for the first time, failed to qualify for the World Cup. The greenshirts, who were required to finish among the top three teams in last year’s Champions League — which also served as World Cup qualifiers — failed to do so and had to stay out of the mega event. For a nation that so brilliantly dominated world hockey for over three decades, spanning the period from the 1960s to the 1990s, and that produced dozens of legendary players, the disqualification is a new low. It hurts even more when one is reminded that it was Pakistan that introduced the World Cup to the game some four decades ago and won the coveted title no less than four times.

However, both critics and keen followers of the game believe that the writing has been on the wall ever since our players finished last among 12 teams in the previous World Cup held in New Delhi four years ago. The causes of the decline of Pakistan hockey are too obvious to merit a deep analysis. They are very similar to those responsible for the downward trajectory our cricketers have been following of late, and result from ad hoc policies and political interference. The Pakistan Hockey Federation president Akhtar Rasool, a former centre-half, is reaping political dividends as a PML-N activist while his predecessor Qasim Zia, also an ex-Olympian, served as a PPP leader and was given the PHF post by the previous regime. How far improvement of the game in Pakistan has figured in their list of priorities is anyone’s guess. Besides, the incentives for our youth to take up the sport today are few while the lack of infrastructure and academies continues to hamper a meaningful revival of the game.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Polio: where’s the urgency?

Editorial

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Provinces’ power sector dues

Editorial

BOTH the public sector and private defaulters owe a staggering amount of over Rs500bn to power distribution companies. The default amount is slightly higher than the circular debt of Rs480bn that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had liquidated soon after coming to power last year. It is much higher than the existing unpaid bills of around Rs300bn of the public and private power producers and their fuel suppliers. At least one-fifth of the default amount — or Rs90bn — is outstanding against the provinces, according to the federal Ministry of Water and Power. The provinces don’t agree with the federal estimates of power bills outstanding against them, contending that the distribution companies had inflated the bills to cover their failure to check electricity theft. The federal government has time and again tried to recover the dues from the provinces through application of the ‘fiscal adjuster’, a mechanism for deducting the amount at source from the provinces’ share in the divisible pool. The provinces, especially Sindh, have always resisted the move. Now they have agreed to allow the federal government to ‘deduct at source’ the electricity bills they owe from the beginning of the next fiscal.

BOTH the public sector and private defaulters owe a staggering amount of over Rs500bn to power distribution companies. The default amount is slightly higher than the circular debt of Rs480bn that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had liquidated soon after coming to power last year. It is much higher than the existing unpaid bills of around Rs300bn of the public and private power producers and their fuel suppliers. At least one-fifth of the default amount — or Rs90bn — is outstanding against the provinces, according to the federal Ministry of Water and Power. The provinces don’t agree with the federal estimates of power bills outstanding against them, contending that the distribution companies had inflated the bills to cover their failure to check electricity theft. The federal government has time and again tried to recover the dues from the provinces through application of the ‘fiscal adjuster’, a mechanism for deducting the amount at source from the provinces’ share in the divisible pool. The provinces, especially Sindh, have always resisted the move. Now they have agreed to allow the federal government to ‘deduct at source’ the electricity bills they owe from the beginning of the next fiscal.

The decision taken by the Council of Common Interests on Wednesday will go a long way in addressing one of the contentious issues souring the relationship of the federating units with the central government. Under the agreed mechanism, the federal finance ministry will deduct a quarter of the electricity bills of the provinces in advance from their respective share in the divisible pool before paying them the rest of the amount. Another CCI decision to reconcile the old power sector dues owed by the provinces within 30 days should help to settle the years-long dispute and improve the liquidity of the power sector. But the settlement and clearance of power dues outstanding against the provinces is not enough to prevent the power sector debt from arising again. The government must also take effective steps to recover the amount from private defaulters. Moreover, it should improve governance and the management of distribution companies to check electricity theft, over-billing to unsuspecting consumers, massive transmission and distribution losses, and rampant corruption to permanently do away with the circular debt.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

And now, PML-Qadri

Editorial

IT is not for nothing that the British were able to rule over the subcontinent so ‘efficiently’. The London weather does improve the vision and makes politicians see things in their right, pro-people perspective. And so London it is which has made the PML-Q leaders bind their famed political acumen with Dr Tahirul Qadri’s revolutionary thought to rescue a country which is always ripe for intervention by conscientious saviours. Already, much time has been lost. A few years ago, the learned Dr Qadri was a member of the National Assembly and the PML-Q was the ruling party. The Q-League bosses couldn’t invoke Doctor Sahib’s services for the country and its system back then but it is good they have rectified the mistake now.

IT is not for nothing that the British were able to rule over the subcontinent so ‘efficiently’. The London weather does improve the vision and makes politicians see things in their right, pro-people perspective. And so London it is which has made the PML-Q leaders bind their famed political acumen with Dr Tahirul Qadri’s revolutionary thought to rescue a country which is always ripe for intervention by conscientious saviours. Already, much time has been lost. A few years ago, the learned Dr Qadri was a member of the National Assembly and the PML-Q was the ruling party. The Q-League bosses couldn’t invoke Doctor Sahib’s services for the country and its system back then but it is good they have rectified the mistake now.

The opposition PPP has quickly come up with its own take on the new alliance: everyone is free in a democracy to choose their partners for furthering a cause. Apparently, there are many in Pakistan who do not feel up to accepting such a simple explanation. They see a scheme emerging and at the same time the amazement expressed by some sections is remarkable, as if these sections did not quite see it coming. It is as if they were unaware of the very serious possibility that the various strands of protests building up against the government — sorry the system — could eventually merge with each other. The poor ‘critics’ are amazed by the merger and then they are a little puzzled as to why the PTI, which had held ‘synchronised’ rallies with Dr Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek and the PML-Q and whose leader Imran Khan also happened to be in London on the day, did not join this latest alliance. Clearly, there are people who would ideally see no partnership between the ‘undemocratic’ forces out to unsettle Pakistan. If worse comes to worse and the ideal changes, they would want the noisy spoilsport called PTI to be part of such an alliance — to make the scheme appear sufficiently sinister.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Columns and Articles

Learning to learn

Faisal Bari

ENTER a school and within 10-15 minutes you can tell if it works or not — whether it is an exciting place where children learn and are keen to learn or if it’s just a space where children and teachers park themselves to spend five to six hours a day because they are required to.

ENTER a school and within 10-15 minutes you can tell if it works or not — whether it is an exciting place where children learn and are keen to learn or if it’s just a space where children and teachers park themselves to spend five to six hours a day because they are required to.

Schools that work have a lot of energy: children and teachers are actively involved in learning; they exude the excitement of learning; they are involved in many activities that allow them to engage with their curricular material; there is a lot of extracurricular activity and the management of the school is purposeful. Schools that do not work or are just about functional lack this excitement and activity.

Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to visit a significant number of schools, across different cities, private and public, low-cost and high-fee, and the difference in schools, irrespective of the fee level, determines, to a significant degree, how learning is proceeding in these schools. It is exciting to see children excited about learning.

In one of the schools, a grade 5 student wanted to have a conversation with me in English. She was so keen to show me her language skills that she kept tripping on her words in an effort to get them out quickly even as her mind was racing on to new things to say. I had to tell her to slow down as my mind worked a lot slower than hers. Full marks to those teachers, administrators and school managers/owners who make learning exciting and are able to impart valuable skills to the children.

But a few observations continue to bother me. They tend to be reinforced with every visit to a school and with every interaction with teachers, managers and owners. One is the narrowness of the skill set that our schools are giving to our children. Most of it is about language (with the focus on English), mathematics and ‘facts’ from science and history. But even within these subjects, the focus is very narrow eg, on some parts of history (Pakistan Studies, early Islam), some mathematical skills and some scientific concepts.

True, education must have a focus, but the narrowness, suggestive of the ‘teaching for examinations’ phenomena, even in the early grades, is worrisome. Children need to learn how to learn, they need to play with what they learn and they need to develop a critical attitude towards what is given to them. This is not possible if the content of our teaching is narrow in scope.

Narrowness of content encourages an uncritical attitude: teachers can develop the attitude that students have to ‘learn’ specifics come what may. But this is not what we want our children to learn. We want them to learn the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ too.

The narrowness of content, especially in subjects related to the social sciences, will have the unintended but negative consequences of producing relatively narrow-minded individuals. My interactions with students show that the only heroes they have are Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Iqbal, and their knowledge of other religions, ethical systems, cultures, ways of being and traditions are not only inadequate, there is little or no understanding or awareness of the existence of such multiplicities.

We are also not teaching our children the skills of critical thinking they need to have. Rote learning allows almost anyone to regurgitate and reproduce whatever they have learnt, but learning can only be internalised if a child is and has been able to play with the material they have been learning.

Children need to be able to question the premises of what they are learning, they need to comprehend the application of content and they need to have a better understanding of the context of the material they are engaging with. This is as true of concepts from mathematics and science as it is for history and Islamiat.

In a grade 8 classroom, students were learning about triangles and how the sum of the angles of one triangle totals 180 degrees. I asked the students to tell me why this was so. They did not know the answer.

That is not important as in grade 8 they are not expected to. But they should be taught so that they are curious about the whys. If they are curious enough, they will automatically seek answers. For instance, in an Islamiat lesson where students were reading the translation of Surah Al-Asr I asked them as to why God swears by Asr at the beginning of the Surah.

Irrespective of subject, it is the ‘learning how to learn’ part that is a very important part of what we should be teaching.

Because of the narrowness of some of the content, and encouraged by this narrowness, there is an attitude that the content has to be ‘learnt’ and that it should not be questioned. Questioning is tantamount to undermining the legitimacy of the content as well as the process. In fact, questioning and playing with learning material is how learning happens and how the material is internalised.

In most interactions I have had with students and teachers, the narrowness of their approach to learning has been very noticeable. The goal of making students learn well is commendable but that should not imply forcing material down their throat.

The writer is senior adviser, Pakistan, at Open Society Foundations, associate professor of economics, LUMS, and a visiting fellow at IDEAS, Lahore.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

When Imran is pro-system

Asha’ar Rehman

IN normal circumstances, the contest at Pindi Bhattian would have likely caught the attention of those interested in Punjab politics and in the PTI’s challenge to the PML-N in the province and the country overall. But there was so much happening on the national stage that this important little PTI victory over the Sharif camp in the heart of Punjab went largely unnoticed.

IN normal circumstances, the contest at Pindi Bhattian would have likely caught the attention of those interested in Punjab politics and in the PTI’s challenge to the PML-N in the province and the country overall. But there was so much happening on the national stage that this important little PTI victory over the Sharif camp in the heart of Punjab went largely unnoticed.

Pindi Bhattian came at a crucial time for the PTI. Only a few days earlier, the PML-N politicians had flashed a by-election result in Narowal not very far from Pindi Bhattian not just as a vindication of their popularity but also as proof of the fairness of the May 2013 general polls.

For a PTI campaigning for examination of the balloting process at a few, certain places, Narowal was a test case and the big defeat there that followed intense canvassing by the party was a dampener. The party tried to deal with the situation by saying the by-election had also been rigged, risking tiring the people further who were getting just a little fed up with their obsession with the vote-fraud slogans.

Just as Narowal was a reconfirmation of the huge PML-N presence in Punjab’s politics, Pindi Bhattian is a reminder about the strength of PTI’s challenge. Whatever the reasons, Imran Khan’s is a party with popular support. It is up to how he goes about building on this potential. The latest vote shows that beyond declaring the system as foul in his speeches, in times of demanding action Imran is capable of using the same system to his advantage.

Read this recap by a journalist from the area, and it will be clear that it was all about revelling in and taking advantage of old traditions and the system:

PTI’s Nighat Intisar Bhatti won the Pindi Bhattian by-election. A PML-N candidate in May 2013 general election for the same seat, she had lost to an independent candidate, Shoaib Shah Nawaz, who was backed by the powerful Mehdi Hasan Bhatti family and who after his election had joined the PML-N.

Nighat’s husband, Intisar Bhatti, is a former MPA and a son of another lawmaker from the area, Jahangir Bhatti. After winning in 1985, Jahangir Bhatti died midway through his term and Intisar was elected unopposed in a by-election. In 1988, Intisar was an MPA belonging to the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI). He won on a PML-N ticket in 1990, before shifting to the PPP in 1993 and making a return to the PML-N in 1996.

Intisar Bhatti did not take part in the 2002 general polls because he did not have a BA degree. During 2005-2009, his brother Ansar Bhatti was the tehsil nazim in Pindi Bhattian and a known supporter of the creator of that local government system, Gen Pervez Musharraf.

On the other hand there is the Mehdi Hasan Bhatti family. Mehdi Bhatti has been in the IJI, PML-N and PPP. In 2002, when he could not participate in the election because of the degree issue his brother Liaqat Ali Bhatti was elected as MNA as a PML-Q man. Liaqat Bhatti retained the NA seat in 2008. The constituency includes areas falling in the Punjab Assembly seat that Nighat Intisar Bhatti has now won.

