DWS, Sunday 6th July to Saturday 12th July 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 6th July to Saturday 12th July 2014

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National News

Higuain fires Argentina into semis

Reuters

BRASILIA: Gonzalo Higuain’s superb early strike secured a nervy 1-0 win for Argentina against Belgium and sent the South Americans through to the last four of the World Cup for the first time in 24 years on Saturday.

BRASILIA: Gonzalo Higuain’s superb early strike secured a nervy 1-0 win for Argentina against Belgium and sent the South Americans through to the last four of the World Cup for the first time in 24 years on Saturday.

Higuain buried a shot into the corner of the net in the eighth minute at the national stadium to set up a semi-final clash against 2010 runners-up the Netherlands or surprise package Costa Rica, who play later on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Higuain reacted brilliantly when an Angel Di Maria pass was deflected towards him off Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen. He swivelled and struck the ball first time as Argentina ended a run of being eliminated in the last eight at the two most recent editions of soccer’s global showpiece.

“I knew the goal was going to come and it came at an important time,” Higuain, who had not scored for his nation in six matches, said in a television interview.

“We were able to reach a semi-final which we haven’t achieved for many years. Now we need to play well and try and reach the final,” he added.

“We gave our all, it’s a World Cup, it doesn’t happen every day. There are two matches left to achieve this beautiful dream.” Belgium, whose best World Cup run was in 1986 when they were knocked out by Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the semi-finals, had a couple of chances but otherwise offered little in attack despite sustained late pressure that set nerves among the thousands of Argentines thronging the giant arena jangling.

More ambitious

Argentina looked the more ambitious in the early stages and Higuain’s beautifully executed goal gave them a deserved lead.

They came close to a second in the 28th minute when Lionel Messi, who was a constant threat to the Belgium defence having set the tournament alight in the group stages, threaded a superb ball through for a galloping Di Maria.

However, the winger injured himself when his effort was blocked and was replaced by Enzo Perez a few minutes later.

Belgium were starting to enjoy more possession without really threatening before Messi flashed a free kick narrowly wide five minutes before the break.

With Argentina apparently happy to sit on their lead, Belgium’s best effort of the half came in the 42nd minute when Kevin Mirallas sent a diving header wide from Vertonghen’s centre.

Higuain was in fine form and raced through the centre 10 minutes into the second half but, with Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois beaten, his shot clipped the top of the crossbar and the ball flew into the crowd.

Marouane Fellaini sent a 61st-minute header just over the bar in another good chance for Belgium and there was some desperate defending from the Argentines in the closing minutes.

But they held on and captain Messi could even afford to squander a late one-on-one with Courtois as his side progressed along with hosts Brazil and Germany, who went through on the other side of the draw on Friday.

“It’s a great joy for this squad, for the technical staff, for the people, for my family. We all crossed the Rubicon!,” said Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, adding that it was probably his team’s finest performance so far in Brazil.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

CM admits failure in attempts to placate Baloch separatists

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch said on Saturday that he had failed to bring estranged nationalist leaders to the negotiating table, but vowed to continue his reconciliation efforts.

ISLAMABAD: Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch said on Saturday that he had failed to bring estranged nationalist leaders to the negotiating table, but vowed to continue his reconciliation efforts.

Speaking at a news conference here, the chief minister also admitted that he had been unable to convene a multi-party conference on the Balochistan issue, something he had been asked nearly a year ago by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Read more: Separatist movement funded by India: Zehri

Senator Hasil Bizenjo, whose National Party heads the ruling coalition in Balochistan, was also present. The chief minister also criticised opposition parties, particularly the PTI, for raising a hue and cry over the appointment of the son of the former chief justice on a key post in the province.

When asked about attempts to reconcile with nationalist leaders, the chief minister said: “So far there has been no progress and we have not yet made any major attempts”.

“We will continue our efforts, whether they accept them or not,” he said, adding, “We come from two different schools of thought. They talk about independence through the use of force and we are democratic people.”

Mr Baloch claimed the law and order situation in Balochistan had improved and development activities had picked up pace in his first year as chief minister.

He said peace had been established in 90 per cent of the province. But at the same time, he acknowledged that during meetings of the Council of Common Interests (CII), his government had opposed the holding of a census due to security fears.

He feared that militants could strike if such an exercise was carried out and stressed the need to resolve the issue of Afghan refugees before carrying out a census.

In response to a query about the attacks on pilgrims on their way to Iran, the chief minister simply said: “It is not possible to provide 100 per cent protection to the pilgrims over 700 kilometres.”

However, the chief minister said they had offered pilgrims the option to fly to the Iranian city of Mashhad from Quetta on subsidised fares.

Hasil Bizenjo interrupted the chief minister and claimed that the recent attack on the pilgrims at Taftan was the first such incident reported in the area. Moreover, he said, pilgrims from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had not given prior intimation to the Balochistan government about their travel plans.

Mr Bizenjo said the chief minister had appointed Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, at Arsalan’s request.

He regretted that the opposition had made it a major issue and linked it with the alleged rigging in last year’s general elections.

The NP leader particularly took the PTI to task for linking Arsalan’s appointment with the Reko Diq gold mine project. He said they might make mistakes, but their intentions should not be in doubt. He also said that after Arsalan Iftikhar’s resignation, the propaganda campaign should also come to an end.

The two NP leaders warned that undemocratic forces were actively working to derail democracy and end the parliamentary system. They called for unity amongst democratic forces to thwart such designs.

Mr Bizenjo said people such as Dr Tahirul Qadri had no place in their province. He also defended his party’s decision to support the Protection of Pakistan Bill in parliament, saying the law was required to fight terrorism effectively.

APP adds: Seantor Bizenjo said that though he had personal ties with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, his party stood with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and did not support Shujaat’s decision to align himself with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Uzbeks among militants killed in shelling

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: Air force planes bombed militant hideouts in North Waziristan on Saturday, killing several suspected militants, including Uzbek nationals.

PESHAWAR: Air force planes bombed militant hideouts in North Waziristan on Saturday, killing several suspected militants, including Uzbek nationals.

According to ISPR, the military’s public relations department, air support was called in after fire and resistance from inside Miramshah town and Boya village.

Planes bombed positions and five hideouts were destroyed.

The ISPR said that most of those killed in the strikes were Uzbeks.

Unconfirmed reports said at least 30 people were killed in the bombing.

The claims could not be confirmed from independent sources.

The press release said hideouts, caves and a large cache of arms and ammunition had been destroyed.

According to sources, some places in Dattakhel, Deggan and Momadkhel areas were also pounded.

They said troops had begun demolishing suspected hideouts in Dandy Derpakhel, Derpakhel, Miramshah Bazaar and Chashma village.

Militants had concentration in these areas and they had rented houses from locals.

The sources said houses of Hakeemullah Mehsud, leader of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who was killed in a drone attack last year, had also been destroyed near Miramshah.

Dandy Derpakhel, near Miramshah, was also a hub of Afghan and local Taliban and militant leader Jalaluddin Haqqani’s family was also residing there.

A soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device exploded during a clearance operation in Kaka Ziarat area, near Miramshah.

Security personnel are using sniffer dogs to clear IEDs which are posing a serious threat for infantry men in the area.

An official said the forces had sophisticated equipment to detect and defuse IEDs. Officials said 19 makeshift factories of IEDs had been destroyed.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Israel kills 30 more

AFP

GAZA CITY: Israeli warplanes kept up their deadly raids on Gaza on Thursday, killing 30 more Palestinians, but failed to prevent Hamas from firing rockets at Jerusalem, two of which struck near settlements in the West Bank.

GAZA CITY: Israeli warplanes kept up their deadly raids on Gaza on Thursday, killing 30 more Palestinians, but failed to prevent Hamas from firing rockets at Jerusalem, two of which struck near settlements in the West Bank.

As the violence escalated, UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed for an immediate ceasefire at an emergency meeting of the Security Council.

A series of loud explosions echoed across the city as the Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down two rockets fired from Gaza.

Since the start of the Israeli attacks on Tuesday, 82 Palestinians have been killed and more than 500 injured.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Drone kills 6 suspected foreigners in Dattakhel

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: Six suspected foreigners were killed in a pre-dawn drone attack in Dattakhel, about 35km west of Miramshah, regional headquarters of North Waziristan, on Thursday.

PESHAWAR: Six suspected foreigners were killed in a pre-dawn drone attack in Dattakhel, about 35km west of Miramshah, regional headquarters of North Waziristan, on Thursday.

This is the first drone strike since the army launched the operation Zarb-i-Azb in the restive tribal region on June 15.

According to a security official, the drone fired missiles into a house in Doga Macha Madakhel area of Dattakhel at about 4am, killing three militants of central Asian origin and three Afghans.

“We believe the central Asians were of Uzbek origin,” the official said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to media.

One report suggested that the drone struck a vehicle and a compound and those killed included four Uzbeks and two local fighters of the late Sangin Zadran group.

Army troops have yet to move into Dattakhel. The security official said forces were engaged in Boya on Dattakhel axis. They will move into Degan before heading to Dattakhel.

The area where the drone struck is only three kilometres from the Pakistan-Afghan border.

In Islamabad, meanwhile, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said the government did not have any official confirmation regarding the veracity of reports about a fresh drone strike in Miramshah.

She added that Pakistan’s position on such strikes was clear. “We have made it clear that these attacks are unacceptable, they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty… drone strikes would complicate our efforts to eliminate terrorists,” she said.

AFP adds: Local security officials said two US drones fired four missiles into a compound in Doga Macha Madakhel. Four foreign fighters and two local cadres who had fled Miramshah before the launch of the military offensive were killed.

“The compound and a vehicle parked inside were completely destroyed,” a security official said. The area lies in difficult, mountainous terrain which the official said the militants had hoped to use as cover.

Another security official in Peshawar confirmed the attack and the casualties.

It is the third round of drone strikes to hit northwest Pakistan since the US resumed the campaign following a six-month hiatus.

Washington reportedly suspended its drone programme in December to give Islamabad time to pursue a dialogue process with Taliban aimed at ending a seven-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

But a bloody attack on Karachi airport on June 9 that left dozens dead sank the peace efforts and prompted the army offensive. US drone strikes resumed a few days after the Karachi attack, though Pakistani officials insist they have not given their approval.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Attack on FC post leaves five dead

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Five personnel of Frontier Corps Baloch­istan were killed and two others injured on Thursday in a pre-dawn attack on their checkpost in Dukki area of Loralai district.

QUETTA: Five personnel of Frontier Corps Baloch­istan were killed and two others injured on Thursday in a pre-dawn attack on their checkpost in Dukki area of Loralai district.

FC spokesperson Khan Wasey told Dawn that over a dozen men fired indiscriminately on the personnel deployed at the checkpost and fled.

Another official said the attackers had come in pick-ups from a nearby mountainous area and taking advantage of darkness stormed the checkpost. The attack was so sudden and intense that the FC personnel could not fire back. The assailants used advanced weapons and escaped towards mountains.

The official accused a militant organisation of being involved in the attack.

Bodies of the deceased and injured personnel were taken to the Combined Military Hospital in Loralai.

After the attack, personnel of Frontier Corps, police and Levies Force launched a sea­r­ch in Quetta, Loralai and oth­er districts and took into custody a number of suspects.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

SBP all praise for govt’s performance

Shahid Iqbal

KARACHI: The country’s economy appears to have turned the corner. The State Bank says that after several years of low growth, sentiments about the economy seem to have improved during the third quarter of the outgoing fiscal year (FY14).

KARACHI: The country’s economy appears to have turned the corner. The State Bank says that after several years of low growth, sentiments about the economy seem to have improved during the third quarter of the outgoing fiscal year (FY14).

“Manifestations can be seen in the rebound in real GDP growth; a rise in private sector credit, a contained fiscal deficit, the subdued inflation outlook, a sharp increase in foreign exchange reserves and appreciation and subsequent stability in the exchange rate,” the SBP said in its 3rd quarterly report issued on Thursday.

The bank praised the government for steps taken to improve the economy but asked it to improve the tax-to-GDP ratio.

While this change in sentiments could be traced to a one-off bilateral grant, a series of events appeared to have consolidated this positive turn, the SBP said. For example, the government’s resolve to address the energy shortage, a growing perception of business-friendly policies and external inflows that have been anticipated for many years, have recently been realised.

Also read: Delinking from global economy

More specifically, the report said, auction of 3G/4G licences, a larger than projected inflow via Eurobond, programme loans from the international financial institutions and SBP’s efforts to support the foreign exchange reserves have sharply improved the outlook of the country’s external sector and, to some extent, its fiscal position.

However, at the end of its review note, the SBP said: “So far it seems that the task of keeping a stressed economy moving forward has dominated policy thinking and formulation. The recent positive developments and improvement in sentiments provide a strong base for future growth.

“Policymakers should stay the course towards inclusive growth while taking the harder steps to create a larger and more equitable tax base, fix the energy sector, create an environment that will absorb the growing number of job-seekers and project Pakistan more competitively in the international markets.”

The report said the revival of economic activity was a key development in FY14, with real GDP growth of 4.1 per cent – the highest over the past five years. But this growth was not broad-based; it was driven primarily by construction and large-scale manufacturing (LSM).

