DWS, Sunday 29th June to Saturday 5th July 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 29th June to Saturday 5th July 2014

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National News

Brazil oust Chile on penalties

AFP

BELO HORIZONTE: Nervous Brazil beat Chile 3-2 on penalties to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday after an epic battle that left Neymar and his teammates in tears.

BELO HORIZONTE: Nervous Brazil beat Chile 3-2 on penalties to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday after an epic battle that left Neymar and his teammates in tears.

Two first half-goals were all the teams managed in a fast-paced and tense 90 minutes and extra time in the Mineirao Stadium.

Gonzalo Jara missed the decisive penalty for Chile, crashing his shot against the post, to continue his country’s record of World Cup misery against Brazil.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Rashid says he wrote Sharif’s victory speech

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: In a reply to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief’s outburst in Bahawalpur, Information Minister Pervez Rashid said on Saturday that instead of spouting rhetoric about electoral rigging Imran Khan should focus on the welfare of those displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan.

ISLAMABAD: In a reply to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief’s outburst in Bahawalpur, Information Minister Pervez Rashid said on Saturday that instead of spouting rhetoric about electoral rigging Imran Khan should focus on the welfare of those displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan.

Speaking at a press conference a day after the PTI chief threatened to march on Islamabad on the Independence Day, the information minister accused Mr Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri of trying to undermine the government at a time when it was delivering on promises.

Replying to each of the four questions raised by the PTI chief a day earlier, Mr Rashid revealed: “I was responsible for Nawaz Sharif’s speech on the polling day (May 11 last year),” adding that he was “ready to be hanged for this crime”.

On that day, he said, the media was reporting unofficial results and trends from most constituencies and according to all accounts the PML-N had either won or was leading in 120 of them. It was then, he said, that he requested Mr Sharif to make a speech to express his gratitude to the people and party workers.

In reply to a question about returning officers (ROs), Mr Rashid said that except for the PTI, no party was pushing for the appointment of the ROs from the judiciary.

He showed reporters press clippings of Mr Khan’s statement on Oct 20, 2012, in which the PTI chief had demanded that the ROs should be taken from the judiciary. “This demand was not made by us, by the PPP, the ANP, the JUI-F or the JI. It was their own demand,” he added.

The minister regretted that there was a time when Mr Khan used to say that the judiciary was the only trustworthy institution, but “now he abuses the judiciary on a daily basis”.

Mr Rashid said the PML-N had no say in the appointments of the caretaker governments as all its nominees had been rejected by the ruling PPP.

It was the PPP which had suggested the name of Najam Sethi as interim Punjab chief minister. Moreover, he said, the caretaker government in Punjab had sidelined all those officials who had been associated with Shahbaz Sharif and appointed Chaudhry Pervez Elahi’s favourites to key positions.

Responding to the allegation that election results were changed in 35 constituencies, Mr Rashid said that had the PML-N been in a position to do something during the polls, it could have “punctured Imran Khan’s tube” in Rawalpindi, where he won his National Assembly seat.

He said the PTI had not fielded candidates in 100 constituencies in Punjab and in 70 constituencies where it had its nominees had only bagged around eight per cent of polled votes.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Four polio cases detected

Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD: Four new polio cases — three from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) — have been recorded in the country.

ISLAMABAD: Four new polio cases — three from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) — have been recorded in the country.

According to the Prime Minister’s Polio Cell, the families of three of the children refused to have them vaccinated, while the fourth child could not be immunised because of a Taliban ban on vaccinations in Waziristan.

According to the cell, 28-month-old Janoor, son of Gul Faraz Khan from Miramshah in North Waziristan, had not been vaccinated due to the Taliban’s opposition to the practice.

Four-month-old Tuba, daughter of Peshawar-resident Rahimullah, was not administered the vaccine despite repeated visits by the Sehat Ka Insaf teams.

The third victim, four-month-old Abdur Rehman is the son of Sultan Sher from Mardan, which is the hotbed of vaccine refusal.

Bannu resident Gul Sabir Shah’s son Faridullah was the fourth victim of the debilitating disease. Bannu is one of the most hostile areas for vaccinators in the country.

With the fresh cases, the total number of polio cases detected in 2014 has gone up to 88.

An official from the Ministry of National Health Services told Dawn that the only way to curb the disease was to announce a ‘polio emergency’.

Know more: IDPs registration started to halt polio spread

“After the proclamation of a polio emergency, vaccine refusal should be declared a crime,” he suggested.

WHO Pakistan Polio chief Dr Elias Durry told Dawn that the military operation offered an opportunity to reach the children of North Waziristan.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Power grid can’t cope with demand

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The authorities conceded on Thursday that due to obsolete transmission system the national grid was simply incapable of supplying more than 15,000MW of electricity to consumers.

ISLAMABAD: The authorities conceded on Thursday that due to obsolete transmission system the national grid was simply incapable of supplying more than 15,000MW of electricity to consumers.

They also acknowledged that they were resorting to 25-30 per cent of loadshedding at the time of Sehr and Iftar.

Water and Power Secre­tary Nargis Sethi told the National Assembly’s Stand­ing Committee on Water and Power that the transmission system was incapable of sustaining a supply of more than 15,000MW, as overloading led to tripping and other serious problems.

“In case the load exceeds 15,000MW, it seems the entire system has been put on fire,” she remarked during the meeting.

Ms Sethi said the system needed to be upgraded fast. Efforts should also be made to improve the rate of recovery of dues.

She, however, urged the committee led by Arshad Khan Leghari to bear with the current team of power managers because “we will give positive results soon”.

State Minister Abid Sher Ali admitted that people were forced to endure electricity shortage of between 25 and 30 per cent at the time of Sehr and Iftar. At these times the demand rose to 20,000MW but the transmission system could not supply more than 15,000MW.

The minister said that in an effort to control theft, 100,000 electricity meters had been changed in Lahore on the directives of the prime minister.

Related: Power subsidy being increased in Ramazan

The committee also reviewed the steps taken to control power theft during the tenure of former chief executive of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) Arshad Rafique. Lesco chief Rao Zamir­uddin said that 4,234 first information reports were registered during the tenure of Mr Rafique and 58,365 detection bills of Rs1.6 billion sent out. So far Rs685 million had been recovered.

Answering a question, Abid Sher Ali said it had become “impossible” for the government to provide electricity to tube wells at Rs10.34 per unit. The rate would have to be increased by up to Rs2 per unit.

He said the government was providing subsidy to farmers through other means, including schemes for cheaper tractors and fertilisers. He said the government was trying to complete power generation projects at the earliest so that electricity shortage could be overcome.

To a question, Ms Sethi confirmed that there was a shortage of electricity transformers because of some pending cases in courts but the government was trying to overcome the problem.

Also read: Extended blackouts during Ramazan feared

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Karachi to Lahore motorway project approved

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved on Thursday 12 development projects with an estimated cost of over Rs440 billion, including Rs310bn for the Karachi-Lahore motorway.

ISLAMABAD: The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved on Thursday 12 development projects with an estimated cost of over Rs440 billion, including Rs310bn for the Karachi-Lahore motorway.

Presiding over a meeting of the council, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar asked the departments concerned to devise a mechanism to complete the projects on time because delays resulted in considerable increase in their cost.

The meeting asked the Planning Commission to monitor progress of the projects envisaged and said evaluation of PC-4s (project completion certificates) should be a regular exercise to make improvement in the system for better results.

Ecnec approved the Karachi-Multan-Lahore motorway (KLM) project and 387km Sukkur-Multan section at a rationalised cost of Rs259.353bn. Ten per cent cost of the project will come from the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and the rest from credit financing by the Chinese government.

The project will be completed by October 2017 by the National Highway Authority. It envisages construction of six-lane Sukkur-Multan section of the 1148km KLM, including building of bridges, interchanges, nullahs, etc.

Ecnec also approved a project for land acquisition, compensation of affected properties and relocation of utilities for the motorway at a rationalised cost of Rs51bn.

Also read: Economic corridor projects to be finalised next month

The meeting approved a Rs5.146bn plan for raising the Balochistan Constabulary, with a foreign financing of Rs200 million. Its objective is to assist police and the district administration in maintaining law and order in the province by recruiting 6,000 additional personnel and merging 4,000 reserved police to make 10,000-man strong Balochistan Constabulary.

The committee approved a flood emergency reconstruction project for bunds and canals (revised PC-I) at a cost of Rs26.905bn, with foreign exchange component of Rs19.279bn by the Asian Development Bank and the local component by the Sindh government.

The project envisages strengthening the entire length of banks of Indus in general and at Tori, SM Bund and FP Bund at Mancher lake damaged by the 2010 floods.

Ecnec approved a project for wind power plants at Jhimpir and Gharo wind clusters located in Thatta and Jamshoro in Sindh at a modified cost of Rs11.277bn. The project to be completed in three years will take 1,756MW of wind power from the two sites after construction of 220KV and 132KV double circuit transmission lines.

The meeting approved acquisition of land for setting up a free trade zone in Gwadar at a revised cost of Rs6.499bn. It envisages acquisition of 2,281 acres of land for the zone of which 1627 acres from land owners.

It approved the widening and improvement of 250km section of Kalat-Quetta-Chaman road of National Highway N-25 at a revised cost of Rs19.140bn, with foreign exchange component of Rs13.920bn from USAID as grant.

Related: NHA approves construction of Karachi-Lahore motorway

Ecnec approved 59.1km Hasanabdal (Burhan)-Havelian expressway (E-35) to be built at a revised cost of Rs30.494bn, including Rs7.592bn foreign exchange component.

The meeting approved establishment of information technology management sciences and telecommunication institutes in Islamabad at a revised cost of Rs3.938bn, with foreign exchange component of Rs613m. The project will be sponsored by the Higher Education Commission and executed by National University of Science and Technology, Islamabad.

Ecnec approved the prime minister’s (national) programme for providing laptops to talented students at a revised cost of Rs4.928bn. Under the project, 100,000 laptops will be distributed this year among students of public sector higher education institutes across the country.

The meeting approved rehabilitation and up-gradation of Trimmu barrage and Panjnad headwork (ADB assisted) at a cost of Rs16.8bn, including an ADB loan of Rs14.9bn.

It approved dualisation and improvement of 64km Mandra-Chakwal road at a revised cost of Rs4.671bn. The project envisages construction of dual-way two-lane carriageway between Mandra and Chakwal.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Jamali takes oath as acting CEC

Kashif Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali of the Supreme Court was sworn in on Thursday as acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

ISLAMABAD: Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali of the Supreme Court was sworn in on Thursday as acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

Replacing Justice Nasirul Mulk, he is the third acting CEC since the resignation of retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim from the position on July 30 last year.

Justice Mulk resigned as acting CEC on Wednesday after his elevation to the post of Chief Justice of Pakistan with effect from July 6.

The oath-taking ceremony was held at the Supreme Court building and attended by judges of the Supreme Court, the attorney general, officers of Election Commission of Pakistan, prominent lawyers and law officers.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

French coach respectful of Germany

Agencies

GERMANY’S experience of playing high-pressure games might give them an edge when they line up against France in a World Cup quarter-final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana on Friday, French coach Didier Deschamps said on Thursday.

GERMANY’S experience of playing high-pressure games might give them an edge when they line up against France in a World Cup quarter-final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana on Friday, French coach Didier Deschamps said on Thursday.

“Germany are very accustomed to this competition,” Deschamps told reporters. “Experience is more on their side, but we will play our game.” France cruised through the group stage of the World Cup in Brazil and then beat Nigeria 2-0 in the first knock-out stage, surprising many fans after Les Bleus only qualified for the tournament via a last-ditch playoff against Ukraine last year.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to thwart cross-border movement

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on Thursday to strengthen their border security cooperation mechanism to thwart any cross-border movement of militants and prevent terrorist activities.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on Thursday to strengthen their border security cooperation mechanism to thwart any cross-border movement of militants and prevent terrorist activities.

The two sides made the commitment during high-level talks at the military’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.

“Both sides agreed to build further trust, continue to talk under all circumstances and evolve a robust and effective bilateral border coordination mechanism,” a military spokesman said.

Afghan authorities had recently accused Pakistan of being involved in clashes in the Helmand province. However, Islamabad on Tuesday expressed dismay over the allegations and denied that Pakistani security personnel had anything to do with the unrest.

“The issue of cross-border shelling also came under discussion. The Afghan delegation was told that Pakistan only fires back in self-defence when border posts are attacked or fired upon by terrorists from Afghan territory,” the spokesman said.

The talks between the two sides focused on the ongoing action in North Waziristan and the armed clashes in Helmand in Afghanistan.

Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta, national security adviser to President Hamid Karzai, recently alleged that Pakistani forces had direct links to the deadly clashes in southern Helmand. He claimed that Pakistani militia forces had been seen in Helmand and other parts of the country where major attacks on Afghan forces had taken place.

However, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam rejected the allegations and called them completely baseless. “At a time when Pakistan is engaged in serious efforts with Afghanistan to address common challenges, it is imperative to refrain from making comments that would detract us from our endeavours to creating a conducive environment for positive and productive engagement,” she said.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the eight-member Afghan military delegation was led by Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Major General Afzal Aman with representatives from the Afghan National Security Council (NSC), Afghan military intelligence and Afghan border police.

The Pakistani side was headed by DGMO Maj Gen Aamer Riaz.

The military spokesman said a detailed briefing on the border coordination mechanism and discussions on the issue of terrorist sanctuaries in Kunar and Nuristan as well as the attack on a Pakistani border village and posts from those sanctuaries, were also discussed.

The meeting, he said, was held in a cordial, congenial and professional atmosphere. “Both sides agreed to meet next meeting for which scheduled is being finalised,” he added.

After the launch of military operation in NWA, both sides are seemed to be committed to enhancing cooperation to rid the two countries of the menace of terrorism.

The talks came soon after Islamabad asked Kabul to track down hardline cleric Mullah Fazlullah, who took over the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last year. Fazlullah is believed to be in hiding in Affghanistan. Military spokesperson Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa called upon the Afghan government, in a briefing on June 30, to take action against Fazlullah.

In the last couple of weeks, many top Afghan officials have met senior Pakistani army officials, including Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif.

The ongoing Zarb-i-Azb operation is being carried out close to Pak-Afghan border and media reports suggest that many terrorists may have escaped to Afghanistan before the launch of the operation.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Arsalan Iftikhar bows out of investment board

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of former chief justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, resigned from the office of Vice Chairman, Balochistan Board of Investment, on Thursday.

QUETTA: Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of former chief justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, resigned from the office of Vice Chairman, Balochistan Board of Investment, on Thursday.

Official sources told Dawn that Mr Arsalan Iftikhar had tendered his resignation.

The sources also said that the National Party leadership, including its chief Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, had advised Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch to review his decision to appoint Arsalan as the board’s Vice Chairman and Dr Malik asked him to tender his resignation.

The Balochistan government received the resignation of Arsalan on Thursday, the sources added.

The chief minister had come in for a lot of flak from media and politicians over the appointment.

Political leaders, including some from the ruling party, opposed the decision and pressed Dr Malik to undo the appointment.

Addressing the Chairman of the Board of Investment ( the chief minister himself) Arsalan Iftikhar wrote in his resignation letter: “Let me take this opportunity to thank you for the trust you reposed in me. I am deeply indebted for this confidence. Sir, we both know you took this step in good faith and were neither forced nor asked by the head of any political party.

“It was not part of any conspiracy to sell our motherland Balochistan’s assets and resources, as cowardly and sheepishly alleged by a few politicians and talk show hosts who have rarely ever visited our Balochistan and are probably not even aware of how many districts there are in our province, how many languages are spoken there, and what are the centuries old traditions or the fact that our society and tribal traditions do not respect and honour people because of the office they hold and change once they cease to have one. Rather it’s permanent relation based on decades of affiliation.”

“I was accused of being a nominee of the federal government. In fact a conspiracy theory was hatched that I am selected to be part of some shameful act to sell the rights of Reko Diq which belong to the people of my province.

“I do not need any post or designation. I have seen these embellishments throughout my life as my honourable father was appointed advocate general of Balochistan by a very honourable man, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, who always led from the front and who knew how to take a stand on his decisions and never succumbed to any pressure.

“I condemn, refute and protest on this approach or thinking that I was appointed to this post for some specific project or to sell the wealth of the people of my province. My critique will find it even more frustrating to know that I am not clinging to any office which I should have been if I was here on the directions of someone from Islamabad.

“To all those foul mouthing me I invite and challenge them to take me to any court of law and prove their allegations.”

In conclusion, Arsalan wrote: “I have a perennial love for my soil as I am a proud son of Balochistan. My family graveyard, where my grandfather and ancestors are buried, is in Balochistan. This is my motherland.

“However, sir, in this situation, as I highlighted earlier, I do not have any vested interest and in order to show it I render my resignation. This should be enough for my critics to prove them wrong.”

Earlier in the day, the provincial assembly session saw a number of speakers lashing out at the government over the appointment of Arsalan.

Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran, an opposition MPA and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F criticised the government for appointing Arsalan to an important post.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Protection Bill gets through parliament

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: The government finally got a softened Protection of Pakistan Bill through parliament on Wednesday as a new legal armour to fight terrorism, but exposed an apparent cleft in its own ranks during a vote in the National Assembly.

ISLAMABAD: The government finally got a softened Protection of Pakistan Bill through parliament on Wednesday as a new legal armour to fight terrorism, but exposed an apparent cleft in its own ranks during a vote in the National Assembly.

However, despite the accommodation of many opposition amendments to what had become the most controversial legislation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s one-year-old administration on grounds of violation of fundamental rights, the new law was passed by a majority vote in a special one-day session of the 342-seat lower house, failing to get unanimity shown by a similar one-day session of the opposition-controlled 104-seat Senate two days ago.

The bill, based on two presidential ordinances decreed in October 2013 and last January, now needs only a formal presidential assent to become law for two years, instead of the previously stipulated three years.

The bill’s major concessions include more safeguards in the use of powers to law-enforcement officers to shoot a terrorism suspect at sight, reduction in remand period to 60 days from 90 days, judicial oversight of internment camps and right of appeal to high courts instead of only once to the Supreme Court.

With the ruling PML-N present in strength, the opposition PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), along with some smaller groups voted for the bill while Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and its smaller ally Jamaat-i-Islami abstained mainly for alleged infringement of fundamental rights though vowing to stand by the armed forces in their military operation against militants in North Waziristan.

But while exuding some pride in getting the bill through both the houses of parliament after seeing it blocked by the Senate following its bulldozing in the National Assembly in April, the government, apparently deliberately, avoided to explain a prolonged absence of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan from the house, hinting there was something more to it than any health reason.

“Chaudhry Nisar is absent from the house, I want to know why?” PTI deputy chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi asked about what he called the architect of the government’s new national security policy.

“It is worth reflection and worth consideration why the interior minister is not present to steer the bill,” he said in the presence of the prime minister.

While Leader of Opposition Khursheed Ahmed Shah avoided to make Chaudhry Nisar’s absence as an issue while announcing PPP’s support for the bill, Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid Ahmed sought to poke fun, saying he was issuing a “missing” notice for the interior minister through the media and asking him to “come back …” (without fear of any admonition).

In his speech afterwards, Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid said the prime minister had asked him “at the start” to pilot the bill both in the National Assembly and Senate and that the same would have happened even if the interior minister had been in the lower house on Wednesday.

The remark seemed to suggest that the prime minister, for some unexplained reason, had kept Chau­dhry Nisar from handling the bill.

Speculations were galore in the lobbies of the Parliament House over whether the prime minister was unhappy with the interior minister’s frequent quarrels with the opposition or the minister was unh­appy with the prime minister’s policies.

Mr Hamid has continued to look after the government’s legislative business in parliament even after the law ministry’s portfolio was taken away from him last year in a move to spare him possible embarrassment in pursuing charges of high treason against former president Pervez Musharraf though he was the last law minister of his government.

In defending the bill on Wednes­day, Mr Hamid rejected Mr Qureshi’s allegation that the new bill would mark a “paradigm shift” in placing the burden of proof on the accused and cited some previous laws from as back as early days of Pakistan containing similar provisions.

He also ruled out MQM parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar’s proposal to give one or two hours to a house committee to further improve the bill after the party had joined the Senate consensus on it, while acceptance of five suggestions from Mr Sattar, such as excluding arson from the definition of “scheduled” offences actionable under the bill and providing for a medical board to examine a detainee once a week, would have meant another shuttle of the legislation between the two houses as had happened earlier to amendments made in the Senate.

“Parliament should today stand united behind the armed forces of Pakistan,” the minister said as he called for the bill to be voted upon, before Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq read out a presidential order proroguing the house after a sitting of more than three hours.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Nisar’s absence from NA fuels speculation

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: At a time when the National Assembly was debating the crucial anti-terrorism law on Wedn­esday, Interior Minis­ter Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was sitting in the nearby spacious Punjab House with over 20 legislators.

ISLAMABAD: At a time when the National Assembly was debating the crucial anti-terrorism law on Wedn­esday, Interior Minis­ter Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was sitting in the nearby spacious Punjab House with over 20 legislators.

The meeting between the PML-N legislators and the minister, which took place only a day after Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif spent more than two hours at his Pindi residence, lent credence to speculation that the minister had developed some differences with PML-N leadership over a number of issues.

Examine: Cracks in Nisar’s ties with PM

Although the government functionaries and the party office-bearers deny all reports about a rift between Chaudhry Nisar and the Sharif brothers, they are unable to give any satisfactory reply as to why the interior minister chose to meet his party colleagues instead of attending an important session of the National Assembly.

Talking to a group of reporters after meeting Chaudhry Nisar, ruling party MNAs Tallal Chaudhry and Syed Ashiq Shah claimed that they had come to enquire about the health of the minister.

“There was no hidden agenda of the meeting. The opposition and the media should avoid fact-finding,” said Mr Shah when asked about the purpose of the meeting.

“Nawaz Sharif is the beginning and end of Chaudhry Nisar’s politics,” said Tallal Chaudhry, refuting reports that they had come to pacify the interior minister as he was angry with the party leadership over a number of issues, including the decision to launch a military operation in North Waziristan.

Moreover, he added, even if differences existed between the minister and the Sharif brothers, they as MNAs could not play any role in it since Chaudhry Nisar had a “special position” in the party and had direct access to both the Sharifs.

The MNA had no reply when asked as to why the minister did not come to the Parliament House, preferring to sit in Punjab House.

His reply was that Chaudhry Nisar’s presence was not necessary when a state minister, the law minister and other ministers were present in the National Assembly and the Senate at the time of passage of the Protection of Pakistan Bill.

Meanwhile, sources in the PML-N claimed that the interior minister was unha­ppy over the government’s handling of the case of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

The sources said besides the Musharraf issue, he was also angry over non-allocation of funds for the internal security policy in the federal budget.

A PML-N member said he had heard that Chaudhry Nisar had assured “someone” that Gen Musharraf would be allowed to leave the country if the courts decided in his favour (on the petition seeking removal of his name from the ECL) and now he was angry over the prime minister’s decision to challenge the Sindh High Court’s decision in favour of Gen Musharraf.

He said the minister was of the opinion that the government should focus all its energies on matters of governance instead of creating problems for itself by pushing the treason case against the former dictator as he believed that present political crisis being created through Tahirul Qadri-like people was because of this policy.

On the other hand, an official spokesman for the government and Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid refuted reports about a rift between Chaudhry Nisar and the Sharif brothers, terming them “speculative”.

“Please do not scandalise someone’s illness,” Mr Rashid said, adding that he personally knew that Chaudhry Nisar was ill. So much so, he added, the interior minister had fainted during a meeting last week.

Without disclosing the nature of illness, the information minister said Nisar Ali khan had been undergoing medical tests. Despite his illness, he added, the interior minister was in touch with him and working day and night.

On June 14, the media reported that Chaudhry Nisar had undergone angiography at a Rawalpindi hospital, but there has been no official word about the minister’s health.

Mr Rashid also denied that the interior minister had any difference of opinion over the government’s decision to launch military operation in North Waziristan. He also denied that Chaudhry Nisar and Mr Sharif had differences over handling of Musharraf’s case.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Quarter finals begin tomorrow

Agencies

EUROPEAN rivals France and Germany will kick off the quarter final stage of the World Cup at Rio de Janeiro’s storied Maracana on Friday.

EUROPEAN rivals France and Germany will kick off the quarter final stage of the World Cup at Rio de Janeiro’s storied Maracana on Friday.

Germany and France will look to shrug off stumbling wins in the second round.

In the day’s other game, hosts Brazil will take on a resurgent Colombia at Fortaleza, with Brazil hoping to keep alive their quest for a sixth World Cup title and Colombia aiming to extend their best-ever run in football’s showcase event.

Friday’s action will be followed by two contests on Saturday — Argentina-Belgium and Netherlands-Costa Rica.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

More bomb factories found

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: Another three factories manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were discovered and a large quantity of explosives and weapons seized as operation Zarb-i-Azb continued in Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, on Wednesday.

PESHAWAR: Another three factories manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were discovered and a large quantity of explosives and weapons seized as operation Zarb-i-Azb continued in Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, on Wednesday.

According to an ISPR press release, security personnel also found anti-tank mines, a suicide bomber training centre, a media facility and a large number of rockets in Miramshah and adjoining areas. Six IEDs attached with computers and ready for use were seized from a hotel.

The search and clearance operation was continuing in the region.

Meanwhile, according to APP, the number of people displaced from North Waziristan increased to 468,670 people of 38,067 families.

An ISPR press release said compensation of Rs313.77 million had been distributed among 26,148 displaced families. It said 36,723 families had been given the relief package, while confirmation had been received from the National Database and Registration Authority about verification of 32,184 displaced people.

On Tuesday, 738 members of 100 families were registered at Alizai Kurram and 100 people at Sadgai point.

People who had shifted to Bannu district before the start of the operation or last year were also being registered.

The press release alleged that those complaining of not being registered as internally displaced persons had been living in Bawnnu for a long time and now wanted to benefit from the relief package.

The government has set up four new points for registration in Bannu district and another in Hayatabad, Peshawar.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Musharraf’s lawyers have ‘abettors’ list

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: Although the prosecution has repeatedly said it has been unable to obtain the details of meetings former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf held with certain military and political leaders prior to the imposition of emergency on Nov 3, 2007, his legal team has prepared a list of at least eight such meetings.

ISLAMABAD: Although the prosecution has repeatedly said it has been unable to obtain the details of meetings former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf held with certain military and political leaders prior to the imposition of emergency on Nov 3, 2007, his legal team has prepared a list of at least eight such meetings.

Sources in the former general’s defence team told Dawn that the meetings with military officials were held at the General Headquarters and his camp office near Army House. However, Musharraf’s meetings with the then prime minister, members of his cabinet and political leaders were held at Prime Minister House.

Advocate Faisal Hussain, Musharraf’s counsel, said their team had a list of those who met Musharraf during the last week of October, up to Nov 3. “The defence team will submit the list in court at an appropriate time and after consultations,” he said.

Know more: Who met Musharraf before emergency proclamation

According to the information the defence team shared with Dawn, these included meetings with the chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), the two other services chiefs, then Vice Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, different corps commanders, governors, heads of intelligence agencies, then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, key members of his cabinet and certain prominent politicians.

As per the details, on Oct 27, 2007 Gen Musharraf met Commander 1 Corps Lt Gen Sajjad Akram, Commander 10 Corps Lt Gen Mohsin Kamal, Commander 30 Corps Lt Gen Waseem Ashraf, Commander 4 Corps Lt Gen Shafaatullah Shah and Commander 11 Corps Lt Gen Masud Alam.

On Oct 28, the former military ruler met Commander 2 Corps Lt Gen Sikandar Afzal, Commander 5 Corps Lt Gen Ahsan Azhar Hayat, Commander 31 Corps Lt Gen Imtiaz Hussain and Commander Southern Command Quetta Lt Gen Khalid Shamim Wynne.

The following day, Musharraf held four meetings: one with then CJCSC Gen Tariq Majeed, then Air Chief Marshal Tanveer Mehmood Ahmed and then Naval Chief Admiral Afzal Tahir; a second meeting with principal staff officers of the armed forces; a third with provincial governors including retired Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool of Punjab, Ishratul Ibad of Sindh, retired Lt Gen Ali Mohammad Jan Orakzai of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP), Awais Ghani of Balochistan and the corps commanders of the provincial headquarters; while the fourth meeting was with the heads of all intelligence agencies.

Related: Counsel concludes secretary’s cross-examination

On Oct 31, Gen Musharraf met then Prime Minister Aziz, key cabinet members and certain political leaders from the ruling coalition.

A day before the imposition of emergency, Musharraf met the prime minister, the vice chief of army staff, National Security Council Adviser Tariq Aziz and the heads of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

Although a military spokesperson did not comment on the issue, a statement by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, which was also part of the inquiry report the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted in the special court, confirmed that provincial governors did meet Gen Musharraf before the emergency proclamation on Nov 3.

In the report, Dr Ibad is asked: “Did Gen Pervez Musharraf consult you on this issue? When? In what manner?”

The report records Dr Ibad’s answer thus: “(He) recollected that perhaps in the last week of October 2007, he, along with the governors of the other three provinces, was summoned to attend a meeting chaired by then President Gen Pervez Musharraf. In that meeting the then president informed the governors that in view of the difficult situation faced by the country, the government was contemplating taking some measures, permissible under the Constitution.”

Also read: Constitution violated by Nov 3 emergency

Following the restoration of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on July 20, 2007 Gen Musharraf met the CJCSC on July 23; Commander 1 Corps Lt Gen Sajjad Akram, Commander 10 Corps Lt Gen Mohsin Kamal and Commander 11 Corps Lt Gen Masud Alam on July 25; Commander 2 Corps Lt Gen Sikandar Afzal, Commander 4 Corps Lt Gen Shafaatullah Shah and Commander 30 Corps Lt Gen Waseem Ashraf on July 26; and Commander 5 Corps Lt Gen Ahsan Azhar Hayat, Commander 12 Corps Lt Gen Khalid Shamim Wynne and Commander 31 Corps Lt Gen Imtiaz Hussain on Aug 3. He also presided over the Corps Commanders Conference on Aug 3.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

PM says all sanctuaries will be eliminated

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated on Tuesday that the North Waziristan military operation would continue until the last terrorist sanctuary was eliminated from the area.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated on Tuesday that the North Waziristan military operation would continue until the last terrorist sanctuary was eliminated from the area.

In an official statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Sharif also rejected a perception that the military action had been planned in a hurry.

“(The decision to launch) Zarb-i-Azb was taken after careful deliberations. A full-fledged offensive has now started. All foreign fighters and local terrorists will be wiped out without any exception and no sanctuary will be spared,” he said.

In the statement, the prime minister announced the government’s plans to develop the tribal areas after the military successfully cleared it of terrorists and extremists.

“The state of Pakistan will enforce its writ in the tribal areas. We have planned for the development of tribal areas after the successful operation,” he was quoted as saying.

Ever since the military formally announced full-fledged strikes in North Waziristan on June 15, the prime minister and his cabinet have been going the extra mile, trying to take political ownership for it. Initially, it was the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) that formally announced the launch of an all-out military operation on June 15. The following day, Mr Sharif made a brief statement in the National Assembly, declaring that the government had ordered the armed forces to go after terrorists in the restive North Waziristan agency.

But detractors insist the military planned and launched the assault on its own, without taking the prime minister and his cabinet on board.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, an ally of the federal government, had also expressed doubts about who had authorised the use of force in North Waziristan. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders have particularly targeted the leadership of the PML-N for not taking the lead in the operation.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Sharif, along with Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, has often stressed how the civilian leadership was leading from the front.

Talking to Dawn, a senior government official privy to the government-Taliban peace talks, said the prime minister always favoured a peaceful resolution of the issue. But following the brazen attack on Karachi airport, the civilian government lost the argument and had to give in to the demands to launch a military operation.

However, the official dismissed the perception that Mr Sharif was merely conveyed the information through an ISPR press statement. The prime minister and the army chief had discussed the issue threadbare in regular meetings and the former was fully on board when the official ISPR announcement came through, he said.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Operation will target all terrorists

Agencies

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has said its ongoing military offensive to eliminate insurgents’ hideouts in North Waziristan will target all militants, including the Haqqanis.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has said its ongoing military offensive to eliminate insurgents’ hideouts in North Waziristan will target all militants, including the Haqqanis.

The Haqqani network has been blamed for some of the deadliest and most sophisticated attacks on Nato and Afghan troops across the border in Afghanistan.

At a briefing for foreign media on the military operation Zarb-i-Azb here on Tuesday, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said all civilian residents of North Waziristan had left and the military would target anyone still there. “They cannot escape. It’s very clear that those who left inside are only terrorists.”

The briefing was attended by Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.

Nervous laughter rippled around the room as Maj Gen Bajwa faced aggressive questioning about whether the military was pursuing the Haqqanis or allied Taliban commanders who stage attacks inside Afghanistan but leave Pakistani forces alone.

Although the ISPR chief did not refer specifically to the Haqqanis, he promised that the military would go after “terrorists of all hue and colour” and there would be no discrimination between Taliban factions.

Qadir Baloch was more blunt. “Haqqani or no Haqqani … no one who tries to terrorise in Pakistan will be allowed. Our government has been saying time and again that the soil of Pakistan will not be allowed to be used against anyone,” he said.

Two Taliban commanders said TTP chief Maulana Fazlullah had met militant leaders to offer them refuge at his base across the Afghan border before the operation started.

“The prime purpose of his visit was to assure his people in North Waziristan of full support and accommodation in Afghanistan in case of a military operation,” one commander said.

But when Fazlullah met members of the Haqqani network, they politely declined his offer, the commander said, noting they had “burnt their bridges” in Afghanistan. The Haqqanis moved elsewhere, he said.

Maj Gen Bajwa acknowledged it was possible that some militants had fled North Waziristan but said 376 had been killed so far. Many were foreigners, he said, especially Uzbeks, widely hated in Pakistan for their ferocious reputation.

Qadir Baloch said internally displaced persons (IDPs) of North Waziristan had given supreme sacrifices for the country by leaving their homes and they were national heroes. He praised the army for providing support to the civilian administration to cope with the IDPs crisis.

The ISPR chief said the army would eliminate Mullah Fazlullah whenever he came to Pakistan. He asked the Afghan government to play its role and either eliminate Fazlullah or extradite him to Pakistan.

Answering a question, he said Zarb-i-Azb was Pakistan’s own operation and it only requested Afghanistan and Isaf to seal border so that terrorists could not hide across the Durand line. He said drone attacks were not part of the plan as Pakistan was using its own air force effectively and with precision.