In May 2013 election, Liaqat Bhatti, a state minister in the outgoing PPP government on the PML-Q quota, won this National Assembly seat as an independent. His election was annulled on rigging charges. In the by-polls, the PTI gave its ticket to Liaqat Bhatti’s nephew Shaukat Ali Bhatti, who is the son of Mehdi Bhatti and who was the minister of culture in the Punjab government of Pervaiz Elahi. In the latest by-election, the Mehdi Bhatti family was supporting Sarfraz Bhatti, a PML-N candidate against Intisar Bhatti’s wife.

This is a somewhat complicated and raw account of Pindi Bhattian’s electoral circus over the last few decades. But in its detail it should be able to illustrate one simple point: Every political force that could, did play a role in nurturing Nighat Intisar to a point where she was acceptable to a party as principled about a new brand of politics and as vocal about change as the PTI.

The PTI leader does sometimes talk about how those who come through suspicious means can never be expected to do good in parliament, but that is a remark meant for lesser politicians in lesser parties. His belief in the PTI and more than that in himself is unshakeable. He had promised that all those from among the old lot who passed through the PTI’s door would be rinsed clean and would be deemed fit for national duty from that point onwards.

Not only does the winning candidate in Pindi Bhattian have the requisite background in local politics, she is all set to benefit from this famous Imran Khan offer.

More will follow the same route in time, for away from the politics of ideologies, ill-concealed and necessary, exists a real world full of local rivalries.

Against each family or powerful group standing with the PML-N, there is a reasonably strong rival group or family looking for a political party to assert its own clout. For many decades, while the PML-N remained the biggest and most secure patron of these groups in Punjab, the PPP had its share of local ‘influentials’, with its ideological voters playing their assigned but limited role.

Pindi Bhattian reaffirms that with the crumbling of the PPP in vast areas of Punjab, the PTI is the alternative go-to party.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Whither workers?

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

ECONOMISTS and public policy buffs agree that the budget announcement is amongst the most important responsibilities of government. So, obviously, does the media, as evidenced by the coverage that the finance minister’s speech garners every year. Yet only a cursory look at media reporting of the budget over successive years confirms that it is almost always a case of much ado about nothing.

ECONOMISTS and public policy buffs agree that the budget announcement is amongst the most important responsibilities of government. So, obviously, does the media, as evidenced by the coverage that the finance minister’s speech garners every year. Yet only a cursory look at media reporting of the budget over successive years confirms that it is almost always a case of much ado about nothing.

Contemporary fashion has it that budgets have to be ‘growth-oriented’ and ‘business/investment-friendly’. It is also necessary to note the widening of the tax net, and announce some populist development initiatives along with a 10-15pc increase in salaries (never sufficient to offset inflation) of public-sector employees.

Indeed, aside from the fact that actual figures change every year, everything else is pretty much the same as what came before. To be fair, Finance Minister Dar acknowledged in his speech that ‘policymaking is nothing more than signalling’, although I’m sure this was another attempt to conform to development-speak as mandated by the IFIs, and not an admission of how powerless supposedly democratic governments have become in the era of neoliberalism.

As happens every year, this time too, the media was quick to assert that, sloganeering aside, the budget offers no relief to the poor. What this means is more regressive taxation, further reduction of public welfare provisions, and marginalisation of small growers in agriculture. The fact that neo-liberal dictates intensify every year is by the by; the real question is why there’s such little resistance to them.

The short answer is that the subordinate classes are not organised politically to withstand the neo-liberal onslaught. This is the case here, and in much of the world. But this should not simply be taken to mean that mobilising workers and peasants is a straightforward task and just needs to be undertaken. We must think critically about forms of organisation symbolising anti-capitalist resistance in the past, namely trade unions in the industrial/government sector and peasant associations in rural areas.

These organisational forms fragmented only in part because of repression by the state and big capital. The other side of this decline of organised working class power has to do with the transformation in class and social structures that has taken place over the past few decades.

Workers in formal industry and public sector enterprises and the classical peasantry may still be necessary components of a broad-based movement of the poor, but are no longer sufficient if such a movement is to really put a spanner in the neo-liberal works, ie the most vulnerable categories of workers in the contemporary period are conspicuous by their absence in our analyses, policies and, more crucially, politics.

For instance, where in the budget is there any reflection of the realities of the ‘informal’ sector where the vast majority of Pakistanis live and work? More damningly, the formal trade union movement takes up concerns only of the formal labour force, which is why protests against what is announced in the budget remain limited to issues such as pay increases.

In any case, working-class households that previously survived only on the pay of the male-head who was employed in a factory or government department has itself changed dramatically. The same individual that is formally employed might also run a small shop in the evenings (to which other members of the family also dedicate time) while his wife or daughter earns a wage by working in someone’s home or even in her own home via a subcontractor.

The classical peasant household has undergone a similar transformation. Tenure relations have changed so that long-term links to land — and therefore a propensity to fight for it — have become more short-term and instrumental. Most of the income in the household now comes from a migrant family member who lives in an urban setting (or abroad), whereas non-agricultural sources of income have also become much more significant even in rural areas.

It is thus that the material interests of workers and peasants, in the classical sense, may not be what they were before the era of repetitive budgets and tiring development-speak. This is why we need to think deeply about what the workers of today’s world look like, where they are located, and how best to organise them.

Tailpiece: Protests in the immediate aftermath of the budget indicate how urgent the need to organise variegated segments of the working class is; clerks and teachers agitating for pay raises, and katchi abadi dwellers fighting against eviction, faced police actions as they tried to march towards parliament. But they faced them separately.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Neglected prayers

Kashif Shahzada

THE mosque is full, and not an inch of space is available to set one’s foot inside. The main hall, the courtyard, the lawns, even the entrance and the footpaths are all occupied, making it difficult to squeeze in.

THE mosque is full, and not an inch of space is available to set one’s foot inside. The main hall, the courtyard, the lawns, even the entrance and the footpaths are all occupied, making it difficult to squeeze in.

This is a common scene a little after noon every Friday. To the observer it may seem that people are certainly not neglectful of their prayers, but in reality there is more to it than meets the eye.

Stop anyone leaving the mosque and ask a few questions about what he just did, and all will be revealed. Just inquire as to the message of the khutba (sermon) he heard delivered in Arabic, and you will receive an excuse. Ask what instructions were given in the melodic recitation of the Quran by the imam, and you will receive an apology. Probe further and you are likely to hear an honest confession of complete ignorance.

For many people prayer has become a mechanical routine of sorts — one which must be performed irrespective of whether one understands it. In the minds of many, the mere performance of the physical act results in some sort of an increase in spiritual score. But the language employed and the practical change are matters that remain largely unknown. If our worship is devoid of any intellectual stimulation, why then do we expect a miracle of transformation?

For many, religion is not an intellectual choice, but what has been inherited from parents and retained for social conformance. To follow the crowd, than to be the odd man out, is therefore the tendency. The buck is also passed on to certain ‘experts’, thereby absolving oneself of individual responsibility to acquire knowledge. With the erroneous belief that religion is the purport of the religious and the world of the worldly, duality pervades the conscious through and through.

Worship is restricted to the performance of religious rituals, while life is governed elsewhere by one’s own rules. Visits to the mosque thus become a religious duty, but places of work have nothing to do with revealed morality, it is thought.

Such a mindset, though prevalent within many today, is condemned by the Quran. It clearly stipulates that believers should not divide life into two separate religious and non-religious compartments but should “…Enter into Islam completely. …” (2:208). It clarifies that performing one’s prayers is an act of worship, but so is trade and commerce when conducted in line with God’s guidance (4:29). That salat is not the performance of a mindless ritual involving the utterance of mystical mantras but that an act of physical as well as psychological submission to God is manifest in the Quranic order to not approach prayers with a mind befogged.

Therefore it is vital that believers also make efforts to understand the meaning of Quranic instructions rehearsed during prayers for only then can such instructions be carried out in life. Merely being in the row of those who pray does not grant one any special privilege, for even the munafiqeen (hypocrites) may be standing in the same row (4:142), yet are promised the deepest depths of hell (4:145).

Genuine believers stand in prayer for the purpose of receiving Quranic guidance, and their full presence of mind is needed to understand and feel the instructions. They should be fully conscious of the divine directive to ‘give ear to the Quran and pay heed to obtain mercy’, so that their feelings are also touched by the messages they hear because they fully understand them, and “…whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were recited to them, they would fall down in prostration [in] adoration and in tears” (19:58).

On the other hand, during prayer, those who do not take revealed religion seriously are distracted in mind even in the midst of it.

The Quran makes it abundantly clear to us that the comprehension of salat is what matters, along with the change it is supposed to bring about in our inner self. Real neglect of prayers is not restricted to missing their physical performance, but also to remaining ignorant of their meaning and thus to be devoid of the character change.

This problem can only be resolved if Muslims make an effort to study the Quran as it ought to be studied, with a view to seek its guidance. For it is the Quran which is recited in the prayer. Sadly, many of us remain ceremoniously associated with the Holy Book to convey blessings to the deceased rather than receive practical instructions for the living, ignoring that it is meant “to warn whoever is alive. …” (36:70).

The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in Islam.

kashif.shahzada

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014

Give Fata a fair deal

I.A. Rehman

LAST week’s high-level meeting on Fata was again characterised by almost total concentration on the region’s security issues and minimal attention to the socio-economic needs of the tribal community.

LAST week’s high-level meeting on Fata was again characterised by almost total concentration on the region’s security issues and minimal attention to the socio-economic needs of the tribal community.

According to media reports, the meeting, chaired by the prime minister, was briefed by the chief of army staff on the security situation in Fata and Balochistan. The meeting is said to have taken note of the recent developments in Fata, including a split in Taliban ranks and the directive issued by a militant commander for evacuation of North Waziristan Agency.

The only reference to the socio-economic needs of the people of Fata in these reports was that the meeting was informed of the development funds that were to be allocated to the tribal area in the new budget.

All Pakistani citizens, except of course for diehard collaborators of the extremists, will endorse the governed-military resolve to target the enemies of peace everywhere by all means, “including surgical strikes”. There should also be no quarrel with the view that military operations should not accentuate the tribal people’s alienation from Pakistan.

The surgical strikes must be based on absolutely correct identification of targets and the principle of proportional use of force must not be violated. Besides, no security operations can have the desired result if the people’s basic concerns are ignored.

Unfortunately, the Fata population has a long history of its socio-economic rights being sacrificed to security considerations. Many members of the tribal society are now complaining that their woes stem from a resolve to perpetuate the status quo.

While proposals for bringing the people of Fata into the national mainstream, like the pledge to introduce the local government system there, are often put on the back-burner, measures that remind the tribal community of its inferior status, such as the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation, are implemented with a zeal only nobler missions deserve.

While one hopes the finance minister has allocated as many resources to Fata as possible, it will be fair to demand an explanation for under-utilisation of funds earmarked in the past.

The militants’ call upon the population of North Waziristan to move out of the agency has raised quite a few distressing questions. This order, ostensibly issued to save the population from military operations, is not likely to strengthen the uprooted families’ loyalty to Pakistan. What steps, one may ask, were taken to allay the fears of the people involved?

Equally important is the need to guarantee security to the families that refuse to abandon their homes. In all conflict situations it is considered necessary to prevent or manage developments that could spread disaffection. In Fata that should be a priority.

Now that migration from North Waziristan has already begun, the authorities must be prepared to take care of a significant number of displaced families. Have a sufficient number of camps been established? There are reports that thousands of people belonging to North Waziristan villages have sought refuge in Bannu Frontier Region and Lakki Marwat areas and they are facing difficulties in finding living quarters at affordable rent.

The way the affairs of the internally displaced persons from Fata have been handled so far do not encourage confidence in the capacity of the authorities concerned to do their job satisfactorily. The registration of the displaced people is rarely correct or comprehensive, and little interest is shown in mitigating the ordeal of those who wish to stay out of camps.

The present crop of migrants from North Waziristan merits special attention. With about 50 of the 70 new polio cases having been reported from North Waziristan the possibility that the displaced families could be carrying the polio virus to the areas of their enforced sojourn is too real to be ignored. It will be necessary to scan all displaced children in particular for the virus.

Even otherwise the status of the anti-polio campaign in Fata needs to be reviewed at a fairly high level. There have been reports of efforts to recruit local elders in support of the anti-polio vaccination drive but their effectiveness is yet to be confirmed.

Quite a few religious leaders have issued edicts in favour of plans to save the next generation from the dreaded disease but it is not clear whether the fatwas one reads about in the media actually do reach the target audience.