Even the LSM growth came largely from two items (sugar and fertiliser) which was realised in the first half of FY14 and not likely to be sustained in the second half.

This uneven growth could be traced to structural imbalances that needed to be addressed, the report said. After five years of sluggish economic activity, the economy posted a real GDP growth of 4.1pc in FY14.

The momentum came from the industrial sector which grew by 5.8pc in FY14, compared to an average growth of only 1.3pc since FY08. The growth was also higher than the 4.8pc target set in the Annual Plan for FY14.

Also see: Monetary policy on 19th

However, services and agriculture, which grew by 4.3pc and 2.1pc, respectively, could not achieve their target.

Looking at the national income accounts for FY14, private consumption that increased by 5.9pc was the driving force behind the economic growth. It was more than double what was realised in FY13.

Nevertheless, real investment grew by only 1pc and because of this the investment-to-GDP ratio declined to 12.4pc in FY14 from 13pc last year.

“In our view, Pakistan’s investment rate will increase only by addressing the law and order situation in the country, ending energy shortage and improving business sentiments. Furthermore, there is no getting away from the fact that Pakistan has no choice but to increase its tax-to-GDP ratio,” the SBP said.

The report said that there was an urgent need to eliminate tax exemptions, clamp down on corruption and leakages in the tax collection machinery, expand the tax base by including all productive sectors of the economy and enhance the independence and professional capacity of provincial tax authorities.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

PM announces Rs15bn transport project for Karachi

Habib Khan Ghori

KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced a Rs15 billion transport project to be undertaken in Karachi soon under the Green Line bus service on the pattern of the Bus Rapid Transport System in Lahore and Rawalpindi.

KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced a Rs15 billion transport project to be undertaken in Karachi soon under the Green Line bus service on the pattern of the Bus Rapid Transport System in Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Presiding over a meeting at the Governor’s House here on Thursday, the prime minister said the Green Line project would be a gift to the people of Karachi. Its entire cost would be borne by the federal government.

He said his government was fully aware of transport problems of the city, which is a jugular vein of the country’s economy.

Mr Sharif said that finances for the ‘Red Line’ bus service would be provided by the Sindh government.

He approved Rs12bn for the greater water supply project, K-4, almost 50 per cent of its total cost. The remaining expenses would be borne by the Sindh government.

He also sanctioned Rs6bn for completion of Lyari Expressway and ordered that the feasibility of the sewerage water project, S-3, be revised.

He directed Chief Secretary Sal­eem Hotiana to set up a coordination committee to remove any hitc­h­es in the implementation of K-4, S-3, Kara­chi Circular Railway, Lyari Express­way and other major projects.

The prime minister directed removal of encroachments from the tracks of the circular railway project so that work on it could be started without further delay.

He said the railway project would be completed through public-private partnership.

On a suggestion from Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan to link Karachi Port with Port Qasim, Mr Sharif directed the National Highway Authority to initiate work on the Malir Motorway project, M9, which is likely to cost Rs42bn.

Talking about the law and order situation, he expressed the hope that Karachi would regain its past status of the ‘city of lights’.

The chief secretary and the director general of Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, briefed him on the ongoing targeted operation in Karachi.

Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah were present during the meetings.

Mr Sharif said work on the Karachi-Lahore Motorway would start in a few months as the federal government had already released Rs55bn to the National Highway Authority for acquisition of land.

He announced early completion of Gadani Power Park and two power projects at Port Qasim.

He ordered police to register cases against extortionists under the Pakistan Protection Act and said special courts would be set up soon for their trial.

He stressed the need for taking people’s representatives on board on issues relating to people displaced from North Waziristan.

MQM delegation: A delegation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement comprising Dr Khalid Maqbool, Dr Farooq Sattar and Babar Ghauri also called on the prime minister.

The MQM leaders informed him about problems faced by the people of Karachi and called for setting up a university in Hyderabad.

They also briefed Mr Sharif about development projects for Sukkur, Nawabshah, Larkana and other cities of Sindh.

The delegation expressed gratitude to the prime minister for appro­ving funds for Karachi projects.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Foreign secretaries to decide fate of Indo-Pak talks

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: An upcoming meeting between the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India will determine the fate of the composite dialogue between the two nuclear armed South Asian rivals.

ISLAMABAD: An upcoming meeting between the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India will determine the fate of the composite dialogue between the two nuclear armed South Asian rivals.

This was the crux of Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam’s weekly briefing to the press on Thursday.

Recalling a recent meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi, she pointed out that the two had directed their foreign secretaries to meet and discuss how to carry forward the process of dialogue between the two neighbours.

The FO spokesperson was responding to a question about the progress made towards finding a solution to the outstanding disputes between the two countries, including Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachin.

“That meeting would take place in the not-very-distant future, though I cannot give you the exact date. That meeting would (indicate) where this process is headed. So we would not like to pass a judgment right now,” she said.

Also read: Back-channel talks with India revived

The spokesperson made it clear that Pakistan would not accept Kashmir’s “so-called accession to India”.

Ms Aslam also rejected reports that Muslims in the Chinese province of Xinxiang had been stopped from fasting during Ramazan. “These are rumours. It is factually incorrect. The Chinese have clarified that there is no such ban on fasting and that they respect the freedom of religion. They have clarified that they have guidelines in their system under which religious activities should not interfere with state functions,” she said.

In response to another query, she said Pakistan not made any request for international assistance with regards to the upkeep of the internally displaced persons, uprooted by the military operation in North Waziristan. “It has been made very clear that all expenditure related to temporarily displaced Pakistanis will be met from our own resources,” Ms Aslam said.

Also see: India asks UN team on Kashmir to leave Delhi premises

Talking about the fallout from the military operation, she said: “These are essentially law-enforcement operations and as a nation we have to deal with the fall-out of these operations. People in Swat have been settled back. Hopefully, after the operation is over, the people who had to leave their homes in North Waziristan will also go back. Our own resources will be mobilised to settle them and to restore their normal life. We have very clear instructions from the prime minister that we will not seek outside assistance”, she concluded.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

PCB game of musical chairs takes new turn

Nasir Iqbal

On Thursday, a Supreme Court bench hearing the matter of the appointment of the PCB chairman asked Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt to seek instructions from the board’s patron – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – if he would consider removing Sethi’s name from the new BoG.

On Thursday, a Supreme Court bench hearing the matter of the appointment of the PCB chairman asked Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt to seek instructions from the board’s patron – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – if he would consider removing Sethi’s name from the new BoG.

The directions came after Imtiaz Rashid Siddiqui, representing former PCB chairman Mohammad Zaka Ashraf, objected to Sethi’s inclusion in the BoG and said that Mr Ashraf would continue to be aggrieved as long as Mr Sethi remained in the new set-up.

A two-judge bench consisting of Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Justice Saqib Nisar was hearing an appeal filed by the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, which oversees sports activities in the country, challenging the May 17 Islamabad High Court (IHC) judgment to reinstate Zaka Ashraf as chairman in place of Najam Sethi.

On May 27, the apex court had ordered that a status quo be maintained, which allowed Sethi to continue as chairman.

On Thursday, the ministry issued a notification stating that the prime minister had ordered the appointment of Justice Shah as election commissioner after dissolving the interim Manage­ment Committee. The committee is to be replaced by a new board under Article 10 of the new PCB constitution.

Two members, Sethi and Iqbal Umer, have been appointed to the new BoG by the prime minister.

“Can Sethi be elected PCB chairman, despite being a member of the board,” Justice Nisar asked. The court was then told that he could.

Asma Jahangir argued on behalf of the ministry that the patron had the power to nominate any one of the BoG members as chairman. “Should that power be taken away and given to the Supreme Court,” she asked. Mr Ashraf, she said, was not party to the current workings of the board.

Justice Jamali asked Ms Jahangir not to defend or be worried about Sethi.

Justice Nisar then explained that Sethi was a well-respected individual, but this case was not about personalities. The question was whether Sethi should be part of the new arrangement that will be a permanent body in future, the judge said.

The attorney general explained that Sethi had ceased to be PCB chairman and requested the court to postpone further proceedings until Friday.

Under the notification, a chairman elected from among the board members would serve for three years and would also be eligible for re-election for another term.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

80pc of Miramshah cleared: military

Ismail Khan

MIRAMSHAH: The military said on Wednesday it had cleared more than 80 per cent of North Waziristan’s regional headquarters but admitted that the militant leadership had escaped taking advantage of the time between the failure of the peace talks and the commencement of the operation.

MIRAMSHAH: The military said on Wednesday it had cleared more than 80 per cent of North Waziristan’s regional headquarters but admitted that the militant leadership had escaped taking advantage of the time between the failure of the peace talks and the commencement of the operation.

“It will be a conjecture on my part because there is nothing to quantify my answer whether they left or they did not leave before the operation or during the operation but the fact of the matter is, the leadership at the moment, where we have carried out operation is not present, if they were we would have apprehended them,” the General Officer Commanding Miramshah, Maj Gen Zafarullah Khan, told a media briefing inside the military cantonment.

Outside the cantonment, Miramshah – a once bustling trading town barely 17 kilometres from Afghanistan – was deserted with not a single soul in sight. Officials say more than 800,000 people have fled the troubled tribal region.

But while the militant leadership might have sensed the military operation was coming, the dwellers of this dusty rugged town, it seemed, had had to leave in a hurry, leaving in most cases their houses open and shops half-shuttered.

A solitary donkey around was the only sign of any other living organism seen in a town once inhibited by more than 100,000 people.

There was a distinctive stink inside the town because of clogged and overflowing sewers – a town abandoned by municipal workers for fear of kidnapping by militants, a resident who has now moved out said.

Some houses, hideouts and shops marked “Ok” with red paint were pried open by the military looking for suspects and terrorist hardware. Some buildings, which military said, were being used by militants for boarding and lodging, had received direct artillery hits.

A house built by the late TTP leader Hakeemullah Mahsud now stands flattened blown up by the security forces. And an American Humvee that Hakeemullah’s men had seized from Khyber tribal region while attacking a Nato supply convoy to Afghanistan in November 2009 now stands parked inside the cantonment in Miramshah. The Humvee was recovered during the operation, a military official said.

But there were tell-tale signs and signature local and foreign militants across the town with factories manufacturing improvised explosives devices, a training centre for suicide bombers which one knowledgeable local resident confirmed belonged to the Haqqani network, a lock-up facility, a basement dormitory for militants and a network of long under-ground tunnels that opened up in different places and literature and training manuals in foreign language.

The military has its presence in and around the town. It says that it has lost 24 soldiers since the launch of the operation in raids, rocket and mortar attacks. “Where there is a little bit of resistance, we overcome them,” Gen Zafar said.

He said his troops had set up 250 posts as part of what he described as strangulation and sealing off strategy. But he acknowledged that while the strategy had denied the militants the liberty of freedom and mobility in large number, there was no way to stop individuals from slipping away.

Many people, he said, took advantage of the ensuing confusion following the failure of the peace talks with militants and discussion on launching the military operation.

“It’s not possible to create water-tight or airtight compartment where an individual cannot escape. Given the context of the terrain, the context of who they are, it will be wrong on my part to say that they did not escape, yes they did.

“They had smelled that the operation is about to be launched. The talks had failed, the build-up for the operation had already begun and they could see that, they could sense and smell and, therefore, the leadership was not here, the leadership abandoned place.”

But military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa said no matter where the militant leadership was, clear instructions had been given to chase them down and nail them down through what he described as an intelligence-driven integrated security mechanism.

“The militant leadership whatever is that is left of it including Fazlullah and others are across the border in Afghanistan and we have asked the Afghans and other forces to take appropriate measures to interdict and capture them,” he said at the briefing.

“We have a clear mandate. All local and foreign militants will have to be eliminated, whether local or foreign militants, Haqqani network or Uzbeks”, he said.

“When our forces move, they don’t make distinction. We are colour-blind,” a senior military commander said separately.

But military officials are satisfied with the progress of the operation. Clearing the town of improvised explosive devices, they say, would take time.

“The enormity of the task at hand is such that it is going to take time to clear the town of the IEDs. More than 23 tons of prepared form or the other IEDs are there in an area of 1.5 kilometre by one kilometre. It is a very big task. There are more than hundred tons of raw materials laying out there for homemade explosives in the whole of town,” Gen Zafar said.

“We have also commenced operation along Tochi Valley that leads towards Dattakhel in the west and we have managed to secure area till Boya Bridge that is almost halfway through to Dattakhel in a very short span of time. There was a little bit of resistance but that was overcome.”

Two-kilometre long tunnel: The GOC Miramshah said his forces had discovered a tunnel in Machis Camp that was two kilometres long.

“I couldn’t find the other end of it. It should be something close to two kilometres. Just one tunnel and it’s very well laid out structure where these people used to hide and the leadership used to hide during military operation,” he said.

Al Qaeda shop: He said that there were signs and signature of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement and Al Qaeda in the town. “There is evidence of Al Qaeda,” he said.