The ISPR chief said Pakistan had the estimated figure of terrorists in North Waziristan and not a single terrorist would be spared during the operation. About the success of the operation, he said the target was to re-establish writ of the state in the agency, eliminate all terrorists and make the region ready for development works like in South Waziristan.

In reply to a question about the delay in the operation, Mr Baloch said there was a popular demand that peace should be given a chance and the government was extremely sincere in talks but the TTP broke the dialogue process and started terrorist activities.

He regretted that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) was neglected in the past and because of this it could not be brought on a par with other developed areas. But the present government is fully committed to bringing about changes in Fata and introduce large-scale reforms.

Pakistan, the minister said, had given great sacrifices in the war against terrorism and terrorist sanctuaries in Fata were not made by the country. He said Pakistan would not ask for any financial support from the international community but the world community should realise its responsibility and do what it was supposed to do.

He said the target of the operation was to break the TTP and there were clear signs that it was breaking.

Maj Gen Bajwa said the army would chase and hunt the terrorists to finish their capability to hit back. He said North Waziristan had become a hub of all terrorist activities so elimination of this sanctuary had become vital.

Replying to a question, Information Minister Rashid reiterated Pakistan’s stance that drone attacks were counter-productive and said the Foreign Office had already protested against recent drone strikes.

The ISPR chief claimed that 376 terrorists had been killed since the operation was launched on June 15. Nineteen militants have surrendered to security forces. Nineteen soldiers have lost their lives. Troops have recovered underground tunnels and IEDs preparation factories inside the cleared area.

He said integrated fire of artillery, tanks and other heavy weapons was being carried out on terrorists’ concentrations in the agency and effective cordon was in place in areas housing terrorists.

Maj Gen Bajwa said 61 terrorist hideouts had been destroyed in the operation. He said distribution of relief items for IDPs continued in Bannu, D.I. Khan and Tank.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

SC upset by lack of food subsidies in Balochistan

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court bench was flabbergasted on Tuesday when it was told that no subsidy on food items has ever been extended to the neediest segments of Balochistan since the year 2009.

ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court bench was flabbergasted on Tuesday when it was told that no subsidy on food items has ever been extended to the neediest segments of Balochistan since the year 2009.

This is not all. Not a single fair price shop exists outside Quetta city to ensure the delivery of wheat flour or foodgrains at affordable prices to the poorest people of the province.

But provincial Food Director Ayaz Mandokhel said a summary for a Ramazan subsidy of Rs210 million had been prepared and sent to the authorities concerned.

The revelation came as a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, was hearing an application filed by Jamaat-i-Islami secretary general Liaquat Baloch on the plight of hapless citizens who are being forced to buy flour at exorbitant prices despite the fact that Pakistan is proclaimed to be “an agricultural country”.

Know more: SC asks centre, provinces to help determine consequences

The petitioner argued that a steep rise in the cost of living was taxing the meagre resources they had, making it hard to make ends meet and put food on the table for their families.

The bench was disturbed by the lack of seriousness displayed by federal and provincial governments in this regard and ordered the provincial food secretaries to appear in person on Monday with concrete proposals that went beyond the constitution of committees, to find practical ways to ensure that the neediest and poorest segments of society can receive the bare minimum of nutrition as guaranteed under the Constitution.

Examine: Govt’s failure to provide basic necessities angers Supreme Court

The respective food secretaries will have to come prepared to give an undertaking before the court that schemes so devised would be implemented, otherwise consequences would follow if the undertakings are not executed, the court warned in no ambiguous terms.

“Let this be the last opportunity,” the court observed, adding quite candidly that it was fed up with the inordinate delays incurred by the various governments.

“This is a cruel joke being played on the people of this country,” Justice Khawaja observed, adding that this was an unsatisfactory state of affairs and that even those who did not need subsidies assistance were receiving it.

National Food Security Secretary Seerat Asghar told the court that the federal government was providing Rs200 billion in food subsidy per annum, of which Rs118bn went to the Benazir Income Support Programme (BSIP), 80 per cent of which was spent on food and Rs8bn was set aside for the Pakistan Baitul Maal.

Expressing its disappointment, the court ordered the federal government to ensure that the amount allocated for food subsidy should be used only for food items.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Additional Advocate General Zahid Qureshi told the court that the provincial government had envisioned a scheme ensuring availability of essential food items to the neediest of citizens by developing a smart-card system based on data obtained from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and BISP.

Nearly Rs5bn has already been allocated in the provincial budget for 2014-15 to cover the targeted subsidy, in addition to the subsidy already provided on food items, he explained.

Punjab Additional Advocate General Razzaq A. Mirza said the provincial government had initiated a number of programmes to channel the government subsidy so that the poorest would be able to obtain the daily minimum nutrition as per the standards set by the government.

Currently, however, there is no scheme in place for the targeted delivery of foodstuff to the needy, he conceded.

Sindh Additional Advocate General Qasim Mir Jat told the court that the province had drafted the ‘Sindh Essential Commodity Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Act’, which would be presented in the Sindh Assembly soon.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Argentina beat Switzerland

Umaid Wasim in Sao Paulo

ANGEL Di Maria scored two minutes from the end of extra-time as Argentina edged past Switzerland 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Tuesday.

ANGEL Di Maria scored two minutes from the end of extra-time as Argentina edged past Switzerland 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Tuesday.

After a dour 90 minutes at the Arena Corinthians in which Argentina failed to find a breakthrough past an obdurate Swiss side, Di Maria’s goal came with the match seemingly heading for a shootout.

Lionel Messi found him inside the penalty box and the Real Madrid winger stroked the ball home with a left-footed shot that gave Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio no chance.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

CNG prices raised

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) increased on Tuesday the prices of compressed natural gas (CNG) by up to eight per cent due to imposition of higher rates for Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) through finance bill for 2014-15.

ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) increased on Tuesday the prices of compressed natural gas (CNG) by up to eight per cent due to imposition of higher rates for Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) through finance bill for 2014-15.

The rate for sale of CNG to consumers has been raised by Rs2.1 per kg (2.83 per cent), to Rs76.35 for region I (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and the Potohar zone including Rawalpindi and Islamabad). Previously, the CNG price for the region was Rs74.25 a kg.

For region II (Sindh and Punjab excluding the Potohar zone), the CNG price has been increased by Rs5.36 per kg to Rs71.5 a kg from Rs66.14, a raise of 8.1 per cent.

The price increases are the first since December 2013, when the Supreme Court held detailed proceedings on the matter.

Previously, the government had fixed different rates for GIDC for the two regions. Region I was being charged Rs13.25 per kg compared to Rs9.18 a kg for region II. Now, the GIDC has been fixed at Rs15.07 per kg for region I and Rs13.77 per kg for region II. After taking into account the impact of resultant increases in GST, the CNG prices have been increased by Rs2.1 per kg for region I and Rs5.36 a kg for region II.

Through the finance bill that became effective on Tuesday, the government has fixed GIDC at a flat rate of Rs300 per mmbtu (million British Thermal Units).

The government has already reduced gas supply to CNG stations in Punjab to 18 hours a week from 72 hours about six months ago. The natural gas so saved is being diverted to the power sector, textile mills and fertiliser plants.

The GIDC is meant for development of gas infrastructure projects. Under the finance bill for this year, the government is hoping to collect Rs145 billion in revenue, as compared to Rs88bn in fiscal 2013-14.

Under an act of 2011, the proceeds from the GIDC need to be used for specific purposes. The cess is to be utilised for development of infrastructure of the IP pipeline project, the Tapi pipeline project or other projects or for price equalisation of other imported fuels including LPG.

In January last year, the government had increased GIDC on industrial sector from Rs50 per mmbtu to Rs100 per mmbtu which has now been raised to Rs150 per mmbtu. Earlier the government used to collect Rs197 per mmbtu from fertiliser plants which has now been increased to Rs300 per mmbtu.

The captive power plants, however, will continue to pay Rs200 per mmbtu in GIDC.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Zarb-i-Azb operation: Troops go for all-out ground offensive

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: The military said on Monday it had launched a full-scale ground offensive in and around Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency, marking the beginning of a phased search and sweep operation that officials say could take weeks to complete.

PESHAWAR: The military said on Monday it had launched a full-scale ground offensive in and around Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency, marking the beginning of a phased search and sweep operation that officials say could take weeks to complete.

“A house-to-house search of Miramshah town is being carried out by infantry troops and Special Services Group,” a statement issued by the military’s public relations department, ISPR, said.

The military claimed to have killed 15 terrorists in the ground operation and said three soldiers had been injured.

According to an intelligence official, troops backed by tanks, artillery and helicopters launched the offensive at around dawn in the town, including Dattakhel bus stand and areas around Machis Camp.

“This is the beginning of the search, eliminate, clear and control phase. There is no turning back,” a security official said. “Troops would be fanning out and clearing the areas in a phased manner.”

A rocket landed near troops in the area, injuring three of them, the official said.

There were incidents of firing in Teachers’ Colony in Miramshah on Saturday and Sunday. But, he said, artillery was directed at the target and eight militants were killed, some of them from Punjab. According to him, no substantial resistance has since been reported.

“Troops have found underground tunnels and IED factories in the area so far cleared,” the ISPR statement said.

More than 30,000 troops, including the paramilitary Frontier Corps and the elite commandos’ SSG are involved in the operation.

Meanwhile, intelligence officials said that artillery and air force planes bombed areas in Torikhel, Madikhel and Shera Tala in Mirali sub-district.

ISPR said “integrated” fire of artillery, tanks and other heavy weapons was being carried out on terrorists’ concentrations in Mirali and other areas.

It said 376 terrorists and 17 security personnel had been killed since the launch of the Zarb-i-Azb operation.

There was no independent confirmation of the claim because journalists are not allowed to enter the troubled region.

The military said the operation was against an assortment of Uzbek and local militants, but according to residents, many of them had moved to other locations before the launching of the operation.

Over half a million people have fled the region and taken shelter in the adjoining districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while thousands have moved across the border to Khost province in Afghanistan.

The ISPR also said that distribution of relief goods among the IDPs was continuing in Bannu, D.I. Khan and Tank and so far 30,000 rations packs, each of 110 kilograms, had been distributed.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Kayani accused of stalling over operation

From the Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: A former spokesperson for the Pakistan Army has revealed that ex-army chief retired Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was reluctant to launch a military offensive against Taliban in North Waziristan even though a decision had been taken four years ago.

ISLAMABAD: A former spokesperson for the Pakistan Army has revealed that ex-army chief retired Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was reluctant to launch a military offensive against Taliban in North Waziristan even though a decision had been taken four years ago.

Speaking during an interview with BBC Urdu on Monday, the former director general of the ISPR, Maj Gen (retd) Athar Abbas, said the military leadership had concluded in 2010 that an action against militants in North Waziristan was vital for peace in the country.

A decision was taken that as preparations would take one year, military action will finally be taken in 2011, Gen Abbas said.

However, no operation was launched “due to the indecision of Gen Kayani”, he said.

Maj Gen (retd) Abbas replied in the affirmative to a question whe­ther “personal weaknes­ses” of the former army chief played a part in the relucta­nce to launch the operation.

“This is generally true,” he said. “He (Kayani) was hesitant regarding the military offensive in North Waziris­tan. He kept delaying the decision because he thought it would be considered as his personal initiative.

“That is why he kept delaying the decision. This cost us dearly,” Athar added.

He said that the “indecisiveness” led to loss of time and the country, nation, government and the armed forces paid a heavy price for it.

“The delay has strengthened the extremists … they have grown in numbers and are more resourceful now. They are better connected with each other now and in my opinion things have become more complicated,” said the former ISPR chief.

He said the military leadership of that time had decided to launch the military operation in North Waziristan upon recommendations of commanders stationed there and on the basis of intelligence reports.

“The on-ground military commanders were of the view that peace could not be restored in the country without a major military offensive because all kinds of militants had gathered in that area.”

Athar Abbas said before that there were two opinions among the top brass. “One opinion was in favour of the offensive while the other was for delaying the action,” he added. He said the Haqqani network was one of the reasons for the delay. There was no consensus on a strategy to tackle the group.

Athar Abbas also revealed that the United States contributed its bit to the indecision, saying that constant pressure from that side to launch the operation made things difficult for the authorities in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

France eliminate Nigeria

Reuters

BELO HORIZONTE: Fran­ce reached the World Cup quarter-finals on Monday with a 2-0 win over Nigeria that left only one African team still in.

BELO HORIZONTE: Fran­ce reached the World Cup quarter-finals on Monday with a 2-0 win over Nigeria that left only one African team still in.

Seeking to make up for their humiliating early exit four years ago, the French left it late in Brasilia to break down a hard-working Nigerian team, scoring twice in the last 11 minutes.

Nigerian goalkeeper Vin­cent Enyeama, who had been excellent until then, flapped at a corner in the 79th minute, leaving Paul Pogba an open goal to head into.

The French struck again at the death when Nig­e­rian defender Jos­e­ph Yobo ske­wed across into his own goal.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Anti-terror law sails through Senate

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: The Senate unanimously approved on Monday the Protection of Pakistan Bill which gives more powers to security forces combating terrorism in the country. The bill was adopted amid protests by the opposition against continued absence of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan from the house.

ISLAMABAD: The Senate unanimously approved on Monday the Protection of Pakistan Bill which gives more powers to security forces combating terrorism in the country. The bill was adopted amid protests by the opposition against continued absence of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan from the house.

The house, which had specially been convened only for a day to get the anti-terror law passed, also witnessed a brief debate on the condition of internally displaced persons and an opposition walkout over the government’s alleged failure to give satisfactory replies to questions about suspension of foreign airline services after the attack on a plane near the Peshawar airport.

Leader of Opposition in the house Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and PPP’s Saeed Ghani appealed to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan “to review his decision” of holding a million-man march on Islamabad because of the prevailing security situation in the country. They advised the PTI chief to utilise his resources for the welfare of the IDPs, instead of holding the march.

The Protection of Pakistan Bill which seeks “to provide for protection against waging of war against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan” was moved by Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid.

The bill will now go back to the National Assembly for approval. A session of the assembly has already been called on July 2.

After the passage of the bill, PPP Parliamentary Leader Raza Rabbani said the opposition members still considered it a “harsh law” but were supporting it keeping in view the prevailing security situation in the country “which is in a state of war”.

He regretted that the interior minister was nowhere during the process of consultations on the bill with the opposition parties and he was absent from the house also on the day this crucial bill was being passed.

Mr Rabbani said they had suggested a number of amendments in an effort to ensure parliamentary and judiciary oversight. He regretted that the government had demonstrated a “non-serious and non-political attitude” at a time when certain elements were making efforts to destabilise the country.

Earlier, presenting a report of the Standing Committee on Interior on the Protection of Pakistan Bill, Senator Talha Mehmood of the JUI-F asked the government to make sure that the law would not be used against religious seminaries and political opponents. He said security forces had been given vast powers in the law and it was a responsibility of the government and parliament to avoid a repetition of the Model Town incident in which police opened fire on workers of a party.

Afrasiab Khattak and Zahid Khan of the Awami National Party said all foreign airliners had suspended their flights to Peshawar, a development which would cause serious problems to the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed told the house that the prime minister had allocated Rs5 billion for improving security at airports after the recent incidents in Karachi and Peshawar.

Aitzaz Ahsan was of the opinion that the war on terror could only be won by winning the hearts and minds of the IDPs. “If the IDPs are satisfied, we will win the war,” he said. He asked the government to freeze the metro bus projects and use the resources for IDPs’ welfare.

The following are some salient features of the Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014:

It defines “enemy alien” as “a militant” whose identity “is unascertainable as a Pakistani, in the locality where he has been arrested or in the locality where he claims to be residing, whether by documentary or oral evidence; or who has been deprived of his citizenship by naturalisation”.

The bill defines “militant” as “any person who wages war or insurrection against Pakistan, or raises arms against Pakistan, its citizens, the armed forces or civil armed forces; or takes up advocates or encourages or aids or abets the raising of arms or waging of war or a violent struggle against Pakistan; or threatens or acts or attempts to act in a manner prejudicial to the security, integrity or defence of Pakistan; or commits or threatens to commit any scheduled offence; and includes; a person who commits any act outside the territory of Pakistan for which he has used the soil of Pakistan for preparing to commit such act that constitutes scheduled offence under this act”.

“Any person against whom there are reasonable grounds that he acts under the directions or in concert or conspiracy with or in furtherance of the designs of an enemy alien” will also be treated as a militant.

The law has given the powers to law-enforcement agencies to “enter and search, without warrant any premises to make any arrest of to take possession of any firearm, explosive weapon, vehicle, instrument or article used, or likely to be used and capable of being used, in the commission of any scheduled offence”.

However, it says that “after the search, the circumstances justifying it and the items recovered shall be reported within two days to special judicial magistrate of the area by the officer conducting the search”.

According to the law, the order to shoot a person on suspicion will come only from an official of a law-enforcement agency or a police officer of grade-15 or above. Moreover, it binds the government to order a judicial inquiry, if any law-enforcement agency official opens fire on suspected terrorists.

Under the law, convicted persons will have the right to appeal before a high court against their convictions.

Earlier, a convicted person had only the right to appeal before the Supreme Court.

A clause in the bill says: “The government, joint investigation team, armed forces or civil armed forces may, in the interest of the security of their personnel or for the safety of the detainee or accused or intern, as the case may be, or for any other reasonable cause withhold the information except from a high court or the Supreme Court regarding the location of the detainee or accused or intern or internment centre established or information with respect to any detainee or accused or interne or his whereabouts; provided that the judge or judges to whom the disclosure is made may decide to treat it as privileged information in the public interest; and the government may not in the interest of the security of Pakistan disclose the grounds for detention or divulge any information relating to a detainee, accused or interne who is an enemy alien or a militant.”

It further says: “Any person apprehended in the course of preparation, attempt or commission of a scheduled offence and from whom any weapon, material, vehicle, article or instrument designed for or capable of being used to commit or to facilitate the commission of the offence of bombing, suicide bombing or target killing or grievous hurt shall be presumed to be guilty of preparation, attempt or commission, as the case may be, of a scheduled offence.”

Giving “explanation”, the law states: “A cellphone or other instrument that contains logs or evidence of calls or messages made or received that facilitate the preparation, attempt or commission of such an offence, shall be deemed to be such an instrument and any record thereon or therein shall be admissible in evidence.”

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Sindh grant for IDPs

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif separately here on Monday and handed over two cheques for Rs50 million each for persons displaced from North Waziristan.

ISLAMABAD: Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif separately here on Monday and handed over two cheques for Rs50 million each for persons displaced from North Waziristan.

“The chief minister met Gen Raheel at the General Headquarters today and presented him a cheque for Rs50m on behalf of the government of Sindh for the IDPs,” a military spokesman said.

Mr Shah expressed his solidarity with the displaced people and said the provincial government would provide all possible help for their wellbeing. “The chief minister reaffirmed full support of the people of Sindh for the armed forces and the operation Zarb-i-Azb,” the spokesman said.

The chief minister presented another cheque for Rs50m to Mr Sharif during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s House. According to APP, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah and PPP leader Zamurd Khan attended the meeting.

Also read: Analysis: Children of a lesser god

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak praised the Sindh government’s gesture.

Meanwhile, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Monday that 36,804 families comprising 456,292 people had been registered as IDPs, but most of them were living with their relatives in Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Lakki Marwat. Only a few hundred IDPs decided to live in camps set up for them.

Six points have been established in Bannu, D.I. Khan and Tank for distribution of ration and grants and each family is being given Rs15,000 cash and one month’s ration by the army.

Of the registered IDPs, 221,000 have been immunised against polio and 32 relief collection points have been set up in different cities.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Power subsidy being increased in Ramazan

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The government is expected to increase by 60 per cent the subsidy provided to the power sector in July to ensure minimum loadshedding during Sehr, Iftar and Taraveeh times.

ISLAMABAD: The government is expected to increase by 60 per cent the subsidy provided to the power sector in July to ensure minimum loadshedding during Sehr, Iftar and Taraveeh times.

The Ministry of Water and Power said on Sunday the government would provide an additional Rs14 billion to power companies during Ramazan to minimise the difficulties faced by the people.

The power sector usually receives Rs22-24bn in subsidies every month, an amount which is expected to rise to about Rs35bn next month.

The ministry had also requested 114 million cubic feet per day of natural gas supply for diesel-based power plants to ensure that power generation costs did not exceed limits.

Also read: Extended blackouts during Ramazan feared

These plants would be brought online only if gas is available. The ministry said a monitoring unit had been established under Power Secretary Nargis Sethi and the chief executives of major distribution companies who would be on hand at the ministry from 2am to monitor uninterrupted power supply during Sehr and then again, through video link, at Iftar time until the end of Taraveeh prayers.

All distribution companies and the ministry have installed dedicated landlines and mobile numbers at their control centres so that any fault occurring can be rectified on a fast-track basis.

At the distribution level, down the line duties of staff have been assigned, the necessary equipment and their replacement parts have been arranged so that prompt action could be taken in case of technical faults.

Also read: No loadshedding at Sehri, Iftar: KE

Apart from the six hours around Sehr, Iftar and Taraveeh prayers, urban areas will experience loadshedding of up to five hours while rural areas will see blackouts for seven hours during the day.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

PM to hold consultations with political parties

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to hold consultations with various political parties on the situation in the country evolving in the wake of the military operation in North Waziristan.

LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to hold consultations with various political parties on the situation in the country evolving in the wake of the military operation in North Waziristan.

The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by the prime minister at his Raiwind residence on Sunday. It was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, senior PML-N leaders and bureaucrats.

According to a participant, the meeting discussed the operation Zarb-i-Azb, demands raised by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan at his Bahawalpur public meeting and a multi-party conference convened by Dr Tahirul Qadri on the Model Town incident.

He told Dawn that the meeting had proposed to invite all parliamentary leaders to a multi-party like meeting to exchange views with them on various problems the country is facing in the wake of the military operation, particularly the issue of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Editorial: The longer view

He said such consultations were necessary to maintain the unanimity of approach between the civil and military leadership even after the operation which, the meeting was told, was likely to be completed by the middle of Ramazan. It will avert the recurrence of a Swat-like situation in which political bickering developed soon after the operation was over.

Answering a question, the participant said the establishment also was in favour of a broad-based accord among all the sectors concerned.

Also read: Displacement brings polio vaccination boon

Asked if the PTI’s protest movement would also be discussed during the meeting with Mr Khan, he said: “Obviously, all matters will come under discussion when the two leaders meet.”

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Dutch pick dramatic win

Reuters

FORTALEZA: A stoppage time penalty from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar gave the Netherlands a dramatic 2-1 victory in the World Cup second round on Sunday minutes after Mexico seemed certain to reach the quarter-finals.

FORTALEZA: A stoppage time penalty from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar gave the Netherlands a dramatic 2-1 victory in the World Cup second round on Sunday minutes after Mexico seemed certain to reach the quarter-finals.

With two minutes to play Mexico were leading 1-0 but Wesley Sneijder pulled the Dutch level with a fierce drive, seemingly forcing the match into extra time.

Then, in stoppage time, Mexico captain Rafael M­a­rquez was judged to have tripped Arjen Robben in the penalty area and Huntelaar converted the spot kick to take the Dutch through.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Qadri’s MPC blames PML-N for Lahore Model Town killings

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: A multi-party conference hosted by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek here on Sunday came out with a five-point charter of demands which declared the ruling party leaders as responsible for the June 17 Model Town police action that claimed 10 lives.

LAHORE: A multi-party conference hosted by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek here on Sunday came out with a five-point charter of demands which declared the ruling party leaders as responsible for the June 17 Model Town police action that claimed 10 lives.

Representatives of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, PML-Q, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Jamaat-i-Islami, Awami Muslim League and All-Pakistan Muslim League and other parties attended the meeting chaired by PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri.

A joint statement issued after the conference said protection of life and property of citizens, freedom of expression and right to peaceful protest were imperatives of democracy and warned the federal and provincial governments and the administration that such incidents could not be tolerated and those responsible for it had no right to remain in power.

It demanded that a first information report (FIR) of the incident should be registered on a complaint filed by the Minhajul Quran in place of the one registered with police as the complainant.

The conference called for resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and said the president should make him step down if he did not resign because an impartial inquiry was not possible while he was in power. Other members of the Punjab cabinet who had played any role in the police attack should also resign, it said.

The statement demanded that the officials who monitored the attack should be dismissed and arrested, including the IG, DIG, home secretary, DCO and CCPO.

It said three judges of the Supreme Court should investigate the incident instead of the judicial commission set up by the Lahore High Court. The proposed commission should be empowered to summon the prime minister and other leaders, if need be, it said.

The conference extended its full support to the army in the Operation Zarb-i-Azb against terrorists in North Waziristan and pledged to help the displaced people.

Talking to reporters earlier, Dr Qadri termed the Model Town incident state terrorism committed by the Punjab government.

MQM leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said his party believed in changing the system and not the government and would raise its voice at all forums.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Displacement brings polio vaccination boon

Ikram Junaidi

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Taking advantage of the displacement of children in large numbers from North Waziristan due to the launch of a military operation there, health authorities have been able to vaccinate more than 192,442 previously unreachable children against polio, officials say.

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Taking advantage of the displacement of children in large numbers from North Waziristan due to the launch of a military operation there, health authorities have been able to vaccinate more than 192,442 previously unreachable children against polio, officials say.

“We take it as a huge opportunity to target all the children of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) who haven’t been exposed to a vaccine that could save them from being crippled for life,” a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Monitoring and Coordination Cell on Polio Eradication told Dawn.

Requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, the official said over 80,000 children were vaccinated at permanent transit points set up in FR Bannu, and around 20,000 in Hangu. The rest of the children were vaccinated in Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts, he added.

Ayesha Raza Farooq, the focal person at the PM’s polio cell, said the government needed “at least 10 days to track the eventual destination of the displaced people” in order to keep administering vaccine doses to them. This would, however, have to be coupled with increasing the immunity of locals in the areas where the displaced population settle, she added.

Dr Rasheed Jooma, the former director-general of the health ministry, said vaccination drives must target both the IDPs and the populations which host them in order to properly eliminate the disease.

Also read: Polio may spread in wake of North Waziristan operation: UN

An official at the National Health Services ministry told Dawn on the condition of anonymity that the ongoing polio drive was not a spur of the moment initiative in response to the military operation, but it had been in the works “for long as part of the package to bring peace in the area”.

The World Health Organisation, which in May recommended a travel ban on those travelling from Pakistan without a valid polio vaccination certificate, says the displacement of the population has given a prime opportunity to vaccinate children who were otherwise inaccessible to health workers.

“There has been fundamental progress by reaching children in Peshawar and central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through the Sehat Ka Insaf programme, reaching children in Bara with support of the UAE and the army,” Dr Elias Durry, the WHO Pakistan head for polio eradication, told Dawn.

“Now there is an opportunity for reaching children of North Waziristan who had to leave their homes while providing them with basic health care relief and services.”

The WHO travel restrictions currently require every person living in Pakistan for four weeks or more to carry a valid vaccination certificate to travel abroad.

QUESTION MARKS: When the restrictions came into effect from June 1, the WHO promised to review the sanctions after six months. “The programme goes through regular review and on a six-month basis by international experts [Technical Advisory Group on polio eradication]. The programme is in a better position than where it was six months ago, and we hope accessing more children in the coming months will put it in an even better position,” said Dr Durry.

Detractors, however, do not rule out the fact that the WHO deadline has a critical correlation with the security situation in the tribal areas. There remain question marks over the government’s ability to deliver, as critics are sceptical about the performance of fixed centres in the northwest for internally displaced children.

Editorial: Polio out of control

This is the third year running that the country has failed to reach about 350,000 children in Fata, where most of the country’s polio cases have been reported.

Federal and provincial authorities have, meanwhile, made arrangements with hundreds of centres assigned to administer the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to prospective international travellers and to issue them with vaccination (prophylaxis) certificates at hospitals and airports.

The setting up of this infrastructure has faced many teething problems. Arrangements have been rather adequate in large cities, but those in smaller towns and villages complain that they face problems in obtaining the prophylaxis cards. “I had to travel for many hours to reach Sialkot to receive polio certificate,” said Mohammad Saleem who went from Pasrur tehsil to one of the two centres in Sialkot to be able to leave for Belgium.

A slew of misconceptions about the safety of the vaccine and its dosage, too, are causing issues. Many people have been wary of being administered the OPV that they say can cause adverse effects in adults. Many families simply refuse to allow their children to be administered polio vaccine, while there are individuals who prefer inactivated or injectable polio vaccine (IPV) to OPV.

“I don’t know whether OPV is safe. I have read that it is somehow risky and IPV is safer. But then the government has not given us any option to pick one of the two vaccines,” said Jamal Mehmood, a resident of Karachi, who works in Sharjah.

Also read: PM to hold consultations with political parties

Dr Naseem Salahuddin, an expert in infectious diseases, told Dawn that IPV did provide a higher degree of immunity than OPV, and that in rare cases (one in 2.7 million) OPV had caused “negligible adverse effects”.

She added that this was only if the patient was already malnourished and feeble. She recommended the use of OPV, saying that it was “the best immunising tool” for Pakistan’s contaminated environment.

Dr Durry also said that OPV was “very effective” and posed “no danger” to adults.

Pakistan regularly recorded more than 2,500 polio cases a year until 1993. About 1,147 cases were reported in 1997, before the figures began to recede.

So far this year, there have been 88 cases reported: the highest in the world.

Of them, 66 were reported in Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (Fata), 15 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and seven in Sindh (all in Karachi).

Of the Fata cases, 54 were reported in North Waziristan. Three of the Sindh cases occurred in families who were originally from Fata.

According to the PM’s polio cell, none of the four children detected with polio only a day ago in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been vaccinated against the virus. The families of three of them simply refused to have them administered OPV despite repeated visits by health workers, while the fourth child could not be immunised in Fata because of Taliban’s opposition to vaccination.

While efforts are under way to vaccinate all the children including those who were previously inaccessible and now displaced from North Waziristan, as Dr Durry said, “reaching the last child always is a challenge that requires sustained commitment‎ by all stakeholders”.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

People told to leave NWA as land assault looms

Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR: The army gave a final call on Saturday to all tribal people stranded in North Waziristan to leave the area as air force planes carried out bombings and artillery shelled hideouts, leaving 19 suspected militants dead. The army claimed arresting a man suspected to be an Al Qaeda militant.

PESHAWAR: The army gave a final call on Saturday to all tribal people stranded in North Waziristan to leave the area as air force planes carried out bombings and artillery shelled hideouts, leaving 19 suspected militants dead. The army claimed arresting a man suspected to be an Al Qaeda militant.

“Most civilians have been evacuated from North Waziristan. To make sure that there are no innocent civilians still left in the area, announcements are being made that any tribal person who may have stayed back for any reason should leave,” a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations said.

According to the Fata Disaster Management Auth­o­rity, 456,508 displaced persons have been registered at Sadgai checkpoint so far.

There are reports that some civilians have stayed back to protect their property.

For the first time, the sec­u­rity forces made announcements in the area, asking peo­ple to leave before a ground offensive was launched.

Meanwhile, a conference of political parties convened by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in Peshawar said continuation of combat action for an indefinite period would be dangerous and noted that a timeframe had not been announced for the military operation in North Waziristan.

“Launching the military offensive without planning and a timeframe was not a wise move. Its continuation for an indefinite period will be dangerous,” a joint declaration issued after the conference said.

“Innocent people should not be targeted in the name of collateral damage in North Waziristan Agency,” the declaration said.

The ‘All Party Conference’ discussed the situation against the backdrop of Operation Zarb-i-Azb and its impact on the province.

It approved an 18-point declaration, which was read out by provincial Informa­tion Minister Shah Farman at a press conference.

The participants said the federal government should have convened such a conference before launching the operation.

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak presided over the conference. It was attended, among others, by leaders of the Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI-Fazl, Awami National Party, PPP and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

In the tribal region, the security forces claimed gains in the operation.

According to ISPR, 19 `terrorists’ had laid down their arms. It expressed confidence that more militants would do so.

The military claimed killing Umar, a leader of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakis­tan, near Miramshah, the administrative headquarters of North Waziristan.

Official claims about killings and surrender of terrorists cannot be verified thro­ugh independent sour­ces because the media have no access to the conflict zone.

The press release said aircraft destroyed six terrorist hideouts on the outskirts of Mirali and 11 militants were killed on Friday night.

Integrated fire by tanks and heavy weapons killed seven suspected terrorists near Miramshah.

The ISPR said an important militant of Al Qaeda had been arrested while trying to flee the cordoned area. Initial interrogation showed that he had expertise in making improvised explosive devices and suicide belts, it added.

Security personnel arrested three suspected terrorists while they were trying to cross the Indus near Mianwali. All crossing points along the river are being manned to stoop the terrorists from escaping.

According to ISPR, supply and distribution of ration to the displaced people was improving and 21,543 packets, each containing 110kg of ration, had been distributed at six relief delivery points set up by the army in collaboration with the administration in Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Ramazan begins tomorrow barring in parts of KP

Dawn Report

KARACHI/PESHAWAR: Ramazan will begin in most parts of the country on Monday as, according to the central Ruet-i-Hilal committee, the moon was not sighted anywhere in Pakistan on Saturday.

KARACHI/PESHAWAR: Ramazan will begin in most parts of the country on Monday as, according to the central Ruet-i-Hilal committee, the moon was not sighted anywhere in Pakistan on Saturday.

Mufti Munibur Rehman, chairman of the central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, announced after chairing a meeting in Karachi that since the Ramazan moon was not seen anywhere in the country on Saturday, the holy month would begin on Monday (June 30).

He made the announcement at 9.30pm.

But in what has now become almost an unavoidable ritual in the build-up to Ramazan as well as Eidul Fitr, Mufti Shahabuddin Populzai, the self-styled chairman of an unofficial Ruet body, came up with a claim close to midnight that he had received “enough eyewitness accounts” to establish the sighting of the crescent. “The first day of Ramazan will, therefore, fall on Sunday (today).”

Around 30 religious figures attended the meeting. Among them were Mufti Syed Qamar, Qari Fiazur Rehman and Maulana Khairul Bashar.

Local ulema in Bajaur and Mohmand tribal agencies also said Ramazan would begin on Sunday.

A member of the Zonal Ruet-i-Hilal Commit­tee, Prof Dr Abdul Ghafoor, told reporters in Peshawar that his committee had received unconfirmed reports of crescent sighting from some parts of KP and the tribal areas. However, the reports could not be confirmed by the end of the meeting.