The urgency of a sustained campaign to help the tribal people to accept their children’s right to a healthy life cannot be gainsaid. In this regard, care should also be taken to reduce the polio vaccination teams’ dependence on the military because the latter’s domination of the vaccination campaign could be counter-productive. The people’s voluntary and willing participation in this drive is the most essential factor of its success.

It seems the time has come to end deferment of Fata reforms till peace is restored and start viewing socio-economic development as means of securing tranquillity. Attempts should be made to put all state initiatives in Fata, the military operations as well as plans for the tribal people’s uplift and their empowerment at the local level, in a wholesome reform package. The reform agenda should be used to stabilise society in all those parts of Fata that are accessible to agents of change.

Above all, the view that the Fata people are incapable of contributing to their progress has to be replaced with confidence in their ability to help not only in designing projects for their betterment but also in implementing them.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Budget thoughts

Khurram Husain

IN his budget speech, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar referred to a stable exchange rate as one of his government’s biggest achievements of the past year, referring to it as the “single most important indicator of economic stability”.

IN his budget speech, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar referred to a stable exchange rate as one of his government’s biggest achievements of the past year, referring to it as the “single most important indicator of economic stability”.

The argument is that the exchange rate determines so many other prices, especially oil, which cascades through the economy and impacts activity across the board. “A stable exchange rate is the lynchpin of a stable economy,” he continued.

It’s true that this government has stabilised the exchange rate, and brought it to a level nobody really thought possible. Many speculators were burned in the process. It’s also true that the reserves position has been stabilised, and the fears of a potential financial crisis that were so prominent the same time last year have now receded.

But a view that sees a stable exchange rate as “the lynchpin of a stable economy” could be more expensive to sustain than what the minister has bargained for. Let’s recall that the Musharraf government had also committed itself to a stable exchange rate, keeping the rupee steady at 60 to a dollar for almost half a decade.

However, the policy angered exporters, and consumed foreign exchange in growing quantities. Eventually, the government resorted to accommodating the exporters by doling out tax exemptions instead, and began to face tough choices when the inevitable balance of payments problems arose in 2006, and accelerated throughout 2007.

Something along those lines appears to already be under way. The present budget provides textile exporters with tax drawbacks in varying quantities provided they increase their export receipts by 10pc. Mark up on two key lending facilities for exporters — the export refinance rate and the long-term financing facility — have both been reduced by two percentage points.

Duty-free import of machinery will continue. In time look for these measures to widen, and more provisions offering tax and other benefits to exporters to start creeping in, partially as a consequence of the commitment to a stable exchange rate.

Nobody denies that a stable exchange rate brings some benefits, but it’s debatable whether it should be given the kind of importance the finance minister gave it in the budget speech. The problem with hanging your hat on the exchange rate is that it becomes a test case when the tide turns.

When that happened to the Musharraf government sometime in 2006 or 2007, the dilemma they faced was either to continue throwing scarce foreign exchange at maintaining the exchange rate, or admit defeat and allow a devaluation and thereby risk igniting speculative sentiment against the rupee.

The finance minister took some pride in managing the country’s debt profile. He says foreign borrowing has increased while domestic borrowing has gone down substantially. Getting government out of domestic debt markets was an important precondition for growth since government had been picking up all bank liquidity and then some, leaving nothing behind for private investors in a classic case of “crowding out”.

Not only that, the minister says replacing domestic with foreign borrowing improves the quality of the debt, since foreign loans have “low cost and longer tenors”, whereas the stock of domestic debt came at very high interest and was increasingly denominated in short tenors of three to six months only. He says the amount of money saved on debt servicing, as a result of this shift from domestic to foreign borrowing, is Rs24bn.

This is fair enough, but there is one drawback to foreign borrowing that he doesn’t mention: servicing of foreign loans is in foreign exchange, making continued reserve accumulation all the more crucial.

Some notable increases in expenditures include defence, which has enjoyed steady 10pc increases over the past five years at least, not including those portions of the defence outlays that are embedded in the civilian budget. This year, the hike in defence spending is a little larger still, more than Rs70bn, taking the total to Rs700bn. Greater transparency in the defence budget is a crucial element of strengthening democracy, as is greater parliamentary say in the framing of the threat assessment on which defence allocations are based.

A very large allocation has been made for a system of roads and highways in connection with the North-South corridor — Rs113bn for 74 projects to build roads and highways all the way from Karachi and Gwadar to Khunjerab. Big boosts have also been given to the railways — Rs77bn — as well as the National Income Support Programme, which includes the BISP and the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, increased from Rs75bn to Rs118bn.

Subsidies have been brought down very optimistically. Last year, the government budgeted Rs165bn as subsidies for Wapda/Pepco, but ended up paying Rs245bn instead. This year they’ve budgeted Rs156bn, a sign they intend to get tough with the power bureaucracy, a signal further clarified by the appointment of Nargis Sethi as secretary , water and power. Things are about to get interesting in the power sector.

The budget is fairly typical of Mian Sahib: friendly to big business, stubbornly wedded to outdated notions, grandiose road-building projects passed off as infrastructure investment, and so on. A lot of visible activity is about to get under way, but how much it’ll all mean depends on the structural changes they’re able to implement.

The writer is a business journalist based in Karachi.

khurram.husain

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Yet another murder

Sameer Khosa

WHERE is the outrage brigade now? Was it not enough that a person who was approaching the highest court in the province was beaten to death within touching distance of a court of justice? Was it not enough that she was beaten with bricks till she died? Was it not enough that the police watched and did nothing?

WHERE is the outrage brigade now? Was it not enough that a person who was approaching the highest court in the province was beaten to death within touching distance of a court of justice? Was it not enough that she was beaten with bricks till she died? Was it not enough that the police watched and did nothing?

Was it not enough that it happened in broad daylight? Or was it not enough that the culprits just escaped in broad daylight? What would it have taken for it to be enough? Would she have had to be pregnant with a child, perhaps for our outrage to kick in? Oh, wait….

It is hard to imagine a greater indictment of the state than the murder of a pregnant woman for marrying the man of her choice by her family, with stones and bricks, within sight of the police, in front of a court and then walking away.

It was Farzana’s fault really. Her fault for believing that the state owed her protection. Her fault for being silly enough to believe that she could approach a court with the security of her person guaranteed. Her fault for choosing her marriage. How dare she?

In fact, how dare we? How dare we mourn her?

She just had the indecency to die in the most brutal manner imaginable so that she could shock our conscience. She had the gall to be visible in her death and her indignity. It would have been much more convenient if the same event had happened in some remote village — like Kohistan perhaps — so that we could at least go on with our lives without being inconvenienced by her.

How dare we pretend that this sickens us? Lawyers, notorious for striking at the drop of a hat, did not think this event warranted one. Who strikes over the death of a woman? Those are reserved for the cuts and bruises that lawyers receive while they deliver one of their thrashings to a journalist or a policeman and the poor soul tries to fight back.

How dare the prime minister declare that this murder is “unacceptable”? Which murders are ‘acceptable’ Mr Prime Minister? The ones that stay out of the news and get recorded in FIRs?

How dare we feel any indignation when this story has repeated itself over and over again — and we have been innocent bystanders throughout, nay we have been culpable in our wilful neglect of the system that creates this outcome over and over again.

Fakhera Yunus — acid attack victim — asked for justice and ended up so hopeless and broken that she took her own life. Fiza Batool — a 14-year-old maid — was allegedly beaten to death by her employer, a professor of literature no less, earlier this year. Uzma Ayub, a gang rape victim whose rapists reportedly included the police, escaped from her captivity as a six months pregnant woman only to see her brother shot dead in front of the Peshawar High Court for standing by her in her quest for justice.

At least we know, that like all the others before her, Farzana too will fade with the news cycle. She will become merely a blot on our conscience that we will grow increasingly better at ignoring — to be remembered only at opportune moments.

Sure, inquiries will be launched, compensations will be paid, and interviews will be had. There may even be admonishments from the Supreme Court. But when our outrage is satiated, we will return to our own merry ways and pretend like we did something about this and provided justice.

But never will we fix the underlying problems. We will call this murder ‘unacceptable’ as if it is an outlier but not address the underlying patriarchy that makes it the norm. We will censure the police officers on duty and pretend like we took action but the underlying ineptness in the police will continue because it is just politically expedient.

We will launch judicial inquiries, or suo motu actions and admonish all the culpable individuals but not address the machinery of justice in which ordinary litigants like Farzana get bled dry. We will pretend to do a lot about it without doing anything about it.

We should not be outraged. We should be ashamed. Ashamed because ultimately the system will create noise but no traction, and then someone else will come along to remind us. We can at least stop pretending like we care. The list of dead women to tell us otherwise is simply too long to keep up that façade any more.

Rest in peace, Farzana — and may you and your memory never let us rest in peace.

The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer.

skhosa.rma

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Areas of concern

F.S. Aijazuddin

A SEISMIC shift has occurred in Indian foreign policy. Nothing has demonstrated the change more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s selection of the firebrand Sushma Swaraj as his external affairs minister. It is as daring a step as the nomination by President Obama in 2008 of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state — a fearless opponent tamed into a feared subordinate.

A SEISMIC shift has occurred in Indian foreign policy. Nothing has demonstrated the change more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s selection of the firebrand Sushma Swaraj as his external affairs minister. It is as daring a step as the nomination by President Obama in 2008 of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state — a fearless opponent tamed into a feared subordinate.

Since 1947, with a few exceptions, Indian prime ministers felt comfortable with an external minister of his/her choice only when they themselves occupied that post, eg Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi. Interestingly, non-Congress parties had no such qualms. They trusted their colleagues, which is why the names of I.K. Gujral, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha appear later on the MEA’s walls.

The tenure of Gujral saw the enunciation of his doctrine, addressed initially to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives. The two countries prominent by their absence were Pakistan and Afghanistan. Gradually, that doctrine gained acceptance as an aspiration, if not a commitment, by all Saarc countries. It found consummation on May 26, 2014, when the Saarc leaders or their representatives submerged their differences and converged on New Delhi to attend Mr Modi’s swearing-in.

It was more than just a display of regional good neighbourliness. Although an EU-style integration in this volatile area is still light years away, their attendance served as a message addressed to a number of audiences. The Sri Lankans have a Tamil constituency to consider, the Nepalese trade imperatives. Nawaz Sharif decided sagely to go, bearing an olive branch, not a swagger stick.

Whatever languages they speak at home, the Saarc leaders addressed their Indian host-public in a common lingua. Each Saarc member had come as an independent state, not from an admission of regional inferiority, and that the word cooperation was not an anagram for hegemony.

Modi’s plebeian coronation took place like many of his political rallies, in the open, on the footpath, except that on this occasion it was on the footsteps of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan. It was a searing summer afternoon. Whoever chose the location had more than the number or comfort of the invitees in mind. The solemnity of such occasions is supposed to override heat exhaustion.

Any complaining attendee would have been well advised to read Modi’s life. It is a supra-Gandhian exercise in self-control and self-abnegation. Modi eats alone, abjures salt and spices, bathes in cold water regardless of the season, and over many months has never slept in the same house twice. He will not be the first sanyasi to enter 3 Race Course Road. He will though be the first to occupy it.

His pilgrimage to New Delhi began in 1967 when, at the age of 17, Modi left his home in Vadnagar (Gujarat) to travel throughout India. He returned unannounced two years later, tasted his mother’s cooking and left again, never to return.

Working his way up as a parachak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, he put his party before his own ambitions. His loyalty to it remained unshakeable, despite being ostracised by an ungrateful BJP high command after a particularly successful yatra from Kanyakumari by Kashmir. He was forced to spend years in exile, like Deng Xiaoping, and like Deng, he survived and rebounded, vaulting over his detractors.

Sushma Swaraj has never had to chew such bitter herbs of defeat. She became a state cabinet minister in Harayana at the age of 25. Deftly, she moved up the party ranks, and served in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. In 2009, before she was 60, she became BJP’s leader of the opposition. Live coverage of Lok Sabha sessions gave her irrepressible voice a national reach her opponents now rue.

Experienced in parliamentary procedure (Modi had never seen the inside of the Lok Sabha before his election as prime minister), adamantine in her beliefs, she will be his Chamunda Devi, the Mahisha-mardini sent into the field to battle against the asuras of this imperfect world.

Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh differed often, especially on Pakistan. There is unlikely to be a disconnect between Modi and his external affairs minister. She has made up his mind. Their focus will be radial — on China, Russia and then the US — in that order, with India at its epicentre.

As an adversary, Sushma Swaraj is known to give no quarter. She has conceded an eighth though by having Modi’s speeches translated into Chinese. Her gesture had a Nixonian touch to it. For wasn’t it president Nixon who admitted to premier Zhou Enlai some 40 years ago, in February 1972, that ‘we believe your interest here is far greater than ours?’