Gen Zafar said the town’s main bazaar had an ‘Al Qaeda shop’ run by AQ members. “They sold sensitive military-oriented kind of gadgetry which is used for enhancing their range of communication, enhancing the efficacy of their IEDs, some research and development with reference to the manufacturing of future generation of IEDs.”

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Germany inflict trauma on Brazil

Reuters

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s dream of winning the World Cup on home soil was shattered on Tuesday when they suffered a humiliating 7-1 loss to ruthless Germany in an extraordinary semi-final in Belo Horizonte.

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s dream of winning the World Cup on home soil was shattered on Tuesday when they suffered a humiliating 7-1 loss to ruthless Germany in an extraordinary semi-final in Belo Horizonte.

The carnival atmosphere that had swept over the samba nation during the tournament gave way to a state of shock and disbelief as Brazil suffered their heaviest ever defeat.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari apologised to the nation and said it was his fault the team lost one of the most incredible World Cup mat­ches ever played.

“The blame for this catastrophic result can be shared between us all, but the person who decided the line-up, the tactics was me. It was my choice,” Scolari said.

“We tried to do what we could, we did our best – but we came up against a great German team. We couldn’t react to going behind. Not even the Germans can tell you how this happened – but it’s because of their skills and you have to respect that.

“My message for the Brazilian people is this. Please excuse us for this performance. I’m sorry that we weren’t able to get to the final – and we’re going to try to win the third place match. We still have something to play for.”

Germany played superbly but were aided by a woeful Brazilian defence, which conceded five goals in a devastating 18-minute burst in the first half.

An unmarked Thomas Mueller got the first from a corner after 11 minutes before Miroslav Klose struck to become the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer with 16 goals.

Toni Kroos grabbed two in three minutes before Sami Khedira added a fifth in the 29th minute as boos rang out around the Mineirao stadium and young children in the crowd started to cry.

German substitute Andre Schuerrle struck twice more late in the second half before Oscar scored a last-minute goal for Brazil that was of little consolation to the five-times world champions.

“This is the worst defeat that Brazil has ever had, but it happened,” Scolari said.

“Life goes on, my life will go on, we have to look into those details (of the match) and see what we can do differently.”

FANS TRAUMATISED: Germany now have the chance to win the World Cup for the fourth time. In Sunday’s final they will play the winners of the semi-final between Argentina and the Netherlands.

Many fans at Copacabana Beach, who had been happily singing and dancing with excitement before the game, left before halftime, traumatised by what had just unfolded.

JOY IN GERMANY: In Germany, the celebrations were in full swing, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the avenue stretching from the Brandenburg Gate to the golden statue-topped Victory Column.

Organisers extended the fan zone to 1.3 kilometres in anticipation of the massive crowd which roared with excitement as each goal was banged into the Brazilian net.

“Five goals in 18 minutes. It’s clear that they were shocked and didn’t know what to do,” German coach Joachim Loew said.

“We played well in the first half obviously. But it continues. We need to be humble. We don’t want to overvalue this.”

Germany’s win came exactly 24 years to the day since their last World Cup win in 1990, when they beat Argentina in the final. They lost to Brazil in the 2002 final and were knocked out in the semi-finals when they hosted the tournament in 2006.

“We had great hopes in 2006 too and you can feel the pressure that the hosts have in a match like this,” said Loew.

“All 200 million people here want you to get to the final. That can cause your players to tighten up. I feel sorry for him (Scolari). I think I know how he feels.”

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

PTI targets Sharif after Arsalan’s move

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf moved on Wednesday to seek Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification for alleged concealment of facts in his nomination forms submitted for last year’s elections.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf moved on Wednesday to seek Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification for alleged concealment of facts in his nomination forms submitted for last year’s elections.

PTI MNAs Ali Mohammad Khan and Murad Saeed filed an application with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to obtain a copy of the prime minister’s nomination forms to initiate the process of disqualification through a proper channel.

This is seen as a tit-for-tat response to a similar request made by Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, son of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, to obtain a copy of nomination papers filed by PTI chairman Imran Khan. A PTI leader had accused the PML-N of being behind the move, alleging that it was in continuation of the favours doled out by Dr Arsalan’s father to the ruling party during the elections.

Citing a Lahore High Court judgment recorded in PLD-1993, the PTI lawmakers said Mr Sharif had been convicted under civil and criminal liability which he had concealed in his nomination papers.

They said that according to a book, Upset 2008, written by Mehmood Sham, Mr Sharif had lied about his agreement with the then government of President Pervez Musharraf to stay in exile for 10 years.

They said he had also taken political bribes as had been proved in the Asghar Khan case and his involvement in the Mehran Bank scandal, which disqualified him under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. This had been concealed in his nomination papers.

They also cited media reports according to which the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had declared Mr Sharif a defaulter and criminally liable and had submitted its reservations to the ECP.

“We as citizens of Pakistan and MNAs wish to exercise our right to know the information placed in the nomination papers of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from NA-120, Lahore,” the application said.

Asked to comment on the matter, Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rasheed said all the issues raised in the application had been raised in the past on different forums by the prime minister’s political opponents and the courts had adjudicated upon them.

“If they want to do it again, they are free to do it.”

However, he said it was a good omen that instead of street agitation, the PTI had chosen a legal path this time. “We welcome this, but seek a commitment from the PTI that the verdict will be respected,” he said.

The minister said the PTI had a track record of refusing to accept decisions of courts, tribunals and the ECP. He said that while the PTI refused to accept the decisions it went to the same forums again and again. “The party must review its two-faced policy,” he said.

He said the PML-N had responded to the issues raised by its opponents in the past and was still ready to do so.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

14 hours of loadshedding

Ahmad Fraz Khan

LAHORE: Wednesday turned out to be the toughest day so far this summer as mercury rose to mid-40s Celsius in most parts of the country and electricity shortfall exceeded 7,500MW – resulting in over 14 hours of loadshedding in urban areas and even more in rural areas.

LAHORE: Wednesday turned out to be the toughest day so far this summer as mercury rose to mid-40s Celsius in most parts of the country and electricity shortfall exceeded 7,500MW – resulting in over 14 hours of loadshedding in urban areas and even more in rural areas.

By noon, the demand soared to 21,500MW with the generation recorded at 14,700MW. By the peak hours (6pm to 11pm), which included Iftar time, the demand rose by another 1,000MW while generation went up by only 300MW.

It was the most difficult day so far, conceded an official of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco). “Things have gone so bad that the Ministry of Water and Power instructed all its companies (generation, transmission and distribution) to stop sharing even routine data with the media. No media releases were issued as the situation went completely out of hand,” he admitted.

“Even massive water releases from Tarbela Dam did not help because the dam level was too low to allow full generation even with full releases,” said an official of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company. The dam contributed only 2,900MW – a deficit of almost 550MW – because of lower head level. The Mangla releases are down to 25,000 cusecs. It literally drained the hydel option out of the system, he said.

Also read: Pepco data shows no increase in power generation in a year

“The money squeeze and resulting fuel supply shortage hit government’s own plants hard,” says an official of the Genco Holding Company.

The plants are down to only three-day stocks and are getting only 3,000 to 4,000 tons a day against total requirement of well above 15,000 tons. The sector cannot pay its dues as collections are down to 87 per cent which, in fiscal terms, mean a cash shortage of around Rs130 billion. Add another Rs40bn to the tally that system suffers because of line losses over and above the permissible limit. This loss of Rs170bn explains the fuel squeeze that is hampering the Genco generation – generating anywhere between 1,300MW to 2,000MW, depending on the planning.

Adding another layer to the crisis is the fact that the government has to save fuel and water also for the Sehar and Iftar. This in practical terms worsens the situation for the rest of the day, he said.

“The Pakistan State Oil is reeling under the debt of Rs160bn because of the power sector,” says the Pepco official. With oil supplies down, Gencos and IPPs have seen their contribution going down substantially.

All this means that more than half of the country is without power at any given time. One still has to deduct four per cent transmission losses and the countless feeders exempted from loadshedding to arrive at the exact figure available to common consumers.

The real help at this time can come only from the Mother Nature, which can provide some relief in temperature. Otherwise, according to him, if the meteorological forecast turns out to be true for the next few days (mercury rising even further), the country is in for more gruelling days.

Also see: Govt starts evaluating 4,250MW coal-based power plants

“There is simply no solution to the crisis if the statement of the secretary for water and power is to be believed that the system cannot sustain more than 15,000MW and becomes red hot beyond that level,” he said. Few in the sector accept the secretary’s claim, but if that is taken as a benchmark, the disastrous conclusion will be: the system can handle only 15,000MW and the demand has gone beyond 22,000MW. That means 7,000MW, even if available, cannot be taken to people and 14-hour loadshedding will now be part of life during the summer, he concluded.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Govt-army relations improving, claims PML-N

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif held an hour-long one-to-one meeting on Wednesday, something which, according to a government source, has become a regular feature whenever the two meet.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif held an hour-long one-to-one meeting on Wednesday, something which, according to a government source, has become a regular feature whenever the two meet.

According to an official communiqué released after the meeting, the two discussed the Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan. But a source in the PML-N said these regular meetings between the army chief and the prime minister were meant to send a message to detractors that both leaders “are on the same page”.

Observers believe that the ongoing trial under Article 6 of retired General Pervez Musharraf and the standoff between the Inter-Services Intelligence and a media house led to differences between the civilian and military leaderships.

“While this is true to a certain extent, the relationship is getting better with time,” the PML-N leader said, adding that the government was fully behind the army and will provide it with all available resources to fight militants.

A senior military official told Dawn that one-to-one meetings between the prime minister and the army chief weren’t an entirely new phenomenon. During the PPP’s tenure, both leaders met each other regularly, he said, adding that this was the prime minister’s prerogative.

Dismissing rumours that the military establishment was pushing anti-government political parties to join hands, the officer said: “The army is focused on the operation in North Waziristan and looking after the internally displaced persons (IDPs). We are happy that all political parties are supporting the army against the militants.”

Also read: 80pc of Miramshah cleared, army says

Both leaders must have discussed a host of issues and there could be a difference of opinion on some matters, he said, adding that their recent meetings have focused purely on the military operation.

Asked if the top brass had let bygones be bygones over the recent standoff between the ISI and a media house, the military official said: “A broad-based consensus for the military operation against militants and for the upkeep of IDPs is a great support for the soldiers, but, it doesn’t mean that all other issues have been settled.”

As per the official release, the army chief briefed the prime minister on Zarb-i-Azb and told him that the operation was proceeding successfully according to the stated objectives.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lauded the bravery and courage of the armed forces and praised their contributions in making the operation a success.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Shah wants govt term reduced to 4 years

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the Natio­nal Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has called for reducing the term of elected governments in the country from five to four years and has suggested that the Constitution be amended to allow senior bureaucrats and lawyers also to be considered for appointment as chief election commissioner (CEC).

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the Natio­nal Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has called for reducing the term of elected governments in the country from five to four years and has suggested that the Constitution be amended to allow senior bureaucrats and lawyers also to be considered for appointment as chief election commissioner (CEC).

The PPP leader, who met Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Monday for consultations over the appointment of a new CEC, told reporters at Parliament House on Tuesday that a constitutional restriction, stipulating that the commissioner could only be taken from the judiciary, had limited their choices.

“If there is no suitable judge for the office, where will we get a new CEC from,” he asked.

Mr Shah claims that these are his personal views and not formally endorsed by the party.

The proposals have come as the National Assembly speaker is expected to notify a 33-member parliamentary committee on electoral reforms.

Currently, the CEC is appointed under Article 213 of the Constitution and its Clause 2, which reads: “No person shall be appointed as the Commissioner unless he is, or has been, a judge of a high court and is qualified under paragraph (a) Clause 2 of Article 177 to be appointed as judge of the Supreme Court.”

Mr Shah also called for further empowering the CEC, saying that right now the commissioner was only playing the role of a simple member.

The opposition leader wrote to the prime minister last month, asking him to initiate the process for new CEC’s appointment.

The office of the CEC fell vacant when retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim voluntary resigned in July last year after allegations of rigging and irregularities in the May 11 general elections were levelled by nearly all major political parties.

Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali of the Supreme Court is now the acting CEC. Before him, Justice Nasirul Mulk and Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani had also served on this position.

Justice Ebrahim was the first person appointed as the CEC after the passage of the 18th Constitution Amendment, which also increases the CEC’s tenure from three to five years.

The CEC was earlier appointed by the president, but under Article 213 of the Constitution, the prime minister is now required to forward three names to the parliamentary committee for confirmation after consultations with the leader of opposition in the National Assembly.

Talking about the prevailing political situation in the country, Mr Shah said he believed that all issues and political disputes could be resolved if the term of the government was reduced to four years from five.

However, he said the incumbent PML-N government should be allowed to complete its five-year term and the amendment seeking a reduction in the term of the federal and provincial governments should come into effect after the next general elections.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

History hangs heavy on today’s semi-final

Umaid Wasim in Sao Paulo

In a clash steeped in World Cup history, the Netherlands and Argentina face off in what promises to be a semi-final classic at Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians on Wednesday.

In a clash steeped in World Cup history, the Netherlands and Argentina face off in what promises to be a semi-final classic at Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians on Wednesday.

In four previous meetings between the two sides, the Dutch have prevailed twice. Argentina won one and the other game ended in a draw.