In reply to a question, Dr Ghafoor said the meeting of his committee ended soon after the announcement made by Mufti Munib in Karachi.

He said the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee had promised to wait until 11pm for a final report from his committee. “But the central committee made the final announcement at 9.30pm. There was no need to continue the meeting of our committee after that,” he remarked.

Lo­­cal ulema in Mohmand Agen­cy declared that Sunday would be observed as the first day of Ramazan in their areas.

Announcements were made in the agency through loudspeakers about the commencement of the holy month on Sunday.

In Bajaur Agency, ulema of three tehsils — Nawagai, Chamarkand and Mamond — said the first day of Ramazan would fall on Sunday. The decision was made at a meeting of local ulema.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

US says it is ready to help IDPs

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Pakistan is working with various international organisations to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) from North Waziristan and the United States stands ready to assist those efforts, State Department said.

WASHINGTON: Pakistan is working with various international organisations to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) from North Waziristan and the United States stands ready to assist those efforts, State Department said.

At a regular news briefing, the department’s spokesperson also reiterated the US support for Pakistan’s efforts to increase internal stability.

“We do understand that the government of Pakistan is working with the appropriate international and donor organisations to ensure that assistance is in place for displaced people and their families,” said spokesperson Marie Harf.

The United States, she said, was closely monitoring the situation, in coordination with the humanitarian community and was a major contributor to such organisations. “We stand ready to assist the IDPs in any way we can.”

“We know that Pakistan has challenges, but are also committed to working with them,” she said.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Footprints: Extremist bodies run IDP relief efforts

Taha Siddiqui

WITH a scorching sun above, barbed wires flanking both sides to maintain an orderly queue, and policemen patrolling with sticks and guns, Rizwanullah has been waiting for his turn for 10 hours. He is at this sports-complex-turned-relief-camp in Bannu to receive the government’s promised ration package. It’s 3pm, and he is nowhere near to getting his turn. The camp closes down at 5pm.

WITH a scorching sun above, barbed wires flanking both sides to maintain an orderly queue, and policemen patrolling with sticks and guns, Rizwanullah has been waiting for his turn for 10 hours. He is at this sports-complex-turned-relief-camp in Bannu to receive the government’s promised ration package. It’s 3pm, and he is nowhere near to getting his turn. The camp closes down at 5pm.

“I have eight family members to feed,” he says. “I left everything behind, and now I have to stand in this heat. I don’t even know whether my turn will come at all today.”

Normally a resident of North Waziristan, Rizwanullah is one of the over half a million locals that have fled the army offensive. His hometown is in the tribal belt known to be home to Afghan Taliban, members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and their local and foreign affiliates.

As the line crawls along slowly, a young volunteer sporting a neon green jacket with the initials FIF (which stands for the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation) is giving water to the thirsty IDPs. Dozens of hands reach out to him at the same time, men with parched lips and clothes drenched in sweat, just like Rizwanullah. The FIF volunteer quickly serves one IDP after another, and then moves back to the relief camp set up just outside the sports complex — the only one in the vicinity — for a refill. There’s a huge banner which states: “In these tough times, we are standing with you [the IDPs] — Jamaatud Dawa.”

The Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), which changed its name to FIF after it was accused of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was recently identified by the United States as a front for one of the world’s largest terrorist groups. It was accused of carrying out an attack on an Indian consulate in Afghanistan in May. But in Pakistan, the group once also known as the Lashkar-e-Taiba continues to enjoy state patronage.

Also read: WHO calls for boosting health facilities in IDP-hosting districts

“The Pakistan Army is really cooperative towards us,” says Mohammad Sarfaraz, the chief organiser of the JuD camp. “We were the first ones to set up a greeting camp to receive the IDPs even though that area was in the red zone. This is the time to win the hearts and minds of these refugees, whom the government is failing. And the North Waziristan people are grateful to us. Many of them have promised to work for us — and that too for life,” he proudly adds.

The organisation has over 200 volunteers distributing aid across Bannu, with 25 ambulances on standby. Sarfaraz says they have given out more than 112,000 food packets, and provided medical treatment to over 10,000 patients.

And it is not just JuD that is free to operate in this region. Just half a kilometre before the sports complex, a large banner in blood-red colour bears the name of Masood Azhar, and calls him the Ameer-ul-Mujahideen. The camp, which provides water and medical facilities, also has a queue of people waiting to see the doctor.

“There are too many patients at the hospitals so we came here,” says an IDP whose child is suffering from diarrhoea. This man is waiting to get medicine from the camp’s pharmacist.

At first this camp’s organisers are reluctant to speak to me. “We don’t talk to the media because you publish anti-Sharia stories,” says one of them, identifying himself as Maqsood. But upon my insistence he opens up and even tells me that his organisation is involved in jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan. “We are the soldiers of Allah and we are here to help our Muslim brothers,” he says.

Also read: The return of Masood Azhar

Behind him, a poster bears a picture of the Eiffel Tower with “Eurabia” written across it in English, below which there is an appeal to contribute to jihad in Syria. “We are carrying out a countrywide donation drive through mosques for the IDPs,” he tells me when asked about his source of funding for the relief efforts.

After a few minutes, their senior camp organiser appears and asks me to leave. I head out to a nearby school that has been turned into an IDP camp with the help of a humanitarian organisation. As I share my experience with the man there, he tells me that the organisation he heads is not being allowed to set up relief camps.

“The local authorities are asking us to apply for no-objection certificates while allowing religious and extremist organisations to operate freely,” says Nizam Dawar, who hails from North Waziristan and heads the Tribal Development Network which operated in the tribal belt. “These extremists are penetrating the vulnerable IDP population to brainwash and recruit them for their purposes,” he adds. “Also, these militant organisations may be giving safe passage to the fleeing terrorists who have links with them. Why is the government silent about them?”

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Ogra approves 5-14pc hike in gas tariff

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) appro­ved on Thursday up to 14 per cent increase in the average rates for consumers of the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).

ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) appro­ved on Thursday up to 14 per cent increase in the average rates for consumers of the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).

Ogra has worked out a five per cent increase in the average rates for SSGCL and 14 per cent for SNGPL on the basis of 4.5 per cent unaccounted for gas (UFG) losses.

The authority arrived at the figure for the UFG losses after public hearings in various cities about estimated revenue requirements of the gas utilities. The new rates would be notified after the federal government decides how to distribute the tariff increase among the various consumer categories.

Also read: Transporters, CNG dealers protest revised loadshedding schedule

Meanwhile, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet would decide on Friday (today) how to distribute among consumers the Rs50 billon losses of the two utilities for financial years 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 on account of gas theft, non-recovery due to the poor law and order situation, increase in retail network and sabotage.

The ministry of petroleum and natural resources has recommended that the amount be recovered from the consumers by allowing higher UFG losses (up to 7 per cent) along with theft etc to bail out the gas companies.

The issue is already in various courts including the case involving two former prime ministers and former Ogra chief Tauqir Sadiq in the Rs82bn case of alleged corruption.

In its determination sent to the government, Ogra approved Rs58.29 per mmbtu (million British thermal unit) or about 14 per cent average increase in its prescribed price for SNGPL, to Rs464.94 per mmbtu.

Likewise, the prescribed price for SSGCL has now been determined at Rs469 per mmbtu with an increase of Rs22.9 per mmbtu or 5 per cent higher.

Also see: Lesco, SNGPL asked to avoid outages at Sehr, Iftar

The government has the power under the law to advice Ogra to fix different rates for different consumer categories like domestic, commercial, industrial, power sector, cement but remaining within the average rate approved by Ogra.

Earlier, Ogra had requested the government to issue a policy advice to recover greater amounts from consumers on account of gas lost due to theft and leakages, effectively bailing the companies out.

This is being seen by many as recognition by both the government and the regulator of the utilities’ inability to control gas losses and to legitimise a change in performance standards. Such a change in standards when made by former Ogra chairman Tauqir Sadiq landed him in legal trouble.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Attack leaves eight Afghan military officers dead

AFP

KABUL: A Taliban suicide bomber in Kabul killed eight military officers on Wednesday in an attack on an air force bus, Afghan officials said, in the latest strike against the national security forces as US troops withdraw.

KABUL: A Taliban suicide bomber in Kabul killed eight military officers on Wednesday in an attack on an air force bus, Afghan officials said, in the latest strike against the national security forces as US troops withdraw.

The attack came the day after presidential election results were delayed in a worsening dispute over alleged fraud that threatens to tip Afghanistan into a prolonged period of uncertainty.

The next president must tackle the Taliban insurgency with declining Nato military assistance, and a political stalemate could wreck Afghan hopes for a smooth handover of power.

Kabul has been relatively peaceful since the election on June 14, though supporters of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah have held demonstrations to protest against alleged ballot-box stuffing.

“As a result of a suicide attack this morning on an ANA (Afghan National Army) air force bus in (west) Kabul, eight army officers were martyred and 13 wounded,” defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said in a statement.

“The wounded personnel have been taken to hospital.” Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the interior ministry, said. The bus was taking military staff to work.

The Taliban used a recognised Twitter account to claim responsibility for the blast, adding that the suicide attacker approached the vehicle on foot before detonating his explosives-packed vest.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that at least 25 people had been killed.

Election day saw a sharp rise in nationwide violence, but there has not been a major attack in the capital since June 7, when 12 people were killed in a suicide strike against Abdullah, who escaped unharmed.

Abdullah has said he will reject the result of the ongoing election vote count, alleging massive fraud in the race against his rival Ashraf Ghani.

Abdullah welcomed the delay in results as a chance for an “anti-fraud” audit of votes, although outgoing President Hamid Karzai has stressed the handover will stay on schedule with the new leader inaugurated on August 2.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Karzai on Tuesday to urge him to address the political impasse.

Kerry also encouraged the election commission “to conduct a full and thorough review that ensures the Afghan people have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process,” said a statement released in Washington.

Nato’s 50,000-strong combat force will depart Afghanistan by December, though about 10,000 US troops may stay into next year if the new president signs a security deal with Washington.

Recent weeks have seen fierce fighting in the southern province of Helmand, with the Afghan army and police counter-attacking after a major offensive by 800 Taliban fighters focused on the strategic district of Sangin.

Sangin, a centre of A­f­ghanistan’s lucrative opium trade, has been the scene of bloody battles for years between the Taliban and US-led Nato forces, who only pulled out of the area in May.

With the Nato combat mission winding down, the coming months are expected to be a test of the Afghan government forces now responsible for security.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

PPP terms move violation of international laws

A Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The PPP has expressed disappointment over revelations that the National Security Agency of the United States was spying on the party in 2010.

ISLAMABAD: The PPP has expressed disappointment over revelations that the National Security Agency of the United States was spying on the party in 2010.

Describing the act as a violation of international laws, the PPP leadership has urged the government to take up the issue at the diplomatic level to seek guarantees that such grave violations do not take place in future.

“The revelation of spying on a major political party of Pakistan is a grave, unwarranted and totally unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country and is condemnable,” PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.

He said the PPP was proud of its record of acting in supreme national interest and owed no explanation to any foreign agency. No country, regardless of its might and power, had any right to spy on it.

He said such insensitive operations and unacceptable interference in the affairs of a political party of a sovereign country would serve no purpose other than increasing resentment and distrust.

“Those who have violated the norms of responsible behaviour by spying on the political institutions of a sovereign country owe an apology,” Mr Babar added.

PPP’s Additional Secretary General Senator Raza Rabbani said the act had exposed the US claim of supporting democratic forces in the developing world, adding that it further confirmed the historical suspicion that international imperialism and reactionary forces were part of the conspiracy against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Chief of Iraqi Kurds wants independence referendum

AFP

BAGHDAD: The leader of Iraq’s Kurds set the ball rolling on Thursday for a referendum on their long-held dream of independence, in another setback for international efforts to unite the country’s politicians against a militant offensive.

BAGHDAD: The leader of Iraq’s Kurds set the ball rolling on Thursday for a referendum on their long-held dream of independence, in another setback for international efforts to unite the country’s politicians against a militant offensive.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki broadened an amnesty offer aimed at undercutting support for Islamists, whose onslaught overran areas of the country and who proclaimed a caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria.

Massud Barzani told the autonomous Kurdish region’s parliament that it should make “preparations to begin to organise a referendum on the right of self-determination”. “It will strengthen our position and will be a powerful weapon in our hands,” he said.

The prospect of an independent state is made more attractive by what the Kurds say is Baghdad’s unwillingness to resolve the issue of disputed territory and its late and insufficient budget payments to the region this year.

Barzani said Kurdish forces would not withdraw from northern territory they occupied after federal security forces withdrew at the beginning of the offensive, giving them control of areas they wanted to absorb over Baghdad’s strong objections.

Maliki rejected that on Wednesday, saying “no one has the right to exploit the events that took place to impose a fait accompli” and that the Kurds’ steps towards self-determination had no constitutional grounding.

Also read: Iraq parliament session ends in chaos as turmoil deepens

STALEMATE: On the ground, Iraqi forces were struggling to break a stalemate with militants. After wilting in the initial onslaught, they have since performed better but with limited offensive success.

A police lieutenant colonel said security forces clashed on Thursday with militants near Tikrit, the northern hometown of Saddam Hussein they have been unsuccessfully fighting to retake for more than a week.

Salaheddin provincial Governor Ahmed Abdullah Juburi said on Wednesday security forces were “advancing slowly because all of the houses and burned vehicles (en route to Tikrit) have been rigged with explosives, and militants have deployed lots of roadside bombs and car bombs. “It would be days before security forces could make a concerted push into the city, the capital of Salaheddin province, he said.

West of the city, a roadside bomb killed one Kurdish peshmerga fighter on Thursday and wounded four others.

Maliki’s security spokesman also said loyalists had clashed with militants south of Baghdad.

The cost of the conflict has been high for Iraq’s forces. Nearly 900 security personnel were among 2,400 people killed in June, the highest figure in years, according to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Washington has contacted Iraqi players and widened efforts to convince key regional leaders to help resolve the political chaos in Iraq.

Also see: Unprecedented Kurdish peshmerga deployment in Iraq

President Barack Obama called Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Vice President Joe Biden talked to former Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a prominent Sunni leader.

The White House said Biden and Nujaifi agreed on the importance of “moving expeditiously to form a new government capable of uniting the country”.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Saudi Arabia deploys 30,000 troops to Iraqi border: report

Syed Rashid Husain

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has deployed 30,000 troops along its 800km border with Iraq, Saudi-owned Al-Arabi­­ya television channel reported on Thursday.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has deployed 30,000 troops along its 800km border with Iraq, Saudi-owned Al-Arabi­­ya television channel reported on Thursday.

The deployment came as Iraqi forces abandoned their positions on the border, leaving it unprotected, the report added.

King Abdullah had orde­red that all necessary measures be taken to guard against potential threats, a Saudi Royal Court statement said.

Related: Chief of Iraqi Kurds wants independence referendum

The order came during a meeting of the Saudi Natio­nal Security Council to discuss the fallout of developments in Iraq. “Concerned about Saudi Arabia’s security and to safeguard against terrorist organisations or any other groups that might endeavour to destabilise the kingdom, he (the king) has ordered all necessary measures to protect the gains of the homeland and its stability, and the security of the Saudi people,” the statement added.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Delhi summons US official over snooping on BJP

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Edward Snowden’s revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has triggered a row in New Delhi with the foreign ministry summoning an unnamed US official on Wednesday to explain the Washington Post report.

NEW DELHI: Edward Snowden’s revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has triggered a row in New Delhi with the foreign ministry summoning an unnamed US official on Wednesday to explain the Washington Post report.

Press Trust of India said New Delhi raised the issue with the unidentified official, saying it was “totally unacceptable” that an Indian organisation or Indian individual’s privacy was transgressed upon.

The BJP figures in the list of foreign political parties along with Lebanon’s Amal, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistan People’s Party on whom the NSA was given permission to carry out surveillance, says the document made public on Monday by The Washington Post.

India also sought an assurance from the US that it will not happen again, PTI said.

Washington currently has in India an interim ambassador, Kathleen Stephens, who came in after Nancy Powell resigned.

PTI said India also noted at Wednesday’s meeting that it had raised the issue with the US administration in Washington and the Embassy in India in July and November 2013 when reports emerged that the NSA had spied upon individuals and entities.

The ministry said it was still “awaiting a response from American on this”.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Cartels operating in several sectors, Dar tells NA

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Many industries and sectors in the country have formed cartels in order to obtain an undue economic advantage, mostly at the cost of their consumers, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the National Assembly on Wednesday.

ISLAMABAD: Many industries and sectors in the country have formed cartels in order to obtain an undue economic advantage, mostly at the cost of their consumers, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the National Assembly on Wednesday.

He was responding to a question put by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Dr Shireen Mazari.

Dr Mazari asked if it was true that cartels existed in various industries and, if so, which industries were they. She also asked whether there was a law to deal with cartelisation.

Although the question couldn’t be taken up for open discussion since the routine business of the National Assembly was suspended to take up the Protection of Pakistan bill, a written response from Senator Dar was provided to lawmakers.

In a detailed answer, the finance minister said that between April 2008 and April 2013, the government had found that a number of sectors of the national economy were operating under the influence of cartels. These included: banking, accountancy, print media, stock exchange, cement, sugar, telecom, jute bags, poultry, power equipment, ghee and shipping.

Answering the second part of the question, Senator Dar explained that cartelisation was a civil offence in Pakistan. “The existence of cartels can only be proved on the basis of evidence after an inquiry is conducted under the Competition Act, 2010,” he said.

The Competition Act of 2010 provides for free competition in all spheres of commercial and economic activity, to enhance economic efficiency and to protect consumers from anti-competitive behaviour.

Section 4 of the Competition Act 2010, inter alia, prohibits cartelisation by competitors, adds the minister. This section is generally enforced ex-post facto by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP).

Regarding the punishment for such activities, the minister said cartelisation carried a maximum penalty of up to Rs75 million in fines or ten per cent of the annual turnover of the undertaking of the relevant company, under Section 38 of the Competition Act, 2010.

The CCP was established on October 2, 2007 under the Competition Ordinance, 2007, which was re-promulgated in November 2009. The main aim of this ordinance was to provide a legal framework to create a business environment based on healthy competition to improve economic efficiency, develop competitiveness and protect consumers from monopolistic practices.

Prior to the Competition Ordinance, Pakistan had an anti-monopoly law, namely the ‘Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (Control and Prevention) Ordinance’ (MRTPO) 1970. The Monopoly Control Authority (MCA) was the body that administered this law. The MCA was replaced by the CCP in 2007.

Talking to Dawn, a former head of the CCP said the body had failed to effectively check cartelisation in major industrial sectors even though there was nothing wrong with the CCP Act or the functioning of the CCP. The CCP had repeatedly pointed out how cartels had formed in various sectors of the national economy, be it the cement industry or sugar mills.

The CCP had effectively imposed penalties for cartelisation, but nearly each party had had gone to court and secured stay orders against the CCP rulings.

“Unfortunately, due to our over-burdened superior judiciary, the cases aren’t being heard, therefore, all the good work done by the CCP is undone,” the former CCP chairperson said.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

UN assails killing of Palestinian youth

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS: The killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, apparently in a reprisal, was strongly condemned by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on Wednesday and he called upon both Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from exacerbating an already tense situation.

UNITED NATIONS: The killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, apparently in a reprisal, was strongly condemned by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on Wednesday and he called upon both Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from exacerbating an already tense situation.

“There can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians — any civilians,” UN envoy Robert Serry said in a statement.

“The perpetrators of such heinous acts must be brought to justice.”

He repeated his call on all sides to do everything they could not to further exacerbate an already tense atmosphere.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

US defends spying

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

WASHINGTON: A US government agency on Wednesday defended the US National Security Agency’s surveillance programme, which includes spying on foreign banks, political parties and government officials.

WASHINGTON: A US government agency on Wednesday defended the US National Security Agency’s surveillance programme, which includes spying on foreign banks, political parties and government officials.

Pakistan is also on the list of the countries the NSA is allowed to spy on.

The US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board observed that the programme had allowed the government to collect a greater range of foreign intelligence “quickly and effectively.”

It endorsed the controversial collection of Internet data as not only legal but also effective.

“The programme has led the government to identify previously unknown individuals who are involved in international terrorism,” the agency noted.

“It has played a key role in discovering and disrupting specific terrorist plots aimed at the United States and other countries.”

Also read:Reform on some but not all NSA spying

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved a broad certification for spying abroad in 2010, which included a list of 193 countries to concentrate on, the Post reported.

The memo leaked to the Post authorises the NSA to spy on all governments, including those recognised by the United States.

International organisations marked for spying include the World Bank Group, International Mone­tary Fund, International Atomic Energy Agency, Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Islamic Development Bank, African Union and the League of Arab States.

The approval permitted the NSA to intercept communications through US companies related to targets on the list, the Post reported.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

UK regulator investigates Facebook over study

Reuters

LONDON: The British data watchdog is investigating whether Facebook Inc violated data-protection laws when it allowed researchers to conduct a psychological experiment on its users.

LONDON: The British data watchdog is investigating whether Facebook Inc violated data-protection laws when it allowed researchers to conduct a psychological experiment on its users.

A Facebook spokesman acknowledged that the experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users in 2012 had upset users and said the company would change the way it handled research in future.

The study, to find if Facebook could alter the emotional state of users and prompt them to post either more positive or negative content, has caused a furore on social media, including Facebook itself.

“We’re aware of this issue and will be speaking to Facebook, as well as liaising with the Irish data protection authority, to learn more about the circumstances,” the Information Commis­sioner’s Office said.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Counsel concludes secretary’s cross-examination

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Farogh Nasim, the defence attorney for former president retired General Pervez Musharraf, concluded his cross-examination of Interior Secretary Shahid Khan on Wednesday.

ISLAMABAD: Farogh Nasim, the defence attorney for former president retired General Pervez Musharraf, concluded his cross-examination of Interior Secretary Shahid Khan on Wednesday.

During the cross-examination, Mr Khan admitted that a Federal Investigation Agency team had failed to obtain a record of meetings Mr Musharraf held ahead of the emergency proclamation on Nov 3, 2007, from the military’s General Headquarters.

Know more: Musharraf’s lawyers have ‘abettors’ list

In the proclamation, Gen Musharraf had stated: “The situation has been reviewed in meetings with the prime minister, the governors of all four provinces and with chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, chiefs of the armed forces, the vice chief of army staff and corps commanders of Pakistan Army… in pursuance of the deliberations and decisions of the said meetings, I, General Pervez Musharraf, chief of the army staff, proclaim emergency throughout Pakistan.”

The interior secretary said that the identity of the military officers who were holding those offices on Nov 3, 2007 could be ascertained, but he “did not take legal action against the officers with regard to their involvement as abettors” because the investigating team did not find any evidence against them.

He said that in his opinion, following orders for illegal action or failure to dissent against such orders did not constitute to abetment of the crime.

When Barrister Nasim asked him whether Gen Kayani, who assumed charge as chief of army staff on Nov 28 but did not repeal the emergency – which was revoked by the former president himself on Dec 15 – was not an abettor, Mr Khan replied, “It is a legal question and I am not a constitutional expert,” adding, “I am not in a position to state that retired Gen Kayani, by (his) act of not withdrawing (the) proclamation during the period of November 28 to December 15, 2007, could be regarded as an abettor of the accused.”

The special court has summoned FIA Additional Director General Khalid Rasool, the Law Ministry’s Deputy Solicitor Taj Umar Khan and Cabinet Division Deputy Secretary Siraj Ahmed to record their statements and adjourned proceedings until Thursday.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

US picks Pakistan expert as envoy for region

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, is leaving his position this month, the State Department said on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON: The US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, is leaving his position this month, the State Department said on Wednesday.

His replacement, Daniel Feldman, focused on Pakistan while working as a deputy to Mr Dobbins and his predecessors, Marc Grossman and Richard Holbrooke.

Mr Dobbins had close relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan coordinates across the government to meet US strategic goals in the region while engaging Nato and other key US allies.

Mr Dobbins, 72, came out of retirement last year to serve in the post.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Mr Dobbins had “a lot to be proud of”, having been at the “forefront” of US efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mr Dobbins’ retirement, after just over a year in office, comes as the two candidates to be Afghanistan’s next president wrangle over alleged fraud, sparking a political crisis that threatens the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

Secretary Kerry observed that the outgoing diplomat “played an outsized role on the ground”, negotiating the bilateral security agreement with the Afghan government, making preparations for the elections, and planning for a transition for the Afghan people after more than a decade of progress.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Deportees with forged papers to be arrested

Zulqernain Tahir

LAHORE: Not all the deported persons will enjoy the status of ‘victim’ under a new classification of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

LAHORE: Not all the deported persons will enjoy the status of ‘victim’ under a new classification of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

The people deported for forged documents (DFD) will face seven-year imprisonment, fine or both.

Earlier, the FIA had been asked to treat all deported persons as victims and not to charge them with any offence.

The agency has now placed deported persons into different categories. “The general deportees who reach home under the Voluntary Return Programme (VRP) still enjoy the victim status,” FIA Lahore Director Dr Usman Anwar told Dawn on Tuesday.

He said the people returning home under the European Union Re-admission Agreement would also be considered as victims (even if they entered the foreign land illegally).

“However, we have classified the DFDs into two categories. Those deported on forged documents will be arrested. A case will be registered against them, their agents and immigration officials involved in helping them board the flight,” Dr Usman said.

Those leaving Pakistan on genuine visa for their first destination but from there travelling to another country on forged documents would be booked under the law when deported.

The FIA director said the immigration officials had been directed to try to stop the potential illegal immigrants who had valid visa for Dubai or Malaysia but from there could travel to a European destination or Australia on forged documents with the help of human smugglers.

“The FIA has managed to stop a good number of potential illegal immigrants at the Lahore airport,” he said.

Dr Usman said that 70,000 Pakistanis were deported annually — 30,000 from Saudi Arabia and the rest from Europe and other developed countries.

While the DFDs pay dearly, the human smugglers arranging their documents often go scot-free. The DFDs reportedly do not turn up for testimony against human smugglers if the latter are caught on the information they divulge to the FIA on their deportation.

This also leads to a poor conviction rate.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Historic shift as Japan expands scope of military operations

AFP

TOKYO: Japan on Tuesday loosened the bonds on its powerful military, proclaiming the right to go into battle in defence of allies, in a highly controversial shift in the nation’s pacifist stance.

TOKYO: Japan on Tuesday loosened the bonds on its powerful military, proclaiming the right to go into battle in defence of allies, in a highly controversial shift in the nation’s pacifist stance.

After months of horse-trading and browbeating of opponents, conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his cabinet had formally endorsed a reinterpretation of rules that have banned the use of armed force except in very narrowly-defined circumstances.

“I will protect Japanese people’s lives and peaceful existence. As the prime minister, I have this grave responsibility. With this determination, the cabinet approved the basic policy for national security,” Abe told a press conference. “There is a misunderstanding that Japan will be involved in war in an effort to defend a foreign country. But this is impossible. It will be strictly a defensive measure to defend our people.”

Abe has faced down widespread public opposition to the move, which climaxed at the weekend when a middle-aged man attempted suicide by setting himself on fire.

Some 10,000 protesters gathered on Tuesday near the prime minister’s office to oppose the plan, Kyodo News reported.

While the move to allow so-called “collective self-defence” needs parliamentary approval, the control of both chambers that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party enjoys renders this a formality.

Abe had originally planned to change Article 9 of the US-imposed constitution, which was adopted after World War II and renounces “the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes”.

But unable to muster the two-thirds majority he needed in both houses and unlikely to get an endorsement from the public in the required referendum, he changed tack, using what opponents say is sleight of hand to alter what the clause means.

Supporters say the reinterpretation is necessary because of the worsening security situation in East Asia, where an ever more confident China is pushing its territorial claims and an erratic North Korea is threatening stability.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

UN observer mission gets new chief

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS: Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi of Ghana has been appointed Chief Military Observer and Head of Mission for the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

UNITED NATIONS: Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi of Ghana has been appointed Chief Military Observer and Head of Mission for the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Major General Sakyi succeeds Major General Young-Bum Choi of the Republic of Korea, who completed his two-year assignment on June 16.

With more than 35 years of military command and staff experience at national and international levels, Major General Sakyi served most recently as Force Commander for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

He has held command and staff positions in the Ghana Armed Forces, including Assistant Commandant of the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Junior Division and Commander of the Army Combat Training School, says a press statement here.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

First session of new Iraqi parliament ends in chaos

AFP

BAGHDAD: First session of Iraq’s new parliament broke up in chaos on Tuesday, with lawmakers walking out or making threats despite calls for the urgent formation of a government to combat a Sunni militant onslaught.

BAGHDAD: First session of Iraq’s new parliament broke up in chaos on Tuesday, with lawmakers walking out or making threats despite calls for the urgent formation of a government to combat a Sunni militant onslaught.

After a break called to calm soaring tempers, so many Sunni and Kurdish deputies stayed away that the quorum was lost, so a speaker could not be elected and the session ended in disarray.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s bid for a third term has been battered by the Islamist-led offensive that has seized large chunks of five provinces, adding fuel to dissatisfaction over persistent allegations of sectarianism and monopolising power.

The crisis has alarmed world leaders, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and polarised Iraq’s Shia, Sunni and Kurdish populations.

That disunity quickly manifested itself in what was the opening session of a parliament elected in April.

Kurdish lawmaker Najiba Najib interrupted efforts to select a new speaker, calling on the government to “end the blockade” and send withheld budget funds to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

Kadhim al-Sayadi, an MP in Shia premier Maliki’s bloc, responded by threatening to “crush the heads” of the country’s autonomous Kurds, whose regional leader Massud Barzani told the BBC they would hold a referendum on independence within months.

Some Sunni MPs walked out at the mention of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), the jihadist group leading the anti-government offensive, and enough Sunnis and Kurds did not return following the break that the session was without a quorum.

Presiding MP Mahdi Hafez said the legislature would reconvene on July 8 if leaders were able to agree on senior posts.

However, the riotous atmosphere did not stop new MPs from forming orderly queues to register for their substantial pay and benefits, including weapons and guards, perks that anger ordinary Iraqis struggling with a flagging economy.

Under a de facto agreement, the prime minister is chosen from among Shia Arabs, the speaker from Sunni Arabs and the president is a Kurd. All three posts are typically chosen in tandem.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Footprints: Myths of heroes

Reema Abbasi

A desperate nation is often keen on pantheons of martyrs. Chaudhary Aslam, the slain police strongman who was crucial part of Karachi’s almost mythical Operation Clean-Up, is proof of our collective despair.

A desperate nation is often keen on pantheons of martyrs. Chaudhary Aslam, the slain police strongman who was crucial part of Karachi’s almost mythical Operation Clean-Up, is proof of our collective despair.

Known as Encounter Specialist, Aslam’s tainted past from the 1990s, and his stint behind bars, was airbrushed into a portrait of a hero at his time of death. But while the media served up eulogies for him, many homes rejoiced in the cop’s payback time.

Strangely enough, today, this supposed anti-terror champion is just a dowel that ties the past with the present. Given the state’s penchant for political games in Karachi, such dubious tools live on with other names. So weapons are now charged at scores of Islamist targets as opposed to yesterday’s ethnic victims.

Also read: Taliban bombing kills senior police officer Chaudhry Aslam

One such home is the late Khalid Shah’s in Mominabad. Some eight months on, a sparse abode with floor seating, a large courtyard, an old mother and young families of his siblings, is still choked with grief.

However, the mention of Aslam’s brutal end illuminates their faces.

Shah, a youth in his early 30s, served as a muezzin at the Steel Mill mosque and gave private Quran lessons to children. His family refutes any charge of political affiliation for the deceased and for all his brothers.

Infographic: Chaudhry Aslam: Fighting fire with fire

“He was on his way home on Nov 5, 2013 when a car with tinted glasses picked him up in Malir. For nine long days we had no clue, despite the registration of an FIR with the Mominabad police station. Aslam accused my innocent brother of being an LJ member,” recounts his inconsolable sister, Umm-e-Hadia.

“Shafiq Tanoli took him. Khalid’s friend who was with him at that moment told us,” says the mother.

A young widow of 25 sits silently beside a pillar with three children. She is Afshan who had to return to her father as her in-laws are too impoverished to support her and the brood.

“I have lost everything. He was an umbrella for the family. Now I have an endless abyss before me. I want my children to grow up to be like their father — honest, responsible and religious.”

Afshan recounts her last conversation with her departed husband with remarkable stoicism: “My youngest was just 14 days old and the eldest, four. Khalid told me to look after myself and that he was going to Hyderabad; then the line was cut off.”

For this family, and for another five like them, the pain of loss is overshadowed by recurring images that cling to the mind like obstinate memories often do.

“Can you imagine our state when we read his name on the ticker in news bulletin? This was on November 14, and the same band with my son’s sullied name carried praise for his murderer, Aslam.”

Related: SP Chaudhry Aslam — a symbol of success for many, hatred for others

The sister then finds the fury to explain the state of Khalid’s body — tortured, perforated and bloody, it was packed in plastic with the request to keep it still for fear of organs spilling out.

“The other bodies were worse. My cousin called Aslam and got him but he said he would call back and never did.”

Sadly, the bullet’s wasn’t the worst wound. It was that moment when Chaudhary Aslam flung the death certificate at Khalid’s brother, saying: “Take your terrorist’s medal. If any of you speak out, I will ensure the same fate for you.”

“They kept his bike, mobile phone, identity card, Steel Mill employee card and wallet so his real identity never comes to light,” explains Altaf, his cousin.

Khalid’s slaughter has left his youngest sister to grapple with an uncertain future as the ignominy of being ‘a terrorist’s sister’ has kept prospects at bay.

And haunting questions are as many as the tales of pain in this neighbourhood. However, the sense of defeat has yet to set in, which makes this family peerless among violated clans.

Hadia says that she and her brothers are determined to clear Khalid of the label of ‘dehshatgard’ that is poised to stalk his children for years to come.

In pictures: Karachi’s toughest cop Aslam laid to rest

“How can this murderous government not raise obvious questions? When he was taken away in Malir towards Hyderabad and kept for nine days, then how was he found in Mauripur with explosives on his bike? Why was he tortured? Why weren’t these boys tried?” she shrieks.

In the end, the story plays out like scores of its kind did over two decades ago. Hence, such a history of easy targets makes it imperative for the government to allot compensations and reopen questionable cases so families can bury their dead with honour.

Or, given the macro-compulsions involved, are we once again witnessing hopeless, imbalanced battles against a monster gone haywire?