The writer is an author and art historian.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

Afghanistan: a messy endgame

Zahid Hussain

SHORT of declaring victory the Obama administration has announced it is ready to ‘turn the page’ on America’s longest war. The endgame had already started with the drawdown of US troops but it will take another two and a half years for America to bring the Afghan war chapter to a complete end. Under a new timetable announced by President Obama, the last American troops will not leave Afghanistan before end 2016.

SHORT of declaring victory the Obama administration has announced it is ready to ‘turn the page’ on America’s longest war. The endgame had already started with the drawdown of US troops but it will take another two and a half years for America to bring the Afghan war chapter to a complete end. Under a new timetable announced by President Obama, the last American troops will not leave Afghanistan before end 2016.

Although the security and combat responsibility will be transferred completely to the Kabul administration by the end of this year, the presence of a sizeable residual force would keep the US involved in the Afghan conflict beyond 2014. With the Special Forces continuing to operate in Afghanistan, presumably to disrupt the Al Qaeda threat and train Afghan security forces, it effectively means there will be no end to the US war this year. These, in fact, were the very pursuits the US forces have been engaged in throughout the 13-year-long war.

It remains to be seen whether the limited US presence succeeds in guaranteeing the stability that the more than 130,000 troops at one point could not achieve. The US exit strategy seems as confused as it was during the course of the war. With no political reconciliation with the insurgents in place, long-term stability in Afghanistan remains questionable despite the historical political transition this year.

After considerable dithering, the Obama administration last week released five senior Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for an American soldier. The trade-off question had been on the negotiating table for more than two years. The issue was directly linked with the start of a formal negotiation process between the Afghan Taliban and the US on the future of Afghanistan.

Apart from other factors, the US refusal to release the Taliban prisoners was a major reason for the Doha process not taking off. All five detainees were to be the part of the Taliban negotiating team. The deal may now come too late for the revival of a dead negotiation process.

But some American officials are optimistic that the release of the American soldier will lead to the resumption of engagement between the US and the Taliban. “Maybe this will be a new opening that can produce an agreement,” US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told the NBC network after the exchange of prisoners.

For the Afghan insurgents, the deal has come as a great victory. In a rare statement, Mullah Omar, the supreme leader of the Taliban movement, extended his “heartfelt congratulations to the entire Afghan Muslim nation and families of the prisoners for this big victory”. There was no indication in the statement about any prospects of a resumption of direct talks with the US authorities after the deal.

The five detainees identified as Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq were very important members of the ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan and reportedly remain influential in the insurgency movement despite having been in detention for so long. They have been transferred to Qatar where they will stay under travel restrictions for one year.

Even if the prisoner exchange does not lead to resumption of the dormant Doha process, it certainly has improved the prospects for some kind of engagement between the US and the Taliban. Surely the secret negotiations that ultimately led to the deal was carried out at a very senior level from both sides. Even President Hamid Karzai was kept in the dark about the impending agreement.

That shows the widening distrust between the Obama administration and the outgoing Afghan leader. Their relations hit a low after Karzai refused to sign the bilateral security agreement and blocked the Doha process. Still, one cannot blame Mr Karzai for his outrage over the US deal with the insurgents behind his back. The Obama administration could afford to ignore the lame duck Afghan president. But any such unilateral and secret deal with the Taliban by the Americans would not be acceptable even to the new Afghan leadership.

What is most intriguing is the timing of the prisoner swap deal. Why now? After holding back on the decision for two years, the Obama administration seems to have moved on the issue putting aside all caution. The secret deal came at a critical stage of the political transition in Afghanistan with the final round of presidential election less than two weeks away, further fuelling uncertainty about the US endgame.

It is now a race between Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister and a consummate politician, and Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and a senior World Bank executive. The contest is expected to be close, though Abdullah Abdullah seems to have an edge over his rival.

A former Northern Alliance leader with a mixed ethnic background — half Pakhtun, half Tajik — Abdullah has strengthened his position by winning the support of Zalmai Rassoul and Gul Agha Sherzai, the two losing candidates in the first round and ethnic Pakhtuns. Mr Ghani has been able to woo Ahmed Zia Massoud to his side, but that may not shift the balance much.

Whatever the outcome, the change of leadership is not likely to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan. One thing is, however, certain. The new Afghan president will sign the bilateral security agreement, a prerequisite for America’s continued stay in

Afghanistan post 2014. But the challenges of the Afghan endgame are formidable.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

A province for women

Rafia Zakaria

ONE of the first stories written in English by a South Asian woman was Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain’s Sultana’s Dream. This piece of science fiction imagines, delightfully, a world where women and not men dominate the public space, with the latter confined in purdah. In this blissful world, there is little crime, and much peace and harmony.

ONE of the first stories written in English by a South Asian woman was Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain’s Sultana’s Dream. This piece of science fiction imagines, delightfully, a world where women and not men dominate the public space, with the latter confined in purdah. In this blissful world, there is little crime, and much peace and harmony.

That, of course, was the dream of a dead feminist duly discarded, as so many other similar impulses are, in our subcontinent full of men. Recent events, however, suggest that there may be some precious kernels of truth pressed between those pages of forgotten fiction.

As the headlines of newspapers week after week have now proclaimed for a prolonged period, Pakistan’s women are not particularly wanted in the public sphere. Virtually each week brings proposals to amend laws to marry them off as children, permitting their beating as wives, or restricting their opportunities as students. Some would like them completely eliminated from the public sphere; others would like them covered up and rendered invisible; everyone seems uncomfortable about what to do with them. A pure Pakistan — and that is everyone’s goal these days — seems to have no room for its women.

Where coexistence seems impossible, segregation may be a solution. In the past, extreme forms of such sequestration were seen in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover of Kabul and earlier still in the shadow of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In either case, women, previously present in the public sphere, disappeared. Female teachers, doctors, university professors, dentists, and bankers lost their jobs. Female students found themselves sitting at home; co-educational institutions were no longer permitted to them, and neither was the world beyond the threshold of their homes.

To enable that, these women — now all declared possible contaminants of the reformed society — a new enforcement force, a morality police, had to be trained and dispatched. Their job was ensuring that women were adequately covered, properly accompanied and generally obeying the strictures incumbent on them by the new regime.

As numerous examples from Iran and Afghanistan have substantiated, it was too difficult a job; as in Pakistan, there are millions of women in both these countries and commanding complete obedience from them has proved nearly impossible. There were women without male guardians who insisted that they had to be out in public without an escort, others who forgot their coverings, lost them, misplaced them or thought they were, at 70 or 80 years of age, exempt from wearing them. All of it, of course, led to many problems for men committed to keeping public spaces free of the feminine presence.

Given this circumstance and the fact that Pakistan, with its many linguistic, ethnic and other differences, has always relied on territorial distinction to ensure peace, an alternate plan must be considered. This could well be demarcating a separate territorial space for women, where they can be segregated from the male population. Within this space, women could move about freely and provide for their own needs. In the rest of Pakistan, there would concomitantly be no need for a separation of all services; there could be male bathrooms, male offices, male schools, male restaurants and male shops.

Given that temptation and the possibility of evil are usually blamed on women, this female-free Pakistan would be devoid of sin and hence properly pure. Finally, to permit necessary interactions between men and women such that future generations can still be produced, a militarised zone could be created at the edges of the female province.

Within this zone, strictly regulated interactions between men and women of the same family could be permitted for short periods of time after which they could return to their respective single-gender realms. The borders of the militarised zone, which would lie between the female and male provinces, could be protected by the military, which everyone knows is the most efficiently functioning and reliable institution in Pakistan.

Some would consider the creation of a province for women an act too drastic but their reservations can be responded to by the dire nature of current conditions. In just the very recent past, women have been prevented from voting, buried alive, and bludgeoned to death. Little girls as young as four and five have been subjected to sexual assault and this March, a college student burned herself to death because her alleged rapists were being favoured by the law.

From all of this, it is obvious that Pakistan’s current law enforcement strictures do not possess the skill or the capacity to provide a safe environment for women in a male-dominated world. Instead of piecemeal efforts where women are allowed here and not there, are safe here and not there, and all the ambiguity and chaos they entail, a definitive plan of separation would create concrete borders and boundaries. For those who argue that equality and emancipation and female education are noxious, Western ideas, this would be a uniquely Pakistani one, employed and implemented only in Pakistan.

Finally, there is the thorny question of economics; demarcating a separate terrain for women would ensure that they can continue participating in the economy. In their separate province, women would need no separate quotas and no extra coverings; they would no longer be deemed temptations and contaminations, would pose no more challenges for men. Away and apart, they could build their own worlds, and leave the men of Pakistan to construct their own.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

A mellow fruitfulness

Mahir Ali

ON a crisp January morning 21 years ago, Maya Angelou became the second poet to be invited to recite her verses at a presidential inauguration in the United States.

ON a crisp January morning 21 years ago, Maya Angelou became the second poet to be invited to recite her verses at a presidential inauguration in the United States.

Her only predecessor was Robert Frost, who contributed to ushering in the brief Kennedy era in 1961. Angelou’s performance in 1993 helped to insinuate her into the national consciousness. She was already a bestselling writer, but literary accolades do not necessarily translate into popular awareness.

Angelou’s appearance at William Jefferson Clinton’s first inauguration reinforced the impression of a break from the past, not least the dozen years under Ronald Reagan and George Bush the elder. Her poem, On the Pulse of Morning, envisaged the evolution of a more inclusive, more responsible America.

When asked many years later by The Guardian’s Gary Younge whether the Clinton presidency had lived up to her expectations, Angelou responded: “No. But fortunately there is that about hope … it is met sometimes, but never satisfied. If it was satisfied, you’d be hopeless.”

One of the hopes Angelou did not expect to be fulfilled in her lifetime was the election of an African-American president, which partly explains why she campaigned for Hillary Clinton’s nomination in 2008 — but subsequently became one of Barack Obama’s staunchest supporters.

Back in the 1960s, when she had debated the matter with Martin Luther King Jr, he had predicted (rather accurately) that it would take something like 40 years.

She had thought it would be closer to a century.

Her association with Dr King sprang from her activism in the civil rights movement through much of the ’60s, including an encounter with Malcolm X in Ghana in 1964, when she had agreed to return to the US to help him with his Organisation of Afro-American Unity. But he was assassinated in 1965. Three years later, on the day Angelou turned 40, Dr King was shot dead. She could not bring herself to celebrate her birthday for several years thereafter.

It was roughly at that point that Angelou was persuaded to start writing her extraordinary life story. The first and best known volume, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, recounting her childhood, was published in 1969. The six volumes that followed over the years took her lyrical reminiscences only up to the age of 40.

Angelou was 86 when she died last week, but long before she established herself as a writer, she had been a dancer and a singer, a sex worker and a madam, an activist and an editor. She later made her mark with her acting, too, but Angelou will chiefly be remembered and celebrated for generations to come as writer, both for her lyrical prose and her simple yet profound verse.

She chronicled the African-American experience with inimitable eloquence, unflinchingly describing the ugliness of racial segregation, yet peppering her accounts with a warm humour.

There’s cause to suspect her most unforgettable aspect will turn out to be her voice, in every sense of the word — not just the warm, mellow, authoritative cadences delivered by her vocal cords, but also her knack for writing in a manner that invited universal attention and empathy. And while her gift for arresting utterance held audiences spellbound, her smile could light up any room and no space was too big for her infectious laughter to fill.

To cite an instance of her perceptiveness, she points out early in her first memoir: “In Stamps [the Arkansas town where she spent several of her early years] the segregation was so complete that most black children didn’t really, absolutely know what whites looked like. Other than they were different, to be dreaded, and in that dread was included the hostility of the powerless against the powerful, the poor against the rich, the worker against the worked for and the ragged against the well-dressed.”

As Younge noted last week, “with her passing America has … lost a connection to its recent past that had helped it make sense of its present”. The loss is compounded by the fact that Angelou distinctly shares one particular attribute with other recently departed elders, from Nelson Mandela and Pete Seeger to Tony Benn and Gabriel Garcia Marquez: the chances that we’ll see their likes again are infinitesimally small.

And for an epitaph one could cite a couple of stanzas from one of Maya Angelou’s best-known poems: “You may write me down in history/ With your bitter, twisted lies,/ You may trod me in the very dirt/ But still, like dust, I’ll rise … You may shoot me with your words,/ You may cut me with your eyes,/ You may kill me with your hatefulness,/ But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

Polio emergency

Zubeida Mustafa

A FIRM stand by WHO has jerked the Pakistan government into action. Since Sunday all travellers going abroad are required to take polio drops. Last month WHO’s director general had declared the international spread of polio a “public health emergency of international concern” warranting “temporary recommendations for coordinated international efforts”.

A FIRM stand by WHO has jerked the Pakistan government into action. Since Sunday all travellers going abroad are required to take polio drops. Last month WHO’s director general had declared the international spread of polio a “public health emergency of international concern” warranting “temporary recommendations for coordinated international efforts”.