But Argentina’s victory came in the biggest match of them all — at the final of the 1978 World Cup.

Four years after being hammered 4-0 by the Dutch in their second-round match, a Mario Kempes-inspired Argentina claimed their first World Cup title with a 3-1 win after extra-time.

The two sides then waited for 20 years before clashing again, with a sublime Dennis Bergkamp goal giving the Dutch a 2-1 victory in the 1998 World Cup quarter-final.

Their last meeting didn’t follow the trends of the past, with both teams playing a goalless draw in their final group game at the 2006 World Cup. But the latest instalment of their storied rivalry is set to be anything but like that.

“They [Argentina] are a fantastic team,” Dutch goalkeeper Tim Krul, the star of their penalty shootout win over Costa Rica in the quarter-finals, said at a press conference on Sunday.

“They are in the semi-finals. You have to be a fantastic team to be there,” added the Newcastle United custodian, who made two saves to help the Dutch win the shootout 4-3 after the game had ended in a goalless draw on Saturday.

Also read: Germany humiliate Brazil 7-1 to reach World Cup final

“But we are a fantastic team as well and I think that we can be really confident with what we’ve shown and the players we’ve got.

“We’re re really fit, I think we’re fitter than most teams at the World Cup and we can be confident it should be a fantastic game.”

With penalties looming, Krul came on as a substitute in the last minute of extra-time for regular keeper Jasper Cillessen who is expected to return to goal against Argentina.

Cillessen will have his work cut out to stop Argentinean ace Lionel Messi from adding to the four goals he has already scored at the World Cup.

But Alejandro Sabella’s main concern would be the absence of Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria, who suffered a muscle tear during Argentina’s 1-0 quarter-final win against Belgium on Saturday.

But Argentina will be able to welcome back striker Sergio Aguero from injury and he is likely to start upfront with Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, who scored the winner against Belgium.

Left-back Marco Rojo returns after a suspension, but it is Messi who the Dutch believe they need to contain.

Messi showed his versatility against Belgium when he dropped behind Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi in a playmaker’s role, controlling the tempo of the game.

“We have to cut the supply line to Messi,” Dutch defender Bruno Martins Indi said.

If Argentina have Messi, the Dutch have Arjen Robben.

DUTCH PIVOT: Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal has changed his formations for each game, but Robben remains the focal point of their attack with his high-speed dribbling and shooting.

And along with striker and captain Robin Van Persie, the Argentinian defence will have their hands full to stop the trailblazing Dutch.

“We know that we are going to play against a team that is at its best when playing on the counter-attack, because of the pace they have in attack,” said Argentina’s midfielder Javier Mascherano.

“We need to make sure we don’t lose the ball unnecessarily. Concentration will be key, along with the way we set our stall out in the match, and we will need to be patient when it comes to making decisions.”

Van Gaal’s only injury concern will be defensive stalwart Ron Vlaar, who is a serious doubt for the semi-final with a knee injury.

Powerful defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong is already out with a torn groin muscle as the Netherlands look to end their tag of being one of the World Cup’s best bridesmaids.

The Dutch have been in the final three times and have lost on all occasions — in 1974, 1978 and 2010.

“The semi-finals are fantastic, but we know what it feels like to lose a World Cup, and we would love to win,” Netherlands winger Dirk Kuyt said.

Messi and company, though have different ideas. Having helped Argentina qualify for their first semi-finals since 1990, Messi believes the Argentina team is peaking at the right time.

“We produced a complete match against Belgium,” Messi said after their quarter-final win. “Argentina have gone a long time without reaching a semi-final and it was us who crossed the frontier.”

Probable teams:

NETHERLANDS: Jasper Cillessen, Stefan de Vrij, Ron Vlaar, Bruno Martins Indi, Dirk Kuyt, Daley Blind, Arjen Robben, Georginio Wijnaldum, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie, Memphis Depay.

ARGENTINA: Sergio Romero, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo, Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia, Enzo Perez, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi.

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

17 killed, over 100 injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza

AFP

GAZA CITY: Israeli attacks on Gaza on Tuesday killed at least 17 people and injured more than 100.

GAZA CITY: Israeli attacks on Gaza on Tuesday killed at least 17 people and injured more than 100.

In the worst strike, a missile slammed into a house in Khan Yunis after people had reportedly formed a human shield to protect it, killing seven people.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf Al Qudra told AFP two teenagers were among the dead and that at least another 25 people were wounded.

Know more: Israeli military offensive against Gaza

An eight-year-old child wounded in the attack later died of his injuries.

Witnesses said an Israeli drone fired a warning flare, prompting relatives and neighbours to gather at the house and shortly afterwards, an F-16 warplane fired a missile that levelled the building.

In response, Hamas said “all Israelis” would be potential targets for retaliation.

Shortly afterwards, two Palestinians were killed in a strike in Shejaiya, east of Gaza City.

The blast shook buildings in the city, and Hamas-run Al Aqsa TV replayed what it said was a video of the strike, which sent a tall cloud of debris into the air.

A further three air strikes killed three people, including a teenager.

One hit a motorised rickshaw in Beit Lahiya, killing a “young man,” and one west of Gaza City killed a 16-year-old boy, Mr Qudra said.

The third, a while later, hit Deit Al Balah in central Gaza, killing a Palestinian man, he said.

Earlier, three people were killed when a missile struck a car in the centre of Gaza City.

Al Aqsa TV showed gruesome images of charred body parts being loaded onto ambulance stretchers.

Relatives said all of them were Hamas militants, identifying one as Mohammed Shaaban, 32, a senior commander in Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades and head of the group’s naval operations.

The army confirmed targeting Shaaban, describing him as “a senior Hamas operative”.

In a separate strike near Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, another man was killed, with witnesses saying he was a Hamas militant.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army shot dead four men from the Brigades on a beach in Israel after they had infiltrated, not far from the Gaza border. “A number of terrorists came out of the ocean and attacked the base with Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades,” army spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

Hatchet buried, Nisar gets back to work

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: After burying the hatchet, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan held a three-hour one-to-one meeting on Tuesday, ostensibly to catch up on all pending business that has been delayed ever since the last time the two saw each other over a month ago.

ISLAMABAD: After burying the hatchet, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan held a three-hour one-to-one meeting on Tuesday, ostensibly to catch up on all pending business that has been delayed ever since the last time the two saw each other over a month ago.

According to a tailor-made statement issued after the meeting by the Prime Minister’s Office, the two discussed a host of issues, including the ongoing military action in North Waziristan, measures for the upkeep of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the Karachi operation and the overall security situation of the country and the recently-passed Protection of Pakistan Bill.

Moreover, the statement said, the two also discussed the prevailing political situation in the country following the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s call for a long march on the capital on August 14 if its concerns regarding electoral rigging in the 2013 elections were not addressed.

In their communiqué, though, the media wing of the PM’s Office specifically mentioned that the meeting took place ‘in a very cordial atmosphere’.

Chaudhry Nisar was in Lahore over the weekend, where he met the prime minister. Though he has publicly denied any rifts with the PML-N leadership, insiders say the meeting was meant to defuse the tensions simmering between the two senior leaders.

The interior minister, who is usually at the prime minister’s side on important occasions, was conspicuous by his absence from the all-important budget session at the National Assembly, something the press picked up on immediately. Rumours of tensions between the two were lent credence when Nisar remained absent from meetings held at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, reportedly, acted as mediator between the quarrelling leaders and made several trips to Islamabad to try and win over the sulking minister. Finally, Nisar travelled to meet Nawaz at his Jati Umrah residence in Raiwind, where the prime minister spends his weekends.

Talking to Dawn, a senior government official said, “Of course Chaudhry Nisar wasn’t happy with the prime minister, but there could be several reasons for that.” The official said that despite their differences “there was no doubt from day one that the two have no other option but to sit together and resolve their issues.”

“To us, everything seems normal now,” the official concluded.

On Monday, Chaudhry Nisar issued a press statement clarifying that he had no differences with the leadership and the parliamentary party. He also dispelled the impression that there were issues between him and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

Separately, Mr Dar also met the prime minister on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

Over 800,000 displaced persons registered

Dawn Report

PESHAWAR/BANNU: The number of registered people displaced from North Waziristan crossed 800,000 mark on Tuesday and the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) is continuing the process of registration in Peshawar and Bannu.

PESHAWAR/BANNU: The number of registered people displaced from North Waziristan crossed 800,000 mark on Tuesday and the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) is continuing the process of registration in Peshawar and Bannu.

According to the authority, 833,274 people – 361,459 children and 248,633 women among them – have been registered so far. An official said the process would continue till July 14.

The alarming increase in the number of displaced persons is worrying the authorities. Officials concerned had estimated that about 600,000 people could be displaced as a result of the Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

Sources said that a sizeable number of people remained stranded in several parts of North Waziristan.

The FDMA has sent the data of displaced persons to the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) for verification. Of the 66,726 displaced families, 25,000 have been verified and are eligible for cash grant and food.

The official said the number of such families might come down after the verification because there were cases where a single household had been divided into several units in order to get additional financial benefits.

Nadra recently examined the data of 38,000 displaced families of which 25,000 were verified and 13,000 cases were rejected because of duplication

Meanwhile, Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the registration process required proper planning to avoid duplication and overlapping in distribution of relief.

Talking to journalists after visiting a distribution centre in Bannu on Tuesday, he said the population of North Waziristan had doubled to 800,000 from 400,000 in 1998.

BOMBING: Fighter jets bombed seven suspected hideouts in the Degan area of North Waziristan on Tuesday, leaving 13 militants dead, said the Inter-Services Public Relations. But the death toll could not be verified through independent sources.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

COAS vows to pursue militants to the finish

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief General Raheel Sharif visited troops on the frontlines in North Waziristan on Monday and talking to officers and men stressed the need for eliminating all terrorists and their sanctuaries in the area.

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief General Raheel Sharif visited troops on the frontlines in North Waziristan on Monday and talking to officers and men stressed the need for eliminating all terrorists and their sanctuaries in the area.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, the army chief was given a detailed briefing by the General Officer Comman­ding on the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb Operation.

It was Gen Sharif’s first visit to North Waziristan since the start of the operation against militants and their masterminds involved in acts of terrorism in the country.

A source told Dawn that the COAS also visited Miramshah Bazaar and got first-hand information from officers about the progress of the operation and outcome.

An ISPR spokesman said while talking to troops carrying out the operation in Miramshah, the army chief praised them for their courage, dedication and high state of morale and expressed satisfaction on the progress achieved so far.

He praised the entire chain of command for their determined efforts in planning, preparation, mobilisation and execution of the operation.

“General Raheel Sharif once again emphasised on the officers and men to eliminate all local and foreign terrorists and their sanctuaries,” he said.

“Alluding to the end-objective, the COAS affirmed that terrorists would be chased and hunted down across the country till their final elimination.”

Gen Sharif acknowledged and appreciated what he called the support of the entire nation. He was quoted as saying: “With unflinching national resolve and clear direction, we will accomplish our mission and rid Pakistan of the scourge of terrorism.”

The army chief paid rich tribute to the troops who sacrificed their lives and suffered injuries during the operation.

Praising internally displaced persons (IDPs) for their sacrifices to restore the writ of the state, the army chief acknowledged the national spirit and support forthcoming for them from across the country.

He reaffirmed that the army would not abandon the tribal brethren in their hour of need and render all possible assistance to the government and various organisations in providing them maximum relief.

Gen Sharif also assured that the army would play its role in rebuilding and restoring normalcy in North Waziristan.

On his arrival at Miramshah, he was received by Lt Gen Khalid Rabbani, Corps Commander, Peshawar.

Reacting to reports that terrorists in North Waziristan were shaving their beards in order to penetrate into settled areas, sources in the army said terrorists had been encircled in a way that they could not escape.

They said IDPs coming out of the surrounded area had to pass through a verification process. Their computerised national identity cards were checked and matched with their family tree from the National Database Registration Authority’s data.

After going through the verification process, displaced persons were asked where they wanted to go and if they mentioned any of their relatives, details of the relatives were sought and they were contacted to ascertain if they had any relation or link with these people.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Brazil face Germany in clash of titans today

Umaid Wasim

THEY have won eight World Cups between them, but remarkably Brazil and Germany have met just once in the tournament prior to their semi-final clash at the Estadio Minerao on Tuesday.

THEY have won eight World Cups between them, but remarkably Brazil and Germany have met just once in the tournament prior to their semi-final clash at the Estadio Minerao on Tuesday.

That meeting came in Yok­ohama (Japan) in the final of the 2002 World Cup, where two goals from Ronaldo sealed a 2-0 win for Brazil.

When the two football powerhouses meet this time around, however, Brazil will be missing Neymar, the star of this year’s tournament.

The 22-year-old Barcelona striker, like Ronaldo 12 years ago, was expected to lead the Selecao to their sixth World Cup crown, but fractured a vertebra during Brazil’s 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarter-finals.

Now the onus is on the rest of the Brazilian players to reach against a German side which is in the semi-finals for the fourth World Cup in a row.

And Germany believe Neymar’s absence will merely serve to unite the Brazilian team.