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Iraqi forces battle to retake Tikrit from caliph-led ISIS

Reuters

BAGHDAD: Iraqi troops battled to dislodge an Al Qaeda splinter group from the city of Tikrit on Monday after its leader was declared caliph of a new Islamic state in lands seized this month across a swathe of Iraq and Syria.

BAGHDAD: Iraqi troops battled to dislodge an Al Qaeda splinter group from the city of Tikrit on Monday after its leader was declared caliph of a new Islamic state in lands seized this month across a swathe of Iraq and Syria.

Alarming regional and world powers, the Islamic State in Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) claimed universal authority, declaring its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was now caliph of the Muslim world – a title last widely recognised in the Ottoman sultan deposed 90 years ago after World War One. “He is the imam and caliph for Muslims everywhere,” group spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani said in an online statement.

The move follows a three-week drive for territory by ISIS militants and allies among Iraqi’s Sunni populace. The caliphate aims to erase colonial-era borders and defy the US- and Iranian-backed government of Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki in Baghdad.

It also poses a direct challenge to the global leadership of Al Qaeda, which disowned ISIS, and to conservative Gulf Arab rulers, who already view the group as a security threat.

Iraqi army attempted last week to take back Tikrit but was unable to seize the city. Helicopters hit ISIS positions overnight. On the southern outskirts, a battle raged into Monday, residents said.

The fighting has started to draw in international support for Baghdad, two-and-a-half years after US troops pulled out.

Armed and trained by the United States, Iraq’s armed forces crumbled in the face of the ISIS onslaught and have struggled to bring heavier weaponry to bear.

The Iraqi government has appealed for international help and accused neighbours, notably Saudi Arabia, of having fostered militancy in Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi army spokesman Qassim Atta said declaring a caliphate could backfire by showing that Baghdadi’s group posed a risk to other nations:

“This declaration is a message by Islamic State not only to Iraq or Syria but to the region and the world,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Petroleum levy increased but prices kept unchanged

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The government increased on Monday petroleum levy to the maximum permissible limit but kept the prices of petroleum products unchanged.

ISLAMABAD: The government increased on Monday petroleum levy to the maximum permissible limit but kept the prices of petroleum products unchanged.

“The prime minister has approved ‘no change’ in oil prices,” said a senior official of the Prime Minister’s office. The prime minister desired that an impact of Rs510 million should not be passed on to consumers.

He said the oil price summary forwarded by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) had proposed a slight increase in prices.

According to Ogra summary, the price of petrol was to be increased by 84 paisa per litre, of High Octane Blending Component (HOBC) by Rs3.63 per litre, of kerosene by 30 paisa, of high speed diesel by 27 paisa and light diesel oil by 22 paisa.

An Ogra official, however, explained that the regulator was under instructions of the finance minister to prepare a working paper on oil pricing on the basis of budgeted subsidy and not on the basis of actual prevailing prices.

He said that by keeping prices unchanged the government had in fact increased the petroleum levy on all products that would yield an additional Rs800 million. Based on declining international oil market and existing rates in the domestic market, rates of all petroleum products should have come down.

The government decided to charge maximum petroleum levy rates approved by parliament on all products. He said the government was charging Rs8.88 per litre on motor spirit in June which had now been increased to a maximum of Rs10 per litre – an increase of Rs1.21 per litre.

Likewise, the Rs11.87 per litre existing petroleum levy on HOBC has also been increased to Rs14. The petroleum levy on HSD has been increased from Rs6.45 per litre to Rs8 per litre and on light diesel oil to Rs3 from Rs2.13 per litre.

Last month too, the government had kept prices unchanged. Apart from the Rs6 to Rs14 per litre petroleum levy, the government also charges 16 per cent general sales tax on prices of all oil products.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Most Pakistanis fear extremism, dislike Taliban: survey

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: In Pakistan 66 per cent people see religious extremism as a serious threat to their country, says a new survey released by a US think-tank.

WASHINGTON: In Pakistan 66 per cent people see religious extremism as a serious threat to their country, says a new survey released by a US think-tank.

The survey, conducted in spring 2014, shows that there are still 24pc people in Pakistan who do not see extremism as a serious threat. But when it comes to the Taliban, most among these 24pc also want to stay away from them.

Almost 60pc of the population in Pakistan sees the Taliban unfavourably. Only 8pc have a favourable view of this extremist organisation.

Given the violent nature of this group, which practices targeted killings for assassinating its opponents, a third of Pakistanis are reluctant to offer an opinion.

Views of the Taliban have not changed substantially in recent years.

Opinions towards specific branches of the Taliban, such as Tehreek-i-Taliban and the Afghan Taliban, are also negative.

Know more: Alliance against Taliban formed

In a spring 2013 survey, both those groups received low ratings in Pakistan — 56pc unfavourable and 47pc unfavourable, respectively.

And in the Middle East, concern about extremism is growing. Lebanese, Tunisians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Turks are all more worried about the extremist threat than they were a year ago.

Hezbollah, the militant organisation headquartered in Lebanon, is seen unfavourably in every country surveyed. In Pakistan, 8pc like it, 12pc dislike it and 81pc have no opinion.

In Lebanon, 88pc of Sunnis and 69pc of Lebanese Christians dislike Hezbollah. However, 86pc of Lebanese Shias have a favourable view.

More than half in the Palestinian territories — 53pc — have an unfavourable view of Hamas, with only about a third — 35pc — expressing positive views.

Most people hold very negative opinions of well-known extremist groups, such as Al Qaeda.

In Nigeria, the vast majority of respondents, both Muslims and Christians, have an unfavourable view of Boko Haram, the terrorist group that recently kidnapped hundreds of girls in the restive north of the country.

Few Muslims in most of the countries surveyed say that suicide bombing can often or sometimes be justified against civilian targets in order to defend Islam from its enemies. And support for the tactic has fallen in many countries over the last decade.

Still, in some countries a substantial minority says that suicide bombing can be justified.

Still, significant minorities of Muslims in a few countries do hold the view that it can be justified.

In the Middle East, support for suicide bombing is highest in the Palestinian territories, where 46pc of Muslims say that it is often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam. Support is particularly high among Muslims in Gaza (62pc) versus those in the West Bank (36pc).

In Lebanon, 29pc of Muslims say targeting civilians is justified. This includes 37pc of Shias but only 21pc among Sunnis.

Meanwhile, a quarter or less of Muslims in Egypt (24pc), Turkey (18pc), Israel (16pc) and Jordan (15pc) say suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified. Among Tunisian Muslims, only 5pc say this.

Nearly half of Bangladeshi Muslims (47pc) believe suicide bombing can be justified.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Suspect held in Oslo imam attack case

AFP

OSLO: A Norwegian man of Pakistani origin was arrested on Monday over the attempted murder of the prayer leader of Oslo’s main mosque two weeks ago, police said.

OSLO: A Norwegian man of Pakistani origin was arrested on Monday over the attempted murder of the prayer leader of Oslo’s main mosque two weeks ago, police said.

“The man will be questioned as soon as possible, and a decision on remanding him in custody is expected later this week,” violent crime unit head Egil Kulseth said in a statement, adding that he did not rule out further arrests.

Police said the man, aged around 30, was being questioned on suspicion of being either the perpetrator or an accomplice in the attempted murder.

Nehma Ali Shah, the imam of the Central Jamaat Ahle Sunnat mosque, was attacked with a “sharp object” by a masked assailant close to his home on June 17. He was taken to hospital suffering wounds to his hands and face. Witnesses told police there was a single attacker.

According to Norwegian online newspaper Nettavisen, Mr Shah left hospital after two days and has not dared go to the mosque since the attack.

Several Norwegian media outlets have reported on a power struggle within the mosque, which has a congregation of more than 5,000 members mainly of Pakistani origin.

In 2006, several men attacked worshippers at the mosque during prayer time, injuring four.

Mr Shah has repeatedly condemned religious extremists, and made a 2006 visit to the Oslo Synagogue after shots had been fired at the building. However, he has also attracted controversy last year when he claimed that Norwegian media was controlled by the Jews.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Dozens killed in militant attacks on Nigerian churches

AFP

MAIDUGURI: Suspected Boko Haram Islamists attacked a series of churches on Sunday near Chibok, the Nigerian town where more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped in April. Dozens were feared dead, witnesses said.

MAIDUGURI: Suspected Boko Haram Islamists attacked a series of churches on Sunday near Chibok, the Nigerian town where more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped in April. Dozens were feared dead, witnesses said.

Residents said the gunmen riding on motorcycles opened fire on worshippers and pursued them as they tried to flee into the surrounding bush.

The assailants hurled explosives into churches as services were going on and torched several buildings, witnessed further reported.

The targeted villages have been identified as Kwada, Ngurojina, Karagau, Kautikari, all in Borno state, the stronghold of the Islamist group which has killed thousands during a five-year extremist campaign.

“The attackers went to churches with bombs and guns,” Timothy James, a Chibok resident said by phone, explaining that the villages were within 10km of Chibok.

“From what I gathered, dozens of worshippers, including men, women and children were killed,” he said.

His information had come from people who fled the affected area and through phone calls.

Enoch Mark, an outspoken Chibok leader since the April 14 kidnappings, gave a similar account, saying the raid was ongoing: “presently, as we are talking now, we are under attack”.

“I was told the attackers burnt at least three churches to the ground,” he added.

He said the community would be able to get a more accurate death toll once the violence abated, but feared the dead numbered in the dozens and that gunmen were firing on people as they ran into the surrounding bushes.

Boko Haram, which has said it wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, has attacked churches throughout its insurgency.

According to Mark, the military did not respond to distress calls after the attack began. “They just went and got a hiding place in the bush,” he said.

While it was not immediately possible to verify the charge, if true, it would raise further questions about the military effort in the northeast.

Following the April abduction of 276 girls by Boko Haram from a secondary school in Chibok, parents and local leaders accused the military of doing almost nothing to secure the release of the hostages.

Fifty-seven of the girls escaped within days of the night-time raid on the school and local officials have said that 219 are still being held.

A local government official in Chibok who confirmed the attack and requested anonymity said Nigeria needed to step up its fight against Boko Haram, as residents in the northeast were being left to die with little protection.

“The federal government must do the right thing by taking the fight to the terrorists,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

US to operate with Iran for countering Iraqi militants: military chief

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The United States will operate in the same space with Iran towards “potentially the same goal” of countering the Iraqi militants, says the US military chief.

WASHINGTON: The United States will operate in the same space with Iran towards “potentially the same goal” of countering the Iraqi militants, says the US military chief.

Gen Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff told National Public Radio that the United States “look at Iran with a cold eye (unemotionally)” to determine when and where their interests converge.

And when they might need to operate in the same space and towards potentially the same goal of countering ISIS they would, he said. “But I can state with some assurance that their goals in Iraq are not going to be completely aligned with ours, and we’re very clear about that.”

ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham is a trans-regional militant organisation that originated in Syria and now controls large portions of Iraq’s Sunni belt, causing the collapse of the Iraqi state in those areas.

Gen Dempsey acknowledged that Iran had national interests in Iraq and that must be taken under consideration as Iran has been active in Iraq for a very long time.

Also read: ISIS declares ‘caliphate’

“I can say with some confidence that Iran, which has a deep interest in the Shia holy sites, is undoubtedly providing assistance and support and advice on how to secure those holy sites,” said the US military chief. “That wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I would be surprised if we didn’t find it.”

Gen Dempsey said that the level of support Iran was providing to Iraq would influence the US attitude towards Iranian influence in Iraq.

“One of the things we need to find out is whether Iran is embedded in and advising and supporting the Iraqi security forces,” he said. “That will take us in one direction. If they’re not, that’ll take us in another.”

The United States, he said, would like to understand facts on the ground before taking a decision on how to address the issues.

Gen Dempsey also emphasised that the formation of a national unity government in Iraq would be key to defeating ISIS.

Related: Russia not to ‘sit idly by’ as ISIS presses Iraq assault

But to defeat the militants, he added, the US would need a credible partner in the Iraqi government but that could only happen if Baghdad empowered all ethnic and sectarian groups within the country.

Gen Dempsey said that if the United States assessed that that Iraqi forces might not hold together, or Iraq was not forming a national unity government, “we would probably look at other ways to address with other regional partners.”

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

ISIS declares ‘caliphate’

AFP

BEIRUT: Militants fighting in Iraq and Syria announced on Sunday the establishment of a ‘caliphate’.

BEIRUT: Militants fighting in Iraq and Syria announced on Sunday the establishment of a ‘caliphate’.

In an audio recording distributed online, the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) declared its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “the caliph” and “leader for Muslims everywhere”.

“The Shura (council) of the Islamic State met and discussed this issue (of the caliphate)… The Islamic State decided to establish an Islamic caliphate and to designate a caliph for the state of the Muslims,” said ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.

Blog: Political Islam: Theory and reality

“The jihadist cleric Baghdadi was designated the caliph of the Muslims,” said Adnani.

Baghdadi “has accepted this allegiance, and has thus become the leader for Muslims everywhere”.

“The words ‘Iraq’ and ‘Al Sham’ have been removed from the name of the Islamic State in official papers and documents,” Adnani added.

Though the move may not have a significant impact on the ground, it is an indicator of the group’s confidence.

The crisis in Iraq is said to rival the brutal sectarian war of 2006-2007, with more than 1,000 killed and hundreds of thousands displaced within weeks.

Alarmed world leaders have urged a speeding up of government formation following April elections, warning the conflict cannot be resolved by force alone.

While beleaguered Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has conceded a political solution is necessary, his office has for days touted the Tikrit operation, which could be crucial tactically, and for morale in the security forces.

“The security forces are advancing from different areas around Tikrit," said Lieutenant General Qassem Atta.

“There are ongoing clashes.“

Atta said troops had detonated bombs planted along routes into the city, which militants took more than two weeks ago.

Witnesses reported waves of government air strikes in central Tikrit and Saddam’s former palace compound in the city.

The Iraqi forces, according to Atta, are coordinating with recently-arrived US military advisers in “studying important targets”.

Maliki’s national reconciliation adviser, Amr Khuzaie, said the crisis was even more dangerous than the brutal Sunni-Shia violence that left tens of thousands dead.

“Now, the danger is definitely more… than 2006, 2007,” he told AFP.

Before, militant groups sparked a “sectarian war, but now the war is more organised” and the militants’ abilities were greater.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has raised grave concern about human rights violations and “the rising number of civilian deaths and injuries, with over one million Iraqis having fled their homes due to the fighting”, his spokesman said.

The onslaught that ISIS led this month overran parts of five Iraqi provinces after capturing the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor near Iraq, Raqa in the north, and parts of Aleppo province.

Its leader Baghdadi, who once spent time in an American military prison in Iraq, is increasingly seen as even more powerful than Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Also read: The gates of hell

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Studies question UN efforts to save mothers

AP

LONDON: In the past decade, billions of dollars have been spent in trying to save the lives of mothers in developing countries using strategies — usually inexpensive drugs — deemed essential by the UN health agency. Yet two large analyses of maternal health programmes — including one conducted by the UN itself — report that the efforts appeared almost useless, raising troubling questions about why all that money was spent.

LONDON: In the past decade, billions of dollars have been spent in trying to save the lives of mothers in developing countries using strategies — usually inexpensive drugs — deemed essential by the UN health agency. Yet two large analyses of maternal health programmes — including one conducted by the UN itself — report that the efforts appeared almost useless, raising troubling questions about why all that money was spent.

While critics are calling for the pricey global initiatives to be significantly overhauled, the programmes are still being implemented despite little proof they work.

The practices mainly involve things like ensuring that pregnant women get cheap drugs such as magnesium sulphate to treat labour complications or pre-emptive antibiotics for those getting a caesarean section. Even public health officials acknowledge they were taken aback by the studies.

“Nobody could have been more surprised than I was when we got the results,” said Dr Omrana Pasha of Aga Khan University in Pakistan, who led a study of maternal health interventions in six countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

According to the research papers, including one done in 30 countries that tracked more than 300,000 women, scientists found no link between the supposedly life-saving interventions and the death rates of women giving birth. Areas that used the interventions didn’t have better survival rates for mothers than areas that didn’t.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Footprints: Freed from Bagram, ‘Lost’ in Pakistan

Nasir Jamal

An unexpected call from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on May 15 brought news that Waqar Ahmed and his parents had been long waiting for: Waqar’s younger brother, Iftikhar Ahmed, kept in the high-security Bagram prison near Kabul for about four and a half years, was finally free.

An unexpected call from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on May 15 brought news that Waqar Ahmed and his parents had been long waiting for: Waqar’s younger brother, Iftikhar Ahmed, kept in the high-security Bagram prison near Kabul for about four and a half years, was finally free.

The caller said Iftikhar, 23, had been handed over to the Pakistani authorities. But the hopes of a family reunion faded as swiftly as they were raised.

“Iftikhar went to Lahore for work soon after his marriage,” Waqar says. “A few months later he called to tell us he was going to look for work in Chaman. After some weeks he stopped calling and we found his phone switched off. We had no means of knowing his whereabouts.”

A year and a half ago someone from the ICRC called Waqar to inform him that Iftikhar was in the Bagram prison. “We started getting calls from him through the ICRC once a month. The call would be cut off if the conversation veered towards the circumstances of his arrest,” Waqar muses. “We were in regular telephonic contact with him when he was in Afghanistan but since he was sent to Pakistan, we’ve been totally cut off. He is not well, mentally.”

In late May, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan conceded 10 Pakistanis released from Bagram had returned to Pakistan and a probe into their cases was under way.

All the former Bagram detainees are being kept in jails near their homes, according to the information provided to the court in response to a petition by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a non-profit organisation fighting since 2010 for the repatriation and rights of the Pakistanis detained in the Bagram detention facility. Two of them are being held in Balochistan and seven have been handed over to Fata authorities. Iftikhar is being kept in Sahiwal jail — around 40km from Pakpattan.

His brother and the JPP lawyers have seen him only once, for 20 minutes, in the presence of an intelligence official. The JPP lawyers say the other nine prisoners haven’t so far been given access to their families or lawyers.

“After the court orders, the ministry issued instructions to give their families and lawyers access to the detainees,” says Shahab Siddiqi, a JPP official. “But the authorities are not facilitating their meetings. We haven’t been informed of the charges against them nor have we been given any information on the status and nature of the investigations being conducted. It is a kind of illegal detention. It may put them at the risk of torture. The government should either free them or explain.”

Another group of Pakistani detainees repatriated in the ‘middle of the night’ in November last year also faced similar treatment. They were held incommunicado at an undisclosed place in Fata for several weeks until the JPP won a court order granting their families and lawyers access.

“It’s all so fuzzy,” Siddiqi observes. “The authorities arbitrarily graded them as white, grey and black. Four men graded white were bailed out on personal surety and two graded grey on bail bonds.” It is hard for anyone to translate these ‘grades’ in the absence of information about the details of the investigations and their outcome.

The list provided by the interior ministry to the court in 2012 showed 40 Pakistanis were detained at the Bagram facility, which is known for torture and is often dubbed Afghanistan’s Guantanamo Bay. It’s difficult to say how many Pakistanis are still in Bagram after the release of 16 of them since November because the interior ministry hasn’t updated the list despite court orders. No charges were framed against any of them or trial held when in Bagram, although many are believed to be there since 2003.

The Pakistan government also did nothing to ensure their legal rights or press for their freedom until the JPP took up their cause. The government took up the issue with the American authorities once the JPP had filed the petition. Yet it is blamed for not doing enough for their safe return home.

“We don’t know where they were arrested and under what circumstances,” Siddiqi says. “Some had gone to Afghanistan for work and were turned in by ‘bounty hunters’. Some, like Iftikhar, could’ve been arrested or abducted from near the border [inside Pakistan]. We cannot know these details unless we get unfettered access to them. As far as we know Americans had no forensic evidence against them and didn’t put them on trial. The same is true for the Pakistani government.”

Even if the government has any evidence to hold them, it cannot deny them a fair investigation and access to their families under the country’s Constitution. The families of Iftikhar Ahmed and of other ex-Bagram prisoners are desperate for reason to intervene.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Afghan forces claim victory in major battle against Taliban

AFP

KABUL: Afghan security forces on Saturday claimed victory against a Taliban offensive in the country’s volatile Helmand province after days of fighting seen as a test for the country’s security forces as Nato-led troops pull out.

KABUL: Afghan security forces on Saturday claimed victory against a Taliban offensive in the country’s volatile Helmand province after days of fighting seen as a test for the country’s security forces as Nato-led troops pull out.

The Taliban’s onslaught in Helmand began on June 19 when at least 800 fighters launched the offensive centred in Sangin district, a hotbed of intense fighting during the 13-year insurgency.

“The Taliban offensive has been beaten back, their plans to gain territory and capture districts have totally been foiled. Some 260 of the terrorists have been killed,” interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

He also said that 28 Afghan forces personnel were killed in the fighting.

The Taliban’s drive into Helmand province is seen as the biggest test of Afghan security forces so far in the current summer “fighting season” and comes as the government is locked in a stalemate over the presidential election.

Government forces had started a push to retake the areas they had lost in the early days of the offensive, Sediqqi said, but their progress had been “slow” as the areas that the Taliban had been pushed out of were “heavily mined”.

“Just yesterday police defused 60 landmines in Sangin district,” he said.

A high-ranking Afghan army corps officer in Helmand said earlier in the day that the militants had also been beaten back in three other districts — Kajaki, Nawzad and Musa Qala — which they had attacked at the beginning of their offensive.

A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, rejected the claim made by the government, saying that fighting was still going on in Sangin.

“Our mujahideen have attacked several security checkpoints in Sangin district,” Ahmadi said.

The battle in Helmand comes as Nato’s combat mission winds down by the end of this year, and Afghanistan’s army and police are fighting against the Taliban with decreasing support from the US-led military coalition.

The clashes in Helmand have also raised fears of instability as Afghan politics is stuck in a stalemate over the ongoing election vote count, with presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah alleging massive fraud by his rival Ashraf Ghani.

On Wednesday, UN special envoy for Afghanistan Jan Kubis warned of “rising tensions following the second round (of elections), including increasing ethnic overtones”.

Editorial News

Cartelisation concerns

Editorial

THE importance of a competitive market that provides equal opportunity to everyone to grow and expand cannot be overstated. It is globally recognised that no economy that discourages fair and free competition attracts investment. The benefits of a competitive market that promotes innovation, quality and choice, and that protects smaller players and consumers are enormous for an economy. Competition among various economic agents is central to attracting investment and achieving economic growth. In Pakistan, we see quite a different picture, however.

THE importance of a competitive market that provides equal opportunity to everyone to grow and expand cannot be overstated. It is globally recognised that no economy that discourages fair and free competition attracts investment. The benefits of a competitive market that promotes innovation, quality and choice, and that protects smaller players and consumers are enormous for an economy. Competition among various economic agents is central to attracting investment and achieving economic growth. In Pakistan, we see quite a different picture, however.

Cartelisation is a way of doing business here; perhaps the only way for many. There is hardly any sector of the economy or business where we do not find powerful cartels operating to take undue economic advantage at the cost of fair and free competition and hapless consumers. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar admitted to this reality on Wednesday in his written reply to a question from an opposition member in parliament. “Cartelisation permeates banking, manufacturing, telecom, print media, capital markets, accountancy,” he noted. It is no surprise, therefore, that the last Global Competitiveness Report ranked Pakistan as the 133rd most competitive country worldwide, a drop of nine places from its previous ranking on the list. This situation exists even though we have successfully developed and legislated one of the world’s best anti-trust laws — the Competition Act. The Competition Commission of Pakistan formed under it has been recognised as one of the most active anti-cartelisation institutions anywhere. So where did matters go wrong?

Ever since its constitution, the CCP has tried to discourage the anti-competitive behaviour of business, in order to develop an efficient and competitive economic environment in the country. At times it has acted well in time to stop government and state-owned businesses and other entities from implementing actions that the commission found opposed to the spirit of free competition. It has conducted inquiries against powerful industries like cement, sugar, telecom and banks and penalised those found guilty of cartelisation. It has successfully resisted political pressure brought on it by the guilty. But all its efforts have gone down the drain. Almost everyone penalised by the commission has gone to the courts, which are slow in deciding cases. The appellate tribunal formed under the competition law to prevent the involvement of an overburdened judiciary and delays in implementation of the CCP’s decisions became dysfunctional in April 2013 just five months after its formation. The government is yet to reconstitute a new tribunal, providing the cartels an opportunity to go to the courts and get the implementation of decisions against them delayed even if not revoked. If a competitive market has to be developed, both the government and judiciary will have to remove the impediments in the way of the commission to give teeth to it.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Musharraf’s ‘abettors’

Editorial

PUSHED into the background — but only just — by other events, the political status of the Musharraf trial is difficult to know at the moment. Is the government willing to push ahead with a trial or will it bow to the (il)logic of civil-military relations and allow Pervez Musharraf to leave the country? Meanwhile, the defence team of the former dictator is doing its best to drum up scandal and headlines in the likely hope that it will build further pressure on the government. The latest move is to try and build some hype around a so-called abettors’ list, essentially the individuals in the military and the government who allegedly advised Mr Musharraf to impose the November 2007 Emergency. There are two aspects here worth commenting on. First, whether or not there were abettors would hardly make a difference to the trial that Mr Musharraf faces. Ultimately, it was the former military strongman who signed on the dotted line of the Emergency order — a patently illegal move, the illegality of which in no way is diminished whether he acted alone or on the advice of others. The defence team appears to be simply trying to turn up the political temperature by dragging other then-senior military figures into the picture in the hope that it will cause the government to back down from insisting on a Musharraf trial.

PUSHED into the background — but only just — by other events, the political status of the Musharraf trial is difficult to know at the moment. Is the government willing to push ahead with a trial or will it bow to the (il)logic of civil-military relations and allow Pervez Musharraf to leave the country? Meanwhile, the defence team of the former dictator is doing its best to drum up scandal and headlines in the likely hope that it will build further pressure on the government. The latest move is to try and build some hype around a so-called abettors’ list, essentially the individuals in the military and the government who allegedly advised Mr Musharraf to impose the November 2007 Emergency. There are two aspects here worth commenting on. First, whether or not there were abettors would hardly make a difference to the trial that Mr Musharraf faces. Ultimately, it was the former military strongman who signed on the dotted line of the Emergency order — a patently illegal move, the illegality of which in no way is diminished whether he acted alone or on the advice of others. The defence team appears to be simply trying to turn up the political temperature by dragging other then-senior military figures into the picture in the hope that it will cause the government to back down from insisting on a Musharraf trial.

Second, setting aside the obvious motives of the defence team in repeatedly bringing up the issue of those who allegedly collaborated with Mr Musharraf, there is a real and important issue here too: for all the emphasis on the dictator himself, the reality is that military rule is only possible because of the many senior politicians, judges, bureaucrats and other public officials who collaborate with dictatorships. Go back to the original sin, ie October 1999. From the very fact that the coup was launched while then Gen Musharraf was still in the air, to all the constitutional and legal contortions necessary to validate the takeover, to the technocrats and politicians who rushed to Mr Musharraf’s side to help him establish his rule — virtually everything that took place required the dictator to rely on aiders and abettors who helped build the lie of constitutional, political and electoral legitimacy. Surely, if the door to dictatorship is to remain shut forever, those who helped build and sustain dictatorships should also be held to account.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Prank calls to police

Editorial

OFFICIALDOM in Pakistan is often rightly blamed for failing to deliver the goods. Yet the irresponsible behaviour of the public also contributes greatly towards adding to society’s problems and making it difficult for state institutions to function optimally. Take the example of the misuse of emergency telephone numbers. As reported in Thursday’s Dawn, official data shows that a staggering 95pc of calls made to the police’s Madadgar-15 helpline in Karachi turned out be bogus and were traced back to pranksters taking the law enforcers for a ride. In some cases, the callers made their intentions clear by indulging in non-serious conversations, while in others when the police actually sent out teams to investigate, it turned out to be a false alarm. In a society so brutalised by crime and violence and with the police force spread so thin, such behaviour is appalling. While the police are criticised for their lack of response — in many cases genuine callers have been given the runaround by law enforcers — wasting the time and resources of the force through such trivial pursuits reflects the immaturity and irresponsible attitude of many individuals in society. Karachi is not alone in this regard, as the Rescue 1122 emergency helpline in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar has also been abused, with a high volume of prank calls reported in the past.

OFFICIALDOM in Pakistan is often rightly blamed for failing to deliver the goods. Yet the irresponsible behaviour of the public also contributes greatly towards adding to society’s problems and making it difficult for state institutions to function optimally. Take the example of the misuse of emergency telephone numbers. As reported in Thursday’s Dawn, official data shows that a staggering 95pc of calls made to the police’s Madadgar-15 helpline in Karachi turned out be bogus and were traced back to pranksters taking the law enforcers for a ride. In some cases, the callers made their intentions clear by indulging in non-serious conversations, while in others when the police actually sent out teams to investigate, it turned out to be a false alarm. In a society so brutalised by crime and violence and with the police force spread so thin, such behaviour is appalling. While the police are criticised for their lack of response — in many cases genuine callers have been given the runaround by law enforcers — wasting the time and resources of the force through such trivial pursuits reflects the immaturity and irresponsible attitude of many individuals in society. Karachi is not alone in this regard, as the Rescue 1122 emergency helpline in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar has also been abused, with a high volume of prank calls reported in the past.

In Karachi’s case, the police plan to carry out a media campaign to educate the public against abusing the emergency helpline. The law enforcers can take numerous other steps to reduce the number of phoney calls; first-time offenders and minors should receive firm warnings not to make bogus calls. Repeat offenders should have their numbers blocked while in more serious cases, offenders should face the law, which calls for a fine, imprisonment or both for prank callers. It is hoped such measures will help bring down the volume of prank calls. With practical jokers clogging the lines and preventing genuine callers from getting through, prank calls are no laughing matter.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Leadership efforts

Editorial

TAKE charge. Own the mission. Provide leadership. Six years into a transition to democracy and days into what is perhaps the most significant military operation ever undertaken on domestic soil, the government’s diffident, lackadaisical response is difficult to accept. In terms of an explanation, there is at least one that has often been presented: the government did not want a military operation because it feared the consequences of militant blowback in the PML-N’s heartland of Punjab. Yet, if true, that would hardly amount to a justification for the PML-N slipping into the background and allowing the military to take the lead. To begin with, the PML-N threw its entire weight behind dialogue with the outlawed TTP and those talks did not fail for lack of an effort on the government’s part. What, then, was the alternative? The PML-N itself had always maintained that talks were the preferred, but not the only, option.

TAKE charge. Own the mission. Provide leadership. Six years into a transition to democracy and days into what is perhaps the most significant military operation ever undertaken on domestic soil, the government’s diffident, lackadaisical response is difficult to accept. In terms of an explanation, there is at least one that has often been presented: the government did not want a military operation because it feared the consequences of militant blowback in the PML-N’s heartland of Punjab. Yet, if true, that would hardly amount to a justification for the PML-N slipping into the background and allowing the military to take the lead. To begin with, the PML-N threw its entire weight behind dialogue with the outlawed TTP and those talks did not fail for lack of an effort on the government’s part. What, then, was the alternative? The PML-N itself had always maintained that talks were the preferred, but not the only, option.

Even now, with the prime minister making belated attempts to provide leadership, such as by way of the boilerplate press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday, the fundamental problem remains unaddressed: the PML-N government is behind the curve, being shaped by events rather than shaping them. Part of the problem appears to be the way Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has structured his cabinet and those he has picked to occupy key positions. Take the absence from the scene of Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, previously indefatigable and keen to court the media spotlight. Is the interior minister unwell? Is he sulking? If so, why? Just when it needs a full-time interior minister to urgently marshal the civilian law-enforcement and intelligence resources in the cities to prepare for militant blowback, the country seems to have an interior ministry running on auto-pilot.

Have a look at other key ministries. The law ministry is officially being run by the information minister, who seems uninterested in doing much beyond responding to taunts by Imran Khan. Perhaps the PML-N would argue that its first choice for the law ministry, Zahid Hamid, was forced to step aside because of a Musharraf-related controversy and he is doing his best to unofficially steer the affairs of the law ministry from his official science and technology perch. But is that really good enough? That it is either Mr Hamid and a barely-there Pervaiz Rashid or no one else? Defence Minister Khawaja Asif is among the walking wounded, having been personally targeted by the very forces he is supposed to be in charge of. The foreign ministry has two heads and no minister — and now even reaching out to Afghan President Hamid Karzai is done through a special interlocutor. Is it really possible to provide leadership if the cabinet itself is not complete and some of its members are unwilling or unable to deliver?

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

No food subsidy

Editorial

THE Supreme Court was surprised to learn on Tuesday that Balochistan’s poor have not received any food subsidies since 2009. No arrangements exist outside Quetta, the provincial capital, to ensure the delivery of wheat flour or grains at affordable rates to the poor. The disclosure is disturbing because Balochistan is home to the largest number of the poor as a ratio of the province’s population. The unemployment rate is higher than the national average and most people living outside Quetta and other major urban areas do not have access to even basic public services such as education, healthcare, drinking water, etc that residents in many other parts of the country take for granted. It is true that parts of Balochistan are in the grip of an insurgency and crimes such as kidnapping for ransom and sectarian killings, making it difficult for the government to bring subsidised food to the poor living in these areas. But that is not the only reason why they are deprived.

THE Supreme Court was surprised to learn on Tuesday that Balochistan’s poor have not received any food subsidies since 2009. No arrangements exist outside Quetta, the provincial capital, to ensure the delivery of wheat flour or grains at affordable rates to the poor. The disclosure is disturbing because Balochistan is home to the largest number of the poor as a ratio of the province’s population. The unemployment rate is higher than the national average and most people living outside Quetta and other major urban areas do not have access to even basic public services such as education, healthcare, drinking water, etc that residents in many other parts of the country take for granted. It is true that parts of Balochistan are in the grip of an insurgency and crimes such as kidnapping for ransom and sectarian killings, making it difficult for the government to bring subsidised food to the poor living in these areas. But that is not the only reason why they are deprived.