Since Pakistan was named as one of the three ‘polio-exporting countries’ the matter made banner headlines in the media at home. Ironically, the prospects of a country with an inordinately large number of crippled children had not caused much alarm.

With most regions of the world certified as polio-free, the idea that a handful of countries where polio is still endemic could nullify all efforts put into eradicating this disease since 1988 is horrifying. Pakistan bears heavy responsibility in the matter.

It is a pity that after the incidence of the disease had dropped to 28 in 2005, polio has made a comeback with 198 cases being confirmed in 2011. Since then the graph has been zigzagging — there were 58 cases in 2012 and 93 in 2013. This year 70 cases have been reported so far.

This pattern is worrying and if no effective measures are taken there is bound to be a surge in polio cases. Travel restrictions will not affect the prevalence of the disease within the country. Most travellers are adults and polio is basically a childhood disease with children developing immunity against it by age five.

Those in need of vaccines are under five years, but not all in this age group in Pakistan are fully covered. In the immunisation drive undertaken recently, the authorities admitted that 370,000 children in Fata were left out. The vicious attacks by the Taliban on polio workers — 22 of them have fallen victim to terrorism since 2012 — has been described as a major factor hampering the polio eradication campaign in Waziristan.

Also being blamed is the American strategy of using a fake immunisation campaign to trace Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. This unethical move earned its protagonists bad publicity in 2011. Yet there was a drastic fall in polio cases in 2012 until the Taliban’s ban on immunisation campaigns led to polio’s resurgence, prompting the US to announce that the CIA would not use fake immunisation drives for espionage again.

This, however, doesn’t explain fully why the polio situation in Pakistan is as bad as it is today. The need is to reassess our approach to preventive medicine which doesn’t receive the importance it deserves. Of course the war and terrorism have played a key role in the failure of the anti-polio campaign. But equally at fault is our collapsing public health system.

The fact is that in the last several years no mobilisation drives to bring about health awareness and changes in social behaviour and lifestyle have been undertaken.

A World Bank report prepared in 2012 on the Expanded Programme for Immunisation observed: “The target population for immunisation is huge, and millions of doses of vaccine are delivered successfully by government services every year. Nonetheless as many as 40 pc of the children below five years remain unimmunised or under-immunised, particularly in the poor and rural sections of the country. There are tremendous challenges to overcome in delivering these services, not least, the sheer numbers involved.”

Dr Samia Altaf, who worked with communities in Sindh and KP, says she found that many people did not understand the preventive dimension of drugs and healthcare at all. Citing a Unicef survey of 2012 she reported that 46pc of respondents lacked awareness of vaccinations against polio. She calls for a review of the anti-polio strategy after involving the stakeholders in the policymaking process.

One would not deny that conflict has complicated matters but it would not help to overlook the other flaws in our public health system. The polio campaign cannot be viewed in isolation. The fact is every programme related to the health sector is failing. The family planning programme has lost its vigour and the population growth rate continues to be the highest in South Asia. Malaria, tuberculosis and malnourishment are rife. In some cases, children have reportedly contracted polio even after being administered polio drops.

Whether it was a break in the cold chain that rendered the vaccine ineffective or the malnourished state of the child that prevented him from developing immunity can only be known after proper investigations. The growing level of insanitation and declining ratio of population receiving potable water has inevitably increased the vulnerability of children to polio. It is hardly a coincidence that polio has emerged as a disease of poverty and illiteracy. All the more reason for policymakers to rethink the health policy.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2014

All is not well

Tariq Khosa

GRACE, tolerance, mercy: these words seem to have disappeared from the lexicon of Pakistani polity. Instead, vengeance, violence, slander, and murder seem to have gained currency in a state-sponsored narrative of denial and fear.

GRACE, tolerance, mercy: these words seem to have disappeared from the lexicon of Pakistani polity. Instead, vengeance, violence, slander, and murder seem to have gained currency in a state-sponsored narrative of denial and fear.

While institutions have sanctity, those at the helm must be accountable and willing to face healthy criticism. This is the essence of democracy, unless we as a nation are just content with paying lip service to the constitutionally guaranteed right “to enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law”.

The most gruesome murder of Rashid Rehman, a respected lawyer and a humble flag-bearer of human rights in Multan, should be enough to shake the collective conscience of a nation that finds itself helpless against an extremist mindset that conveniently silences the voices raised to give blasphemy accused their right to be treated in accordance with the law. The state is clearly showing signs of paralysis and inaction against blatant violence of zealots.

The police generally fail to fulfil the primary role of carrying out a fair and unbiased investigation in allegations of blasphemy and their first task is to save the accused from being lynched. They succumb to the pressure of furious crowds and arrest the accused and put him or her behind bars to pacify the mob. While it is important for police to save the accused from mob justice, it is equally crucial for them to ensure fair investigation and avoid hasty arrest of the accused without collection of necessary evidence.

Blasphemy cases are ‘special report’ cases that require supervision of the investigation by senior officers of the rank of superintendent of police. SPs are required to lead by example and set high standards of professionalism, integrity, and impartiality. Their oath of office and semi-judicial role as investigators should make them rise above any sectarian, ethnic or religious considerations. The police have to ensure the inviolable “obligation of every citizen” to obey the Constitution and the law. Failure to fulfil this unpleasant task makes them appear inefficient, incompetent or complicit in weakening the writ of the state.

One exception to this policy of capitulation was witnessed last year in Multan when a lawyer got a blasphemy case registered on a court order against a former ambassador and federal minister for her remarks in a media interview. The local police, supported by the highest administrative and police authorities of the province, proved at the investigation stage that a case was not made out and recommended its closure.

The situation of a university professor last year, however, was different as he had formerly held no high public office. He was charged for blasphemy by a few right-wing students and jealous colleagues, and the police felt obliged to shift the burden on the trial court of an additional sessions judge to determine the guilt, or otherwise.

Some in the judiciary are also perceived as swimming with the tide of extremism. Many lack the courage to sift the truth from falsehood and neither grant bail to the accused nor acquit them. The trial judges tend to shift the burden to the appellate high courts. There the cases linger for years; assassinations of senior judges in the past who dared to acquit convicted ‘blasphemers’ are within memory. Matters ultimately land before the Supreme Court.

However, the superior courts have in rare cases acquitted convicts awarded death penalty by trial courts. But an accused in sight of eventual relief by a slow and lumbering process is always vulnerable to vigilante justice. A fellow prisoner or a jail official is likely to administer ‘punishment’.

Lawyers like the late Rashid Rehman are an endangered species who come forward to protect the constitutional right of a blasphemy accused. But then there is a strain of extremist lawyers out to subvert justice. Now it remains to be seen whether the lawyers from the prosecution side who reportedly threatened Rehman during the trial earn the censure of their colleagues, whether there will be punitive administrative action by the licensing authorities and whether the investigating officers of this case have the will and courage to interrogate or arrest them and others who were part of the court proceedings.

Where is the chief executive of the province? Does this case of religious zealotry not attract his ire? Why not go after the assassins and zealots who make a mockery of his tight-fisted administration? Is it fair to surmise that the right-of-centre political parties lack the will to combat violent religious extremism? Is it also not true that the left-of-centre parties are nursing the wounds inflicted upon them while they were in power? Will politicians across the board not get together on the same page and combat the menace of violent extremism?

They have already started to look like Lilliputians against the Brobdingnagian terrorist giants.

Finally, a word for our holy cows: the military establishment and the intelligence agencies. Can they do away with the proxies and bigoted brigades raised under their tutelage and learn to operate within the framework of the Constitution and the law? Are they above the law? They have the finest soldiers and are expected to lead them as befitting commanders, for the challenges being faced might unravel the state.

All institutions are required to work with dignity, grace and maturity. We cannot afford a clash of egos. They must get their act together and rise above institutional turf battles in order to win the war against militancy.

The writer is a retired police officer.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Sadda Mian to Modi

Jawed Naqvi

BEFORE Dilip Kumar befriended him and invited him to Bombay, Sadda Mian had believed that Bhad-Bhada, the lake that dominates Bhopal’s topography, was the most expansive water body on earth.

BEFORE Dilip Kumar befriended him and invited him to Bombay, Sadda Mian had believed that Bhad-Bhada, the lake that dominates Bhopal’s topography, was the most expansive water body on earth.

A scion of the erstwhile Bhopal royalty, the quirky, genial Pathan is fondly remembered by his contemporaries who, like Dilip Kumar, are now in their 90s. He fed his pet partridges, they would tell you, with kaakun stored between his lower lip and ageing gummy teeth. It was 30 years ago or thereabouts the actor had recalled to me Sadda Mian’s startled look upon discovering that Bhopal’s celebrated landmark amounted to a drop in the ocean, literally, before the wild waves lapping Bombay’s Marine Drive.

“Kya haqeeqat hai Bhad-Bhadey ki!” (What chance does the Bhad-Bhada stand!) It was all that Sadda Mian could mutter in disbelief, his unbuttoned sherwani fluttering in the gale force from the Arabian Sea.

Critics believe Narendra Modi need not have moved to Delhi bag and baggage to measure his three consecutive innings as chief minister of Gujarat. It’s a stride from the provincial baby pool of easy sociology, they point out, to India’s syncretic complexities that matters. It’s not a question of who got how many votes for parliament. His Congress rival Rajiv Gandhi, India’s new prime minister would learn in Delhi, won over a hundred seats more — an unprecedented 414 seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha in 1985.

It would be no consolation for anyone to know that the unparalleled Congress victory came on the back of an unspeakable massacre of Sikhs. Another lesson Mr Modi might glean from his predecessor’s victory is that brute majority can dissipate as quickly as it comes.

However, now that Mr Modi is here he will hopefully learn a few early lessons about being the captain of the ship we know as India. Mr Modi will want to be quickly disabused of any self-limiting notions he may have cherry-picked from doctored history books about his country’s cultural heritage.

Among his many duties, to be sure, regardless of cultivated hang-ups about India’s Muslims, he will address the nation from the ramparts of a 17th-century Mughal fort on Independence Day. And though there is not much evidence to support his party’s ideological involvement against colonial rule he will get to appreciate India’s annual celebration of freedom and democracy each Republic Day.

The colonial-era Raisina Hill is where a cultural parade starts on every January 26. It merges with a British-built Rajpath, the former King’s Way, to take the marchers towards India Gate. If Mr Modi cared to look closely — although Indira Gandhi turned it into a monument to the fallen soldier after the 1971 war with Pakistan — India Gate was originally a memorial to India’s colonial subjugation. Engraved on all sides of its towering walls are names of Indian soldiers — mostly Sikh and Pathan — who died fighting for a foreign ruler on foreign shores. Yet no Indian, and rightly so, wants to pull down the structure to get even with history.

When Mr Modi visits the Presidential Palace, he may wish to gaze at the beautifully crafted ceiling of the Ashoka Hall — its humbling name negating the narrow quests. Spread across the ceiling is the drawing of a Persian hunt. Lord Irwin placed the Qajar painting there, and an Italian painter filled out the remaining spaces with vignettes from Firdausi’s Shahnameh.

Mr Modi is rumoured to favour the dismantling of India’s essential scientific temper in favour of religious revivalism. He should hear the BBC’s Alistair Cook in one of his inimitable Letters from America. It took the Pope 400 years to pardon Galileo for having claimed it was the earth that revolved round the sun, and not, as the scriptures said, the other way around, Mr Cook informed us. It would hopefully not be so inordinately long before Mr Modi finds out that placing the source of the Ganges in Lord Shiva’s mythical tuft was an aspect of religious tradition.

It would be helpful if the source of the Ganges is more scientifically located in the formation of ‘new fold mountains’ that the Himalayas are. If the Himalayas get no rain any river they spawn will dry up. Keeping the Ganges replenished will require more than supplication to the rain gods. It would need solid environmental policies, something that doesn’t fetch high grades in Mr Modi’s model of economic development.

It was good to see Saarc leaders in Delhi to greet Mr Modi. However, the prime minister’s prescriptions for neighbours are at variance with his approach to similar issues at home. Expecting Sri Lankan soldiers to treat Jaffna Tamils gently will rightly raise eyebrows in Kashmir or Manipur. Looking at water disputes with Pakistan or Bangladesh as an upper riparian state will run into trouble with the Chinese if the Brahmaputra issue boils into a dispute.

Mr Modi’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has occasionally berated the West for not weeding out Al Qaeda from the roots, a valid point. Al Qaeda has indeed mutated into several intractable bodies albeit with a single paramount objective of establishing the Khilafat of Islam.

Mr Modi will be reminded in Delhi how nearly a century ago a fellow Gujarati had rallied Indian masses, Hindus and Muslims alike, in support of the Muslim Khilafat. Another Gujarati, a Muslim, ironically enough, had opposed the idea as potentially mediaeval. India is often absurd, occasionally contrary and always poised to surprise those who claim to know it. Sadda Mian would agree.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Difficult ties

Moeed Yusuf

CRITICS want to know what the prime minister’s trip to India has achieved. The answer is simple: it has avoided what could have been a much worse start to India-Pakistan ties under Modi. Was it worth it? Absolutely — for not showing up would have played right into the hands of those wishing to use Modi’s ascendance to derail Sharif’s commitment to peace.