Related: All change as physical Brazil tackle German guile

“It will bring the Brazil team together and they’ll want to win the title for him,” German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger told a press conference in Santo Andre on Sunday.

“They’ll derive strength from that. We’re [German team] all sad that Neymar can’t play, it’s always better when the opponent has all their best players on the pitch.”

Neymar will likely be replaced by either Willian or Bernard on Tuesday and Brazil need to overcome the loss if they are to keep their dream alive of winning the World Cup at home.

“We were all very sad at the situation and also because Neymar was very sad. Of course the whole group has felt his loss,” Bernard said during a press conference in Teresopolis on Sunday.

“He is a big loss not just as a player but also as a person. He is always smiling and saying positive things. But we have to be calm and overcome it. We know that we have other players who will be able to replace him.”

That looks likely to be Willian, the 25-year-old Chelsea attacker who took Neymar’s position when Brazil’s reserves played against a local under-20 squad at their training camp outside Rio de Janeiro.

“You can’t compare Neymar to any other player, he has a lot of quality,” Willian said on Sunday, sitting alongside Bernard.

“I have a different style. He is more of a striker, scores more goals, while my strong suit is to set up my team-mates.

“But I’m ready, I’m ready if Felipao [coach Luiz Felipe Scolari] choose me, I will try to come in and do my best.”

Scolari masterminded Brazil’s victory over Germany in the final of 2002, but besides Neymar, he is also set to miss captain Thiago Silva through suspension after the Paris St German defender picked up a second yellow card of the tournament during the win against Colombia.

Bayern Munich’s Dante is Silva’s likely replacement while fellow defender David Luiz will probably take the captain’s armband.

The Brazilian football confederation (CBF) is trying to get overturned Silva’s suspension and FIFA said it was analysing the request, but it remained unlikely Brazil would get their way.

Also read: Brazilian voodoo priest to “bind” German legs

RESPECT FOR OPPOSITION: Despite the absences, though, Schweinsteiger believes Brazil remain a class outfit.

“They have two coaches in Scolari and [technical director] Carlos Alberto Parreira who have won the title already, they have the home advantage and players with individual class,” said Schweinsteiger.

“Their coaches have a lot of experience of this kind of situation. It’s an honour and a challenge to play against the hosts.”

Germany are without a World Cup win since 1990 and an international title since Euro 96, but Schweinsteiger is convinced they finally have a team that can deliver the killer punch after having come very close on each of the last four occasions.

A hard-fought 1-0 victory over France in the quarter-finals was an indication that the current German team can grind out results when it needs to.

“We’re a step further now,” said the Bayern Munich stalwart. “Not only is the team a step further but every player has developed further with their clubs. The number of really good players on the team is greater now than before.

“The mood on our team is very good and focused. We are more mature, we have more experience and we have a deep bench with more options. We want to win.”

Unlike Brazil, Germany have no fresh injury concerns. Backup defender Shkodran Mustafi is already out of the tournament with a torn leg muscle.

The main concern for assistant coach Hansi Flick, however, is Brazil’s rough tackling which has been a feature of its game at the World Cup.

“Brazil are an outstanding team which plays at the limit of the allowed and will go over the limit if necessary,” Flick told a press conference on Sunday. “We expect a very strong opponent.”

Probable teams:

BRAZIL: Julio Cesar, Marcelo, Maicon, Dante, David Luiz, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Willian, Oscar, Hulk, Fred.

GERMANY: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Benedikt Hoewedes, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze, Thomas Mueller.

Referee: Marco Rodriguez (Mexico). 

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Arsalan wants Imran disqualified

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Arsalan Iftikhar, son of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, announced on Monday that he would file a reference against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan who, he alleged, was not eligible to contest elections. He submitted an application to the Election Commission to obtain a copy of his nomination papers.

ISLAMABAD: Arsalan Iftikhar, son of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, announced on Monday that he would file a reference against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan who, he alleged, was not eligible to contest elections. He submitted an application to the Election Commission to obtain a copy of his nomination papers.

Dr Arsalan’s recent appointment as vice-chairman of Balochistan’s Board of Investment had been described by the PTI chief as a reward for alleged favours doled out by his father during last year’s elections to a party.

In the application aimed at initiating legal proceedings to seek Mr Khan’s disqualification as a member of parliament, Dr Arsalan claimed that according to evidence gathered by him, the PTI chief was not qualified to contest elections.

He said Mr Khan has not made correct declaration about his children in the nomination papers.

He said the matter regarding a daughter had been adjudicated upon by the Los Angeles Superior Court in the US, where Mr Khan had not denied the parentage.

The application alleged that Mr Khan had grossly violated Article 62 of the Constitution and proved that he was not a truthful person with a good moral character; thus he was neither righteous nor sagacious and had rendered himself to be disqualified from being a member of parliament.

Commenting on the move, PTI spokesperson Dr Shirin Mazari said that Arsalan Iftikhar was known to be a corrupt person and his application should not be entertained. She rejected the allegations levelled in the application and said such charges had been hurled on Mr Khan in the past as well.

PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi went a step ahead and alleged that Dr Arsalan had been fielded as an opponent of the PTI by the ruling PML-N.

The PML-N refuted the allegation and said it did not believe in the politics of personal matters of individuals.

Under Article 63 of the Constitution, a reference seeking disqualification of a member of parliament can be filed with the Senate chairman or speaker of the National Assembly, as the case may be. If they don’t reject the reference, they are bound to refer the matter to the Election Commission within 30 days. The ECP has 90 days to decide on the matter.

An interesting situation will develop if a reference against Mr Khan is sent to Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq who had won the election against him. Mr Khan alleges that the constituency is among those where the PML-N had resorted to rigging.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Nisar sees some ministers conspiring against him

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has indicated that some of his cabinet colleagues nursing grudge may be covertly spreading propaganda against him.

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has indicated that some of his cabinet colleagues nursing grudge may be covertly spreading propaganda against him.

In a belated explanatory note released to media here on Monday, he said his recent meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had focused on national and political matters and had nothing to do with his reported differences with the PML-N leadership.

“How can I raise any personal issue when the country is engulfed in a quagmire of problems. It neither happened in the past nor will it happen now,” he added.

He said the meeting was not meant to lodge a complaint against any minister. Neither any minister is interfering in his ministry nor can someone meddle in it. “As a matter of fact my terms with not only parliament but also with the entire parliamentary party are pleasant in nature.”

Related: PM meets Nisar in bid to win back his trust

Chaudhry Nisar said he was surprised to see reports mentioning the name of Ishaq Dar and added that there was no misunderstanding between him and the finance minister. “We have a relationship based on respect and this is true when it comes to the nature of my terms with other members of the cabinet.”

He rejected a perception that more than one group was emerging within the PML-N. “However, if somebody is doing something for personal publicity, or one or two ministers are trying to quell the fire of their grudge by behind-the-scenes activities meant to play up something, it neither has any significance nor is it a matter of concern for me,” he said.

Many wonder why the interior minister chose to remain tight-lipped when reports about his abs­ence from parliament and his perceived opposition within the party were subject of TV talk shows.

He did not talk about a series of meetings with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who was reportedly trying to pacify him.

Reports suggested that certain elements in the party wanted retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch to be appointed as interior minister. There were also reports about his differences with Ishaq Dar, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq.

Also read: ‘Cracks’ surface in Nisar’s ties with PM

Reports started emerging in mid-June that Chaudhry Nisar was not happy with the leadership of Nawaz Sharif.

What lent credence to the perception was his prolonged absence from television channels after the Karachi airport came under attack on June 8. Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah had disclosed on the floor of the house that the prime minister could not trace his interior minister between the night of the attack and the next morning.

Chaudhry Nisar did not come to the National Assembly when the budget was presented. He skipped two assembly sessions attended by the prime minister.

Previously, he always remained by Nawaz Sharif’s side when the latter walked in.

There were reports that the interior minister was unhappy with the prime minister’s handling of the tussle between the Geo network and the military establishment. There were speculations also that Chaudhry Nisar wanted the prime minister to soften his stance against former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Ashraf Ghani ahead in disputed Afghan vote-count

AP

KABUL: Afghan officials released on Monday preliminary election results showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well in the lead for the presidency but said no winner could be declared because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud.

KABUL: Afghan officials released on Monday preliminary election results showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well in the lead for the presidency but said no winner could be declared because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud.

The announcement came as Ahmadzai is locked in a standoff with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has refused to accept any results until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated.

Many of Ahmadzai’s supporters didn’t wait for final results to celebrate. Hundreds took to the streets of Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, playing drums and dancing after hearing the news.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and said ballots from about 7,000 more of the nearly 23,000 polling stations would be audited.

“We cannot ignore that there were technical problems and fraud that took place during the election process,” the commission’s chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said, adding: “We are not denying fraud in the election; some governors and Afghan government officials were involved in fraud.”

The results showed that Ghani had about 4.5 million votes, or 56 per cent, while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, or 44pc, according to the commission. Turnout was more than 50pc, IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting on April 5 by a large margin, says his campaign monitors recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities, prompting him to suspend his cooperation with electoral officials.

The European Union also expressed concern about “highly worrying indications of potentially widespread fraud”.

The US also urged caution. “We have seen today’s announcement of preliminary results and note that these figures are not final or authoritative and may not predict the final outcome, which could still change based on the findings of the Afghan electoral bodies,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.—AP

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Over half a million IDPs registered

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Over half a million people displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan have been registered so far.

ISLAMABAD: Over half a million people displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan have been registered so far.

A freshly consolidated report, submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday, puts the number of registered internally displaced persons (IDPs) at 572,529.

At least 44,633 families have fled their homes in the restive tribal agency after the military launched Operation Zarb-i-Azb, targeting terrorist sanctuaries in the area, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The spiralling number of displaced people is alarming, as many fear the government and other aid agencies may not be able to cope with such a large number of refugees.

On June 24, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch had said the government estimated the total number of IDPs from North Waziristan to be around 600,000, adding that they had made arrangements to provide food and shelter to over half a million people.

Now though, as the number inches dangerously close to that ceiling, government and aid officials say that the number is inflated by duplication and that once the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) sifts through the data, this number might rise or fall.

Related: IDPs’ registration: 13,000 cases rejected for duplication

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid told Dawn the prime minister had promised that no expense would be spared in taking care of IDPs. “Each family coming from North Waziristan is being registered through Nadra and will receive financial assistance after due verification,” he said.

Mr Rashid said that according to government estimates, each family would receive Rs40,000 in cash and rations worth Rs30,000 in the first month. As per the prime minister’s orders, each registered family is expected to receive compensation through Zong mobile phone SIMs, starting July 8.

The report released to the press by the PM Office reveals that Rs329.57 million has been distributed among 27,664 families in financial support, while 4,500 tons of relief goods have been provided to 31,000 registered families in collaboration with the Pakistan Army and the World Food Programme (WFP).

About 5,000 food packages, weighing 110 kilogrammes each, are being distributed every day at 11 distribution points and non-food items, such as household goods, have also been distributed among 31,000 families.

Opinion: The persecuted

WFP spokesperson Amjad Jamal told Dawn it was difficult to be certain at the moment, as more and more refugees continued to flood into government camps every day. “There are many cases where different male members from the same family unit have registered themselves separately. This is in addition to the scores of unregistered families and others who do not possess identity cards, which are a prerequisite for obtaining aid. Data-cleaning is under way and we will soon have a clear idea of the total number of internally displaced families,” Mr Jamal said.

The finance ministry has so far released Rs1.5 billion for the IDPs. The federal cabinet’s Economic Coordination Committee recently approved 60,000 tons of wheat worth Rs.2.8bn for distribution among the displaced. The army has also established 33 points countrywide to collect donations from the general public.

Rescue 1122 is contributing staff and equipment for relief efforts and 15 mobile veterinary clinics have been established in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Karak and Tank. These have treated more than 20,000 animals so far while another 42,000 animals have been vaccinated.

Among foreign donors, the US and UAE governments have released $31m and $20.5m, respectively.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Afghanistan hints at lowering power transit fee

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: Afghanis­tan has hinted that it may reduce the transit fee it wants to levy on electricity imported from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan through the proposed 1000-megawatt Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) transmission line project.

ISLAMABAD: Afghanis­tan has hinted that it may reduce the transit fee it wants to levy on electricity imported from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan through the proposed 1000-megawatt Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) transmission line project.

This has raised hopes in Islamabad, where policymakers were concerned by recent offers made by Moscow to its former central Asian states to buy out all surplus energy because Kabul’s exorbitant demands for transit fees were becoming an irritant for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, despite all possible support by the United States and the World Bank.

A senior government official told Dawn that in a couple of recent interactions with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, both the Afghan ambassador in Islamabad and the Afghan finance minister gave clear indications that Kabul was ready to show flexibility.

Kabul had been demanding 2.5 US cents per unit as transit fee for the delivery of Central Asian electricity to Pakistan, a demand considered ‘unreasonable and unrealistic’ by Islamabad.