Moreover, it is not just Balochistan that has seen successive governments gradually excluding the poor from their economic policies and development planning in the last few decades. The focus of the economic policymaking and planning process overall has shifted to facilitating businesses and wealthy investors in the hope that a rapid increase in private riches will unleash the so-called ‘economic trickledown effect’ to the ‘benefit’ of the poor. It is, therefore, not surprising to see economic planners consistently reducing food and energy subsides for the poor and diverting money thus saved to give tax cuts to the affluent. The argument in favour of reduction in subsidies for the poor is powerful but hard to digest: the money meant for the poor does not reach them and is usually pocketed by the rich. But why punish the poor for bureaucracy’s failure to prevent the misuse of subsidy money? The country’s poor were never in more dire conditions than they are at present. Rising inflation — headline consumer price index surged to 8.2pc last month as the average annual inflation for the last fiscal was recorded at 8.6pc compared to 7.4pc a year earlier — on the back of withdrawal of food and energy subsidies and the high incidence of indirect taxes has significantly limited their caloric intake. It is time the government took effective measures to protect the poor from the vagaries of prices.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Kurdistan referendum

Editorial

IT would be only complicating matters in an already volatile Middle East if the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan chose to secede in a proposed referendum. In an interview with the BBC, Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani said he would hold the referendum within months. With violence raging across the country, and over 2,500 people killed last month, the attention of all Iraqis should be focused on stopping the slaughter and preserving the country’s unity. An indication of the insurmountable difficulties in the way of forging national unity and forming a government in these nerve-wracking times came on Tuesday when the first session of the newly elected parliament ended in chaos, with the house unable to elect a speaker. With Sunni and Kurdish MPs walking out, there was no quorum, thus pre-empting the election of a prime minister. Mr Nouri al-Maliki’s ‘bloc’ constitutes a majority in the house, but given his dismal record as two-term prime minister, it is uncertain whether he will be elected prime minister again when the house meets next. Meanwhile, fighting rages, with the self-proclaimed Islamic State controlling large swathes of Iraqi territory. The extremist Sunni militia has larger aims and seeks to challenge the existing borders formed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. For the Kurdistan leadership to think of a referendum in these times is appalling.

IT would be only complicating matters in an already volatile Middle East if the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan chose to secede in a proposed referendum. In an interview with the BBC, Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani said he would hold the referendum within months. With violence raging across the country, and over 2,500 people killed last month, the attention of all Iraqis should be focused on stopping the slaughter and preserving the country’s unity. An indication of the insurmountable difficulties in the way of forging national unity and forming a government in these nerve-wracking times came on Tuesday when the first session of the newly elected parliament ended in chaos, with the house unable to elect a speaker. With Sunni and Kurdish MPs walking out, there was no quorum, thus pre-empting the election of a prime minister. Mr Nouri al-Maliki’s ‘bloc’ constitutes a majority in the house, but given his dismal record as two-term prime minister, it is uncertain whether he will be elected prime minister again when the house meets next. Meanwhile, fighting rages, with the self-proclaimed Islamic State controlling large swathes of Iraqi territory. The extremist Sunni militia has larger aims and seeks to challenge the existing borders formed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. For the Kurdistan leadership to think of a referendum in these times is appalling.

Kurdistan already enjoys a measure of autonomy, it is oil-rich and, in defiance of the Baghdad government, it is selling oil directly to Western multinationals. Relatively speaking, it has also been spared the kind of sectarian terror that has been Iraq’s lot for years. It is true that the region suffered immensely at the hands of the central government, especially during the Baathist era, but now that Iraq has a chance, however slim, to make a success of democracy, the decision of the autonomous region to organise a referendum on secession at a time like this is unfortunate. An independent Kurdistan will stir up a hornet’s nest for the Middle East.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Flawed security policy

Editorial

THE launch of ground operations against militants in North Waziristan is a relevant time to reiterate why a military operation is so necessary. Militancy is spread across Pakistan and there is no real, physical centre of gravity anymore — but that should not in any way diminish the importance of North Waziristan to militancy of every stripe. To begin with, virtually every major attack inside Pakistan in recent years has been traced back to planning and organisation in North Waziristan. In addition, virtually every high-profile victim of kidnapping is smuggled into the area. Then there is the reality of doing business: the militants’ control of large swathes of an agency populated by hundreds of thousands of people meant a lucrative fiefdom feeding the militancy machine and becoming a justification for it. Moreover, there has been the intense problem of cross-pollination and the mixing and matching of extremist ideologies in North Waziristan, which produced a lethal cocktail of militancy posing a threat to Pakistan, Afghanistan, the region and even the world at large.

THE launch of ground operations against militants in North Waziristan is a relevant time to reiterate why a military operation is so necessary. Militancy is spread across Pakistan and there is no real, physical centre of gravity anymore — but that should not in any way diminish the importance of North Waziristan to militancy of every stripe. To begin with, virtually every major attack inside Pakistan in recent years has been traced back to planning and organisation in North Waziristan. In addition, virtually every high-profile victim of kidnapping is smuggled into the area. Then there is the reality of doing business: the militants’ control of large swathes of an agency populated by hundreds of thousands of people meant a lucrative fiefdom feeding the militancy machine and becoming a justification for it. Moreover, there has been the intense problem of cross-pollination and the mixing and matching of extremist ideologies in North Waziristan, which produced a lethal cocktail of militancy posing a threat to Pakistan, Afghanistan, the region and even the world at large.

Yet, necessary as an operation in North Waziristan is, an old problem seems to be once again reasserting itself: the tendency for military strategy to overwhelm and be put ahead of a national security strategy. To make Pakistan internally safe and secure, military strategy — ie battles, operations, troops, bases and the like — alone will not suffice. There seemed to be some awareness of this problem with the drawing up by the interior ministry of a National Internal Security Policy, but not much appears to have come of that. And where there has been work on the non-military aspects of the internal security policy, it has come in the form of the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, a piece of legislation set to be approved by parliament in a somewhat diluted form but still with deep and very problematic issues from a rights perspective. In essence, the overall thinking on fighting militancy still appears to come down to eliminating militants with guns and bullets and little attention is paid to the causes of militancy and how to begin rolling back the infrastructure of jihad that has proliferated across Pakistan.

Nor are the trade-offs involved seemingly ever considered. If a military operation was necessary, did it make sense to botch the handling of IDPs? If the security forces need protection in the cities when they take on militants, does it mean giving them near carte blanche as the PPO has? Finally, there is the problem that even when the country’s security architects purport to think strategically, they make disastrous choices. If, as claimed by former military sources, the North Waziristan Agency operation was in part delayed by concerns about the Haqqani network, can anyone explain what rational national-security cost-benefit analysis made putting it off for years a worthwhile choice?

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Inactive committees

Editorial

THE democratic project in Pakistan is still evolving with otherwise normal processes, such as elected governments and legislatures completing their tenures, considered small victories. But for democracy to put down firm roots, lawmakers must do more than get elected and occasionally show up for parliamentary sessions. Unfortunately, the record of our lawmakers taking part in productive legislative business that works to strengthen good governance has been unsatisfactory. Consider the example of the KP Assembly. As reported on Tuesday, nine out of 36 standing committees of the provincial legislature failed to hold even a single meeting during the last parliamentary year. This figure included committees assigned to oversee such crucial departments as law and parliamentary affairs, inter-provincial coordination and transport. Apparently, the chairmen of these committees had little interest in convening meetings. Standing committees are an essential part of the legislative system, overseeing legislation and keeping an eye on government departments. But KP is not the only province where legislators have shown a lack of enthusiasm in activating committees. In fact, all four provincial legislatures are in the same boat. The Sindh Assembly only got round to setting up the committees in April while Balochistan’s legislature just finalised the constitution of the bodies during the last assembly session. And while committees have been functioning in the Punjab Assembly, the frequency of their meetings and their output are not impressive. Comparatively, the Senate and National Assembly committees have been more active than their provincial counterparts.

THE democratic project in Pakistan is still evolving with otherwise normal processes, such as elected governments and legislatures completing their tenures, considered small victories. But for democracy to put down firm roots, lawmakers must do more than get elected and occasionally show up for parliamentary sessions. Unfortunately, the record of our lawmakers taking part in productive legislative business that works to strengthen good governance has been unsatisfactory. Consider the example of the KP Assembly. As reported on Tuesday, nine out of 36 standing committees of the provincial legislature failed to hold even a single meeting during the last parliamentary year. This figure included committees assigned to oversee such crucial departments as law and parliamentary affairs, inter-provincial coordination and transport. Apparently, the chairmen of these committees had little interest in convening meetings. Standing committees are an essential part of the legislative system, overseeing legislation and keeping an eye on government departments. But KP is not the only province where legislators have shown a lack of enthusiasm in activating committees. In fact, all four provincial legislatures are in the same boat. The Sindh Assembly only got round to setting up the committees in April while Balochistan’s legislature just finalised the constitution of the bodies during the last assembly session. And while committees have been functioning in the Punjab Assembly, the frequency of their meetings and their output are not impressive. Comparatively, the Senate and National Assembly committees have been more active than their provincial counterparts.

With devolution placing immense responsibilities upon the provinces, the four elected houses in Quetta, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar must vastly improve their legislative performance. The committees in provincial assemblies must meet regularly to take up the long list of issues that vex the people so that democracy is seen to be delivering. It is incumbent on both the ruling and opposition parties to wholeheartedly participate to make standing committees effective. Parliament and the standing committees are the best forum to oversee the workings of government departments. Unless the elected representatives use these to make a difference in the common man’s life, popular faith in democracy will only erode.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Low-cost housing

Editorial

THERE can be no argument that urban Pakistan needs affordable housing, and on an urgent basis. This is the most urbanised nation in South Asia, with a record number of squatter settlements. But the manner in which the residential land development sector has shaped up is such that, let alone housing for the poorest sections of society, owning a home is a mirage for even relatively well-earning, middle-income groups. The statistics are grim: a housing shortage of nearly 7.6 million units, with the gap increasing by at least 500,000 every year, and 85pc of this demand gap comprising households earning up to Rs20,000 a month. Providing access to affordable housing to all is one of the basic responsibilities of the state. But, given that the country’s last housing policy is some 13 years old, all evidence points to the state failing dismally in this regard. It is in this context, then, that the move by the federal, Sindh and Punjab governments to make special budgetary allocations for funding low-cost housing this year must be welcomed. A cumulative sum of Rs9bn has been earmarked for this purpose.

THERE can be no argument that urban Pakistan needs affordable housing, and on an urgent basis. This is the most urbanised nation in South Asia, with a record number of squatter settlements. But the manner in which the residential land development sector has shaped up is such that, let alone housing for the poorest sections of society, owning a home is a mirage for even relatively well-earning, middle-income groups. The statistics are grim: a housing shortage of nearly 7.6 million units, with the gap increasing by at least 500,000 every year, and 85pc of this demand gap comprising households earning up to Rs20,000 a month. Providing access to affordable housing to all is one of the basic responsibilities of the state. But, given that the country’s last housing policy is some 13 years old, all evidence points to the state failing dismally in this regard. It is in this context, then, that the move by the federal, Sindh and Punjab governments to make special budgetary allocations for funding low-cost housing this year must be welcomed. A cumulative sum of Rs9bn has been earmarked for this purpose.

And yet the devil lies in the detail. The figures sound heartening — thousands of units already constructed, thousands more being planned — but experts are already pointing out that the schemes on which these funds are spent can be exploited by the notorious and powerful land-takeover and speculative mafias for their own benefit. As has proved to be the case time and again, these groups can break all rules, particularly when at the official level there is a lack of transparency and even hints of collusion in, for example, the selection of beneficiaries of such schemes. As sceptics are pointing out, a concerted push to provide low-cost housing would require that land, infrastructure and credit organisations work in tandem with advisory services for design and construction oversight and a stringent legal framework. More details need to be provided to prove the state’s commitment to this issue.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Anti-system, pro-system

Editorial

IT is too early to state that Dr Tahirul Qadri has showed the government all his cards. The multi-party conference held by his Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Lahore on Sunday only hinted at what shape an anti-government alliance pioneered by him could eventually take. But even in its formative phase it was sufficient for a whole battery of government ministers and sundry PML-N members to cry foul. Typically, the PML-N dubbed the gathering a collection of old Pervez Musharraf allies, which is consistent with the theory that all the noise being created by some opposition parties in the country is directly linked to the Musharraf trial. The problem for the government, however, is that, regardless of its reason and origin, the initiative to forge unity in the ranks of the opposition could in time develop into a real threat for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It is not something that can be wished away. Nor can it be drowned out in a chorus of angry counter statements. The challenge in the making will require deft handling. The conference was in focus not so much for its declarations as for the names on its attendance roll. Apart from known PAT sympathisers such as the MQM, PML-Q and the PTI, one other important party which added value to the effort with its participation was the Jamaat-i-Islami. It was, by the Jamaat’s standards, a quiet cameo appearance that should have been enough to worry those wary of a grand alliance.

IT is too early to state that Dr Tahirul Qadri has showed the government all his cards. The multi-party conference held by his Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Lahore on Sunday only hinted at what shape an anti-government alliance pioneered by him could eventually take. But even in its formative phase it was sufficient for a whole battery of government ministers and sundry PML-N members to cry foul. Typically, the PML-N dubbed the gathering a collection of old Pervez Musharraf allies, which is consistent with the theory that all the noise being created by some opposition parties in the country is directly linked to the Musharraf trial. The problem for the government, however, is that, regardless of its reason and origin, the initiative to forge unity in the ranks of the opposition could in time develop into a real threat for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It is not something that can be wished away. Nor can it be drowned out in a chorus of angry counter statements. The challenge in the making will require deft handling. The conference was in focus not so much for its declarations as for the names on its attendance roll. Apart from known PAT sympathisers such as the MQM, PML-Q and the PTI, one other important party which added value to the effort with its participation was the Jamaat-i-Islami. It was, by the Jamaat’s standards, a quiet cameo appearance that should have been enough to worry those wary of a grand alliance.

Critically for the government, the PPP chose not to attend the conference. Reports indicate that PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari is so far resisting the temptation of the Qadri mix and does not want to be part of the PAT-led drive against the PML-N. There are also reports Mr Sharif is to soon call an all-party meeting of his own to discuss the ongoing military operation and the present political situation. Short of that, the prime minister is expected to have talks with Mr Zardari and PTI chief Imran Khan.

Mr Sharif’s message to Mr Zardari and Mr Khan would be the same: that their fortunes are tied to the continuation of the system. But he may get altogether different reactions from the two. Mr Khan in his current mood might not be willing to commit to the system and could in fact try and play on any joint defence put up by the PPP and PML-N — the parties he accuses of colluding to sustain an oppressive order that suits them. The Qadri conference did fulfil this purpose, of sharpening the divide between the anti- and pro-system forces. The best the pro-group can do in the circumstances is to appear to attempt improvement in the system on its own. By doing so, the PPP-PML-N combine would be trying to offset the almost inevitable anti-system assault.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

A common threat in Iraq

Editorial

THAT America and Iran have some common interests in Iraq — but only up to a point — became evident when the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out the difficulties involved in the way. In a radio interview, Gen Martine E. Dempsey said the two sides had “potentially the same goals” but that Iranian policy in Iraq was not going to be “completely aligned with us”. The issue for both is the rise of Sunni extremism, as represented by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which on Sunday changed its name to the Islamic State. Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State has larger aims. Its rapid military advance and the capture of Mosul, the second biggest city, have demoralised the one million strong Iraqi army and unnerved the government headed by Nouri al-Maliki. His forces are already there in Syria, and the Islamic State statement, proclaiming a caliphate, said the latter would extend from Diyala in eastern Iraq to the Syrian province of Aleppo and would soon include the entire Muslim world. This constitutes a challenge to the Fertile Crescent’s existing borders formed after the First World War and consequently poses a threat to all regional states. More significantly, Sunday’s declaration dislodges Ayman al-Zawahiri from his position as chief of all jihadist movements. The Al Qaeda chief did not get along well with Baghdadi whose extremism was apparently more than what even Zawahiri could stomach.

THAT America and Iran have some common interests in Iraq — but only up to a point — became evident when the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out the difficulties involved in the way. In a radio interview, Gen Martine E. Dempsey said the two sides had “potentially the same goals” but that Iranian policy in Iraq was not going to be “completely aligned with us”. The issue for both is the rise of Sunni extremism, as represented by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which on Sunday changed its name to the Islamic State. Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State has larger aims. Its rapid military advance and the capture of Mosul, the second biggest city, have demoralised the one million strong Iraqi army and unnerved the government headed by Nouri al-Maliki. His forces are already there in Syria, and the Islamic State statement, proclaiming a caliphate, said the latter would extend from Diyala in eastern Iraq to the Syrian province of Aleppo and would soon include the entire Muslim world. This constitutes a challenge to the Fertile Crescent’s existing borders formed after the First World War and consequently poses a threat to all regional states. More significantly, Sunday’s declaration dislodges Ayman al-Zawahiri from his position as chief of all jihadist movements. The Al Qaeda chief did not get along well with Baghdadi whose extremism was apparently more than what even Zawahiri could stomach.

In this anarchic situation, when Baghdadi’s forces are in control of large swathes of Iraqi territory and are knocking on the door of the Iraqi capital, it is but natural for all forces against religious extremism to get together, the first priority being to help the Maliki government fight back. Another important player in the region, Saudi Arabia, looks at Baghdadi’s forces with suspicion and has pledged not to let “a handful of terrorists … terrify Muslims”. This way a commonality of interests exists among Washington, Riyadh and Tehran, and there is no reason why they should not coordinate policies that serve their common interests. It would, of course, be naive to believe that the three parties, especially America and Iran, could sink all their differences, given their diametrically opposite view of Israel. Yet there is no reason why they cannot work out a modus vivendi for the limited but geopolitically important purpose of preserving Iraq’s territorial unity.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

‘Gains’ at cricket moot

Editorial

THE tall claims made by the Pakistan Cricket Board regarding the many significant achievements during the recent annual International Cricket Council meeting in Melbourne has sparked a debate. Pakistan’s elevation as the fourth member in the all-powerful ICC executive committee alongside the ‘Big Three’ — India, England and Australia — the signing of MoUs for as many as six home and away series with India between 2015 and 2023, and the nomination of the next ICC president from Pakistan are being dubbed as groundbreaking gains by the PCB. However, there is a sense that it is much ado about nothing as the headway ostensibly made by the PCB in Melbourne was discussed over and over again in the past without anything concrete ever materialising. A delighted PCB chairman, Najam Sethi, said that Pakistan now holds an important and undisputed position in world cricket after the gains at the ICC moot. Nevertheless, it is being pointed out by critics that the PCB should wait for a formal announcement on this score by cricket’s global governing body before celebrating its success.

THE tall claims made by the Pakistan Cricket Board regarding the many significant achievements during the recent annual International Cricket Council meeting in Melbourne has sparked a debate. Pakistan’s elevation as the fourth member in the all-powerful ICC executive committee alongside the ‘Big Three’ — India, England and Australia — the signing of MoUs for as many as six home and away series with India between 2015 and 2023, and the nomination of the next ICC president from Pakistan are being dubbed as groundbreaking gains by the PCB. However, there is a sense that it is much ado about nothing as the headway ostensibly made by the PCB in Melbourne was discussed over and over again in the past without anything concrete ever materialising. A delighted PCB chairman, Najam Sethi, said that Pakistan now holds an important and undisputed position in world cricket after the gains at the ICC moot. Nevertheless, it is being pointed out by critics that the PCB should wait for a formal announcement on this score by cricket’s global governing body before celebrating its success.

As far as Pakistan’s elevation is concerned, Mr Sethi’s claims received a setback of sorts when the ICC quickly drafted in the West Indies as the fifth member of its executive committee on Saturday. Besides, the ICC has also clarified that while the original Big Three equation will be a constant, the other two members will be elected annually, meaning that Pakistan’s rise could just be a temporary arrangement lasting a year or so. As for the MoUs signed for six series with India, the Indian cricket board too previously made similar commitments but the Indian government put paid to its efforts by ordering it to suspend all ties with Pakistan cricket when it deemed it necessary to do so. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s nomination for the post of ICC president goes back to 2012 when it was decided that Pakistan would head the ICC in 2015 on a rotational basis as per the governing body’s charter.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

The longer view

Editorial

WITH the North Waziristan IDP crisis still unfolding, it is necessary and right that much of the national attention is focused on getting the state to do everything it can to ensure the ordeal of being made homeless within one’s country is rendered less painful in every way possible. Yet, perhaps the most significant thing that can be done in the long run to offset the misery of the North Waziristan residents is to ensure that the impending military operation against militants in the tribal agency is as total, complete and serious as possible. And for that, both a longer-term view and a much wider canvas must be considered. First, consider the logic of the militant. There is little hope of militants prevailing in a frontal, direct battle with the Pakistan Army, especially once the army puts its overwhelming resource superiority into motion. But there are two things a militant can do: live to fight another day and hurt state and society in a way that it saps morale.

WITH the North Waziristan IDP crisis still unfolding, it is necessary and right that much of the national attention is focused on getting the state to do everything it can to ensure the ordeal of being made homeless within one’s country is rendered less painful in every way possible. Yet, perhaps the most significant thing that can be done in the long run to offset the misery of the North Waziristan residents is to ensure that the impending military operation against militants in the tribal agency is as total, complete and serious as possible. And for that, both a longer-term view and a much wider canvas must be considered. First, consider the logic of the militant. There is little hope of militants prevailing in a frontal, direct battle with the Pakistan Army, especially once the army puts its overwhelming resource superiority into motion. But there are two things a militant can do: live to fight another day and hurt state and society in a way that it saps morale.

As far as living to fight another day goes, militants escaping a military dragnet or avoiding a hammer and anvil strategy is near inevitable. Rarely, if ever, does the entire militant leadership facing a counter-insurgency operation end up in custody or dead in battle. What, then, of the militant leader who lives to fight another day? The embattled TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah has demonstrated just how dangerous that possibility can be, seeing that he was the key militant survivor in the most successful military operation to date. But the problem is more complex than a few militant kingpins who escape capture and resurface to cause trouble again. That next phase – of a militant resurgence in an area cleared and held by security forces – is in large part possible because there has been, and still appears to be, no long-term plan to return conflict areas to local, civilian-run administrations. And without that eventual movement towards normality, the alternative is painfully clear: an open-ended military presence that makes more likely pockets and spaces among the local population for militants to hide in and operate from. Just as the civilians cannot do the military’s job, the military cannot do the civilians’ job. But are they really willing to work in the sequence required?

There is also a serious problem in the short run that must be contended with. Time and again, the militants have demonstrated a willingness and ability to exploit the laxity and breakdown in discipline in defensive security measures during Ramazan. Given that the North Waziristan operation is imminent, so is the possibility of intense blowback in the cities – just when the law-enforcement and security personnel may lower their vigilance and preparedness. Is there a plan to fend off that particular Ramazan effect?

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Custodial torture

Editorial

TORTURE by the state has a long history. It has been exercised largely as a means of extracting information, intimidating individuals or exacting revenge for perceived transgressions. More often than not, the motive is a mix of all three. In Pakistan, custodial torture is a fact of life. It is meted out on any given day at any one of the police stations in the country and in shadowy internment centres run by the security establishment. Evidence of the latter is most clearly manifest in the fate of ‘missing’ persons, who either turn up as mutilated bodies discarded somewhere or as barely alive, battered individuals occasionally disgorged by the state after repeated exhortations by the courts. A seminar held in Karachi last week to commemorate the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture gave voice to the demands of civil society for a law against torture. Such legislation would be in keeping with Pakistan’s international commitments: the country ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture in 2010.

TORTURE by the state has a long history. It has been exercised largely as a means of extracting information, intimidating individuals or exacting revenge for perceived transgressions. More often than not, the motive is a mix of all three. In Pakistan, custodial torture is a fact of life. It is meted out on any given day at any one of the police stations in the country and in shadowy internment centres run by the security establishment. Evidence of the latter is most clearly manifest in the fate of ‘missing’ persons, who either turn up as mutilated bodies discarded somewhere or as barely alive, battered individuals occasionally disgorged by the state after repeated exhortations by the courts. A seminar held in Karachi last week to commemorate the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture gave voice to the demands of civil society for a law against torture. Such legislation would be in keeping with Pakistan’s international commitments: the country ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture in 2010.

In modern times, with the concepts of universal human rights and due process taking pre-eminence alongside the development of finely tuned criminal justice systems, recourse to torture is deemed neither acceptable nor productive. Indeed, it is often believed to be counterproductive, with information so gleaned seen as unreliable and the brutal methods fuelling further disenchantment with the state. That said, sometimes ‘civilised’ countries such as the US have until recently cited exceptional circumstances to justify the use of methods — euphemistically termed “enhanced interrogation techniques” — that would be categorised as torture under international law. However, not only was the exposé of torture and abuse at the Guantanamo prison greeted by outrage across the world, not surprisingly, it also served as an unparalleled recruiting bonanza for Islamist organisations, one that continues to exact a terrible cost. With the Pakistan Army deployed against Islamist militants in a “war for the country’s survival”, and the jingoism that such a scenario invariably generates, it is all the more imperative that the issue be flagged at this time. Moreover, the sweeping powers of arrest and detention given to the security apparatus by the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance 2013 can easily be abused if stringent checks are not imposed. A far better alternative to visiting physical and mental cruelty upon those suspected of anti-state sentiments is to enhance intelligence-gathering measures and let the law decide the guilt or innocence of an individual.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Polio out of control

Editorial

NOTHING, it seems, is going to shake the government out of its torpor over a crisis that is rapidly spiralling out of control. Polio has been in the headlines for a considerable length of time now, with evidence mounting over the years that a highly infectious disease Pakistan once appeared on the verge of eradicating is in resurgence. Pakistan was recently placed on a list of countries poised to re-infect the world at large, and the World Health Organisation recommended a travel ban on people who do not have proof of vaccination. This was a deeply worrying development, and the expectation was that the government would immediately and concertedly turn its attention towards it. Yet, other than half-baked attempts at facilitating travellers by providing vaccinations and certificates at designated points, we have not seen much forward progress on the issue, as newly detected cases in KP and Fata show. Indeed, challenges that ought to already have been overcome, and gaps that should have been plugged, continue to present themselves.

NOTHING, it seems, is going to shake the government out of its torpor over a crisis that is rapidly spiralling out of control. Polio has been in the headlines for a considerable length of time now, with evidence mounting over the years that a highly infectious disease Pakistan once appeared on the verge of eradicating is in resurgence. Pakistan was recently placed on a list of countries poised to re-infect the world at large, and the World Health Organisation recommended a travel ban on people who do not have proof of vaccination. This was a deeply worrying development, and the expectation was that the government would immediately and concertedly turn its attention towards it. Yet, other than half-baked attempts at facilitating travellers by providing vaccinations and certificates at designated points, we have not seen much forward progress on the issue, as newly detected cases in KP and Fata show. Indeed, challenges that ought to already have been overcome, and gaps that should have been plugged, continue to present themselves.

Consider, for example, the case of a one-year-old boy who has become the seventh child to be diagnosed with polio in Karachi this year. His family left Swat in the wake of the military operation there, and once in the metropolis, the men responsible for his safety refused to let the vaccine be administered to him. Nevertheless, polio vaccination teams took advantage of the times when only the women were home, and he received three doses of the OPV. He has nevertheless contracted polio, which means that the efficacy of the vaccine had been compromised. One explanation is obvious, say doctors: the cold-chain storage procedure in which the polio vaccine is kept was interrupted. Has this occurred to anyone at the administrative level, provincial or federal, even as there is much talk of vaccinating the thousands of children flowing into the provinces from North Waziristan? That certainly does not appear to be the case. In its inattentiveness, Pakistan is risking even more isolation.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

LG polls forgotten

Editorial

AMIDST the din generated by the almost endless series of crises that this country has been facing, the crucial subject of local elections has disappeared from the public discourse. At a time when the centre and provinces are busy passing their respective budgets, we are reminded of the lack of elected representation at the third tier, and the associated difficulties this creates. Surprisingly, it is only Balochistan, considered an ‘unstable’ province, and prone to law and order and administrative problems, which has gone ahead with the process. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which also faces terrorism-related problems, has been slow in going ahead with preparations for local polls, although there has been some activity on this front in the province. Delimitation is complete and unless unforeseen obstacles dictate otherwise, polls should be held in a few months’ time. However, Punjab and Sindh, considered Pakistan’s most advanced and stable provinces, are showing no signs that polls will be held anytime soon.

AMIDST the din generated by the almost endless series of crises that this country has been facing, the crucial subject of local elections has disappeared from the public discourse. At a time when the centre and provinces are busy passing their respective budgets, we are reminded of the lack of elected representation at the third tier, and the associated difficulties this creates. Surprisingly, it is only Balochistan, considered an ‘unstable’ province, and prone to law and order and administrative problems, which has gone ahead with the process. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which also faces terrorism-related problems, has been slow in going ahead with preparations for local polls, although there has been some activity on this front in the province. Delimitation is complete and unless unforeseen obstacles dictate otherwise, polls should be held in a few months’ time. However, Punjab and Sindh, considered Pakistan’s most advanced and stable provinces, are showing no signs that polls will be held anytime soon.

While the Supreme Court has told the provinces to hold local polls by Nov 15 this year, the two provinces are in no mood to carry out the apex court’s order. In both Punjab and Sindh, there has been no move to amend the relevant laws that would allow the Election Commission of Pakistan to go ahead with delimitation, which would pave the way for setting the dates for polls. Whether it is the PML-N in Punjab or the PPP and MQM in Sindh, the political parties running the two provinces do not have polls on their respective agendas. The reason is quite clear: those that rule the provinces fear loss of power should political rivals make headway in the local polls. For parties that swear by democracy and justifiably raise the alarm each time they sense conspiracies are being hatched against the democratic order, their attitude towards local polls flies in the face of any commitment to representative government.

Without an elected third tier, the fruits of devolution will never reach the people. Those who have campaigned for decentralisation and devolution of power in the past must now practise what they preach in the provinces they rule. Indeed, the problems Pakistan currently faces are numerous, with terrorism and political instability topping the list. But the lack of representative government at the local level creates a new set of problems, with people unable to solve local issues. Planning motorways and other grand development projects is one thing; there must also be workable systems in place that allow people to resolve civic issues which affect them the most. Making amendments to the relevant laws and delimitation may be time-consuming exercises, but they cannot be open-ended affairs. Hence the Punjab and Sindh administrations must take practical steps to show the people they intend to hold polls on or before Nov 15.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Financial irregularities

Editorial

AS if it were not bad enough that a number of our banks are not performing their duties to satisfaction, we now have reports of active irregularities in their handling of remittances. To make matters worse, it appears that the State Bank of Pakistan has, at best, slept through the whole affair. At worst, there is a possibility of some involvement at some level. An unpublished report by the Auditor General Pakistan, which looks at a wide range of public-sector enterprises, states that large commercial banks have been fleecing the government in the handling of remittances. Banks have been involved in the handling of remittances since 2009 under a new initiative which allowed them to claim transaction costs from the government for each remittance equal to or in excess of $100 coming into the country. According to the AGP report, the banks started breaking down all inward remittances into small packets of $100, and claiming the refund which amounts to Saudi riyal 25 per transaction. The amount claimed through this questionable practice of ‘split transactions’ has been estimated by the AGP to be almost Rs5.5bn. This is not a small sum when one considers that apparently only a handful of banks in the country are pocketing most of it.

AS if it were not bad enough that a number of our banks are not performing their duties to satisfaction, we now have reports of active irregularities in their handling of remittances. To make matters worse, it appears that the State Bank of Pakistan has, at best, slept through the whole affair. At worst, there is a possibility of some involvement at some level. An unpublished report by the Auditor General Pakistan, which looks at a wide range of public-sector enterprises, states that large commercial banks have been fleecing the government in the handling of remittances. Banks have been involved in the handling of remittances since 2009 under a new initiative which allowed them to claim transaction costs from the government for each remittance equal to or in excess of $100 coming into the country. According to the AGP report, the banks started breaking down all inward remittances into small packets of $100, and claiming the refund which amounts to Saudi riyal 25 per transaction. The amount claimed through this questionable practice of ‘split transactions’ has been estimated by the AGP to be almost Rs5.5bn. This is not a small sum when one considers that apparently only a handful of banks in the country are pocketing most of it.

The report also says that the State Bank “accepted the claim without checking” the transactions, implying negligence or even connivance. In either case, the door is opened to the possible referral of the matter to investigation authorities. This is a shameful disclosure. The Pakistan Remittance Initiative was a good scheme under which large amounts of previously undisclosed remittance inflows were brought on the country’s balance sheet, essentially formalising what had until then been an undocumented flow. It is a pity beyond words that the greed of a few bankers, who are already making very large profits simply by lending to the government without any risk, allowed the scheme to play host to an elaborate exercise in deception. But we have seen that greed in banking can devour the world as we know it if left unchecked. Moreover, the failure of the State Bank to detect and end the practice is a dereliction of duty for which there must be consequences. We are entitled to ask if there are other areas of responsibility that the State Bank is neglecting, and whether a more comprehensive audit of its accounts is necessary.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

A gruesome murder

Editorial

THE beheading of a recently married couple in Sialkot’s Daska tehsil on Friday is the latest addition to an unending series of incidents in which antediluvian notions of family honour get the better of sanity. Two young people attracted to each other decided to tie the knot despite threats by disapproving relatives. But in doing so, they exposed themselves to serious consequences just like so many others before them ‘guilty’ of the same ‘crime’. Even then, the brutal manner in which the two were punished is akin to the execution-style killings carried out by the cruellest and most vengeful of elements. This did not have the appearance of an ordinary crime committed in the heat of the moment. The two were first kidnapped and tied with ropes. They were then killed in a deliberate act that must have spread over many minutes. The murderers, it is said, then celebrated the killing. A day after the incident, on Saturday, the police arrested the six suspects nominated in an FIR. Yet another honour killing trial is about to begin, but society can at best express its sorrow.

THE beheading of a recently married couple in Sialkot’s Daska tehsil on Friday is the latest addition to an unending series of incidents in which antediluvian notions of family honour get the better of sanity. Two young people attracted to each other decided to tie the knot despite threats by disapproving relatives. But in doing so, they exposed themselves to serious consequences just like so many others before them ‘guilty’ of the same ‘crime’. Even then, the brutal manner in which the two were punished is akin to the execution-style killings carried out by the cruellest and most vengeful of elements. This did not have the appearance of an ordinary crime committed in the heat of the moment. The two were first kidnapped and tied with ropes. They were then killed in a deliberate act that must have spread over many minutes. The murderers, it is said, then celebrated the killing. A day after the incident, on Saturday, the police arrested the six suspects nominated in an FIR. Yet another honour killing trial is about to begin, but society can at best express its sorrow.