CRITICS want to know what the prime minister’s trip to India has achieved. The answer is simple: it has avoided what could have been a much worse start to India-Pakistan ties under Modi. Was it worth it? Absolutely — for not showing up would have played right into the hands of those wishing to use Modi’s ascendance to derail Sharif’s commitment to peace.

But what next? Is the argument that the BJP is much better placed to pursue peace with Pakistan for real? Will Sharif be able to stay the course? No. Even if the ‘good Modi’ shows up for Pakistan, he has a number of internal battles to fight. Topping the list is his bureaucracy.

If he gets caught up with the babus in South Block, he’s done as far as Pakistan is concerned. He is not a foreign policy guy.

This means that unless he signals soon that he will make the Pakistan portfolio his own, the relevant bureaucracies would be all too eager to take over.

As for his political team, he’s already made it tougher for himself by appointing traditional hardliners on Pakistan to the most relevant cabinet and associated positions.

Why would Modi take on the bureaucracy? After all he is no liberal when it comes to Pakistan. And he has a right-wing constituency he relies on far more than any Indian leader has ever done. The answer you are likely to get from the most optimistic: Modi’s pro-business outlook will trump everything.

I can understand this when it comes to relations with China given what Beijing means for the Indian economy. It is also clear that Pakistan has a compulsion to open up with India.

But for India, Pakistan is not that important.

Even in the best case scenario, India-Pakistan trade will be no more than a blip on India’s economic radar — $1-2 billion of additional Indian exports in the medium term. Of course, taken in isolation, no country should forego this. And I am not saying India will. But when you extend the argument to say this will help push ties towards normalisation, it doesn’t hold.

There are two problems. First, India knows it can’t see trade in isolation. If it could, it would be ideal for Delhi: increase economic ties, hold the rest back, and hope that these other outstanding issues with Pakistan lose salience over time. But Delhi realises that Pakistan is not ready to let the other issues slide.

Sharif may be committed to his India policy and India-bashing may no longer be very potent in Pakistan. But the outlook, most importantly in the military, is nowhere near the point that would qualify as a fundamental departure from the country’s traditional stance on the conflicts with India.

So the equation for Modi reads as follows: progress on trade still requires continuing a conversation on other issues that he has no interest or compulsion to compromise on.

His country is okay with the status quo and his right-wing constituency doesn’t want to hear the word compromise when it comes to Pakistan. In fact, the reality is that India won’t even get what it really wants on the business front — ie transit rights to Afghanistan and Central Asia — until Pakistan feels things have moved on other fronts.

Second, and this is only natural, the potency of Mumbai in India dwarfs what Kargil managed in the years after that episode. There’s a whole generation of young Indians who see Pakistan as a nuisance. Pakistan equals Mumbai in their minds.

Mind you, even young Indian Muslims have no emotional connection to Pakistan regardless of what our state narrative would have us believe. So, there won’t be any serious bottom-up pressure on Modi to go the extra mile with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Sharif’s dilemma was summed up recently by one of his most able ministers in a public talk: commerce ministries won’t be able to run ahead of the others for too long. Sharif will need something beyond economics from Delhi to fend off the naysayers — military and non-military. Since it is Modi, that ‘something’ can’t be just promises of more trade and platitudes about the rest.

Only that will leave Sharif politically vulnerable. But precisely because it is Modi, it is going to be difficult for him to provide what Sharif needs.

A brighter outlook is only warranted if Modi proves everything said here wrong.

Or if Sharif is able to internalise Pakistan’s weakness and convince his civilian and military bureaucracy that the best Pakistan can hope for is trade concessions and that — given the internal situation and the global outlook favouring India’s view on Pakistan — there is no point creating a fuss about the rest for the foreseeable future. Neither is likely.

The writer is a foreign policy expert based in Washington D.C.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

Small-town Pakistan

Dr Niaz Murtaza

PAKISTAN’S largest cities (Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad) monopolise it economically, politically and culturally. Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta, Sialkot and Hyderabad are developing slowly. But one hardly hears about other smaller Pakistani cities unless there is a shocking incident there.

PAKISTAN’S largest cities (Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad) monopolise it economically, politically and culturally. Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta, Sialkot and Hyderabad are developing slowly. But one hardly hears about other smaller Pakistani cities unless there is a shocking incident there.

However, globally, economic growth is increasingly originating in smaller cities, as companies migrate there to lower costs. US cities with under a million people account for 27 of its 30 fastest-growing regions.

Similar trends exist to a lesser extent in East Asia and Latin America. Countries glo­bally are facilitating the growth of smaller cities to reduce congestion in larger cities and ensure more equitable growth. Pakistan’s increasing urban migration is predicted, based on global trends, to converge hea­vily on smaller cities due to high costs, con­gestion and crime in larger cities. However, there is little official policy effort to help smaller cities develop economically.

There is even little research on smaller cities in Pakistan. The only exception I have seen is a nascent research project at Lums which is analysing economic, political and informational trends in smaller Punjab cities near Lahore. Even for this densely populated, highly interconnected region around the capital of Pakistan’s economically most dynamic province, initial research findings reveal trends opposite those in economically dynamic countries.

Despite greater physical and informational connectedness between these smaller cities and Lahore, social polarisation has increased. Affluent citizens from smaller cities have shifted to Lahore, leaving insufficient purchasing power in smaller cities to attract businesses. The unidirectional flow has impoverished small towns which have become service centres for their rural hinterlands. There are also enormous gaps in infrastructure, social service provision and employment opportunities. Such problems would likely be more acute in small cities in less dynamic Pakistani regions.

During my own frequent visits to small cities in almost all regions of Pakistan recently, I have noticed several striking features. Firstly, there is immense talent among the youth there as colleges and/or universities of reasonable quality exist now in most such cities. Educational migration has further expanded scholarly opportunities. Thus, youth there possess skills of national and even global standards. This is also true for females.

I was recently interviewing assistants for conducting research in Kohat, which, for the benefit of those whose geography is weak, is surrounded by conflict-ridden areas like Hangu, Darra Adam Khel and Orakzai. In walked a 21-year-old, burqa-clad female applicant. Her burqa may have hidden her frame fully, but failed miserably in hiding her high confidence and intelligence, which flowed unrestrained from her eyes and voice.

She actually turned out to be a Fata IDP!

Such experiences vividly reflect the extent to which sheer talent is dispersed even in remote corners of Pakistan. However, job opportunities are limited and migration (alone) to larger cities for jobs and commuting back home every weekend or end-of-the-month is a regular feature of life among the youth of small-town Pakistan. This regular travel exposes them to the great disparities present across smaller and larger Pakistani cities and fuels discontent. Socially, the youth in such cities is generally conservative and devotedly religious ritually. Despite possessing high skills, they are often non-cosmopolitan and suspicious of Westerners’ supposed conspiracies against Pakistan.

Finally, they harbour great anger at poor governance, which is fuelled further by the fact that the major political parties are dominated by big-city Pakistanis. The N-League, PTI and MQM, whose top leadership originates from just two large cities (Lahore and Karachi), won nearly two-thirds of the national seats in the last elections, so geographically concentrated is political power in Pakistan. The PPP’s leadership is from small towns, but obviously has little connection with such frustrated youth.

This political frustration is attracting people to false promises of rapid political cha­nge. Lacking quality medical services, many Pakistanis unfortunately heed the wall-chalked advertisements of quacks promising to cure even the most serious disease fully within 30 days.

Similar claims by political quacks about curing all of Pakistan’s deep-seated political ills almost overnight through equally unproven methods are attracting many smaller-city youth. There is also the ever-present allure of terrorist ideology. This deadly cocktail combination of sheer talent, insufficient jobs, conservative outlook and vulnerability to catchy slogans in smaller cities bodes ill for future stability.

Thus, governments must prioritise policies that facilitate equitable development nationally rather than grandiose projects serving larger cities only. Such projects fall in the domain of mayors and not prime ministers and chief ministers. The latter two must target bigger goals.

The writer is a development and political economist.

murtazaniaz

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2014

A vigilante state & society

Babar Sattar

DO you judge a society by how it treats its mighty or its vulnerable? What do you call a state that serves the powerful and not the weak? What distinguishes a civilised society from a jungle if survival of the fittest is the rule in both? What is the purpose of having morals, ethics and law if these codes neither protect the frail nor bind the aggressors? If our state unravels it will be due to obvious answers to these rhetorical questions and not due to our fiscal deficit.

DO you judge a society by how it treats its mighty or its vulnerable? What do you call a state that serves the powerful and not the weak? What distinguishes a civilised society from a jungle if survival of the fittest is the rule in both? What is the purpose of having morals, ethics and law if these codes neither protect the frail nor bind the aggressors? If our state unravels it will be due to obvious answers to these rhetorical questions and not due to our fiscal deficit.

Have our ‘so-called’ progressives become self-loathers? Don’t bad things happen in large countries everywhere? Can a small intolerant and violent minority in the society define the sane majority as well? When disciplined passengers at a foreign airport transform into an unruly mob the moment they descend on Pakistan, isn’t the ‘system’ to blame and not the individuals?

Who is to argue that a state or society is doomed forever? Pakistanis are an industrious lot excelling as expats in developed countries. Can’t Pakistan do well too if it adopts a functional ‘system’? Of course it can. But where will such a ‘system’ come from? Are the agents of change within our state or society today wiser from past mistakes and focused on building institutions as opposed to degrading them further?

Something very sinister is happening in Pakistan. As a society we are losing our moral compass; our ability to distinguish right from wrong in daily life (in a non-maulvi sense). And in this polarised state, self-righteousness, bigotry and vigilantism has come to define not just societal reactions but those of state institutions as well. Consequently, state institutions are undermining not just their own credibility but also state legitimacy.

Dr Mehdi Qamar, a US-based cardiologist visiting Pakistan for a week, was shot 10 times and killed in Rabwah last week. Dr Qamar was Ahmadi. If you are an Ahmadi in Pakistan you are fair game. The majority of us have made peace with the fact that because of your faith, the hard-liners amongst us might kill you. Now that we are running out of Ahmadis, we have moved on to Shias. Dr Faisal Manzoor, a fellow Abdalian, was shot dead outside his clinic in Hasanabdal last month. Everyone says he was a great guy. Tough luck that he was Shia.

Last week, during an exchange with an educated, well-travelled and prosperous relative, the conversation turned to Pakistan’s state as it always does. In the context of growing militancy he volunteered that killing Shias might be a tad extreme, but they are mischief-makers with divided loyalties and do ‘deserve’ some of it. This 70-year old, non-violent, generally likeable man, it turned out, was comfortable, if not happy, with the persecution of Shias in Pakistan.

Last week, Farzana Parveen, the three-month pregnant 25-year-old, was hacked in full public view outside Lahore High Court by her father and brothers. She had married of her own will. Farzana’s husband (a middle-aged man who strangled his first wife to death and was released after serving only a one-year prison term because his son forgave him as his mother’s legal heir) claims that his marriage became a matter of ‘honour’ when Farzana’s family didn’t receive the money it demanded.

Some are outraged that the police didn’t respond in time. Is our police force even designed to respond to ordinary citizens? Saqib Jan, a 22-year-old, was killed on May 9 (his throat slit in a neighbouring house) and FIR No. 168 was registered in Thana Wah Cantt. The distraught mother is running from pillar to post to have the police pay heed and arrest the killers. There has been no progress. How do you tell her that she (or Saqib) isn’t significant enough for the state to care?

Having transpired right outside Aiwan-i-Adl, Farzana’s gruesome murder is mocking our criminal justice system. The irony seems lost only on those who sit in the hallowed chambers of justice. The Lahore High Court had ruled back in the ’90s that women who marry someone of their own choice bring their parents into disrepute and don’t deserve the court’s sympathy. The CII insists that parents can marry off little girls and any law prohibiting child-marriage is un-Islamic.

The view that women are chattel is thus shared by the state and society. When the video of the Taliban flogging a woman in Swat was released, guardians of our moral virtue cried conspiracy. Last week, Noor Hussain, a 75-year-old Pakistani immigrant, was sent to jail for 25-years for beating to death his 66-year-old wife in Brooklyn. She cooked him lentils when he wanted meat. Is it a lie that a majority amongst us is OK with men beating their wives, even if beating them to death is a tad extreme?

There will be no reprisal for the killing of Faisal Manzoor, Mehdi Qamar, Farzana Parveen or the 17-year-old from Muzaffargarh who self-immolated after being gang-raped in March this year. This is not because there isn’t enough outrage. There isn’t enough outrage because our culture and we allow for the vulnerable being slapped around (or killed in the process) and minorities being persecuted (or killed).