Pakistan had offered to pay 0.56 US cents per unit to Afghanistan, according to World Bank estimates. But in the interests of moving the project along, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is reported to have conveyed: “As a goodwill gesture towards a friendly neighbour, we can go up to 0.99 cents per unit but will not cross one cent per unit,” an official privy to the communication told Dawn.

The official said Afghanistan’s response was very encouraging as it signalled willingness from their side to move things forward. The Afghan side, he said, was appreciative of the Pakistan’s overtures, including the Pak-Afghan Transit Trade, and admitted that it was time for Kabul to reciprocate.

Energy and economic affairs officials from both sides were directed to follow up and technical teams are expected to meet soon. But a final decision could be announced after the new Afghan president takes office in a few weeks.

Also read: Pakistan, Tajikistan agree to strengthen cooperation

This move comes as Pakistan and Tajikistan agreed on a sale purchase rate of 5.1 cents per unit under the CASA-1000 project during a recent visit there by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Buying electricity from Central Asia suits Pakistan because it can feed Pakistan’ struggling power grid during the summer months when demand is the highest.

Originally, Tajikistan had also sought 3.5 cents per unit but then increased their asking rate to 7 cents per unit. Finally, the deal was closed at 5.1 cents per unit.

Peace in Afghanistan continues to remain a major challenge to the project because a major part of the transmission line has to pass through troubled parts of Afghanistan. The World Bank approved the CASA-1000 project, offering $120 million, out of a total loan of $552 million, for the laying of transmission lines in Pakistan.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.16 billion and major financiers include the Islamic Development Bank and other donors.

According to the World Bank, the Central Asia-South Asia Electricity transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000), will cost $820 million and alleviate power supply shortages in South Asian countries while enhancing revenues in Central Asian states.

The World Bank group will provide $510m for the project; the Islamic Development Bank $280m; and bilateral agencies $30m.

According to details, the high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines are expected to commence from Sangtuda in Tajikistan and will pass through Kunduz, Pul-i-Khumri, Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan and end up in Peshawar.

The total length of the transmission lines is estimated to be 750km, 16 per cent of which passes through Tajikistan, 75 per cent through Afghanistan and 9pc through Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

S. American, European powerhouses in semi-finals

Agencies

RIO DE JANEIRO: The FIFA World Cup prepares for a heavyweight duel for supremacy between South American and European teams after a dream semi-final line-up is confirmed.

RIO DE JANEIRO: The FIFA World Cup prepares for a heavyweight duel for supremacy between South American and European teams after a dream semi-final line-up is confirmed.

The Netherlands, who have never won the World Cup but reached three finals, play Argentina in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, in one of the two classic match-ups. Germany will tackle Brazil in Belo Horizonte a day earlier.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Army urged to let foreign NGOs help refugees

Abdus Salam

BANNU: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan urged Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on Sunday to allow foreign NGOs to take part in relief work and help internally displaced persons (IDPs).

BANNU: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan urged Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on Sunday to allow foreign NGOs to take part in relief work and help internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Speaking to tribal elders on the occasion of opening a complaint cell in Bannu, he said no objection certificates should be immediately issued to NGOs so that they could bring relief goods from abroad.

Mr Khan said the IDPs had been facing an emergency-like situation in which the role of NGOs could not be ignored.

He said a helpline would be set up to facilitate foreign donor agencies and remove hurdles. The donors will be in touch with the IDPs to ascertain their requirements and supply the needed relief items.

Also read: Over half a million IDPs registered

Later talking to journalists, Imran Khan said he and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak would talk to the army chief to allow donor agencies access to the IDPs.

He said the focus should on solving the problems being faced by displaced women and keeping in view the tribal tradition the National Database and Registration Authority should set up a separate centre with female staff for registration of women.

The PTI chief criticised the Peshawar Electric Supply Company for carrying out long hours of loadshedding and said it compounded the misery of IDPs, especially those admitted to hospitals.

There should be a separate power line to ensure continuous supply of electricity to hospitals.

The PTI chief said efforts would be made to mitigate the problems of IDPs.

The provincial and federal governments should monitor the performance of the national and provincial disaster management authorities because their role was crucial at this stage.

Related: IDPs’ registration: 13,000 cases rejected for duplication

Mr Khan said that during his visit to the Bannu hospital, doctors told him that they were facing shortage of medicines and the available stock could meet the requirement for only two or three days.

He urged the federal government to announce Rs15 billion as health grant for the IDPs.

Prior to the military operation, he said, the KP government had been told that only 100,000 displaced people would come to the province.

But the number had now reached 750,000, putting the provincial government in trouble to handle them, he added.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Altaf expresses full support for operation

Azfar-ul-Ashfaque

Speaking at an impressive rally held to express solidarity with the Pakistan Army at the Jinnah Park, adjacent to the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum, via video link from London, Mr Hussain assured the armed forces that the entire MQM was with them in the fight against militancy.

Speaking at an impressive rally held to express solidarity with the Pakistan Army at the Jinnah Park, adjacent to the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum, via video link from London, Mr Hussain assured the armed forces that the entire MQM was with them in the fight against militancy.

Despite Ramazan, a large number of MQM workers and supporters gathered at the venue before Iftar to express solidarity with the operation Zarb-i-Azb. Participants were carrying national flags and raised slogans in support of the army.

The MQM supremo, who has been living in London in self-exile for over two decades, used the opportunity to demonstrate his control over his workers, as there was a pin-drop silence in the Jinnah Park when he counted up to three.

He said that the army chief and his generals and jawans were a brave team fighting militants without caring for their own lives.

“This huge gathering salutes every officer and jawan of the army who are fighting and defeating the enemy on every front,” he said. “We also pay tribute to all those army men who sacrificed their lives in the fight to eradicate terrorism.”

Mr Hussain said the operation was the first phase after which the phase in which feudals, landlords and corrupt politicians would be held accountable in accordance with law would be launched.

Commenting on the treason trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, he said that if some people wanted to hold the retired general accountable under Article 6 of the Constitution, they have to take action also against former army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and all those who had aided and abetted Musharraf in his first coup in 1999. “Gen Kayani should be detained in a place next to Musharraf’s house,” he added.

Criticising the country’s judicial system, Mr Hussain said it was surprising that one prime minister was summoned in court and then dismissed, but no action was taken against another prime minister despite a number of cases against him.

He expressed sympathy for the people of North Waziristan who had to leave their homes due to the army operation. He appealed to the people to come up with donations for helping the internally displaced persons who had been held hostage by the Taliban.

Mr Hussain thanked Shaikh Rashid Ahmed, veteran politicians Ilahi Bukhsh Soomro, Mairaj Mohammad Khan and Ahmed Raza Kasuri and others for attending the event.

Representatives of various political parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, PML-Functional, PML-Q, Shaikh Rashid’s Awami Muslim League, Pervez Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League, Balochistan National Party and others also attended the rally.

They praised the MQM for standing behind the army, which is currently fighting on various fronts.

They said the soldiers and officers who sacrificed their lives for the country should be paid appropriate tribute.

The Muttahida had made arrangement for the Iftar of all participants of the rally. According to the MQM, it had distributed 100,000 Iftar boxes.

A few scenes of disorder were witnessed, but MQM volunteers controlled the situation in no time.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

PM meets Nisar in bid to win back his trust

Zulqernain Tahir

LAHORE: Prime Minis­ter Nawaz Sharif tried to placate an ‘angry’ Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a meeting at his residence in Raiwind on Saturday.

LAHORE: Prime Minis­ter Nawaz Sharif tried to placate an ‘angry’ Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a meeting at his residence in Raiwind on Saturday.

The interior minister is likely to get back in the saddle soon after a hiatus of one month or so.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif flew Chaudhry Nisar to Raiwind from Model Town by helicopter at 11am. In the first meeting, which lasted about an hour, Shahbaz was also present. After that Nawaz Sharif and Nisar had a one-to-one meeting, dissecting the matters that alienated the latter from the PML-N leadership.

According to sources close to the party, Nawaz Sharif had words of comfort for the interior minister. “You are my friend and an important leader of my party,” the prime minister said, in an attempt to win back the trust of an embittered Chaudhry Nisar.

“The party cannot afford differences between its key members. The country is facing enormous challenges and needs your expertise,” a source quoted the premier as having reassured Nisar Ali Khan.

Nawaz Sharif also assured Chaudhry Nisar that there would be no interference in his ministry by any other PML-N member or minister. “[From] now onwards you will directly speak to me if there is any issue related to your ministry or policy making,” Nawaz Sharif told him.

But he did not fail to remonstrate with Nisar that “being an old and trusted member of the party, you should not have remained ‘angry’ for such a long time”.

The source said Nisar complained to the premier that his opinion on important issues like the Pervez Musharraf case and Taliban was not given any weight. Besides, he added, he could no longer put up with “persistent meddling” by some minister in the affairs of his ministry. The source said Chaudhry Nisar wanted Mr Sharif to show magnanimity in the case of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf as he was of the opinion that the matter had become a ‘bone of contention’ between the government and the armed forces.

Nawaz Sharif, however, deferred the issue for the next meeting, the source said.

Pictures released by the government media showed the two leaders talking to each other in a solemn manner.

The source said Nawaz Sharif told Nisar that he would arrange a meeting between him and other ministers, especially Ishaq Dar and Khawaja Asif, in Islamabad next week where he (Nisar) could speak out his mind to remove misunderstandings.

Earlier, Chaudhry Nisar had hinted at quitting the interior ministry and distanced himself from the party. Shahbaz Sharif got active and called on him in Islamabad twice and finally persuaded him to see the prime minister to sort out matters.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Five indicted in Farzana murder case

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court indicted on Saturday five suspects in a murder case involving a young woman who had married a man of her choice and was bludgeoned to death in broad daylight.

LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court indicted on Saturday five suspects in a murder case involving a young woman who had married a man of her choice and was bludgeoned to death in broad daylight.

The accused are her father, two brothers, a cousin and her former husband.

The accused, along with accomplices, had killed Farzana Parveen of Nankana Sahib near the Lahore High Court premises when she was going to the court to testify in favour of her husband Mohammad Iqbal. They killed the three-month pregnant by hitting her with bricks.

The ATC handed over charge-sheets to Farzana’s father Mohammad Azeem, brothers Zahid and Ghulam Ali, cousin Jahan Khan and former husband Mazhar Abbas.

The accused, booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act, pleaded not guilty. The court directed the prosecution to produce witnesses on July 7.

The family of Farzana, which was against her marriage to Mohammad Iqbal, had lodged an abduction case against him. The murder was condemned at the national and international levels.

AFP adds: “The court today indicted the father, two brothers, one cousin and ex-husband of the victim for murder, torture and terrorism,” Mian Zulfiqar, the police officer investigating the case, said.

The United States branded the incident “heinous” and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif demanded immediate action to catch the killers.

Hundreds of women are murdered by their relatives in Pakistan each year on the grounds of defending family “honour”.

Husband of the murdered woman, Mohammad Iqbal admitted he had strangled his first wife out of love for Farzana Parveen.

He was spared jail for his first wife’s murder because his sons persuaded her family to pardon him.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Footprints: Pushing out the sea

Taha Siddiqui

THE prime minister recently inaugurated a coal-based power project in the vicinity of Port Mohammad Bin Qasim — the city’s busiest seaport — located on the outskirts of Karachi. The ceremony was dubbed by the media as ‘groundbreaking’ and there was live coverage of the event. PM Sharif also spoke about the vision he had for a developed and prosperous Karachi. However, all this appears a tad utopian, when one investigates the ‘ground’ where this power project is being undertaken. In fact, there was no land until a few months ago on the site located close to the coastline. 

THE prime minister recently inaugurated a coal-based power project in the vicinity of Port Mohammad Bin Qasim — the city’s busiest seaport — located on the outskirts of Karachi. The ceremony was dubbed by the media as ‘groundbreaking’ and there was live coverage of the event. PM Sharif also spoke about the vision he had for a developed and prosperous Karachi. However, all this appears a tad utopian, when one investigates the ‘ground’ where this power project is being undertaken. In fact, there was no land until a few months ago on the site located close to the coastline. 

And what I found during a recent visit to the site was truly appalling. Trucks loaded with heavy rocks, sand and pebbles, collected from elsewhere, could be seen dumping the material on one side, while bulldozers were busy pushing the dumped material to ‘create’ land. At the same time, tankers sprayed water on the land to get it to settle further down. It is through this process, known as land reclamation, that the government is procuring land for the coal-based power project that it plans to build here. 

But in the process of ‘making’ land, the government is pushing the sea outward. And it has cut down thousands of mangroves in the area, as one labourer working there told me. “We cut down the jungle so that we could fill up this space and create land for the new power project — you know the one recently inaugurated by Nawaz Sharif,” he said as he took me to his supervisor, a Chinese national. 

Also read: Slumlords of the sea

The foreigner, however, denied this. Although I could see some mangroves still intact just on the edge of the reclaimed land, the English-speaking Chinese manager refused to acknowledge that there were ever mangroves here. Or, for that matter, that the sea had been pushed out. “There was always land here,” he claimed.

Karachi’s coastline, which stretches to over 130 kilometres, is facing environmental degradation in the name of development, not only in this area but in other places too. For example, the Defence Housing Authority, managed by the Pakistan Army, has also created new land through this method and has sold it to local and international proprietors. 