‘Love marriage’, often a metaphor for rebellion by two individuals who are only trying to exercise a basic right, is forever in discussion in the country. The disapproval with which our society regards it is betrayed at the outset in the diction of numerous police FIRs that record these incidents. The police are quite fond of listing ‘elopements’ and the media corps is inclined to borrow the same terminology in its reporting of such incidents. The tone is thus set, and fortunate are the couples who manage to get away with mere societal censure. The unlucky ones are those who face greater risks. They are chased by bloodthirsty relatives whose actions often enjoy immunity. It is a shame that, in this day and age, couples marrying for love have to frequently move the courts for protection. This indicates an ailment that has long gone untreated, and willingly so.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Education and recent budgets

Faisal Bari

THERE are four big problems that we have to resolve if we are serious about addressing issues linked to education in Pakistan. First of all, there are an estimated 20 to 25 million children between five to 16 years who are not in school. We have, under Article 25a, which has been included in the Constitution through the 18th Amendment, pledged that all children in this age group will be provided free and compulsory education as a basic right. If we are to live up to that promise, we have to figure out a way of getting these millions of children into school.

THERE are four big problems that we have to resolve if we are serious about addressing issues linked to education in Pakistan. First of all, there are an estimated 20 to 25 million children between five to 16 years who are not in school. We have, under Article 25a, which has been included in the Constitution through the 18th Amendment, pledged that all children in this age group will be provided free and compulsory education as a basic right. If we are to live up to that promise, we have to figure out a way of getting these millions of children into school.

Secondly, education for children enrolled in school has to be of at least some minimum standard. We have solid evidence provided by various private and government studies that the level of education currently being imparted is generally of low quality. Most of the public sector is in bad shape and the bulk of the private sector, especially the low-fee sector to which some 40pc of enrolled children gravitate, is also imparting education that is of poor quality.

The Annual Status of Education Report for this year as well as for previous years clearly shows the abysmal state of learning that is the lot of most of our children. There is little point in bringing children to school if we are not going to give them a certain quality of education. We need our students to not only have functional skills, including language and mathematics skills, we also want them to become useful citizens of Pakistan. If education fails to equip students to achieve this status, it is of little benefit to them, their families or the country.

Third, equity issues should be a major concern for us. Inequality, by most accounts, is and has been increasing in Pakistan over the last three decades at least. Policies of liberalisation, privatisation and decentralisation have a tendency to increase inequality if the state does not invest in progressive taxation, safety nets and merit-based systems of education. With the introduction and expansion of the sector for the private provision of education and a clear decline in public-sector education, where education is supposed to contribute to merit-based equality generating income mobility, the result is entrenchment and increasing inequalities.

This seems to be happening in Pakistan too. And though there is no rigorous research evidence, there is substantial circumstantial evidence to justify focus on the issue of inequality/inequity.

Fourth, though we are spending only about 2pc of GDP on education and we need to spend at least 4pc to 5pc to get the results we want, we are clearly not dealing efficiently with the resources currently being spent on education. Most public-sector expenditure on education goes towards the salaries of teachers. But there are still too many ghost schools, non-functional or barely functional schools, too many teachers do not show up for work still, and many are not prepared to teach or are not motivated enough to teach if they do show up. All this adds to the inefficiency in our system.

Almost all provincial governments have increased resources for education in their recently presented budgets. But the increases have been marginal: in the 10pc to 15pc range in nominal terms. So, in real terms the increases have been minimal. But all provincial governments, even before the current budgets, were spending about 25pc of their budgets on education. Clearly there is little or no additional space in provincial budgets for increasing allocations for education.

If money for education has to increase, new resources will have to be generated for it. But on that count the recent budgets have been a disappointment. None of the provinces have given ideas on new taxes, on how to broaden the base of existing taxes or on bringing new taxpayers into the net. They have, instead, relied on just tinkering with existing taxes and rates to further milk those who are already in the net. The potential for land tax, property tax, agriculture income tax remains untapped and unexplored.

At the federal level too, the problems are the same. We raise only about 9pc of our GDP in the form of tax revenue. Can we spend almost half of it on education? Even though the government has promised that it will reach the target of 4pc of GDP by 2017 or so, this is not going to happen without major changes to the tax structure, to how the taxes are levied and without determining who pays taxes.

The salaried classes are overtaxed and continue to be milked while traders, small to medium businessmen and land owners continue to cruise and do not pay or pay very few taxes. Reform of the Federal Board of Revenue remains a dream and the institution continues to be a corrupt, inefficient and ineffective institution.

The additional resources, whatever the hype about donors and their contributions, cannot come in the form of aid or grants. Aid has never been a large percentage of the overall education budgets. And donors prefer spending on the development side whereas most of the expenditure in education is on recurrent costs (salaries).

There has been some discussion of education budgets in the papers recently. It has largely been about praising provincial governments for raising money for education and praise or censure for doing better or worse than other provinces and other political parties. But most of these changes in the budgets have been cosmetic. Our problems, in education, are very large and very significant. They require equally substantial responses. But these budgets, federal or provincial, have not even made an attempt to address these issues or provide the framework in which these concerns can be addressed in the years ahead.

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, July 4th, 2014

Partners and accomplices

Asha’ar Rehman

PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif is able to maintain his old reputation — that he always has someone else to do the difficult part of pulling him out of a potentially embarrassing situation. In recent days, there have been three instances in quick succession where allies or colleagues have come forward to bail him out of a tough spot.

PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif is able to maintain his old reputation — that he always has someone else to do the difficult part of pulling him out of a potentially embarrassing situation. In recent days, there have been three instances in quick succession where allies or colleagues have come forward to bail him out of a tough spot.

In one of these cases, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik took the stage to declare that it was him — and him alone — who had appointed the son of former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry as the vice chairman of the Balochistan Investment Board. The selection and the speculation about any linkages between the ex-chief justice and Mr Sharif’s party had threatened to cause some embarrassment to the government. Dr Malik’s timely intervention put the record straight for all except a few scandalous minds that are forever caught in the marshes of their dirty imagination.

The second instance where a colleague promptly rose to shield the prime minister was when the federal information minister Pervaiz Rashid took it upon himself to angrily answer the questions raised by Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). Mr Khan has been repeatedly referring to a ‘victory’ speech by Mr Sharif on the eve of the election, insinuating it was aimed at turning the results in the PML-N’s favour. Mr Rashid has now clarified that it was he who was behind the speech and has offered himself for any legal action that the PTI chief would want to pursue, thus freeing his leader to undertake the more onerous tasks confronting the nation.

The clarifications by both Dr Malik and Mr Rashid have been worthy endeavours but these pale in comparison to what great service friend Asif Ali Zardari has extended to the prime minister over a tricky issue. We have always been too generous and kind in giving the PPP credit for championing causes it never actually did. The image has progressively defied performance to a point now where the party is not too keen on keeping up appearances.

The PPP’s abject surrender to the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) in the Senate is a milestone in its journey under Mr Zardari, who it appears is not good at all at distinguishing political maturity from the voluntary dormancy that spells doom for his party. Let alone the impact of the PPO on people generally, he shows no signs of having any inkling of how support to it would affect his party. Or he understands but doesn’t care or is helpless. All of these are far from flattering scenarios for the PPP.

Following the run of play it could be predicted that Mr Zardari’s brand of reconciliatory politics will have the men under his charge submit to this demand by the Nawaz Sharif government, under the excuse of this black law being a need of the times. Thus, the approval from the PPP senators is the completion of a formality. At the same time, it marks a big occasion in the PPP’s journey to make itself as irrelevant to Pakistani politics as possible.

What use is a so-called progressive party if it cannot as much as feign opposition and resistance to a law that justifies a police state? It can hardly hope for a second opportunity to prove that it is in any way different from the rest of the pack. That distinction has in recent past been reserved for parties such as Jamaat-i-Islami, and later on the PTI.

The PPP has been obediently delivering to the PML-N. It has been obliging the PML-N in a manner that betrays not just a desire to act maturely but a sense of resignation about its own capacity and a total lack of confidence in its abilities.

This lack of confidence on the PPP’s part is wrapped clumsily in grand chants about unity in political ranks. All that is heard by way of argument from the biggest opposition party in parliament are a few critical statements on some popular issue or the other such as privatisation. There has been no real effort in evidence to add substance to these occasional questions.

A charitable explanation would be that the PPP has been waiting — is waiting — for an opportunity to reassert itself. In the meanwhile, it is conceding more and more ground to the PML-N and other political parties, pushing itself into a corner from where it will find it extremely difficult to bounce back and be counted among the real contenders. It has wasted many opportunities to be relevant, the latest one offered by the PPO, which it could have blocked due to its numbers in the upper house of parliament. It chose not to, settling for the role of a PML-N accomplice in the passage of a law that could lead to chaos perpetuated and patronised by the state.

The PPO is a cruel law that spawns gory images of excesses and abuse by the state functionaries. It deprives people of their basic rights and throws them at the mercy of an over-empowered machinery. It is a law that has been officially necessitated by the circumstances, an admission that the legal system it has superimposed was insufficient to deal with the current situation. There could not have been a more powerful example of a system dysfunction.

This is precisely the argument of those asking for a reform: this is an unjust, inefficient system. By coming up with a new law that tramples the old system of laws in place, the PML-N and its chief accomplice, the much-celebrated and ‘liberal’ PPP, have actually conceded a huge point to the opposing camp. Only those who insist that the black law was essential to cleanse the country of today’s militants will find it progressive.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Reckoning within

Nikhat Sattar

FAITH or iman in Islam is premised on three basic beliefs: tauhid, or the oneness of God, risalat or prophethood, and qayamah, or the Day of Judgement.

FAITH or iman in Islam is premised on three basic beliefs: tauhid, or the oneness of God, risalat or prophethood, and qayamah, or the Day of Judgement.

Each is inexorably associated with the other: weak belief in one is liable to lead to faltering in the others.

However, the journey takes a different path towards belief in each, and once reached, the three converge on a single point: submission to God.

While the reasoning behind tauhid and risalat follow from reflecting on the systems of the universe, the latter’s ability to operate with unimaginable precision, and the necessity thereby of a Creator who must communicate with man through divine revelation through His designated individuals, we must ponder too over the existence of a day of reckoning that, in its microcosmic form, we face each day of our lives.

Even the most hardened criminal must be naturally aware of what is right and what is wrong, by virtue of the inherent sense of khair (goodness) and shar (evil) that God has bestowed on mankind. We may repeatedly shake our conscience, drug it with vain excuses, or batter it into submission; but ultimately we face an internal court that calls us to justify our acts on a daily basis. In his excellent treatise on Islam, Al-Meezan, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi calls this a ‘qayamat-i-sughra’, which occurs in our daily lives, and brings each of us to a reckoning of our deeds.

When this happens to us regularly, and we find ourselves accountable for what we do, how is it possible that we shall not be held accountable for our lives as a whole and our just deserts be awarded to us one day?

The human spirit has been eternally dissatisfied, and in a state of constant search. We spend our entire lives looking for the elusive something that could quench this thirst within us; we seek knowledge; travel to the peaks of mountains and the depths of oceans; wallow in worldly wealth and fame, but are unable to find peace of mind and soul.

Surely, then, there has to be a place, somewhere, sometime, when we will obtain an answer to our constant restlessness, the sense that we ought to be somewhere else.

This world and its life are immensely unfair and unjust. People are oppressed, and those who commit wrong deeds seem to get away with it all the time. They prosper, with wealth and fame, and are even rewarded with worldly goods again and again.

Criminals and offenders come into power and run the affairs of countries, with control over vast resources. Disasters affect those who are ill-equipped to deal with them, and the ones who were responsible go scot-free, riding on empty slogans.

Wars are waged on innocent civilians in the name of national and global security and religion, and countless individuals are killed, maimed and tortured. It is rare to find criminals brought to justice. Surely, there must be a place and time when all who have done wrong could be questioned by all who have been wronged, and where, finally, everyone shall be equal.

During one of his nightly visits to see how people were faring under his rule, Hazrat Umar came across a woman and her small children living in hunger.

Reproaching himself severely, he returned, carrying a sack of flour on his back, refusing to allow a younger companion to carry it for him, saying: “Would you carry my sin for me on the Day of Judgement?”

When a great famine struck Madina, the caliph refused to eat either meat or consume milk, and took the minimum of sustenance, living with the famine-struck for months on end.

Today, rulers demonstrate a totally opposite behaviour. The ruled either submit in silence, or are complicit. The Day of Reckoning seems to have vanished from our individual and collective conscience. We have corrupted our souls with self-praise and slogans of how good we are to our fellow beings, spending our short time in this world in activities that serve the interests of families and friends.

We usurp the rights of others, commit fraud, make corruption an essential ingredient of our daily lives and are richer at the cost of others.

We lie and cheat easily, frame others in false cases, extort money and are accomplices even in murder and torture. We live as if we will never be brought to book for our (mis)deeds.

To each of us, God extends a lifeline of reflection and repentance, provided that innate good nature is kept alive within us. If, however, we insist on rejecting it, and kill our conscience deliberately, He may decide that we have chosen the path of evil of our own free will. We should all be aware of such an eventual possibility.

The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Kingdoms of God

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

IT is remarkable to think that it has been only a couple of years since the world was raving about the so-called Arab Spring. Commentators all over the world were predicting an end to decades of ignominy and suffering for a proud and historic region while the Arab peoples themselves experienced feelings of euphoria as a post-dictatorship generation came of age.

IT is remarkable to think that it has been only a couple of years since the world was raving about the so-called Arab Spring. Commentators all over the world were predicting an end to decades of ignominy and suffering for a proud and historic region while the Arab peoples themselves experienced feelings of euphoria as a post-dictatorship generation came of age.

Even the most chronic pessimists could not have known that spirits would fall so far, so fast. The symbolic nerve centre of the movement, Egypt, is back in the clutches of the generals; Syria and Libya are facing the fallouts of Western-backed ‘regime change’ interventions; and the countries of the Maghreb are at best looking forward to another era of mediocrity and elite privilege.

In truth, the peaceful ‘civil society’ movements that were at the heart of ‘Arab Spring’ folklore were conspicuous by their absence in most of these countries. Which means to say that the whole narrative of an Arab resurrection was greatly overblown to begin with.

And then there is Iraq, where there was no spring to speak of. If the spontaneous movements in Egypt, Tunisia and the like have simply fizzled out in the face of resilient structures of power, in Iraq an ostensibly ‘new’ set of structural arrangements masterminded by the world’s most powerful country have imploded spectacularly.

The Iraqi debacle has precipitated a great deal of comment about the utter failure of American policy in that country, and the region at large. Add to recent developments in Iraq the withdrawal of a majority of American troops from Afghanistan after a decade of relative futility and Washington’s claims to be doing the Muslim world a civilising favour stand hopelessly exposed.

All told, the Arab region appears to be much worse off than a decade or so ago, the hopes and dreams of regime-changers and Tahrir Square activists alike up in flames. Except in the Gulf kingdoms, that is. The ‘bastions of Islam’ are in fact doing better than ever.

The Gulf kingdoms are arguably Washington’s closest allies in the Muslim world. How, then, can one take seriously the notion that American policy in the region has ‘failed’? Yes, a great deal of time and money has been spent to secure in Iraq and other countries a modicum of peace that most commentators consider necessary for corporate America’s further investment in the region. And yes, the ‘terrorists’ are alive and well.

But given that Washington’s best friends in the Gulf are shameless totalitarians, who really believed all the hype about ‘freedom’ and ‘our way of life’ anyway? Washington has been spouting such rhetoric for the best part of two centuries and its actual conduct has never matched its claims. As regards the imperative of establishing peace so as to extract natural resources without risk, making permanent war in faraway places is at least as profitable for American companies and the media industry.

All in all, a case can easily be made that, between military interventions and instrumental support to ‘civil society’, the evolving balance of power in the Arab region is not nearly as troubling for the US as most analyses suggest. Of course there are potentialities for many of the serious ongoing conflicts in the region to spiral completely out of control. But one gets the sense that Washington will feel like just about any eventuality can be dealt with so long as the ‘Kingdoms of God’ are on their side.

So how much has really changed since the end of the Cold War when the freedom fighters of yesteryear were transformed into the biggest threat facing the so-called free world? At the level of rhetoric the world has been turned upside down, but when the propaganda mist clears it is cynical strategic interests that continue to rule the roost.

Those commentators who continue to call militant Islamists obsolete remnants of a pre-modern era should not forget that the latter are very much modern creations of Empire and Muslim states. Neither the US nor any other state that can be called a protagonist in the wider Muslim region is opposed to Islamists or Islamism in any principled sense.

Meanwhile, we in Pakistan would do well to remember that Washington has been vocally demanding a military offensive in North Waziristan for at least two years now. Pakistani generals bred on the largesse of the Pentagon have acceded, but the Americans are not being fooled into thinking that GHQ has once and for all abandoned its prized strategic assets.

And why would they? The Americans continue to support the far-right militants taking on anti-US state elites in much of the Arab world, and prop up the most reactionary regimes in the rest. It would appear that the idea of the ahl-i-kitab propagated by Zia and Reagan is far from dead.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014

Civil society vs the state

I.A. Rehman

CIVIL society is once again facing the awkward question as to whether it must always support an elected civilian government, regardless of its performance, to avoid the collapse of the democratic system.

CIVIL society is once again facing the awkward question as to whether it must always support an elected civilian government, regardless of its performance, to avoid the collapse of the democratic system.

The exertions of ambitious pretenders to the throne apart, the people are getting quite uneasy about the way the state is being managed. The large-scale lawlessness and threats to the life and liberty of citizens, poverty, and discrimination against the underprivileged are strong enough factors to breed disenchantment with any government.

Besides, the country is caught in a war situation, the writ of the state has weakened, religiosity is getting the better of reason and compassion, and the people feel their minimum expectations from the state are not being met.

These problems have been with us for ages. What is especially worrisome today is the government’s apparent lack of a clear vision, a chasm between its promise and performance, its reliance on force or the letter of the law rather than political give-and-take and justice, and a personalised style of governance. Yet democratic opinion has continued to shield the government, considering this necessary for protecting the democratic system or, more correctly, the promise of a transition to democracy.

This save-the-system syndrome is the residue of the people’s repeated battles against authoritarianism, and is sustained by the perception that the worst democracy is preferable to the best dictatorship.

During the movement against the Ayub regime the democratic sections of society knew that the fruits of their struggle and sacrifices were going to be garnered by the same political parties whose fads and foibles had cleared the way to military dictatorship and who had surrendered to it without a whimper. Still, political parties were not criticised because that would have helped the regime.

The Yahya regime averted a movement for restoration of democracy first by creating an illusion of democratic revival and later on by dividing the nation through senseless fratricide. Yet the parties that joined the electoral contest of 1970 had to prove that they were different from the parties that had contributed to the national mess. The 1970 election manifestos of all political parties were therefore extremely rich in pro-people promises and ideas of basic reform.

The issues were simpler during the Zia regime whose subversion of democratic values was so great that the people joined the democratic movement without asking for a game plan for the realisation of their socio-economic aspirations.

Similarly, the people supported the political parties that challenged the Musharraf regime in 2008 although they were the same outfits whose squabbles and propensity to preferring the military to their political rivals had alienated the people from democracy.

Thus, traditionally, Pakistan’s consistently democratic elements have avoided blaming the civilian politicians for creating openings for intervention by extra-constitutional forces, and whenever democracy has been restored the political elite is believed to have learnt its lessons.

The year 2013 marked a watershed in the history of Pakistan’s politics: a civilian, elected government completed its normal term and handed over power to a successor elected democratically. These events should also mark the political parties’ accession to maturity and increased ability to govern democratically. It is, therefore, time that without diluting their commitment to defend the democratic system the people — civil society in particular — should start subjecting the government and all political parties to normal scrutiny.

This has also become necessary for two reasons. First, in the absence of accountability at public forums the ruling elite has tended to follow the ways of authoritarian regimes. Difficulties faced in any branch of administration are sought to be resolved through arbitrary decisions. Sometimes the people are told not to reject elected rulers’ policies if they had not challenged similar actions by unelected rulers. In the process the goal of democratic consolidation recedes further. Secondly, the powers that be have been emboldened enough to deny civil society its right to participate in the state’s democratic management, a right it had suspended in times of emergency.

One hopes it is not necessary to explain to the country’s rulers that the world has moved far beyond the notions of majoritarian democracy. Today democratic governance means a system in which those in opposition have a say in the management of affairs and the people at large have maximum opportunities for contributing to a national consensus. A mistake Pakistan’s rulers often make is that in situations of emergency — economic, political or strategic — they try to rely on harsh regulations that curtail citizens’ basic rights and freedoms, whereas in such situations there is greater need for the broadest possible consultation. No society can afford the consequences of believing that no wisdom is available outside the corridors of power.

The government need not be upset if civil society starts examining its conduct, for the purpose is the consolidation of democracy and contribution to good governance. What is being asked for is the proper utilisation of support and advice mechanisms that the government can call upon, such as parliament, party cadres, inter-party caucuses and civil society platforms. However, for this to happen the ruling elite will have show greater respect for parliament and stop looking at civil society organisations as unreliable foreign objects — or UFOs.

Tailpiece: When strong leader took over town/ All things became strong/ Onion went up and up, /And potato went along/ Bread and cheese took flight as well,/ And Gas, Diesel, Petrol/ Made a value-added leap,/ And rents went on a roll./ Bijli began its hide and seek,/ Displaying sweat-filled strength,/ The hoi polloi cried “hai hai hai,/ Bring back that weak government.”

These stanzas from a lament on the Modi government by an Indian poet, Badri Raina, show how close to one another the people of India and Pakistan are, not only by habit and temperament but also in their trials and tribulations.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Technocratic rule

Khurram Husain

TURMOIL in the democratic space has breathed new life into an old question: do technocrats do a better job of running things in our country? In some measure, both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are stirring these waters, reviving memories of the 1990s when politics was infused with an all-or-nothing imperative. Some have taken advantage of the turmoil to argue that democracy itself has failed, but few have the courage to take this line of argument to its logical conclusion.

TURMOIL in the democratic space has breathed new life into an old question: do technocrats do a better job of running things in our country? In some measure, both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are stirring these waters, reviving memories of the 1990s when politics was infused with an all-or-nothing imperative. Some have taken advantage of the turmoil to argue that democracy itself has failed, but few have the courage to take this line of argument to its logical conclusion.

However, if people want to point to a dismal state of economic affairs as proof of the failure of a political system, it is important to ask some basic questions.

First, is Pakistan the only country these days struggling with a moribund economy and sharply rising public debt burdens? Clearly no, these are global problems and almost every country in the world is dealing with the same problem. The unique Pakistani ingredient in the list of economic difficulties is the problem our country has accumulating foreign exchange reserves, but that is not a big issue these days even if because of dodgy inflows.

Second, did the country’s economic difficulties begin only after democracy was restored? There is a temptation to simply tally up the growth rates and argue that military rule through technocrats has produced higher growth than democratic governments. But this is an oversimplified argument primarily because growth does not come and go overnight. Many times, a deeper look reveals that the policy foundations laid by the military government only built upon work that was under way long before their arrival. It is the same when growth rates come crashing down. The end of the Musharraf-era growth rates had begun long before the crash became apparent to casual observers.

In fact, the whole growth bubble the general and his technocrats presided over began to end at the same time it reached its peak, in 2004, when the highest-ever growth rate was recorded and the inflationary spiral that was the natural consequence of the liquidity fuelled boom got under way. In the years that followed, the growth rates crashed quickly while inflation galloped on to reach historic highs by 2008.

Likewise with the power crisis. It did not begin when load-shedding hit in a big way in 2007. The power crisis began when the general’s technocrats started telling industry to arrange for their own captive power plants in 2004, when they doled out incentives for the import of captive power machinery, when their best-laid plans to diversify the country’s fuel mix failed and they were forced to tender for more independent power producers in 2006 with upfront tariffs and capacity charges and all the sweeteners that our domestic investors like so much.

In short, the approach of the power crisis was visible long before the lights started to go out around the country, and the approach began when a technocratic set-up was running the show backed by a military government which supposedly freed them from the compulsions of a democracy.

Truth of the matter is, after a few years in power, all our rulers start to look alike. Even a military dictator couldn’t escape politics as usual in this country and had to find ways to deal with those he had been denouncing only a few years ago. This is not because of any individual weakness, it is because power in our country is dispersed, and anybody who wants to rule can only do so by bringing a diverse set of interests together around the table. Since the interests are always the same, the politics and the games involved in bringing them together are also always the same, and every ruler ends up playing more or less the same game.

It’s very hard to actually build a case that technocrats have done a better job of running things in this country than elected leaders. But the damage done by governments that lean on technocrats is immeasurable. Few things in this world are more destructive of the fabric of society than the exercise of illegitimate power.

The damage that Musharraf did to Pakistan simply in his perverted quest for legitimacy over his entire decade of rule is something we will be tallying up long after he has passed from the scene. Likewise the damage done by Gen Zia, also in his perverted quest for legitimacy, is something we are all paying for even today.

Democracy is unwieldy, slow to take a decision, beholden to special interests, and skews the incentives for policymakers to pursue high-visibility projects and ignore low-visibility work that is more urgently required. But its first and foremost virtue is that it endows the wielder of power with a legitimacy that no other system can deliver. Where dictatorship claims to free policy from politics, it usually ends up entrapped by the dictators’ search for legitimacy which brings about a type of politics that is enormously destructive.

With all its faults, there is no road forward for Pakistan other than a democratic one, and all those who profess to work within its bounds need to understand that in the absence of a legitimate government, the country will be left immobilised against its worst enemies and divided against itself. Democracy is what prevented Pakistan going down the Syrian road back in 2008 when the Taliban were close to the capital.

The biggest problem facing the economy is continued political uncertainty. It is entirely right and fitting to hold the government accountable to the highest standards in policy performance, but it is destructive to set out to topple the government or snatch its mandate to rule out of its hands. The yearning for technocratic rule is a sign of political immaturity and it is high time we learned some of the most basic lessons history has to teach.

The writer is a business journalist based in Karachi.

khurram.husain

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Shooting words

F.S. Aijazuddin

WHATEVER was the name of the driver who took a wrong turning in the Serbian city of Sarajevo a hundred years ago? History has never told us. Yet it was because of his unwitting mistake on June 28, 1914 that a young Serb Gavrilo Princip was able, just as the driver tried to reverse his car, to leap on to its running board and to assassinate the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Countess Sophie.

WHATEVER was the name of the driver who took a wrong turning in the Serbian city of Sarajevo a hundred years ago? History has never told us. Yet it was because of his unwitting mistake on June 28, 1914 that a young Serb Gavrilo Princip was able, just as the driver tried to reverse his car, to leap on to its running board and to assassinate the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Countess Sophie.

That murder precipitated the First World War, a conflagration that spread from Great Britain across Continental Europe, to the steppes of Russia, and the shores of Turkey. Those who began it were confident that it would be the ‘war to end wars’. Those who looked beyond its end foresaw ‘a world safe for democracy.’

“Men are reluctant to believe,” A.J.P. Taylor, one of the most eminent of them, had written 50 years ago, “that great events have small causes.” That is why for the past century, historians have tried to analyse the causes of that war. Taylor was convinced that “nowhere was there conscious determination to provoke a war. Statesmen miscalculated … [and] became the prisoners of their own weapons. The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations by their own weight.’

Has anything changed since then?

Nothing really, except that now, the United States is no longer a distant bystander, a late entrant into world wars. It is in a way the Gavrilo Princip of the 21st century. Its bullets start wars.

There is hardly a conflict since this century began that has not been spearheaded by the United States with or without its allies. Be it in Iraq (2003-11), Somalia (2009-11), Libya (2011), Operations Enduring Freedom in the Philippines, Horn of Africa, and Trans Sahara. The war in Afghanistan began in 2001. It is still aflame. Had president Woodrow Wilson been alive, there might have been an armistice in Kabul by now.

That is what makes the commemoration by Western countries of the outbreak of the First World War and come to think of it of events in the Second World War so questionable. These commemorations have taken on the expansiveness of a Steven Spielberg movie set. (His Saving Private Ryan springs to mind.)  National leaders — the victor side by side with the vanquished — recently congregated on the sands of Dunkirk, to show that they no longer harbour any ill feelings.

Meanwhile, continents away, their armed forces are still collectively deployed in wars which have even less justification than either of the two World Wars did. After all, wasn’t the neutrality of Belgium a casus belli for the 1914-18 war, and the security of Poland that for the 1939-45 war? Where is the equivalent moral imperative today for Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan?

Perhaps it is time for non-European countries which provided cannon fodder to assist the Allies in those two world wars to demand parallel recognition for their contribution. A grudging acknowledgement of Victoria Cross awardees is not enough. No poppies grow over the unmarked graves of the sons of the subcontinent who gave their lives so that the European Union could flower.

An unlikely commemoration of the First World War came recently from the pen of Mani Shankar Aiyar. Returning from yet another twin-track marathon in Islamabad, he has sought unusual likenesses between 1914 Serbian assassins like Princip and 2014 militant jihadists.

Had he been a less influential voice, one might have dismissed him as yet another arm-chair alarmist. What he says towards the end of his argument though will resonate with every rational mind. “We can climb as many pulpits as we wish,” he warns, “make as many impassioned appeals to the world and Pakistan as we desire, prepare ourselves for the worst and ready ourselves to inflict on Pakistan the worst, but the end result will be an Armageddon worse than anything our imagination can conceive or our mythology grasp, if we do not agree now to an ‘uninterrupted and uninterruptible’ dialogue with Pakistan.”

Pushing Mr Aiyar’s suggestion a tad further, perhaps, perhaps soon, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh will be able to hold joint commemorations in which we honour those who gave their lives so that our later generations could argue.

That would be an act of supreme courage by our leaders, as it was once an act of supreme sacrifice by those who fought against each other and died and now share the same soil.

Until then, one must rely upon a 1914 clergyman poet Rev. G. Kennedy to give our dialogues a voice:

When the world is red and reeking,/ And the shrapnel shells are shrieking,/ And your blood is slowly leaking,/ Carry on./

The writer is an author and art historian.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Education road map

Aaron Benavot

PAKISTAN has a heavy task ahead of it: new Unesco figures show that the number of out-of-school children in Pakistan has stagnated since 2009. This follows news by the EFA Global Monitoring Report showing that Pakistan also suffered the second largest cuts in aid to education of any country in the world in the last two recorded years.

PAKISTAN has a heavy task ahead of it: new Unesco figures show that the number of out-of-school children in Pakistan has stagnated since 2009. This follows news by the EFA Global Monitoring Report showing that Pakistan also suffered the second largest cuts in aid to education of any country in the world in the last two recorded years.

Pulling these two stories together, it is starkly evident that some donors are pulling their aid to education just when it is most needed.

Sadly, this trend of stagnating out-of-school children and declining aid is not reserved for Pakistan. Global figures show a similar association: 58 million children are out of school globally, with barely any improvement since 2007. At the same time, aid to education has been cut by a tenth since 2010. It is worrying in the extreme to see both international aid and out-of-school numbers moving in the wrong direction.

Today’s new paper holds several key nuggets of advice, which Pakistan may find useful as it works on its national plan of action. Seven policies clearly stand out as substantially reducing out-of-school numbers and in very different contexts. These include abolishing school fees, increasing spending on education, improving education quality, introducing social cash transfers to offset the costs of schooling, introducing teaching in local languages and overcoming conflict.

For Pakistan, where school fees have been abolished since 2010, and the Right to Education Act is now enacted in most of the provinces, the government’s attention should turn to accelerate the impact of these reforms by considering other policies reaping rewards in other countries.

Doubling spending on education in Ghana, for instance, helped halve its out-of-school rate. Pakistan, meanwhile, is one of only three countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa to spend less than $150 per primary pupil on education. Its recent commitment to increase spending from 2pc to 4pc of GDP by 2018 could go a long way to creating a better balance of access and quality if delivered. Steps must be taken now to ensure this promise is kept.

Improving quality in Pakistan would also be a huge breakthrough. In rural areas many primary schools lack sufficient classrooms to provide a proper five year cycle: In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for example, more than half of the schools do not contain the requisite five classrooms. Our latest EFA Global Monitoring Report showed that fewer than half of children are learning the basics in Pakistan whether they’ve been to school or not.

There is also a huge need for more qualified teachers — especially female teachers — to help encourage more girls to remain in school. At current trends the recruitment gap in Pakistan will not be filled until after 2030. Until these challenges are addressed head-on, its out-of-school rates will likely languish.

Similarly, conflict in Pakistan has taken its toll on education access. Ongoing security threats are leaving many children scared to go to school. In Nepal, ending the civil war helped children living in affected areas begin to have the same education chances as children living in other parts of the country. A similar shift to security in Pakistan would no doubt see similar advantages for its boys and girls, who have long awaited the stability.

Lastly, large-scale social cash transfers could help bridge the divide between the richest children in the country and the poorest, who are more than seven times less likely to go to school. We are heartened by the news that Sindh is switching to branchless banking cash transfers for girls’ education in poorer households and hope this will show just how effective they can be in overcoming poverty barriers to education.

Distributing government funds via cash transfers through parent-teacher councils, as in KP, is a transparent scheme that can also avoid funds being filtered off before they arrive at their intended destination.

Transfers such as these will not address the equally important challenge of enabling children to remain in school once there, however, and are insufficient as a stand-alone intervention for increasing access. Nevertheless they are extremely important for helping the marginalised set foot in the classroom and should be scaled up for all families in need throughout the country.

It was welcome news to hear Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman, Minister of State for Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education, announce at the launch event for our latest report this January that he would be implementing a national plan of action for education to accelerate progress and doubling education spending.

With this political will, and increased funds to turn that will into action, we hope Pakistan will reflect on these policies identified as having success in other countries and strongly consider how it can draw insights from such successes on its own terrain.

The writer is director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, Unesco.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2014

Blocking the revolving door

Zahid Hussain

THE landmark agreement between Islamabad and Kabul to take action against all militants and their hideouts on either side of the border without any distinction signifies an important shift in our short-sighted security outlook. Never before had the security of the two nations been so intertwined as it is today.

THE landmark agreement between Islamabad and Kabul to take action against all militants and their hideouts on either side of the border without any distinction signifies an important shift in our short-sighted security outlook. Never before had the security of the two nations been so intertwined as it is today.

So it is about time they shed their age-old legacy of using proxies against each other with disastrous consequences for regional security. The war of sanctuaries has only benefited the militants who have sought to establish their barbaric rule on both sides of the border. We may have learnt it the hard way, but it is never too late.