Tailpiece: The honorable Supreme Court has sought guarantees from the government that no citizens will be starved under its watch. Who will seek guarantees from the Supreme Court that no citizen will be meted injustice under its watch?

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Livelihood crisis

Zeenat Hisam

EARLY June is the time the workers in Pakistan hope for some respite in managing their meager household budgets and look forward to a raise in minimum wage announced with the annual budget of the country. The minimum wage for unskilled workers currently in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is Rs10,000 per month, while in Balochistan it is Rs9,000.

EARLY June is the time the workers in Pakistan hope for some respite in managing their meager household budgets and look forward to a raise in minimum wage announced with the annual budget of the country. The minimum wage for unskilled workers currently in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is Rs10,000 per month, while in Balochistan it is Rs9,000.

With the current family size of 6.8 and 1.5 earning members per family in Pakistan, a monthly income of Rs10,000 translates into Rs73.52 (less than one dollar) per person per day in the household. The picture gets gloomier when we look at the national average monthly wages reported in Pakistan Labour Force Survey 2012-2013 — 20pc workers earn up to Rs5,000 and 41.73pc make an income between Rs5,000 to Rs10,000. With a 9pc inflation rate, minimum wages in real terms amount to even less.

The data indicates the real wages in Pakistan have been declining since the last several years, shrinking the purchasing power of wage earners and swelling the numbers of the poor. So, does minimum wage help workers to ward off growing in-work poverty? Yes it does help. Minimum wage, indexed to inflation, is now considered as an effective tool to help ensure decent living standards for vulnerable households.

The debate on minimum wage gathered momentum in the wake of globalisation and has come full force after the 2009 financial crisis. Financial globalisation has led labour income share to fall far behind capital income share (the profit share) in most countries, leading to gross inequality in income distribution not just in developed economies but in developing countries. A decrease in labour share impacts household consumption.

In the countries hit by the 2009 crisis, minimum wage is being vigorously used as a social protection tool for vulnerable workers. Brazil has successfully used minimum wage since the last many years as an effective policy tool to stimulate domestic consumption and it opted for a 12pc (6pc in real terms) raise in minimum wage based on the rate of inflation and GDP growth in February 2009 as a response to a crisis.

The US increased its minimum wage in July 2009 and now a bill is in Congress that recommends a minimum wage indexed to inflation. In the UK, the biggest percentage increase in the minimum wage since 2008 will take effect from Oct 1, 2014. Meanwhile, the Labour Party in its 2015 election campaign has promised a statutory minimum wage linked to average earnings if it comes to power. Germany is introducing a universal minimum wage setting system from January 2015.

Minimum wage setting system is in place in most countries though the system varies in several aspects (periodicity, adjustment to inflation, applicability, compliance) and policy objectives. The opponents of minimum wage argue that it impacts employment adversely: higher minimum wage hurts business and leads to unemployment. The debate is tilting in favour of the proponents who believe minimum wage helps workers in their struggle for a decent living; does not affect employment; reduces turnover and improves productivity.

Though Pakistan has a statutory wage-fixing system in place, it lacks efficiency, efficacy, compliance, clear policy objectives and policy coordination. Pakistan has not ratified any of the three ILO Conventions related to minimum wages — Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery Convention No. 26; Minimum-Wage-Fixing Machinery (Agriculture) Convention No. 99; and Minimum Wage Fixing Convention No. 131.

The ILO conventions require the minimum wage-fixing machinery to have the capacity to determine and periodically review and adjust minimum wage rates; have force of law; respect the freedom of collective bargaining and ensure full consultation with representative organisations of employers and workers.

After the 18th Amendment and devolution of labour, the federal government does not have the mandate to determine the minimum wage. The provincial governments now regulate minimum rates of wages for all classes of workers (‘skilled, unskilled, intellectual, technical, clerical, manual or other work including domestic’) under the Pakistan Minimum Wages Ordinance 1961. The legislation excludes the employees of provincial governments, coal mines and agriculture.

Under this law, specially constituted tripartite provincial minimum wage boards recommend (to respective governments) the minimum rates of wages (for time work, piece work, overtime work and paid holidays) in specified industries. The law stipulates a monthly wage with ‘revisions done not earlier than one year and not later than three years’.

But the status of the wage boards is only advisory and the boards are not authorised to recommend minimum wages on their own initiative. Neither are they empowered to enforce the wages. The process of minimum wage-fixing (ie, selection of the members of wage boards, publicity of rates, penalties for false records, appointment of inspectors) — is marred by poor governance.

The appointment of the wage board chairman is often based on political expediency rather than the criteria spelled out in the law, ie adequate knowledge of industrial labour and economic conditions. The three board members (one representative of the employers, one of the workers and one independent) are similarly nominated.

It is time the provincial governments remove lacunae and complexities in the existing minimum wage-setting system and carry out amendments in the 1961 Ordinance through tripartite consultation. The conditions for minimum wage indexing to inflation and regular annual revisions must be made statutory and applicability extended to agricultural workers.

The writer is associated with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.

zeenathisam2004

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

It’s a bird, it’s a plane

Zarrar Khuhro

THERE’S an eye in the sky and it’s looking at you. Hovering overhead, it watches through unblinking optical eyes. It’s a drone, but not the kind we’re accustomed to hearing about in Pakistan.

THERE’S an eye in the sky and it’s looking at you. Hovering overhead, it watches through unblinking optical eyes. It’s a drone, but not the kind we’re accustomed to hearing about in Pakistan.

This is no Predator or Reaper raining down hellfire missiles; this is a camera-equipped quadcopter (or an octocopter and so on) and it’s being operated not by shadowy pilots somewhere in an American base, but by local TV channels.

As drones expand beyond military use, they’re being utilised for many purposes across the world, from mapping to spraying pesticides to, in at least one reported case in India, delivering pizza. It was just a matter of time before media organisations decided to get into the game and obtain the ultimate top shot. Now, the age of drone journalism has begun.

It had to happen; drones allow journalists to cover riots and civil disorder without actually exposing themselves to baton charges and rioting crowds. This was handy not only during the riots in Kiev earlier this year but also in the relatively tamer Thailand protests last December. Then there’s the aerial footage obtained of the flooding in England and of the damage caused by a tornado in America. All drones.

Working in DawnNews, my colleagues and I had joked about getting a remote controlled plane and dubbing it the ‘Dawn Drone’, and now, there are at least four TV channels that have used some kind of camera-equipped drone. One used it to shoot the terrain of Thar and the others, typically, employed them to cover various political rallies. That’s not surprising given that politics is, for some reason, considered supremely newsworthy here. With a basic model costing about Rs150,000, it’s likely that more channels, and not just channels, will be soon using these devices.

This is where things get tricky; using them where and when you choose is not strictly legal. According to Civil Aviation Authority rules, aerial photography cannot be permitted unless the federal government allows it. Once permission is given, the director general, CAA may specify what kind of footage can be taken.

Anecdotally, drone operators trying to cover an MQM rally in Karachi and a PTI rally in Islamabad were asked to desist after a while by local authorities who cited security risks. In the latter case, the operators were especially cautioned to avoid straying into the Red Zone. Understandably, there is considerable confusion on the part of the regulators and authorities, both out of habit and also due to the newness of the situation.

The Americans are facing similar dilemmas. While the Federal Aviation Authority would like to clamp down, proponents argue their use is a first amendment right. That hasn’t stopped the FAA from trying to fine users of what it calls ‘unmanned aircraft systems’, especially people like the guy who crashed his drone into a New York sidewalk.

Additionally, at least four US states and several cities have enacted laws aimed at limited commercial drones, mostly in order to protect privacy. That’s one of the main concerns, the others being safety and security.

Apart from the New York incident, in which no one was hurt, there was a crash in Australia. Here, a drone that had been recording the progress of a triathalon fell onto one of the contestants, injuring her. So if we imagine an increasing number of drones in Pakistani skies, flown mostly by amateurs, navigating amid buildings and electric wires and such, the prognosis is not encouraging.

Then there is the question of security. Given the propensity of terrorists to adopt and innovate, how long before some form of copter drones are used for reconnaissance, supplies, and perhaps one day, delivering an explosive payload? In the latter case, while the damage may not be great, the impact would certainly be considerable.

But coming back to media drones, it’s fairly easy to imagine the sheer violations of privacy that will undoubtedly occur. Forget about operators going rogue and playing peeping Tom (you know that’s entirely possible), one doesn’t have high hopes from the mainstream TV channels either.

Now, the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, an informal international body, has drafted a code of ethics for the occasion, but I won’t insult your intelligence or stretch the bounds of belief by suggesting that anyone here will pay any attention to, let alone implement, it.

Eventually those drones will be in the hands of the ‘chaapa teams’ and hovering over parks and outside parlour windows. Instead of content you’re likely to get is Maya Khan with a drone. And that’s a thought frightening enough to make anyone draw the curtains.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

The last chance

Moazzam Husain

SOUTH Indian-style prawns cooked in spices and coconut milk next to a Lucknavi specialty, galouti kebabs and an array of mouth-watering dishes, signified a celebration of the cuisines of South Asia. And bringing the leadership of the Saarc countries together for his swearing-in was a skilful manoeuvre from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It signified a celebration of South Asian democracy; all eight Saarc leaders are democratically elected.

SOUTH Indian-style prawns cooked in spices and coconut milk next to a Lucknavi specialty, galouti kebabs and an array of mouth-watering dishes, signified a celebration of the cuisines of South Asia. And bringing the leadership of the Saarc countries together for his swearing-in was a skilful manoeuvre from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It signified a celebration of South Asian democracy; all eight Saarc leaders are democratically elected.

The last time India and Europe stood at similar stages of historical development was in the 16th century. As Mughal Emperor Akbar expanded his empire across North India, Europe was experiencing plague deaths as well as terrible massacres and conquests. But at another level, a renaissance of learning and ideas was spreading fast across the continent. Thus began the rise of the Western civilisation. Thereafter, their paths diverged.

Today, South Asia faces the monumental challenge of meeting the basic need of its inhabitants for food, water, energy, healthcare, education and access to justice. In its essence the agenda facing all Saarc countries is the twin challenge of human development and economic betterment of its people: How to get incomes to rise, how to raise revenues for the state, how to build quality institutions and government capacity that can address this agenda.

In 1980, China’s per capita income stood at $300, in line with Saarc countries. Deng Xiaoping’s reforms had only just begun, premised as they were on de-collectivisation of agriculture, opening up to foreign direct investment and enforcement of a one-child policy.

These measures were followed up by privatisation and allowing private enterprise. Today China’s demographic dividend may be running out, but the average Chinese enjoys a per capita income nearly five times that of their South Asian counterpart.

So where next for South Asia? Demographers and development specialists may differ whether South Asia’s demographic dividend would last another two decades or four. At any rate, without jobs this dividend becomes a liability. But these decades may represent South Asia’s last chance.

Modi’s challenges are domestic — slowing growth, rising inflation, an economy that is not creating enough jobs and where government finances are a mess. The expectations from him are huge, as is his burden of responsibility. The fact that India is riddled with corruption and crony capitalism further complicates matters. Economic engagement with Pakistan is probably peripheral, if at all visible on his radar at this stage.

Can Modi deliver? After all, what he did in Gujarat, can it not be scaled up, replicated in the rest of India? Some regard this sceptically; a ‘provincial’ solution to a national problem. True, Modi made Gujarat India’s most favoured investment destination and in 2013 Gujarat bagged nearly a quarter of the country’s industrial investment proposals.

Most of that success can be put down to the favourable incentives Modi’s Gujarat would offer to cut itself a larger slice of India’s cake — and this is not the same thing as India getting a bigger cake.

A case in point would be Tata’s decision to move the location of its automobile assembly plant for the Nano from West Bengal to Gujarat. From the left pocket to the right pocket. Similarly for FDI, once the decision to invest in India had been made in Tokyo, Seoul, London or Rotterdam the next step would be to select the site location. And Gujarat was where land acquisition was the fastest.

Granted, this may be a rather harsh evaluation of Modi’s performance in Gujarat; still the question is, can the South Asian governments in power today (and their successors) deliver in the next couple of decades what has eluded their predecessors in the last six? After all Deng Xiaoping did it in China. But unlike the Communist Party whose party structure was organised from the ground up, from the village commune to the politburo, South Asian governments have to depend on decaying colonial-era state structures for implementation, on bureaucracies and ‘babus’, who themselves represent a force of the status quo.

Beyond this organisational and institutional incapability it is the politics, prejudice, mistrust and territorial issues among states that keep things gridlocked.

Yet there are successful examples of ‘bottom up’ development initiatives in South Asia which include India’s Amul dairy farmers’ cooperative model, Pakistan’s Orangi Pilot Project and Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank and these ought to be replicated across South Asia.