The impact on the coast of pushing the sea outwards in some places and cutting down the mangroves are manifold — from destroying natural marine habitat to endangering coastal villages where fishermen have been living for centuries. One such area is Rehri Goth, where the sea has been pushed inwards, inundating multiple villages along the coast. 

“We have to move from here but we have no place to go,” says Usman Sheikh, a fisherman from Rehri Goth, as he stands knee-deep in water and shows his flooded house. 

Not only are these villages under threat, the residents’ livelihood is also at stake.  “I grew up here and never saw water levels rising so much that our homes were endangered. Also, finding fish and other seafood is becoming tough,” he adds. 

As we walk around the area, past home after home, destruction is visible everywhere, with abodes practically lost to the sea. “The government and the military are doing this in the name of development to earn profits in the short term, but what they don’t realise is that they are disturbing the ecological balance of this coast, which can create havoc in the long run not only for Karachi but for other coastal cities like Thatta and Badin as water levels continue to rise,” says Kamal Shah. Shah is a local of Rehri Goth and an activist of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), an independent organisation fighting for the rights of fishermen. 

Also read: Centre vows to assist Sindh in coal power projects

“Earlier it was the timber mafia that would cut down trees and sell wood, or the land mafia that would be involved in illegal land-filling. Now the government is doing the same. Even in the case of the coal project at Port Mohammad Bin Qasim, since the prime minister inaugurated the project, the Environmental Protection Agency did not dare raise any objections,” Shah adds.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Iraq crisis looms on Indian budget

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday he was keeping an eye peeled for the impact of the Iraq crisis on the economy, and announced just an additional Rs50 billion for the Defence Budge, taking the amount allocated to the Indian Defence to Rs2.29 trillion. In the interim budget presented by the Manmohan Singh government, the amount was Rs2.24 trillion.

NEW DELHI: Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday he was keeping an eye peeled for the impact of the Iraq crisis on the economy, and announced just an additional Rs50 billion for the Defence Budge, taking the amount allocated to the Indian Defence to Rs2.29 trillion. In the interim budget presented by the Manmohan Singh government, the amount was Rs2.24 trillion.

Mr Jaitley said he was conscious of the fact that Iraq crisis was leaving behind an impact on oil prices and that the situation in the Middle East continues to be volatile.

“I propose to increase the capital outlay for the defence by Rs5,000 crore over the amount provided in the interim budget. This includes a sum of Rs1,000 crore for accelerating the development of railway system in border areas,” Mr Jaitley said, adding that acquisition processes would be streamlined for making it speedy and more efficient.

He also proposed setting up of a war memorial at Prince’s Park near the India Gate in Delhi and a national police memorial and set aside Rs1 billion and Rs500 million for these, respectively.

He announced assistance in Maoist areas as well as for socio-economic development of villages along the borders.

Also read: Modi to target record asset sales in budget

On increasing FDI limit to 49 per cent through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) route in the defence sector with full Indian management and control, Mr Jaitley said: “India today is a largest buyer of defence equipment in the world and domestic manufacturing capabilities in this area are still in a nascent stage.

“We are buying substantial part of our defence requirements directly from foreign players, companies controlled by foreign governments and foreign private parties are supplying our defence requirements to us and at a considerable outflow of foreign exchange,” he said.

“Currently, we permit 26pc FDI in defence manufacturing. The composite cap of foreign exchange is being raised to 49pc with full Indian management and control through the FIPB route,” Mr Jaitley said. The last government had allowed FDI limit to 26pc through FIPB approval route and allowed FDI up to 100pc through the Cabinet Committee on Security-approval route.

For providing resources to public and private sector companies, including small and medium enterprises, to support research and development in developing defence systems, Mr Jaitley proposed a Rs1 billion Technology Development Fund to support the objective. He said a separate fund in this regard was announced in 2011 by the previous government “but beyond the announcement, no action was taken”.

The ministry has been seeking additional funds of Rs 400 billion since last few years, reports said.

Mr Jaitley took a break in the middle of his budget presentation because of a severe back pain and read out much of his speech sitting, an unusual departure from tradition.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Acting legend Zohra Sehgal dies at 102

Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI: In Saeed Mirza’s less discussed movie Naseem, poet Kaifi Azmi, who plays the idealistic grandfather of a doting Muslim girl, dies on the day the Babri Masjid is demolished. Acting legend Zohra Sehgal closed her eyes on Thursday, passing away at 102 shortly after the Narendra Modi government presented its first budget. She was his ardent critic.

NEW DELHI: In Saeed Mirza’s less discussed movie Naseem, poet Kaifi Azmi, who plays the idealistic grandfather of a doting Muslim girl, dies on the day the Babri Masjid is demolished. Acting legend Zohra Sehgal closed her eyes on Thursday, passing away at 102 shortly after the Narendra Modi government presented its first budget. She was his ardent critic.

Sehgal, who spent her last few years reviving progressive culture, liked often to recite Faiz Ahmed Faiz and a few other leftist poets to nudge her fawning audiences to fight the fight. However, she didn’t die grieving at the apparent failure of her comrades to tackle the resurgence of rightwing religious zealotry in India.

“I am preparing myself for that. When I go to sleep, I try to keep myself smiling,” she told the late writer Khushwant Singh in a memorable discussion shortly before his death recently. “So that when I die, I have a smile on my lips. And I want electric cremation. I don’t want any poems or fuss after that.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t bring back my ashes. Flush them down the toilet if the crematorium refuses to keep them. I tell all, if they tell you Zohraji is dead, I want you to give a big laugh. Think about the funny things. My funny face.”

Zohra ‘s sister Uzra Butt was a leading lady with Prithvi Theatre run by Prithviraj Kapoor. Though trained in ballet, she said: “Ballet was difficult at the beginning, but I wanted to learn it.” She started off her journey with Uday Shankar’s dance troupe and completed over eight decades of her journey in the industry.

According to some accounts, travelling to England to pursue her acting career was a choice that was the most sensible decision she made in her life. The Raj Quartet, The Jewel in the Crown, Tandoori Nights, My Beautiful Laundrette etc. came along.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Israel kills another 24 Palestinians in Gaza

AFP

GAZA CITY: Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza on Wednesday, killing 24 people in a major new confrontation with alleged Palestinian militants, as Hamas flexed its firepower and sent thousands of Israelis running for shelters across the country.

GAZA CITY: Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza on Wednesday, killing 24 people in a major new confrontation with alleged Palestinian militants, as Hamas flexed its firepower and sent thousands of Israelis running for shelters across the country.

As the death toll from Israel’s two-day Operation Protective Edge reached 45, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas accused Israel of committing “genocide” in Gaza.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appea­red bent on ploughing ahead, warning of even tougher action against Hamas.

There have been no Israeli deaths so far. But Hamas began flaunting its firepower overnight, launching waves of long-range rockets across central Israel that triggered sirens in cities as far away as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Sirens even sounded in the northern port city of Haifa, witnesses said, as unconfir­med reports spoke of a rocket hitting near Caesarea and another even further north.

Tanks massed on the Gaza border, AFP correspondents reported, as Prime Minister Netanyahu came under mounting pressure from hardliners within his governing coalition to send ground forces into the territory from which it pulled all troops and settlers in 2005.

Also read: 17 killed, over 100 injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza

Bellicose rhetoric followed from the premier. “We have decided to further intensify the attacks on Hamas and the terror organisations in Gaza,” his office quoted him as saying.

The escalation comes with Arab riots inside Israel over the burning to death of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists and the region in flames, with civil war raging in neighbouring Syria and conflict intensifying in Iraq.

The European Union and the US both called for restr­aint in the confrontation.

Six women and nine children were among 24 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza on Wednesday, medics said.

The deadliest single strike took place shortly after midnight when a missile slam­med into a house in northern Gaza, killing an alleged militant and five of his family members.

Raids to the north and east of Gaza City killed two women and four children, while a strike on Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza killed a woman and four of her children, emergency services said.

Another seven Palestinians died in other raids across Gaza throughout the day.

But the strikes failed to staunch the rocket fire by Gaza militants, which sent Israelis scurrying into shelters across an ever broadening swathe of the country.

Two long-range rockets crashed into the sea off the northern port city of Haifa on Wednesday, Israeli media reported, in an attack Hamas militants claimed.

Public radio said one struck near the seaside resort of Caesarea and another in the Carmel Beach region, both south of Haifa.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Modi’s controversial aide is new BJP president

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday elevated controversial leader Amit Shah to the post of its new party president, ignoring a convention that a person being tried for murder could not be given the office.

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday elevated controversial leader Amit Shah to the post of its new party president, ignoring a convention that a person being tried for murder could not be given the office.

Mr Shah is a close aide from Gujrat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is being tried in the so-called Sohrabuddin fake encounter killing after spending some days in jail.

The 50-year old politician is widely credited as the architect of Mr Modi’s astounding electoral victory, especially for fetching the BJP 73 of the 80 seats in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

Civil rights activists have accused Mr Shah of fomenting anti-Muslim violence in Muzaffarnagar in the run up to the April-May elections setting a communally divisive verdict.

“Modi has established full control of both the government and his party by having Amit Shah appointed as BJP President,” wrote senior columnist M.K. Venu on NDTV’s blog.

He said Mr Shah is there because he understands Mr Modi like no one else does. Such is the nature of their relationship that Mr Shah possibly sees himself as Mr Modi’s alter ego in many respects.

Mr Modi, the writer said, had stood by Amit Shah “through his worst travails in Gujarat when the latter was arrested and put in jail in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter killing case.”

He rehabilitated Mr Shah after his release from prison on bail and later gave him the responsibility of managing UP in the general elections.

Also read: Modi says ‘no honeymoon’ after one month as PM

“Shah had proved his skills in Gujarat at managing assembly victories with small percentage vote shifts. The UP election outcome pitch-forked Amit Shah to another league altogether as an organisation man.”

Addressing a news conference, outgoing party president and Home Minister Rajnath Singh lauded Mr Shah’s “management skills” and credited him with the BJP’s success in Lok Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh.

Considered an invaluable deputy to any leader, he has taken less than a year to catapult himself from a Gujarat BJP strongman to the party’s supremo on the national stage.

Most leaders in the BJP agree that Mr Shah, who was associated with the RSS in his early days, has earned every bit of his success.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

FC declines to help curb oil smuggling from Iran

Jamal Shahid

ISLAMABAD: Citing its limited resources, the Frontier Corps has declined to help the government in curbing oil smuggling from Iran into Balochistan, a Senate panel was informed on Wednesday.

ISLAMABAD: Citing its limited resources, the Frontier Corps has declined to help the government in curbing oil smuggling from Iran into Balochistan, a Senate panel was informed on Wednesday.

“The FC has its hands full trying to maintain security in the province and on the border. It is under-resourced. It cannot take on additional responsibilities under the circumstances prevailing in Balochistan,” Lt Col Naeem said at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedures and Privileges.

He said the paramilitary force was under-manned and ill-equipped and did not have vehicles and helicopters to monitor the 500km Pakistan-Iran border.

“There are pickets 70km apart and smugglers find a way across the border.”

He said the entire 500km belt had been sealed by trenches and barbed wires to make it difficult for smugglers to cross into the province. Still they find a way through the border and security checks.

“This is not possible without support of the Iranian government,” Lt Col Naeem alleged.

The issue was taken up by the committee after the interior minister had failed to respond to Senator Mohammad Talha Mehmood’s question in January about steps taken by the government to stop the cross-border oil smuggling.

The Senator had been seeking an answer to the question for over a year before it was referred to the committee.

The members of the committee said they realised that smugglers had been using the long and porous border for a long time. Oil smuggling from Iran has been a standard part of the trade for decades. Apart from other means of transportation, mules are used to ship oil canisters from the other side of the border. Small-scale smugglers hire children who carry bottles of fuel to the Pakistani territory.

They said that the authorities lacked the will and resources to police the border, adding that their complicity in the trade could not be ruled out.

Also read: Militants kill five FC soldiers in Balochistan

The meeting was told that because of sanctions on Iran, the smuggled oil cost less.

But most of the members said that it was high time that the smuggling was stopped because it caused immense loss to the government.

“Smuggled and sub-standard oil is being sold in Balochistan and Southern Punjab. This has to stop,” said a member.

But Lt Col Naeem insisted that the FC needed more resources to do the job. “Last year its budget was cut by 30 per cent. Another 30 per cent has been slashed this year. The FC cannot handle the extra task with limited resources,” he said.

He claimed that the prime minister had absolved the FC from the responsibility to assist the government in curbing the smuggling.

Despite that, he said, the FC had confiscated 1.4 million litres of oil over the past three months.

The chairperson of the committee, retired colonel Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, appeared to be not satisfied with the FC response.

Petroleum Secretary Abid Saeed assured the meeting that his department would look into the matter to prevent incidents like the Gadani tragedy of March, in which a bus carrying smuggled oil caught fire after an accident, killing dozens of people.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Both poll candidates in Indonesia claim victory

Reuters

JAKARTA: Both candidates claimed victory in Indonesia’s presidential election on Wednesday, suggesting there could be a drawn out constitutional battle to decide who will next lead the world’s third-largest democracy.