In a significant move, Pakistan and Afghanistan have also agreed to establish a joint working group on security to develop closer cooperation and coordination to deal with a common menace. The accord was signed last week following the visit to Islamabad of Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the national security advisor to the Afghan president. The working group comprising representatives of security agencies of the two sides is scheduled to meet on July 3 in Islamabad.

This initiative could not have come at a more opportune time as Pakistani security forces fight their most critical battle against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan. Such cooperation between the two neighbouring countries is imperative for the success of the operation. The fleeing insurgents using sanctuaries on the other side of the Durand Line for cross-border attacks has been Pakistan’s biggest security nightmare.

Many top Pakistani Taliban leaders including Mullah Fazlullah, the new TTP chief and Omar Khalid Khorasani, the chief of the group’s Mohmand chapter, are now operating from their bases on the Afghan side of the border. Cross-border attacks have become a major source of tension between Islamabad and Kabul.

Equally dangerous for regional security are the Afghan insurgent sanctuaries on Pakistani soil. Islamabad’s ambivalence on cracking down on them has largely been blamed for the continued instability in Afghanistan. In an apparent policy shift, the Pakistan military has now for the first time declared that the latest offensive will target all militant groups without discrimination, including the Haqqani network.

Making a distinction between ‘good militants’ and ‘bad militants’ has been a major factor contributing to the rising violent extremism in Pakistan. This policy of appeasement and patronising so-called good militants has also threatened regional security.

Since the start of the war in Afghanistan, the tribal regions had become home to a dangerous nexus of Al Qaeda operatives, Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and jihadists from across the globe. The largest number of fighters based in North Waziristan is associated with the Haqqani network led by the legendary former Afghan Mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin. The group not only has strong ties with Al Qaeda but also is closely linked with the Pakistani militants.

For Pakistan, the network remained a useful hedge against an uncertain outcome in Afghanistan. The deep reluctance to take action against the Haqqani network is a reflection of Pakistan’s worries about the events that would transpire after the eventual pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan. The group is blamed for some of the most spectacular terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s patronage of the Haqqani network became a convenient rationale for the Kabul government for allowing sanctuaries for Pakistani insurgents on Afghan soil. There is strong evidence of close links between some TTP factions and the Afghan intelligence agencies. This tit-for-tat policy has had disastrous consequences for both nations.

Most of the fighters associated with the Haqqani network are believed to have moved to Afghanistan before the offensive in North Waziristan began. The military has said the group will not find Pakistani territory a safe haven anymore. There is, however, no likelihood of the Haqqanis engaging in any confrontation with their old patrons.

One hopes this change in Pakistan’s stance will encourage the Afghan government and the coalition forces to take action against Mullah Fazlullah’s headquarters in Kunar province.

Both countries need each other to cooperate more than ever at this critical juncture as the Western forces plan to end their combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of this year. Any continued instability in Afghanistan is bound to have severe spillover effects in Pakistan.

The North Waziristan offensive was long overdue and any further delay would have made things much more complicated. The continued hold of militants on a large part of the territory would have made the country’s security much more vulnerable. An unsecured border would have allowed the militants to move around both sides of Durand Line with much greater ease after the withdrawal of the coalition forces from Afghanistan.

A major worry for the security establishment is that an open Afghan side of the border could become a revolving door for Pakistani Taliban fleeing the latest offensive as has happened during past operations. More militants entering the cross-border sanctuaries would make the success of the operation under way in North Waziristan more problematic. For this reason, Islamabad has requested the Afghan government to take measures to prevent the entry of militants fleeing the offensive.

It is now for the Afghan security forces to respond to Pakistan’s call for reinforcing security along their side of the border. There is no other option left for the two countries but to cooperate with each other. Both face the same threat and it is only through cooperation that they can deal with the daunting security challenges confronting them.

The decision to establish a joint security working group is surely a positive step. But the two countries also urgently need to take practical steps to achieve the required results. Kabul and Islamabad now have to move beyond statements and implement the bilateral security agreement with all sincerity. It is in the interest of both countries to close the revolving door on the common enemy.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

After activists die

Rafia Zakaria

SALWA Bugaighis believed in a different future and in a better one. Even as post-Qadhafi Libya dissipated into chaos, and hopes were lost in complications that emerge after revolutions, she kept the faith that the mechanisms of democracy would deliver.

SALWA Bugaighis believed in a different future and in a better one. Even as post-Qadhafi Libya dissipated into chaos, and hopes were lost in complications that emerge after revolutions, she kept the faith that the mechanisms of democracy would deliver.

When elections were held on June 25, she — a senior lawyer who had participated in the 2011 uprising against Qadhafi — went out to vote in Benghazi. She was among the few who did.

When she returned, assailants were waiting for her, their faces hooded, their guns pointed. They shot, stabbed and killed her. They abducted her husband. When the police finally came, they arrested the gardener who had himself been injured in the attack. Two days later, Salwa’s security guard and the sole witness to the attack was also found dead.

The death of Salwa Bugaighis came during Operation Karama, a military assault led by Libyan Gen Khalifa Hifter against the Islamist militias that have in recent days been strengthening their hold over the city. The suddenness and violence of the attack on her shocked even those living amid the unceasing uncertainty of war.

Her funeral was attended by large numbers of people mourning not simply the death of the activist but also of the vision she represented: Libya as a constitutional liberal democracy, where equality for women is a priority. According to the New York Times report, her death eclipsed even the election; it was perhaps an apt symbol of its outcome.

Vijay Prashad, an author and human rights activist who knew Bugaighis, wrote that “lawyers like Bugaighis fought to try to establish the rule of law in Libya to no avail”. In the end, he dismally concludes, hasty deals were made with the urban militias; the Islamists, the old social classes and women’s rights could be sacrificed to the pressures of orthodoxy.

The grim colours that shaded the last hours of Salwa Bugaighis are familiar hues to the Pakistan living through Operation Zarb-i-Azb and those that have come before. The earth on the graves of our most recently slain activists is after all still fresh and bullets destined for those still living probably already loaded.

Less than two months ago, lawyer Rashid Rehman was killed because he believed that no Pakistani citizen should face criminal punishment without a fair trial and due representation by counsel. Like Bugaighis, his assailants too struck in the late evening, barging into his office in Multan.

Just over a year ago came the death of Parveen Rehman, one of the country’s most selfless slum activists. As in the case of Salwa Bugaighis in Libya, the deaths produced outrage, mourning — and then nothing at all. The assailants are never caught, the populations bearing witness to death after death move on. The mourners have new casualties to cry for.

It is commonplace to think of these deaths as signifiers of local truths. Salwa Bugaighis was an inconvenient woman, unwilling to look the other way at the corruption of her liberal cohorts who wanted plum positions in the post-Qadhafi set-up, or to shrug and accept that women would never be equal in the new Libya.

Similarly, the deaths of activists in Pakistan are ascribed to local details: Rashid Rehman took on a controversial client; Parveen Rehman likely angered a host of urban mafias by continuing to push for the transformation of Karachi’s largest slum.

Individual reasons pinned to single deaths thus obscure the pattern that runs through the threads of each. Nearly all of the dead enumerated here had a vision where governance is based on the law, where popular mandate must be tempered by concerns for minorities, where inequality is a moral evil and identity and inheritance do not determine one’s destiny.

Unlike the easily sold on changing societies, they had less political power, fewer layers of guards and bodyguards (if any), and a courageous belief that their countries, caught under the yokes of militarism and dictatorship, could have a future as constitutional democracies.

This vision was in turn poised on the role of the individual actor as crucial to the dispensation of social justice; the exercise of individual will for the public good was in fact the last act of many of them. Salwa Bugaighis cast her vote, Rashid Rehman took on the case of a lawyer-less client, Parveen Rehman continued to sit in an office in a slum. For these acts of moral courage, they died, leaving behind a moral vacuum filled in turn by faithlessness and cowardice.

In the worlds they are leaving behind, morality is less a matter of individual courage and more a matter of state fiat, mob justice, and lurid theatre. Its instances include bans on this and that, videotaped executions, public floggings, and a reduction of what is right to what is visible and public.

In this collective killing of individual morality lies its dream of automation, where no decisions remain to be made and where the powerful are always the good and the right. There is little room for law or justice or equality in this narrative, for these are no longer produced via the details of procedure. Automatically legitimate, they are simply products of power and the conglomeration of strategic interests.

Activists die, are mourned, and then forgotten as the world they fought for and represented becomes ever more elusive, overcome by shadows that make equality or justice seem like the fantasies of fools. The chaos of contemporary times, where Libya and Pakistan and Egypt and Syria are all entrapped in relentless wars, allows for this — permits it, underwriting the deaths of brave individuals to ensure the silence of frightened collectives.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

A cry for help

Zubeida Mustafa

WITH the Pakistan Army’s attack on the militants in North Waziristan, a human tragedy of gargantuan proportions has been unfolded. Unsurprisingly, the government failed to anticipate the consequences of this move and did not act in time to avert a catastrophe. It has only compounded the crisis the country faces.

WITH the Pakistan Army’s attack on the militants in North Waziristan, a human tragedy of gargantuan proportions has been unfolded. Unsurprisingly, the government failed to anticipate the consequences of this move and did not act in time to avert a catastrophe. It has only compounded the crisis the country faces.

The latest avoidable disaster to visit us is that of the internally displaced people or IDPs — the hapless victims of Operation Zarb-i-Azb — who have been forced to leave their homes in North Waziristan. This was inevitable if Pakistan is to be saved from our self-created Frankenstein that was intended to provide the country with the questionable advantage of strategic depth. The crackdown has come, belatedly though, with no preparations for the aftermath.

As a result we have the suffering of nearly 450,000 IDPs on our conscience. This phenomenon could have been anticipated. It just required greater sensitivity from those whose responsibility it is under international humanitarian law — specifically the Geneva Convention IV, 1949 — to protect the rights of civilians displaced by hostilities in war-affected areas. Under this convention one doesn’t even have to cross an international boundary to become an IDP. And 75pc of those who have fled their homes are women and children.

Shocking reports are emanating from Bannu and other areas receiving the IDP exodus from Fata. Stories are legion of hunger and thirst in the face of unsatisfactory food distribution programmes, transporters fleecing people desperate and fatigued, scarce shelter, inadequate healthcare for the ailing and women giving birth to babies unattended.

What we see today is a replay of what happened in 2009 when the army launched its operation in Swat/Malakand. Only this time the numbers and magnitude of suffering of the IDPs are much bigger. Unfortunately, the IDPs have not been provided what is their due in their hour of trial.

It was in 2009 that a group of concerned citizens led by one of Pakistan’s most vocal activists, Tahira Abdullah, got together to work with their Swat-based partners the Khwendo Kor to provide whatever relief they could. Their commitment took them to IDPs lodged in government-sponsored camps as well as with local host families. This humanitarian act of reaching out to people in distress touched many hearts.

Now we have another crisis on our hands and this brave 2009+ Group, as it calls itself, is out again trying to stir up the public conscience. The IDPs’ need for financial and material help remains as dire as ever. Given their poverty and the underdevelopment of their region, the people of North Waziristan are by and large not in a position to help themselves. It is time people extended a helping hand in their hour of need.

Worse still is the politicisation of the IDP crisis that is indicative of the perverse mindset of those in office. In a statement last week, the 2009+ Group deplored the inhumane approach of the Sindh and Punjab governments to slam the door on IDPs. There are unconfirmed reports of some district administrations — as of Islamabad and Charsadda — barring the entry of IDPs.

This is not new. It has been attempted before and we are doing it again and the Group’s statement terms it “inhuman, unconstitutional and illegal which will have long-term negative effects on our so-called ‘national pluralist multi-ethnic identity’ and our national image”.

This is the most disturbing aspect of this tragedy: the expression of disowning our own people when they need us most. We know that many of the fears articulated are unfounded and nebulous.

In 2009, the IDPs from Swat faced similar barriers. It was argued that the ethnic composition of the province would change because the IDPs would never return home. They did. The family from Swat I visited in Baldia (Karachi) was helpless and unhappy with the change in environment. It even found the smells of the city unbearable compared to the fragrance of the green valleys of Swat.

In Karachi it was argued that militants would smuggle into the city with the IDPs who were stereotyped as ‘Pakhtun terrorists’. But we know that even without the IDPs the Taliban infiltrated Karachi. Only efficient intelligence could have pre-empted their entry.

The will to wipe out the Taliban never existed. They were regarded as ‘strategic assets’. Read Carlotta Gall’s The Wrong Enemy to understand where we went wrong. To blame the IDPs for Karachi’s woes is sheer crassness.

Karachi has seen a lot of violence and we know that the Taliban are not the only ones to have inflicted it on the city. Political parties, including those in the government, have sought control over their fiefdom not through statesmanship but by resorting to violence, extortion and blackmail. The Taliban have contributed their share in this turf war. But not the IDPs who are trapped in a situation not of their making.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Arc of inevitability

Mahir Ali

IRAQ is up for grabs, Syria has irretrievably been damaged, the West Bank sits on a powder keg. And that’s just the regions where some of the worst-case scenarios have come to pass.

IRAQ is up for grabs, Syria has irretrievably been damaged, the West Bank sits on a powder keg. And that’s just the regions where some of the worst-case scenarios have come to pass.

On the borders of the Middle East, Afghanistan’s fate remains indeterminate, while the initial repercussions of Pakistan’s military offensive in North Waziristan are reflected in the rapid multiplication of internally displaced persons, amid reports that the intended targets had fled to Afghanistan well before the first air strikes.

The latter arena of conflict was some years ago dubbed Af-Pak by the Americans, and the somewhat Orwellian terminology attracted plenty of flak.

Over the decades, though, it is by no means just the jihadists who have derided the colonial-era Durand Line. On the other hand, the challenge to the post-First World War border between Syria and Iraq has come fundamentally from Islamist warriors.

It is perhaps unlikely that the latter region will be designated as ‘Syriraq’, if only because that would seem to endorse the propaganda of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, who has proclaimed himself caliph in an area that straddles parts of Syria and almost a third of Iraq, with the Islamic State of Syria and al-Sham (ISIS) now rebranded simply as the Islamic State.

To a large extent, the fate of the ersatz caliphate will be determined by what happens in Iraq during Ramazan. A few days ago, Baghdad announced the recapture of Tikrit, but the claim turned out to have been an exaggeration, with battles still raging in the zone this week.

One of the explanations for the rout of the Iraqi army revolves around the nepotism and corruption that determined its nature under the aegis of Nouri al-Maliki.

Shia militias, the most formidable among them apparently controlled by Iran, have entered the fray, while Maliki, after failing to immediately invite US air strikes against ISIS and its Sunni collaborators, has reportedly spent half a billion dollars on purchasing superannuated Sukhoi aircraft from Russia, which are supposed to turn the tide.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, has solicited exactly that amount of money from the US Congress in the interests of arming ‘moderate’ Syrian militias supposedly challenging the depleted supremacy of Bashar al-Assad. But, as veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk has lately pointed out, moderates are thin on the ground, and those who exist cannot be relied upon not to sell their hardware to the highest bidder.

And that often turns out to be ostensibly their worst enemies. The Obama administration has lately been accused of training ISIS foot soldiers in Jordan. And Assad is said to have not just freed large numbers of Salafi prisoners from Syrian jails in 2011-12, but to have actively promoted ISIS as a means of countering the Al Qaeda-approved Jabhat al-Nusra as well as his more secular adversaries.

There may be some truth in both accusations. It is, after all, hardly unknown for governments to sponsor dubious forces with a view to protecting or advancing their interests. The US was a vigorous proponent of jihad, alongside its regional allies, when the Mujahideen were combating Soviet forces and their proxies in Afghanistan. And there was a time when Israel encouraged Islamists to undermine the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Now Israel’s determination to destroy Hamas has been reinforced by the unconscionable murder of three teenage yeshiva students from the occupied territories whom the Islamist organisation is accused of having kidnapped.

Whoever committed this egregious atrocity in the vicinity of Hebron clearly intended it as a provocation — not only against Israel, from where a predictably rash reaction could be guaranteed, but against the unity government lately inducted in Ramallah, a supposedly technocratic outfit that includes no Hamas members but receives its backing.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has meanwhile done the cause of the Kurds no favours by explicitly endorsing a Kurdish state — an idea that is apparently not anathema to Ankara either, provided it does not involve any Turkish territory.

Iraq’s neighbours would do well to remember that the border with Syria is not the only one that ISIS is determined to obliterate.

Iraq is currently a focus of broadly mutual interests between the US, Russia, Iran and Syria. But the situation is much too convoluted to draw any hopeful conclusions from this unlikely alliance.

The unprovoked Western aggression against Iraq in 2003 liberated not the Iraqi people but a maliferous genie. In the event of sectarian strife engulfing not just Iraq and Syria but their (not entirely blameless) environs, precious little credit will accrue to those who continue to argue that a prolonged occupation of Iraq or Western military intervention in Syria would have produced an altogether more desirable outcome.

But even those of us who derided the absurd project from the outset are left dangling with a question that has become progressively harder to answer: what next?

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014

Rejuvenating Nacta

Tariq Parvez

THE much-awaited military operation in North Waziristan Agency against the terrorists has been launched in the second week of last month. The question that is being asked most frequently all over the country is whether we are prepared to deal with the blowback of the operation. The blunt answer is ‘no’. We are not as well prepared as we should have been.

THE much-awaited military operation in North Waziristan Agency against the terrorists has been launched in the second week of last month. The question that is being asked most frequently all over the country is whether we are prepared to deal with the blowback of the operation. The blunt answer is ‘no’. We are not as well prepared as we should have been.

That the militants are not going to give up without a fight through a campaign of terrorist acts all over the country appears to be a reasonable prognosis. This situation calls for a holistic threat assessment and a well-thought-out, coordinated, national level response by all stakeholders at the provincial as well as the federal level. Hats off to the government for formulating a National Internal Security Policy (NISP). But we have not heard anything regarding the stage of the policy’s implementation and the resources that have been allocated to it in the recent budget.

Also, we are not aware of what the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta), the pivot of the NISP is doing. What has the government done to ensure that Nacta gets off the ground at the earliest to meet the expected aggravation of the terrorist threat? Again, the blunt answer again is ‘not much’, or at least nothing has been shared with the public on that.

Nacta was set up by the government in 2009. The Nacta Act was passed by parliament in 2013, and the authority was placed under the prime minister for administration, like the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Its mandate, according to the act, includes, inter alia, the following:

Formulating and monitoring the implementation of the counterterrorism strategy

Coordination among different counterterrorism departments including the intelligence agencies at the federal and provincial level

Carrying out research in areas related to counterterrorism

The starting point for any preparation to counter the expected blowback of the terrorists should be to get our act together at the national level by integrating the national counterterrorism effort. To achieve the stated objective, activating Nacta, which is the focal counterterrorism institution at the federal level, should be the highest priority. Unfortunately, not much has been done by the federal government in that direction. The following are some of the steps that can be taken to activate Nacta on an urgent basis.

Removing duality of control

According to the Nacta Act, the organisation is under the control of the prime minister. A notification, however, issued by the federal government, has created duality of control where Nacta is concerned. It places Nacta under the prime minister for administrative purposes, and under the interior ministry for operational matters.

This duality creates confusion within the counterterrorism body and is also likely to belittle Nacta in the eyes of powerful entities including provincial governments, federal ministries and the IB and ISI with which it has to coordinate. The status of Nacta, as laid down in the Nacta Act, should be restored forthwith if the organisation is to take off as intended.

Appointment of a national coordinator

Nacta is to be headed by a senior law enforcement officer with considerable counterterrorism and law-enforcement experience, to be called the national coordinator. Sadly enough, for the last more than one year, Nacta has been functioning without a regular national coordinator and is being headed by junior officers without any experience of law enforcement and counterterrorism. The first essential step, therefore, is to appoint a serving senior law-enforcement officer, who has considerable experience of dealing with law enforcement and counterterrorism as head of Nacta. This can be done by the federal government within a couple of days provided it is serious about it.

Convening a meeting of board of governors

The effective decision-making and direction-giving body of Nacta, as stated in the act, is the board of governors headed by the prime minister. It has as its members, inter alia, all the chief ministers, the federal ministers of the relevant ministries, the directors general of the ISI, IB and the Federal Investigation Agency. No meeting of the board has been held so far. An immediate meeting of the board of governors is imperative to get Nacta off the ground and take important decisions to enable it to start functioning. This can be done by the government within a fortnight.

Get officers on deputation

At present, Nacta is working with a skeleton staff — highly inadequate to deal with the task, both in terms of expertise and numbers. While full staffing is likely to take long, an immediate step can be taken to get officers with suitable experience, working in different government departments, on deputation. The process of selection, however, should be objective and transparent. The final decision must lie with the national coordinator. This process can be completed within one month if Nacta has the strong support of the prime minister.

Providing adequate resources

It goes without saying that expecting Nacta to deliver without providing it with adequate resources is a pipe dream. Not only that, to attract the best human resource in the market and in view of the high security risk to their lives, Nacta employees must be offered attractive working conditions. No amount is big enough to be placed at the disposal of Nacta, if it leads to greater security of the common man from the terrorist threat .

Strengthening Nacta is essential to developing a comprehensive response owned by all stakeholders to deal effectively with the brewing blowback from the militants. It may not be a foolproof arrangement, but it can then be said that the best efforts were put in. Failing this, if the blowback turns into a bloody deluge of terrorist acts, the government will have nobody to blame but itself.

The writer is former national coordinator of the National Counter Terrorism Authority.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

This Karachi nightmare and that

Jawed Naqvi

GORGING on a three-egg omelet he loves but won’t get on his Delhi-Newark flight, Mukul Vaingankar casually lets me know of his escape from the botched but bloody 1986 Pan Am hijacking in Karachi. It may all be part of flippant memory for him today but it was traumatic and horribly scary when he went through it 28 years ago on the morning of Sept 5, which was his birthday.

GORGING on a three-egg omelet he loves but won’t get on his Delhi-Newark flight, Mukul Vaingankar casually lets me know of his escape from the botched but bloody 1986 Pan Am hijacking in Karachi. It may all be part of flippant memory for him today but it was traumatic and horribly scary when he went through it 28 years ago on the morning of Sept 5, which was his birthday.

The 54-year old culturally rooted Saraswat Brahmin from Mumbai is a devotee of Indian classical music and lives with his family — percussionists, singers, lawyers — in California. He also happens to be a relative, visiting Delhi to see his terminally ill uncle. I’ll come to Mukul’s first row account of the terrifying incident in a moment. It left 20 people killed, including Pakistanis, Indians and Americans, and several others shot, or injured while escaping the four well-armed but nervously fidgety gunmen who took control of the 747 Jumbo at Karachi airport’s tarmac.

During the three or four days he spent in the city Mukul acquired deep affection for Karachi, its Edhi Foundation and its caring, selfless doctors. However, a broad-brush view of the political context in 1986 could help us locate the distance we have travelled through the turbulent decades with their sharp ideological bends and political U-turns culminating in the brazen terror attack on the same airport a few weeks ago, albeit with a contrary purpose this time.

The issue for the Arabic-speaking Pan Am hijackers was the liberation of Palestine from Israel’s occupation.

Those who have watched the Middle East for the last three decades or more would know how that objective has become a distant dream with chances of an equitable and just fulfilment for the region’s Jews and Arabs looking more remote than ever before. By contrast the recent attack on Karachi’s Jinnah Airport had pretty much an opposite purpose. In fact, the outrage mirrored what could be a string of choreographed events in Baghdad, Tripoli and Damascus whereby self-styled Muslim puritans are targeting those who had assiduously supported the idea of a free and multicultural Palestine.

At several levels, the intra-Muslim bloodshed dominating the political firmament of the Middle East and swathes of South Asia today, seems to have its genesis in the disastrous 1981 Fez summit of the Arab League. Saudi Arabia’s Fahd Plan, which effectively proposed to recognise Israel and promised it security in return for what major Arab leaders saw as a moth-eaten Palestinian state with municipal rights, was rejected by Iraq, Syria and Libya. Look closely, and you would find the three countries that steadfastly opposed the Fahd Plan are the ones confronting an existential challenge, their secular and tyrannical rulers being sought to be replaced by rabid and tyrannical rulers who largely share Riyadh’s political allergies, if not its worldview.

I didn’t ask Mukul Vaingankar if he had a preference between Israel and Palestine when he was seated on the window seat right in the front row of the economy class cabin while disaster prepared to strike the plane. Nor does he evidently have a view now. What was evident from his narrative though was that ordinary Indians and Pakistanis have a subtle bonding that endures, albeit undetected largely because it is their governments mostly that are handling or mishandling each other.

When the Arab gunmen stormed the plane dressed as airport security personnel, an alert member of the cabin crew was able to transmit the message to the pilots. The pilots fled through the cockpit windows perhaps as part of a drill to deny the hijackers leverage to use the plane’s communications and to immobilise its flying ability. A total of some 360 passengers were rounded up from different cabins and herded into the area where Vaingankar unwittingly found himself in the crosshairs of the Abu Nidal gang. His two neighbours were Gujarati-speaking women from a dance troupe on its way to perform in New York.

At some point at night after a nearly 10-hour terror vigil, the power grid on the plane collapsed and the lights went off. The gunmen who were parked right near Vaingankar’s row began shooting randomly in the dark, but they spared the seats to their left and right possibly as it would have required them to turn and risk losing their bearings in the invisible commotion.

A military assault followed and a chute was lowered for the surviving passengers to escape. Vaingankar could have walked off to the safety of the airport terminal as several other passengers had done. He was, however, persuaded by a Gujarati woman with a fractured foot to escort her in one of the Edhi ambulances that were headed for the Jinnah Hospital. He briefly became her interpreter.

“The Pakistani doctors were angels. One of them gave me his stethoscope so that I could walk about freely looking for a handy phone,” he recalled, explaining that security was tightened after one of the suspected hijackers was brought wounded to the hospital. The phone lines were jammed with anxious callers. A helpful lady doctor escorted him to the radiology department where Vaingankar found a phone that had been spared the melee. By then he had collected as many addresses as he could of patients from Bombay. “As I gave my father the last contact, the line went dead.”

Mukul Vaingankar has nothing but unalloyed respect for the Pakistanis he engaged with. He feels strongly that it is a particularly South Asian syndrome — the instant warmth and readiness to help each other unselfishly in a crisis. He was pained by the turn of events in Pakistan since his 1986 ordeal. He knows that the good doctors he met and the caregivers of the Edhi Foundation he befriended are in trouble today at the hands of those that attacked the Karachi airport recently. Mukul Vaingankar wants to help, but like many others, he doesn’t know where to begin.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Conflict in Fata

Sikander Ahmed Shah

OPERATION Zarb-i-Azb against the TTP and its associated forces is in full swing. While the operation appears to enjoy public support, one must understand the nature of the conflict and its significance for Pakistan.

OPERATION Zarb-i-Azb against the TTP and its associated forces is in full swing. While the operation appears to enjoy public support, one must understand the nature of the conflict and its significance for Pakistan.

For years, the categorisation of the conflict in Fata has been contested. Recent legislation concerning Fata — including the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation 2011 (AACP) — suggests that the federation has started recognising the conflict in Fata as a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) under international law.

Previously, the conflict was characterised as internal disturbances. While the AACP is far from according adequate protections required under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), it frequently utilises IHL jargon, and is reflective of the IHL framework when it outlines the treatment and limited protections afforded to ‘miscreants’.

Under international law, two factors determine whether violence crosses the threshold to be classified as an NIAC: the conflict’s intensity and organisation of the parties to the conflict. The intensity test provides that an NIAC should be “similar to an international war”, but the conflict itself must be confined within the boundaries of a particular country.

The nature of engagement between state forces and militants in Fata confirms the presence of an NIAC. International criminal tribunals have found the existence of an NIAC in much lower levels of conflict intensity. There have been recognised NIACs of shorter duration, with smaller scale armed engagement, smaller troop deployments, fewer types of weapons used and targets identified, lower organisational capacities of militant outfits and fewer displaced persons.

The existence of an NIAC does not automatically mean that the sovereignty of a nation is undermined. In fact, recognising the conflict as an NIAC provides the state sanction under IHL to militarily defeat its adversary with lower levels of due process than what is available during times of peace.

Under international law the state can re-establish control over its territory in order to defend its national unity and territorial integrity with the caveat that other states cannot use the presence of an NIAC as justification for intervening, directly or indirectly. Furthermore, the presence of an NIAC does not exclude the applicability of domestic criminal law to militants, but ensures safeguards for civilians in conflict zones.

Basic protections under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions are applicable in any armed conflict. Acts prohibited are the mutilation, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment and torture of persons; taking of hostages; and the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court. There is also the requirement that the wounded and sick be collected and cared for.

Historically, Pakistan has been reluctant to accept the conflict in Fata as an NIAC, probably because it has feared international recognition of militant outfits or the conferral of legal status that grants them the privileges of combatants. These fears are misplaced, as the TTP is abhorred by nearly all states, and viewed as a global terrorist outfit by Security Council members.

Under international law, status principally depends on actual and sustained control and authority over the territory in conflict rather than the recognition militants receive from third states.

An NIAC is presented in a state when “dissident armed forces or other organised armed groups … under responsible command, exercise such control over a part of its territory as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations”. Only when such organisation, command, control and capacity are disrupted does one come out of a non-international armed conflict. Without such organisation or control, the militants have no legitimacy whatsoever.

The federation should regain control over its territory and establish its writ in the troubled regions. This will automatically exhaust any legitimacy that the TTP claims to possess in Fata. However, the armed forces must fight this war with transparency, and in compliance with IHL, which would mean that Common Article 3 protections are afforded and civilian immunity is fully preserved.

All civilians, including IDPs, should be adequately cared for and provided all basic facilities and protections. Reputed journalists should be embedded with the forces and given complete access to information so they can apprise the public of the ground realities.

The ICRC should be allowed a sizeable presence in the region. Such measures would prevent violations of IHL by all warring parties, and any war crimes committed by the TTP would further discredit them. Such steps would also reinforce the absolute legitimacy of the operation in the eyes of the international community. Pakistan has the wherewithal to militarily win this war in light of geo-political realities and the asymmetry of armed force. n

The writer is an associate professor of public international law at LUMS.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

A shared madness

Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

A COLLECTIVE madness seems to have descended on the Muslim world in a phenomenon that history shows is not exclusively Muslim. But that’s hardly any solace.

A COLLECTIVE madness seems to have descended on the Muslim world in a phenomenon that history shows is not exclusively Muslim. But that’s hardly any solace.

From Pakistan through Afghanistan, and jumping over Iran, it lands in Iraq to push into the Levant and then, sailing across the Medi­ter­­­ranean, sweeps through Egypt to go right up to the Maghreb, plunging then southward into the sub-Saharan region to convey the Pak­­is­­­tani Taliban’s good wishes to Boko Haram.

The wave then makes a U-turn and races through Ansar Dine’s Mali to halt on the Red Sea to embrace Somalia’s Al-Shabaab, who recently established their bona fides and commitment to their ideology by bombing a house where boys were committing the blasphemous act of watching the extravaganza in Brazil.

But the theatre of theatrics — where the Middle Eastern version of Götterdämmerung is being performed — is Iraq. Contrary to what humanity believed, asking prisoners to dig their graves didn’t end in 1945 with the collapse of the Third Reich. We have this phenomenon now in Haroonur Rashid’s realm, with both Shia and Sunni militias glorying in the violations of the laws of war.

The militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (now renamed Islamic State) asked their prisoners — government soldiers who belonged to both sects — to dig their graves and then sprayed them with bullets. And in Baquba, government officials claimed 44 Sunni prisoners had died in a bomb blast, though it was later found they had been gunned down.

The Islamic State also bombed a graveyard, imitating their Pakistani Taliban brethren, who have never hesitated to blow up funeral prayers and cemeteries to dispose of their rivals (Mingora, Feb 29, 2008; D.I. Khan, Feb 20, 2009; Peshawar March 9, 2011; Lower Dir, Sept 15, 2011).

The madness is not confined to the militants. In Egypt, judges believe in awarding death sentences en masse, and Egyptians sing and dance to celebrate the electoral triumph by a 90pc margin of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief whose crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood camps in August last led to the death of over 1,000 people, including women.

Not to be left behind, Syrians, too, twist and carol to rejoice in Bashar al-Assad’s electoral fraud while 160,000 of his countrymen lay dead. Meanwhile, the clerics issue the fatwa that people could make kebabs of cats and dogs.

Non-militant Pakistanis, too, are in the focus of world news, when, as commented by Dawn in its editorial of June 25, a railway minister starts controlling air traffic, while a self-proclaimed revolutionary and his acolytes illegally hold up an international flight for hours, denying the right of exit and travel to genuine passengers. Thus, for the second time in Pakistan’s history, we witness hijacking by the cabinet crew.

Nothing, however, better explains the frenzy of mass psychopathology tinged with conviviality than what happens in Karachi, where ethnically charged fans dance and stuff sweets into each other’s mouths, because a man suspected of a crime in London is granted bail — an abnormality not much different from the authorities’ thanks to security forces for killing the terrorists who had crashed into the Karachi airport to get killed anyway.

Also, someone need find out whether there is any other city in the world — Tokyo, Istanbul, Rome, Buenos Aires — where fuel stations remain shut for three days for fear of mob violence.

While Indonesia and Malaysia, too, sometimes make news because people infected with abnormality surface from time to time, the one big area that has retained its sanity is Central Asia and Kazakhstan. One reason for the placidity of the land beyond Syrdarya is the Siberia-cold, Stalinist culture that still pervades the former Soviet Central Asian Republics. All CARs are abject dictatorships, with some of the Soviet era dictators still holding court.

No wonder, Uzbeks choose liberal Pakistan as the laboratory for their jihad — Pakistan with its media free to the point of imbecility, its incompetent security agencies, the traitors’ traitorous moles in the armed forces, the madressahs with their brainwashed robots, a people vulnerable to fraud in the name of jihad, and finally rituals-oriented mullahs as political leaders.

If, to flaunt their neurotic streak, Uzbek freebooters operating under the deceptively named Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were to choose their own country as a launching pad for a global jihad, then a psychotic personality called Islam Karimov would dip them in boiling water. This is Comrade Karimov’s standard nostrum for dealing with dissent.

As noted earlier, collective madness is not a Muslim monopoly. Madness of infinitely greater proportions gripped Europe in the 17th century when the 30-year sectarian war ending with the peace of Westphalia reduced Europeans literally to cannibalism. Bottom line: the Muslim world today is where Europe was in the 17th century, with clerics controlling the intellect.