The coming decades cannot afford to be squandered. The consequence of that would be catastrophic and would condemn too much of humanity to permanent backwardness and misery.

The writer was DG, Punjab Board of Investment & Trade and has assisted the Planning Commission in developing Pakistan Vision 2025 and the 11th Five-Year Plan

moazzamhusain

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2014

Threat to Sino-Pak friendship

Muhammad Amir Rana

THE issue of terrorism remains at the heart of the world’s diplomatic, economic and strategic engagement with Pakistan. It invariably constrains Pakistan’s pursuit of economic, strategic and political interests.

THE issue of terrorism remains at the heart of the world’s diplomatic, economic and strategic engagement with Pakistan. It invariably constrains Pakistan’s pursuit of economic, strategic and political interests.

The recent incident of the kidnapping of a Chinese tourist from Zhob district of Balochistan coincided with President Mamnoon Hussain’s and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s visit to Beijing to sign the contract of Pakistan’s first metro train project. Though the president condemned the incident and vowed that Pakistan would take effective measures to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and projects in the country, China is deeply concerned about the security of its interests in Pakistan.

Also, it is concerned about the Uighur militants who are allegedly based in the Pak-Afghan border areas and have developed strong links with Pakistani and foreign militants of Central Asian and Arab origin sheltered in these areas.

Pakistan cannot set aside Chinese security concerns as China has emerged as a major economic development and trade partner of the country. According to media reports, China is investing around $52 billion in major projects in Pakistan.

China’s new leadership has come up with a regional economic approach to engage neighbouring countries for common development and economic integration. Under this framework, China wants improved regional infrastructure for better connectivity; it is offering help and collaboration in building better transport networks including roads, motorways, railways and air links.

Under this vision, China is planning to develop four highways and maritime economic corridors including the Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-China economic corridor and one with Central Asia. However, the Chinese are more enthusiastic about the China-Pakistan economic corridor and consider it an important part of the 21st-century Silk Road.

The second risk entails Chinese policymakers’ perceived fiscal concerns. But the PML-N-led government is planning to allocate over Rs73bn in the Public Sector Development Programme for the next budget (2014-15) in order to implement development projects under the China-Pakistan economic corridor. Given Pakistan’s economic situation, assistance from the Chinese financial sector cannot be ignored. The Chinese know if there is a political will, there will be an economic way.

However, Pakistan needs to take more initiatives to address Chinese concerns related to their perceived security risks. China has two major security concerns: first, the link of terrorism and insecurity in China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s tribal areas; and second, the security of its citizens working on projects in Pakistan.

The terrorists based in Pakistan’s tribal areas are not the only actors contributing towards insecurity in China; separatists and violent extremists based in Xinjiang also pose major internal security threats.

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Etim) and its breakaway factions such as the Turkestan Islamic Party are expanding their outreach within China and recent incidents of terrorism in Beijing and Kunming have increased anxiety among the Chinese authorities.

A realisation is growing among Chinese think tanks that only the development strategy in conflict-ridden regions cannot resolve the problem; they will have to adopt a political approach to increase engagement with communities, including the Uighurs.

Despite these changing dynamics of terrorism and insecurity in China, Beijing still expects active support from Pakistan. The Chinese believe that militants based in Pakistan’s tribal areas were the masterminds behind major recent terrorist attacks that occurred in China.

That is why after incidents of terrorism in China, pressure on Pakistan increases.

This is a tough equation; China is not the US, and it keeps politics separate from its core issues. Pakistan will have less space to avoid Chinese pressure on this subject.

The writer is a security expert.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Lurching right

Cyril Almeida

EVERY so often — ever so often? — the urge to curl up in a foetal position and shut out the world takes over. It’s a mad, mad world — always has been, always will be — but this?

EVERY so often — ever so often? — the urge to curl up in a foetal position and shut out the world takes over. It’s a mad, mad world — always has been, always will be — but this?

Woman dead. Doctor dead. Depressing. Nauseating. Animals. Somebody stop them. Someone make it go away. The world is outraged and Pakistan is, allegedly, embarrassed — again.

But the outrage is largely manufactured. And in these particular cases it’s been manufactured from outside.

Some do care here, but, really, most don’t. And until the outraged wrap their heads around that, nothing will change. Scratch that. Things will go on changing, just not for the better.

Ahmadis are harassed, intimidated, threatened, beaten and killed. It’s just the done thing. This particular death — the dead doctor — went global for two very simple, very obvious reasons: he was an American; he was a doctor volunteering to save lives here.

Women are killed here routinely for marrying of their own choice. A thousand every year we’ve all now been told, news sourced from long-published reports that no one had read until they needed to give context to news of the dead woman in Lahore.

About that dead woman in Lahore. You know — or should know — why you’ve heard of Farzana Iqbal, née Parveen — actually, her name too probably registers less than the pregnant woman stoned to death outside the Lahore High Court.

Again, two very simple, very obvious reasons: someone inserted the word stoning in the original headline reporting her death; the murder happened outside the grand setting of a high court, as riveting a juxtaposition as they come.

Had Farzana been shot to death on her way to a local court in some small-bore district of rural Pakistan, you wouldn’t have heard of her. It’s not a hypothetical: go back and sift through the news since you heard of Farzana’s death and you’ll find other, new, anonymous deaths.

As for Farzana, clearly a victim, clearly a death that deserves firm justice, her backstory raises uncomfortable questions that few will want to ask.

Forget her dead sister, was Farzana complicit in the murder of her husband’s first wife? In a normal, functional country, she’d have at least been called in for questioning.

But in an abnormal, dysfunctional society, what does it matter if anyone else instigated the husband to murder his first wife — after all, the murderer himself was always going to be let off.

What little outrage there is has been forced upon us temporarily because the international community has made us feel embarrassed about the dead doctor and the dead woman by reminding us there is a dead doctor and a dead woman.

Some — the few genuinely outraged here — will pause to ask a familiar question, why are we this way as a people? Because the question is driven by emotion, the answers too will mostly be emotional: we’ve lost our way; we’re awful people; we’re a diseased nation; things are falling apart.

A few answers will be couched in the technical: institutional decay; broken judicial system; ineffective leadership.

The emotional and the technical may well both be right: the nation probably does need a collective shrink and the state many surgeons. But those answers can also miss the point.

In the dead doctor and the dead woman, two different but intertwined stories can also be told. One is that the basic building block of society here is not perceived to be the individual, it is believed to be the family, and, by extension, the community.

The Constitution guarantees individual rights, the law is designed to protect them — but few among the people here are really convinced that it is the individual who is foundational and of core importance.

Without that belief, rights will always be in jeopardy and the individual who steps out of line always in danger. If the enforcers don’t really believe in it and most of the intended beneficiaries don’t either, how do you protect and safeguard the rights of the individual?

That is partly the reason why Farzana is dead.

The second story is of a contest that everyone can see and feel, but few are willing to recognise for what it is: the orientation of state and society is being contested, but it is a contest between the extreme right and centre right.

So it’s not a question of whether there should be a new equilibrium for state and society, but how far to the right — in a religious, conservative, social sense — state and society should be pulled.

And that is a large part of the reason why Mehdi Ali is dead.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a@gmail.com

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Bias as a prop

Basil Nabi Malik

THE Supreme Court had lately been hearing matters related to the closure of channels of a certain network, as well as the alleged actions of other channels of inciting violence and hatred against the said network.

THE Supreme Court had lately been hearing matters related to the closure of channels of a certain network, as well as the alleged actions of other channels of inciting violence and hatred against the said network.

During these proceedings, an issue was raised pertaining to the perceived bias of one of the judges. This allegation of bias had been made on the basis of the Geo network’s owner purportedly being a ‘close relative’ of the judge.

It was perhaps in the light of this that the judge decided to hear the case and also outlined his reasons in a judicial order. This was followed by his detractors stating predictably that the principles of natural justice had been breached, and that no person could be a ‘judge in his own cause’. Furthermore, unfounded whispers could also be heard of the judiciary’s alleged bent towards one media group to the detriment of other media organisations.

This was the situation despite the fact that the Supreme Court had on various occasions laid down the principles to be followed in determining whether recusal from a case was required or not.

Firstly, the Supreme Court has on numerous occasions held that a superior court judge is the keeper of his own conscience, and, hence, it is for him and him alone to decide whether or not to hear a certain case.

Although the detractors often quote Article 4 of the Supreme Court’s Code of Conduct to convey that a judge is bound to recuse himself in case of personal connection of any sort with one of the parties, they often lose sight of the fact that in terms of this article, it is the domain of the judge himself to determine whether a personal connection that would require his recusal exists or not.

Where the law is concerned, in order to determine personal bias, it must be seen whether there is a ‘real likelihood’ of prejudice being caused to the litigant by the non-recusal of a judge from the bench. ‘Real likelihood’ is seen by the Supreme Court in terms of the apprehensions of a reasonable man apprised of the facts, and not simply allegations based on mere suspicions.

In this case, the judge is said to have not been in any significant contact with the owner of the media house for an extended period of time; he was not directly related to him by blood; and was not in any way expected to gain from the subject matter of the proceedings. The extent of his relationship, or lack thereof, was also mentioned in an order last month that was passed by the judge in relation to an application for the revival of Constitutional Petition No. 51 of 2010 seeking the regulation of cable operators.

Hence, although it is true that even a far-flung connection may cast aspersions on the judge giving rise to suspicions of partiality, such doubts are not sufficient to require him to recuse himself from the case. In the eyes of the law at least, the judge may have been well within his rights to keep hearing the matter.

The law has clearly enunciated the limits of discretion to be exercised by the judges in deciding whether or not to recuse themselves from a case. The basis of such discretion is to discourage attempts to attain a bench of one’s own choice by initiating smear campaigns against sitting justices.

If seen from this perspective, the judge’s decision was an important and necessary step to protect the independence of an institution. In fact, any recusal arising in the midst of a vicious smear campaign would have sent a dangerous signal to the public that the independence of the judiciary could conveniently be sacrificed at the altar of perceptions.

The writer is an attorney at law.

basil.nabi@gmail.com

Twitter: @basilnabi

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

Aberration is the norm

Nazish Brohi

However, all three are not aberrations. There are four previous known cases of women being killed with stones for sexual relations, and thousands more murdered with different weapons for the same crime. Nor is it the first time such crimes were perpetrated near or within a court premises. In 1998, Rifat Afridi and Kanwar Ahsan were shot in a Karachi court for contracting a marriage by choice; they survived. In 2012, Raheela Sehto was killed for the same reason inside a court in Hyderabad. Earlier this year, Humaira Ashraf was killed, weeks after her marriage, by her brother inside the court premises in Gujranwala.

However, all three are not aberrations. There are four previous known cases of women being killed with stones for sexual relations, and thousands more murdered with different weapons for the same crime. Nor is it the first time such crimes were perpetrated near or within a court premises. In 1998, Rifat Afridi and Kanwar Ahsan were shot in a Karachi court for contracting a marriage by choice; they survived. In 2012, Raheela Sehto was killed for the same reason inside a court in Hyderabad. Earlier this year, Humaira Ashraf was killed, weeks after her marriage, by her brother inside the court premises in Gujranwala.

Finally, there have been many cases of people becoming spectators in violence against women. In 2010, 14 people stripped and thrashed a mother and daughter in front of the whole town of Shehr-i-Sultan near Mirwala. In 2011, Shahnaz Bibi was paraded naked across Neelor Bala in Haripur. No one stepped forward to stop the abuse in either case. In countless jirga judgements, entire communities are complicit in crimes passed off as custom. Domestic violence is tolerated.

Of course, impunity is not specific to cases of violence against women. If (the then former) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Iqbal Raad was killed while defending his case, and Benazir Bhutto’s case lawyer Chaudhry Zulfiqar was killed, with no conviction in either murder, it may be pointless to lament about impunity in the case of Rashid Rehman, who was representing a mere university lecturer.

Impunity compromises the state’s legitimacy. The state is not a monolith. Its composite institutions can and do work. There are signs of change. New and improved laws have been legislated. The police are becoming more responsive in swara cases. But with less than a 3pc conviction rate in honour killings and rapes, deterrence is non-existent. Protest against the state for failing to protect the people is not a demand for security guards for everyone. It is a demand for the revocation of impunity.

Tougher is the fact that ‘ordinary’ people kill women in their family with societal consensus, and collude in premeditated acts of murder on blasphemy cases. It has nothing to do with poverty and illiteracy. Samia’s family is part of the elite. The aggressors in Rehman’s case comprised educated lawyers.

In Farzana’s case, this is the third woman’s murder in one family. Intolerance and violence seem to be the only factors to have had a trickle-down effect. But nuanced understandings consolidate into cataracts of cynical acceptance. So, after the outrage, what next?

The writer is a researcher.

nazishbrohi.nb@gmail.com

Twitter: @Nazish_Brohi

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2014

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