The writer is a staff member.

mas

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2014

Law of unintended consequences

Babar Sattar

THE criticism of rabble-rousers aimed at our dysfunctional state and the pigheaded PML-N government is not disagreeable. It is their anarchic solutions that are problematic. You can’t expect anything better from the Tahirul Qadris or the Chaudhrys. Long past their prime these creations of a pro-status quo state have no chance of acquiring meaningful power through the electoral process. Their destructive politics is thus their best bet.

THE criticism of rabble-rousers aimed at our dysfunctional state and the pigheaded PML-N government is not disagreeable. It is their anarchic solutions that are problematic. You can’t expect anything better from the Tahirul Qadris or the Chaudhrys. Long past their prime these creations of a pro-status quo state have no chance of acquiring meaningful power through the electoral process. Their destructive politics is thus their best bet.

But Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) flirtation with the anarchists is worrying. Here is a party that after a decade and a half of determined effort has emerged as the second largest party in terms of popular vote. It was censured for welcoming recycled hags into its fold. The PML-N alleged that Gen Shuja Pasha had breathed new life into it. But despite such criticism or lack of control over entrenched mechanisms of state patronage (thana, kacheri and patwari), the party did exceedingly well and became the lead opposition party in its first nationwide election in 2013.

True, barriers to entry into politics remain sky-high. But the PTI persevered despite the absence of a level playing field. For it to argue that no one can take on the PML-N machine and machinations due to the PML-N’s stranglehold over state machinery smacks of anger and impatience. While the anger is probably justified, the impatience is not. The business of politics is like a marathon and not a sprint. Threatening to throw its hands up and walk out of the ‘system’ if X or Y doesn’t happen in Z time frame bodes ill for the PTI and the country.

The system is not worth preserving, but is worth reforming and saving. If there is one lesson that history keeps repeating, it is that the ends don’t justify the means. Salvaging Pakistan is as much about process as it is about destination. An illegitimate process can’t produce just ends. The present refrain against patience and continuity is not new. All coups have come with declarations that the skies are caving in, continuity of process is producing more harm than good and breaking things down is the best way to build true democracy.

The political pawns whose actions led to the overthrow of governments and constitutions past were never the beneficiaries. Iskander Mirza survived all but 20 days after imposing martial law in October 1958 before Gen Ayub Khan took over and exiled him to London. The nine-member Pakistan National Alliance caused the dismissal of the Bhutto government but it was Gen Ziaul Haq who devoured the cake. Nothing became of the political parties or the principles they were striving for, including free and fair elections.

Tahirul Qadri has the support of a hundred thousand strong he can usher to the streets at will and bring the business of government to a screeching halt. In a country of 190 million, bringing out a mob of just 50,000 might be enough to shut down the government. But it is not enough to replace such government. Thus, the only thing TUQ is capable of delivering is rhetoric or mobs that can engender chaos and anarchy. What he can’t deliver is a functional system of governance.

Anytime there is chaos on the streets, the initiative slips from the hands of the politicos into those of the khakis. History suggests that in such situations, whatever may have been the promises, those who cultivate the environment congenial for the khakis to step in end up being seen as liabilities. TUQ appears to be baiting the khakis and hoping that raised temperatures on the streets, growing public anger against the government, and worsening civ-mil ties might just throw up an opportunity for him to ride khaki tailcoats into power.

His approach is rational because at 63 this ruthlessly ambitious televangelist has no other play. If the khakis bite, he will promise to deliver the stars. Devoid of mass public support but just enough to bring together a crowd in Punjab, he will always be dependent on his patrons and thus a less threatening option. If the khakis don’t bite, he’ll pack up his 12 suitcases (and socks) and head back to Canada as he did after his failed effort in December 2012. For Imran Khan and the PTI, the stakes are altogether different.

From a real politick perspective the street agitation approach to change will produce no dividends for the PTI. Our Constitution doesn’t provide for mid-term polls, except when the prime minister or a chief minister decides to dissolve the respective assembly. In the absence of a legal mechanism, mid-term change in Islamabad and Punjab can only be unconstitutional and dependent on military intervention in politics which happens only if the personal ambition of top generals is whetted, after which they don’t act to empower others.

The Egyptian model is before us. A revolution threw out Mubarak with the military as a bystander. When the popularly elected Morsi government grew too big for its boots the military threw it out. Now Gen Sisi is the ‘elected’ president. The Iraqi model is even scarier. Getting rid of Saddam and his institutional structures was easy. Building new institutions to fill the vacuum was not. With the emergence of ISIS and its bid to take over state territory, the initiative has slipped into the hands of sectarian radicals on both sides.

We have witnessed the law of unintended consequences in action in our own backward Fata. Bringing down structures of authority is much easier than replacing them with new ones. Notwithstanding one’s differences with the PTI over national security policy, this party is a force for constructive change in Pakistan. It is not an entity that needs to ride on khaki tailcoats to seek power or one that fits the bill of a subservient joint-venture partner to an ambitious general.

The PML-N will not change, embrace electoral reform or build institutions for non-partisan accountability unless it is forced to. But such force must now be exerted by the PTI as an insider that has a stake in reviving the system and not as an outsider opting for chaos as the preferred alternative.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

City and the migrant labourer

Zeenat Hisam

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspective deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” — Italo Calvino

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspective deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” — Italo Calvino

CONCEALED within a leafy neighborhood, crushed between 1,000 to 2,000 square-yard bungalows, in Jamshed Town, Karachi, invisible to the world of comfortable living, exists an enclave of narrow alleys, haphazard and shabbily constructed one or two-room dwellings of the city’s migrant workers. Called Bano Colony, this surreal settlement, with upper storeys jutting out here and there, reminds one of the narrow labyrinthine alleys in Shagai, one of the katchi abadis in Mingora, Swat.

Inhabited exclusively by Pakhtuns, this enclave has two entry points: the east side leads to male-only living; the west end opens to family quarters. On entering the male-only section, for a second you feel you are stepping into the ruins of a demolished structure. Here the rent of one small, windowless room, shared by six (or more) males — minor, young, old — along with a communal kitchen, is Rs6,000 per month.

The family quarters’ rent varies from Rs6,000 to Rs8,000, often housing two families. The settlement has legal electricity and gas connections. Most of the children walk to the government school located in the adjoining neighbourhood. Fewer children, I am told, attend the madressah whose high walls enclose the west side of the settlement.

This is one of the hundreds of big and small settlements dispersed all over Karachi, inhabited by migrant workers who come to the city from higher grounds, from the plains, from the arid zones, from the hinterland of the country. Dreaming of a decent life for themselves and for their children, they enter the world of precarious work and live on the margins, except the margins are in the very heart of the city.

They are the city’s drivers, loaders, car cleaners, chowkidars, shop assistants, naan-makers, domestic servants, tea-boys and fruit vendors. The bulk of unskilled, low-wage, semi-permanent migrant workforce lives on the vagaries of the labour market. Deprived of citizens’ entitlements, stigmatised and stereotyped, shunned by trade unions, migrant workers suffer from social exclusion and are a part of informal labour that exists outside the ambit of the legal framework.

It is estimated that 50,000 migrants enter Karachi every month — despite the city’s notoriety for violence and crime — in search of a better life. With over 21 million people, Karachi is one of the 10 most populous cities of the world. Though Pakistan is urbanising as a country, urbanisation in Sindh is the fastest and stands out in marked contrast to the other provinces. According to the 2012-13 Labour Force Survey, Sindh has a 12.23 million labour force, of which the urban workforce is 5.86m or 47.91pc, in contrast to the 33.37pc urban work force in Punjab, 23pc in Balochistan and 19.22pc in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A population census is awaited since 1998 to determine the extent and scope of internal migration. Several studies conclude that rural to urban migration is due to extreme poverty and low human development indicators in the rural districts. Pushed out of their ancestral towns by poverty, the city attracts the labourers as they can eke out an income enough for survival after remitting the major amount to their families.

Internal migration is a low-priority area for policymakers, researchers and civil society all over the world although it is four times greater than international migration. In Pakistan, internal migration does not come anywhere on the radar of policymakers. Internal migration is not mentioned in the Labour Policy 2010. There is no law protecting the rights of internal migrant workers in Pakistan.

The state has never come up with specific schemes to integrate multi-ethnic migrant workers in the cities. Internal migration — integral to urbanisation and development — has been a missing element in urban policies. There is no civil society initiative exclusively for the benefit of internal migrant workers.

Among South Asian countries, India has the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979, aiming to protect the rights of internal migrants. The law lists the migrant workers’ right to equal wages, right to return home periodically without losing wages, and the right to medical care and housing at the employment site. Though the law is not implemented, it does set the standards for just work conditions for migrant labour.

Also, India has a number of NGOs working for internal migrants. Aajeevika Bureau, Udaipur, provides services to seasonal migrant workers. The Prayas Centre for Labour Research and Action, Chittorgarh, helps migrant workers unionise. Labournet, Bangalore, facilitates the registration, training and placement of migrant workers. Rationing Kruti Samiti, a network of NGOs in Mumbai, enables migrant workers to access subsidised rations.

It is time the state in Pakistan responded to the challenge. Universal registration of all workers is the only way to realise the rights of workers. Universal registration of workers, enabling them to access social security benefits, is a doable option in terms of logistics as this registration can be linked with computerised identity cards, establishing the individual’s identity as a worker.

The National Database and Registration Authority is one of the country’s unsung achievements. None of the South Asian countries, including India, has been able to come up with a national registration system as yet. The concept behind the registration system should move beyond national security and population enumeration: it needs to be extended and linked up with rights-based entitlements for wider benefits for the citizens. n

The writer is associated with Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.

zeenathisam2004

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Health for all

Arif Azad

EVEN a cursory glance at the health-related aspects of the federal and provincial budgets confirms that health insurance, as an option, has been firmly put on the policy agenda after remaining in the shadows for years. In the past few years, this option has been discussed in the news and policy papers as one way to extend health coverage in an increasingly misaligned private-public healthcare system.

EVEN a cursory glance at the health-related aspects of the federal and provincial budgets confirms that health insurance, as an option, has been firmly put on the policy agenda after remaining in the shadows for years. In the past few years, this option has been discussed in the news and policy papers as one way to extend health coverage in an increasingly misaligned private-public healthcare system.

This statement caps a situation where generally falling governmental health allocations and spiraling private healthcare costs have caused a crisis that threatens to leave millions out of the healthcare provision loop. A beginning seems to have been made in both the federal and Punjab government budgets.

The federal budget has allocated Rs1 billion for a national health insurance scheme that is expected to extend health cover to 100 million people. Punjab has also set aside Rs4bn for a similar scheme in the province. The bare outlines of the respective schemes are going to be filled out in the coming days. However, there are indications that the Punjab scheme will be introduced in four cities on a pilot basis with private insurance companies playing a large part.

In both cases, a hurried timetable for producing a blueprint of the proposed schemes has also been announced. Great care needs to be exercised before making a final decision on the schemes and the intended benefits.

Health insurance is very common in the West and has a history spread over decades of incremental advances. America is perhaps the most extreme example of a country with a private insurance-based health system which has given rise to wide inequities in the provision of health services. In contrast, Germany and France have evolved insurance-based systems with the aim of reducing inequities and ensuring wider coverage where the government plays a dominant role in regulating and financing the system.

There are three insurance-based schemes that are in currency at the moment. There are drawbacks and benefits attached to each which should be weighed carefully before taking a final decision on what policy mix is suitable for Pakistan.

One form of social health insurance is subsidised by the government and comes in various shapes. It generally extends only to government employees; however, in rare cases it also covers informal workers. In the latter case, often because of weak income and tax documentation, informal workers remain uncovered.

In health insurance systems which focus on individuals at the community level, there are serious associated downsides of low coverage. A flat rate of insurance ends up extracting more from the poor than they would have ordinarily spent on healthcare. These schemes generate little revenue and are not financially sustainable in the long run, as pointed out in an Oxfam report.

The third option is that of private health insurance which, unfortunately, is accessible to only a tiny elite and has high premium rates. The US and South African health systems are dominantly based on private health insurance.

Crucially, the federal budget seeks to introduce a national health insurance scheme. The presumed template for the scheme is the Ghanaian national health insurance system. Again, the Ghanaian scheme is reported to suffer from low coverage and has high administrative costs. The scheme’s intended benefits for the poor have been undermined by the rich and affluent sections of society.

Whatever form the national insurance scheme finally assumes in the end, the lessons from other countries operating similar schemes should be systematically factored into the design of the schemes. Having said this, a few words are in order about the Pakistani state’s plummeting commitment to social sectors which has triggered this rush towards health insurance schemes.

Though these initiatives have almost become a necessity against the backdrop of a universal healthcare debate, there still needs to be balance in policy while crafting an equitable healthcare delivery system financed by tax revenues and with the government in the driving seat to determine the direction, coverage and eligibility of the scheme.

In the new insurance-driven system, this can be achieved by putting more emphasis on non-profit entities running the scheme with a view to enhancing equity, affordability and the widest possible coverage at a time when the government is increasingly abdicating its responsibility where state provision of healthcare is concerned.

On a broader canvas, if the proposed trend towards privatisation continues the state’s moral claim to raising taxes will be weakened. This should be uppermost in the mind of policymakers, political parties and state managers while taking steps towards health insurance which might become fully privatised in the long term. This would have serious consequences for universal health coverage.

The writer is an Islamabad-based development consultant and policy analyst.

drarifazad

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

Blame Canada

Zarrar Khuhro

THERE are certain universal truths; that water is wet, fire burns and that all creation needs balance. The concept of balance is one that is emphasised in many disciplines and activities throughout our lives. We are introduced to it as children, when we try and use the seesaw with that ‘healthy’ boy from class three.

THERE are certain universal truths; that water is wet, fire burns and that all creation needs balance. The concept of balance is one that is emphasised in many disciplines and activities throughout our lives. We are introduced to it as children, when we try and use the seesaw with that ‘healthy’ boy from class three.

Economists, for example, will often talk of a balance of payments and trade (im)balances. Accountants for their part spend much of their dreary careers balancing sheets. Accidental journalists, like myself, are often told to at least pay lip service to the concept of balanced coverage, which largely entails following a quote with ‘yet other analysts disagree’.

When it comes to physical activity, which I personally abhor, balance is also critical. Ask any gymnast what a moment of imbalance will do for them, their career and the integrity of their joints. Even our very diets, they say, should be balanced.

Finally, there is the all-important question of balance of power in international relations, and this is where I have made a deep personal sacrifice. Yes, in order to preserve the delicate relations between Pakistan and its distant colonial cousin of Canada I departed for these distant shores a day before the wonderfully hatted Tahirul Qadri was to arrive in order to make Pakistan a bit more pure.

However, like a true revolutionary I travelled in PIA’s economy class and that too on a direct flight. Real revolutionaries don’t waste time with stopovers and they eschew luxuries like leg room. And while I wasn’t booed at by my fellow passengers for causing flight diversions, I did make a baby cry by making faces at him.

Regardless, Canada is truly a nation in need of tabdeeli of the most revolutionary kind, as even a cursory examination of its headlines and a quick chat with the taxi driver revealed.

For one, it seems that Rob Ford, the portly, cocaine-sniffing, crack-smoking mayor of Toronto is making a bit of a comeback. He is now campaigning for re-election (after a seven-week stint in rehab) on the premise that he’s reformed, found God and ditched the crack pipe.

Shockingly he’s still considered the man to beat in the elections, given his record on boring things like managing the budget and expanding Toronto’s subway system. All of this is a scathing indictment of a failed system that puts issues and development records before personalities. Once the Mounties respond to my call for change and set up a moral police squad, I’m sure all of this will be set straight.

Ford is also guilty, in my book, of not putting family first. After all, his sister was recently charged with stealing a large quantity of toothbrushes from a local store. And yet, no shopkeepers were beaten and no courts were stormed as a protest against this awful breach of privilege.

But the worst is yet to come. Toronto, the Sodom of our times, will also soon host the annual Pride Festival, a display of decadence and deviance unlike any other.

Rainbow flags will festoon the town and same-sex relationships will be openly celebrated in the streets. Not just that, but the asexual community will also be making its presence felt for the first time. In case you didn’t know, these are people who have no interest in the opposite sex, or any sex, at all.

Now, despite the obvious danger posed by these groups to Canada’s moral integrity and birth rates, it pains me to inform you that there will be no lathi charges, no water cannons and no firing on these teeming, and stylishly dressed, crowds.

I bet the TV channels won’t even invite otherwise obscure religious leaders to discuss this shameful and nation-threatening event. This is just more proof of why this country needs help.

There are other inefficiencies in this system as well. In the Mississauga area, where the endangered white minority exists in protected enclaves, an inordinate amount of land that could otherwise be gainfully used for shopping plaza-cum-apartments is dedicated to useless open spaces and large buildings containing books.

In one such building was a printer that printed actual 3-D objects. Despite repeated entreaties, the brown person in charge refused to print out Maria Sharapova. This is possibly because the product of the last such experiment then decided to leave this land of maple syrup and honey to bring about revolution in foreign climes.

And speaking of clime, surely there is no greater sacrifice than leaving Canada in the 2.5 months in which it actually enjoys habitable weather to go to sweltering, load-shedding Pakistan to change the entire rotting and failing system. As for myself I think one trip probably isn’t enough to bring change to Canada. True revolutions need round-trip tickets. I’ll be back, eh?

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2014

The continuing threat

Muhammad Amir Rana

THE militants are on the run. But they can turn around and hit back if they find a pause or sluggishness in the ongoing pursuit. They still have the capacity and ability to protract their terrorist activities. A more realistic assessment of their will and power to launch terrorist attacks can be made once the counter-insurgency operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan is over.

THE militants are on the run. But they can turn around and hit back if they find a pause or sluggishness in the ongoing pursuit. They still have the capacity and ability to protract their terrorist activities. A more realistic assessment of their will and power to launch terrorist attacks can be made once the counter-insurgency operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan is over.

At the same time, the fear that the militants may step up retaliatory attacks during and after the operation provides genuine reasons to re-evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as well as the capacity of state institutions. This is important not only to measure the extent of the risk of violence and insecurity they pose but also to develop responses.

In the post-operation scenario, the possibility of an enhanced or a reduced terrorist threat would largely depend on three factors. First, it will depend on how tribal-based militants and their foreign allies behave and react. Secondly, it is quite possible that Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) allies and affiliates based across the country will not hesitate to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Among these groups, sectarian terrorist outfits are better organised and have the operational skills to trigger violence in the major urban centres of the country.

The third factor comprises a potential threat which cannot be measured unless it exposes itself. Militants in the making — radicalised individuals who are influenced by terrorist ideologies — can pose this threat. Though not ‘officially’ affiliated with any local or international terrorist organisation, they are in search of such outlets. These kinds of potential militants could be large in number. Failure to find and join some ‘proper’ terrorist group can encourage them to plan and launch terrorist attacks by defining the targets themselves.

Many religious scholars and madressah teachers consider this segment of potential militants quite crucial as they are an important source of recruitment for militant organisations. They think that such militants are not only present in madressahs but in other educational institutions as well.

This threat is not new and can be understood by examining the emergence of the Punjabi Taliban during the Red Mosque crisis in Islamabad when militants of Kashmir-based organisations started leaving their groups to join the TTP and Al Qaeda. During that time, self-radicalised youths had also formed small terrorist cells. These groups or individuals did not succeed in affiliating themselves with any terrorist group but were found involved in planning terrorist attacks by themselves. Such small groups were quite active in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore and carried out small scale, low-intensity attacks on cultural sites, girls’ schools and posh markets during 2008-2010.

The security institutions had taken many initiatives to weaken and divide the militants before launching the full-scale operation in North Waziristan Agency, which, in a way, helped thwart retaliatory attacks by disturbing the nexuses and shared operational channels of terrorist networks.

Some media reports also indicate that it was not only the Sajna group of the TTP that revolted against the central leadership, leading factions of the Punjabi Taliban too were not happy with the TTP leadership. These Punjabi Taliban factions decided they would not provide any operational assistance until internal differences among the militants are resolved.

These tactical moves that led to divisions among the terrorists caused temporary damage to them and halted their operations for a while. But such moves cannot cause a big dent in their capacity and outreach.

The militants have the ability to overcome internal differences, restructure their cadres and reorganise their networks. The North Waziristan operation will push the militants, especially those belonging to the TTP and Al Qaeda and its affiliate international groups, into Afghanistan. They will continue to cause border tensions and insecurity by attempting to infiltrate Pakistan and carry out attacks on Pakistani security forces. Meanwhile, their sectarian affiliates in Pakistan will not only continue launching sectarian attacks but will also look for any opportunity to launch some large-scale terrorist attacks.

There is no doubt that the operation in North Waziristan will help scale down the violence significantly; the Swat and South Waziristan military offensives helped bring down the level of terrorist attacks by more than 30pc. Though retaliatory attacks are expected in mainland Pakistan, in the short- to medium-term the operation will help reduce violence in the Peshawar valley, Fata and, to some extent, in Karachi. These are the areas where terrorist violence has been concentrated over the past many years.

There is a major loophole in Pakistan’s security framework, which can lead to an escalation in violence. This is the lack of vision and strategy to deal with sectarian tensions. This weak area is the terrorists’ strategic strength. They can provoke sectarian tensions to get connected with their broader support base, which is maintaining a tactical silence because of the operation in North Waziristan. This support base includes sectarian madressahs and radical and non-radical religious organisations. A single incident of sectarian violence, such as the one last year in Rawalpindi on the occasion of Ashura, can provide the militants an opportunity not only to connect with their sectarian and ideological support base, but also to exploit the situation and further expand the violence.

In these critical times, making recruitments and establishing hideouts becomes easy for the militants. The state has been in denial and has chosen to overlook the fact that sectarianism is a big issue. It is thus underestimating the threat. The crisis in Iraq can provide insights into how terrorists create space for themselves through exploiting sectarian tensions.

The state must be vigilant and try hard to maintain sectarian harmony in the country. It has many options available for this purpose, including engaging the clergy, messaging through the media and enhancing security of religious processions and vulnerable religious places. It must deal with sectarianism as a strategic threat posed by Al Qaeda, the TTP and their affiliates. By leaving this loophole unaddressed, the state will not be able to successfully repel the militants.

The writer is a security analyst.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

Sifting through

Cyril Almeida

BEFORE the month-long snooze mode is switched on and collective hibernation begins, some thoughts on events in recent months, aka WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?

BEFORE the month-long snooze mode is switched on and collective hibernation begins, some thoughts on events in recent months, aka WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?

There we were, coasting along, the veneer of an economic recovery to go with the veneer of relative security and stability to go with the veneer of everything is OK.

And then, all hell breaks loose. Everything changes. But no one actually changes. Down is up and up is down and yet everyone is still standing.

Who said what? Why? Say what? Never mind.

Here, in no particular order, some random thoughts about seemingly random events.

Pop goes the weasel: The nature of TV and the easily divertible national attention span means Qadri isn’t done yet. So strap yourself in for the rollercoaster that Pakistan can be.

But here’s the thing with rollercoasters: they all come to a gentle stop, everyone gets off and life goes on. And so it will be with Qadri.

Because while anything is possible in Pakistan, some things are less possible than others. And Qadri — obscure, foreign, eccentric, niche — will always be a sideshow, never the showstopper.

The same two questions apply to Qadri as they have to the anti-democrat puppets before him and as they will to the anti-democrats after him: how far will the boys take it and even with full-on support of the boys, how the heck do you do take it down, ie the post-18th Amendment, constitutionally protected government?

To neither question is there an answer that’s plausible or works in Qadri’s favour. Which brings us to the next issue.

The long view: The boys are up to something. No doubt about it. It’s not even credible anymore to ask whether they are or aren’t. The more interesting question: what, exactly, are they up to?

As ever, there are only strands and signals and a lot of reading tea leaves and separating signal from noise. Here’s a good starting point though: Musharraf. Not because there’s any great love for Musharraf or that he matters personally.

But it’s what putting Musharraf on trial means. It means a lot. Exactly what everyone clamouring to put Musharraf on trial is claiming it would mean.

And that’s precisely the problem for the boys: Musharraf today, tomorrow who? Here’s the thing though, the tomorrow isn’t really about tomorrow or the day after or next year or the year after that.

It’s about the long view. What makes the boys the boys is that they’re the only ones who actually have a long view.

Of course, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. A good thing if the long view is visionary, about transcending the institution and thinking about the national good. A bad thing if the long view is self-referential, self-serving and inward-looking.

No points for guessing which version of the long view trumps the other one here. And that’s why Musharraf, dialogue with the bad Taliban and civilian friendliness towards India is so problematic. Because in the long run all of those impact the internal, domestic predominance of the boys.

So, how to square the long view with present events? The same way it was eventually squared with Zardari: harry and harass the civilians, now the PML-N, every little while so that they’re pushed into a defensive crouch and survival is all that’s on their minds.

If the civilians accept that equation, long may democracy prosper. If they don’t, a calibrated increase in pressure — with the implicit threat that there are no red lines.

Which brings us to the civilians.

Confusion central: The politics of the PTI has come down to this: Imran Khan is unwilling to come to terms with the fact that he isn’t prime minister.

He thought it was his, he still thinks it’s his destiny and he just won’t let electoral reality sink in. From that flows everything we’re seeing about the PTI.

And in that also lies the limit to the efficacy of Khan’s politics of agitation. He won’t team up with others, he won’t fall in line behind anyone else, and he can’t do it — bring down the government — on his own.

Settling in: Having ridden out a storm that it’s still not clear he was aware he was in the midst of, Nawaz is ready for more.

Two big decisions await him: a cabinet reshuffle and the next DG ISI. If he wanted to, in making those decisions Nawaz could hit the re-set button. But he’s more likely to be Nawaz.

Which means, internally, in party decisions, he’ll likely favour the old loyalist and keep the young go-getter at arm’s length. So a new cabinet may be much like the old: a governance liability, a loyalty win and of little use in crisis.

DG ISI? It is, in some ways, trickier than COAS. The DGI is both operational and policy. And it is, as an organisation, a maze that perhaps even an experienced COAS does not fully understand.

Will Nawaz choose; will he defer to Raheel’s choice; is there a candidate out there who can take the organisation by the scruff of its neck and effect real change? A game-changer — that word again! — could be a civilian outsider, but recent events make boldness unlikely. Expect a conservative, institutional choice.

Musharraf is the wild card. Nawaz is still not willing to let him go. Not letting him go would mean suffering more attacks and keeping civ-mil toxic. The sensible compromise: drag it out, let the pre-trial legal manoeuvring wind along endlessly. Mumbai ATC trials, anyone?

For now, enjoy the hibernation, but with one eye open — Ramazan is a good time for terror.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

A love for liberty

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

NAWAB Khair Bakhsh Marri, born on Feb 29, 1928, was named after his illustrious grandfather who, unwilling to provide Marris as cannon fodder for the First World War, fought the historic battles of Gumbaz and Harab against the British in 1918.

NAWAB Khair Bakhsh Marri, born on Feb 29, 1928, was named after his illustrious grandfather who, unwilling to provide Marris as cannon fodder for the First World War, fought the historic battles of Gumbaz and Harab against the British in 1918.

He was also a descendent of Sardar Dodah Khan, under whom the Marris in May 1840, at Sartaaf, decimated the troops led by Lt Walpole Clarke. Again in August 1840, a large force under Major Clibborn sent for relieving Kahan was routed at Nafusk.

Khair Bakhsh was the eighth Marri sardar after Bhawalan, to whom sardari was accorded on services to the tribe. Most people fail to understand that the Baloch have a wild love for liberty and their struggle for freedom is indigenous.

A child brought up on the lore of the Marris’ exceptional bravery against ‘pilingees’, or foreigners, could not but have become an ardent freedom lover. Many political analysts claim that Nawab Sahib was a late convert to the idea of an independent Balochistan; but this is patently incorrect.

In 1951, Davies, the political agent, told him, “Khair Bakhsh why don’t you allow the government to develop your wretched people?” He replied, “Davies, had Hitler overrun Britain and you were asked to help the Germans develop your wretched people, what would have been your reaction?” Davies replied, “I’ll be damned if I ever ask you again”.

Twice he was elected to the National Assembly, but his armed resistance to exploitation continued alongside. The tragedy for the Baloch people is that he alone consistently demanded an independent Balochistan, while other leaders conveniently compromised.

In 1958, the martial law authorities ordered the surrender of guns. Other sardars protested but complied, while Nawab Sahib sawed them into pieces before sending them. For him nothing was more ignominious than surrendering; this he preached and practised all his life.

During incarcerations he never got admitted to hospitals and never complained. He even washed his own clothes. Submitting and showing weakness was not part of his creed. He was uncompromising in his attitudes. When, after a rocket attack during Musharraf’s Kohlu visit in December 2005, his son Balach elicited his opinion he asked: “Why did you miss?”

He kept his principles dearer than worldly comforts and this helped him avoid compromises. He once told me that he was still repaying debts incurred after his return from Afghanistan and added he would not be living in his son-in-law’s home if he had money. His unwillingness to compromise on his principles for worldly comforts has made him the eternal symbol of the Baloch freedom struggle. He adhered to his values and principles at huge cost.

I am among the lucky few he shared his views with. I always shared my pieces with him and he would point out flaws. He would ask me to write down for him the Urdu and Persian couplets which I quoted. He was extremely kind and benevolent; he never entered a room before me, insisting I go ahead, and I reluctantly obeyed. In his presence I always sat as a student does in awe of his most venerable teacher.

Nawab Sahib’s love of cockfighting was legendary and peppered his conversations. He once narrated with passion to me and my nephews Sulaiman and Zabar Kash Talpur tales of memorable cockfights for 90 minutes; his lucid memory amazed me. He would often use cockfighting terminology to explain his point of view. He respected all those who could and would put up a fight.

He was unfathomable, like a snow-clad volcano. He never betrayed his emotions by speaking loudly or harshly or being maudlin. He displayed amazing equanimity in all situations. In my 43 years of association I was fortunate to meet him hundreds of times but never saw him angry or use an inappropriate word. Only once did I see him tearful as he addressed the Marris in Lashkargah in 1988. He, however, became misty-eyed when he talked of his martyred son Balach. He hid his emotions but didn’t subdue them.

He dearly loved his people and fiercely hated his enemies. Because he cared for people he always said that if freedom failed to bring justice to the people it would be meaningless.

He was a father figure, a role model, a philosopher, a strategist and the best example of all that is good in the Baloch. He represented the Baloch trait of overpowering instinct for liberty and freedom. His loss is irreplaceable and his supporters and followers will remain inconsolable.

There is none who can step into his boots so that the Baloch could turn the pain of this loss into a source of strength and vigorously continue the struggle he dedicated his entire life to. If they could, it would be the best tribute to the greatest Baloch of modern times.

The writer has been associated with the Baloch movement since 1971.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

The growing divide

Chandani Kirinde

WHEN violent clashes erupted between the majority Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims in the Sri Lankan town of Aluthgama in mid-June, many said these were the worst clashes between the two communities in living memory. But the violence was not entirely unexpected.

WHEN violent clashes erupted between the majority Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims in the Sri Lankan town of Aluthgama in mid-June, many said these were the worst clashes between the two communities in living memory. But the violence was not entirely unexpected.

With the Sri Lankan army emerging victorious at the end of a three-decade war against the Tamil Tigers in 2009, a sense of triumphalism has given rise to ultra-nationalist sentiments among the Sinhalese Buddhists. This has led to the emergence of hardline Buddhist groups that have been drumming up fears among the majority that the next threat they face will come from the Muslim community.

For generations, in areas like Aluthgama, about 64 kilometres south of Colombo, Sinhalese and Muslims have lived side by side. But of late, both have been hardening their positions over minor issues which in the past would have been defused with the intervention of village elders.

What began as a small altercation on June 12 in the area when a Buddhist monk was making his way through the predominantly Muslim village gave rise to a wave of rumours that the monk was assaulted or murdered. Three days later, the Sinhalese turned their wrath on the Muslims, burning their homes and business establishments. Four persons died and scores were injured in the incident.

Adding to the tragedy were allegations that the police did nothing to stop the violence against the Muslims due to the presence of members of a hardline Buddhist group — the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or the Buddhist Power Army which has emerged in post-war Sri Lanka as the most prominent group portraying itself as the protector of Buddhism.

The BBS general secretary, Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thera, has in recent months be­come the face of the group. Hours before vio­lence erupted in Aluthgama, he had add­ressed a public rally attended by some 3,000 persons in which he did not mince his words regarding the threats to Buddhists posed by the Muslims. His inflammatory speech coupled with some provocation on the part of Muslims in the area led to the violence.

Even though the BBS has distanced itself from the violence since then, denying its supporters were involved in the clashes, its strong anti-Muslim views are not new.

The BBS came into prominence two years ago when it questioned the issuing of halal certificates for goods by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, the local group issuing these certificates. It began by calling for a boycott of all halal-certified products saying that the prices of goods had been increased on products that had the label.

The issue dragged on for months following which the issuing of the halal certificates was suspended. This was followed by a call to boycott retail shops owned by Muslims, resulting in protests in front of one of the leading clothes retailers in Colombo. Although the issue was settled with the intervention of the police, the simmering tensions between the two communities increased leading to the Aluthgama incident.

Muslim politicians, many of whom are part of the coalition government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, have called for a ban on the BBS but this has been refused. Mr Rajapaksa visited areas affected by the violence and assured an impartial inquiry into the violence. He also promised strict and swift action against the perpetrators. “I will be appointing a high-level panel to inquire into the recent disturbances,” the president tweeted from his official account; however, persons are yet to be named to this panel.

The incident caused rumblings within the Rajapaksa administration with at least two of the influential cabinet members, Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem and Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, voicing their displeasure at police inaction. The opposition leader in parliament Ranil Wickre­mesinghe also called on the government to appoint a parliamentary committee to look at ways to avoid future incidents of the sort. This proposal is pending.

Given the underlying message of tolerance that Buddhism preaches, many Buddhists have distanced themselves from the hardline approach of the BBS. Many fear that if left unchecked, the group’s activities will once again plunge the country into instability which Sri Lankans are keen to avoid.

Senior members of the Buddhist clergy too have called for tolerance and acceptance of the multiethnic, multi-religious facets of the country, and inter-faith meetings are being held in Buddhist temples and mosques in Aluthgama to drive home the need for members of both communities to co-exist in peace and harmony.

While Muslims, who make up around 8pc of the country’s 20 million population, fear a hardening of the stance of Buddhists towards minorities in Sri Lanka, much will now depend on how fast the government of President Rajapaksa acts to arrest these disturbing trends. n

The writer is assistant editor at Sri Lanka’s The Sunday Times.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014

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