JAKARTA: Both candidates claimed victory in Indonesia’s presidential election on Wednesday, suggesting there could be a drawn out constitutional battle to decide who will next lead the world’s third-largest democracy.

Just a few hours after voting closed, Jakarta governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said he had won, based on quick counts of more than 90 per cent of the votes.

A victory for him would be seen as a triumph for a new breed of politicians that has emerged in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, and increase the promise of desperately needed reform in government.

But ex-general Prabowo Subianto, the rival candidate viewed as representative of the old guard that flourished under decades of autocratic rule, said other, unnamed, quick counts of votes favoured him.

Jokowi, on other hand, named tallies by six pollsters, most regarded as reliable and independent. They included three respected, non-partisan agencies — CSIS, Kompas and Saifulmujani — which provided accurate tallies in the April parliamentary election.

The results however are unofficial: the Election Commission will take about two weeks to make an official announcement and the new president is not due to take office until Oct 1.

“There are many quick counts from various survey agencies. But…the one that will be valid according to law in the end will be the verdict of the KPU (Election Commission),” Prabowo told a talk-show on a television channel.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Obama urges Afghan leaders to avoid violence

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has warned Afghan presidential candidates that he would stop US aid to Afghanistan if they resorted to violence to settle their dispute.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has warned Afghan presidential candidates that he would stop US aid to Afghanistan if they resorted to violence to settle their dispute.

President Obama spoke with the two candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, after it appeared that their dispute could lead to more violence in the war-torn country, the White House announced on Tuesday.

“He noted that there is no justification for resorting to violent or extra-constitutional means, which would result in the end of US assistance to Afghanistan,” said a transcript of the president’s conversation with the two Afghan leaders.

The White House also said that Mr Obama had asked Secretary of State John Kerry to continue his close consultations with the two candidates and with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Related: Extra-legal means in Afghanistan to affects US aid

The United States and its Western allies fear that the dispute between the two candidates could reignite the violence that plagued Afghanistan for more than a decade after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Mr Ghani enjoys the support of the dominant Pashtuns while other ethnic groups support Mr Abdullah.

The White House said that President Obama’s unprecedented decision to intervene in the internal politics of another country was part of the ongoing US efforts for maintaining calm in Afghanistan. He emphasised the need for political dialogue as last month’s election results are tabulated.

“With both, the president stressed that the United States expects a thorough review of all reasonable allegations of fraud to ensure a credible electoral process,” the White House said.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

IMF assured of consistent hike in gas prices

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to keep increasing gas prices, limit expansion of gas consumption to domestic consumers and segregate gas distribution and transmission system by unbundling the existing gas utilities – SNGPL and SSGCL – for their failure to reduce system losses that are among the highest in the world.

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to keep increasing gas prices, limit expansion of gas consumption to domestic consumers and segregate gas distribution and transmission system by unbundling the existing gas utilities – SNGPL and SSGCL – for their failure to reduce system losses that are among the highest in the world.

These measures, envisaged in an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, are aimed at making natural gas prices internationally competitive to accommodate proposed imported gas through a pipeline or in liquefied form to encourage new investment and promote efficiency not only in gas use but also in its transmission and distribution system.

“We will gradually rationalise gas prices to encourage new investment, promote efficiency in gas use and assure that there will continue to be no fiscal cost from the gas sector,” wrote Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Related: IMF sets new benchmarks for releasing next tranche

Apart from awarding 43 new blocks for exploration in new fields last year and finalising seven concession agreements, the government plans to award another 10-15 blocks during the current year.

“As new production and additional gas supply from imports come on line, the cost of this gas will continue to be fully reflected in the base tariff on a semi-annual basis,” the letter said.

The finance minister also talked about adjustment in gas prices through gas infrastructure development cess (GIDC) in December last year and then a 0.55 per cent of GDP (Rs150 billion) increase in GIDC through the current year’s budget to better allocate gas consumption.

He said the government was evaluating the downstream gas business with the objective of bringing in efficiencies in the transmission and distribution segments for better operation of the market system. In this respect, consultants will be hired by the end of this year to conduct a study on the restructuring and unbundling of the two gas utility companies.

The study will help formulate recommendations based on international best practices, including segregating the gas network into single transmission and multiple distribution companies. The companies will be further internally segregated into independent profit and cost centres to ensure maximum efficiency.

Also read: Pakistan receives fourth IMF tranche of $556 million

“A mechanism will be developed for determining separate transmission and distribution tariffs and a new pricing mechanism for sale of natural gas to various sectors of the economy will be devised to account for the higher cost of additional gas in the system, especially the imported gas,” wrote the finance minister.

Mr Dar also promised to improve the governance in the gas sector, particularly the ministry of petroleum and natural resources through capacity build-up will fully implement the 2012 policy, streamline approval processes, and complete the conversion to the new policy for those petroleum concession holders who wish to do so.

“We will further encourage bilateral contracting between producers and consumers and improve rules for third-party access to the gas transmission system,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

PBC wants status of 100 ousted judges restored

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) instituted a much-delayed petition before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, seeking review of the July 31, 2009 judgment that sent over 100 superior court judges packing.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) instituted a much-delayed petition before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, seeking review of the July 31, 2009 judgment that sent over 100 superior court judges packing.

This is the fourth attempt to move such a petition. Previously, retired General Pervez Musharraf had filed a petition, which was dismissed by a 14-judge bench, headed by former chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, on Jan 30 this year for “presenting irrelevant precedence” and being time-barred.

Later, in a detailed order, the Supreme Court explained that the July 31 verdict underpinned a strong realisation to turn a new leaf; towards constitutionalism and rule of law and steering clear of mistakes in history.

The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) had moved a similar petition, which was returned by the Supreme Court office. An appeal against the decision is currently pending before court.

On Jan 25, 2010, while hearing review petitions moved by affected superior court judges who faced contempt proceedings as a consequence of the July 31 verdict, the Supreme Court ruled that the verdict was considered a triumph for democratic principles and a stinging denunciation of dictatorship.

The detailed verdict, authored by former Justice Javed Iqbal, notes that had the superior judiciary not gone down the PCO route, the course of Pakistan’s political and judicial history would have been different.

Now, Abrar Hassan, chairman of the PBC’s executive committee, has moved the latest review petition arguing that removing judges from the superior judiciary in a manner not contemplated by the Constitution was a miscarriage of justice.

“For the larger good of the institution, the bar and the bench being wheels of the same chariot, the petitioner felt its constitutional and legal duty to approach the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution as questions of great public importance affecting the fundamental rights of members of the association (PBC),” the petition states.

The Supreme Court should lay down in clear terms that no judge of the superior judiciary, once appointed a judge, could be removed except through the procedure laid down under Article 209 of the Constitution (which deals with the Supreme Judicial Council) as highlighted by the apex court in the Al-Jihad Trust case of 1996 and the Zafar Ali Shah case of 2000, the petition argues.

It becomes absolutely necessary to determine the circumstances and reasons that compelled judges to tender their resignations and seek premature retirements, the petition insists, adding that for the sake of honour of the institution and their own dignity, the judges had not raised the matter before the court themselves.

The petitioner pleaded that the Supreme Court should also consider the true state of Nov 3, 2007 restraining order by a seven-judge bench headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and determine whether the order was applicable upon judges of the superior court or not.

A judge of the superior court, the review petition explained, was not a “person” as contemplated under Article 204 of the Constitution and, therefore, not liable to process of contempt of court.

The PCO judges, the petition states, should be treated as a part of the superior judiciary, wherever they were on July 31, 2009, and to be considered to have been continuously in office, subject to superannuation.

Similarly, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan – constituted for the appointment of judges – may reconsider its rules so that members of the commission may effectively participate and discharge their functions in accordance with the Constitution and law in the appointment of a judge, the review petition argues.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

Extra-legal means in Afghanistan to affects US aid

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The United States has warned all Afghan leaders and parties not to resort to extra-legal means for forming the next government as this will force Washington to stop its financial and security support to Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON: The United States has warned all Afghan leaders and parties not to resort to extra-legal means for forming the next government as this will force Washington to stop its financial and security support to Afghanistan.

In a statement issued in Washington, a US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki also expressed alarm at the suggestion of setting up a parallel government in Afghanistan.

“Any action to take power by extra-legal means will cost Afghanistan the financial and security support of the United States and the international community,” she warned.

On Monday, Afghan officials released preliminary results of the second run of this year’s presidential election, showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani in the lead.

Related: Kerry warns Afghanistan as thousands rally in support of Abdullah

However rival former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah rejected the results, claiming widespread riggings.

Some of his supporters have urged him to form a parallel government if his grievances are not addressed.

But Ms Psaki said that Washington had noted reports of protests in Afghanistan and of “suggestions of a parallel government with the gravest concern”. The United States “expects Afghan electoral institutions to conduct a full and thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities,” she added.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

Footprints: Dispatches from North Waziristan

Sailab Mehsud

IT has not gone unnoticed that ever since Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched, details emerging about the operation are completely one-sided. Few details are appearing from the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and those trapped in the area. The ISPR has been constantly issuing press releases making various claims, such as killing scores of militants, on a daily basis. But my clandestine trips to Mirali and Miramshah and the ordinary people that I met in Bannu show a different picture.

IT has not gone unnoticed that ever since Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched, details emerging about the operation are completely one-sided. Few details are appearing from the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and those trapped in the area. The ISPR has been constantly issuing press releases making various claims, such as killing scores of militants, on a daily basis. But my clandestine trips to Mirali and Miramshah and the ordinary people that I met in Bannu show a different picture.

I met 65-year-old Zahir Shah from Miramshah in Bannu who was with his family in a truck. He had one of the most heart-rending stories to narrate about his difficult journey. “It feels like the Day of Judgment. I may seem alive to you but inside I am dead. No warnings were given about the impending operation. The bomb attacks started suddenly and I had to leave two of my sick children behind. I handed them over to Shawwal Scouts belonging to the Afridi tribe requesting them to bury my children should they die.”

Shah’s version appears to have some basis because some local journalists and I had managed to slip into Dattakhel, a village west of Miramshah in North Waziristan Agency, and were present on June 15 when a curfew was imposed unexpectedly and the operation was launched without a proper announcement. The aman jirga and the tribal maliks had been meeting officials for nearly a month to delay the operation. However, this did not happen.

According to Shah and other IDPs, Miramshah Bazaar, a source of livelihood for many, has been completely destroyed. “Air strikes have killed many civilians including women and children and hardly any terrorists. Ordinary civilians have also been shot at sight,” claimed Shah. Though Shah said this with authority, his claim — like those of the military — cannot be independently verified.

Also read: No timeframe for completion of Zarb-i-Azb: Asif

I was in Mirali nearly 20 days ago. There I saw a house reduced to rubble and I could smell decomposing human flesh. A bystander claimed that the house was bombarded at 1:30am in which 24 members of a family were killed. A girl of about seven to eight years of age survived. Noor Behram, a journalist friend, also undertook an arduous 26-hour journey from Miramshah to Bannu with his family when the operation began unannounced. “There was no way to get out. Roads were closed. We walked all the way to the Sadgai checkpoint on the Bannu-Miramshah Road. My wife and children traversed hidden paths; climbed mountainous tracks all day and night to somehow reach the checkpoint, which is a mere 25-minute drive by car from Miramshah. But it took us 26 hours to reach the checkpoint.”

Behram also spoke about the ordeal he and the other IDPs have faced at the hands of security forces during registration. First is the seemingly never-ending wait with thousands of men, women, children, senior citizens and invalids waiting for their turn. Then, everyone goes through a body search, their CNICs are checked, they are cross-questioned and are handed chits which basically say that they are not Taliban and are going to Bannu.

And there are numerous such tales. Mohammad Saiyyid said that air strikes nearly flattened his house. “I was picking bits of rubble when my wife screamed at me and said leave all this, let’s take whatever remains of our essential belongings, grab the children and get out of here. We thought we were the only ones but when I turned to look at my house for the last time I saw a sea of people behind me with their belongings and their families. We went uphill and covered a path of many kilometres. Women in our households observe strict purdah, to see them like this in the open…,” Saiyyid couldn’t speak further.

Also see: Taliban cut hair and beards to flee army assault

After hearing everyone’s stories, I cannot help but recall Operation Rah-i-Nijaat launched in 2009 in South Waziristan. At the time, the army claimed that within two months the operation would end. It has been five years and the operation is ongoing. Thousands of Mehsuds were displaced and are now living a difficult life in Tank, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan with some of them subsisting on leftover rotis. The Taliban are present in South Waziristan where they are engaged in an insurgency against the state.

A Taliban commander Gilamand Mehsud called me up and admitted that their men have been killed and injured but not in the hundreds as claimed by the army. “So far nine men have been killed and five injured,” asserted Mehsud.

However, my sources tell me that four days ago, six bodies were found lying in Mirali Bazaar and by their appearance they seem to be Taliban. So far neither the army nor the Taliban have claimed them.

—As narrated to Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Another surcharge on electricity expected

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The government has assured the International Monetary Fund that it will levy another surcharge on electricity to recover Rs 240 billion of syndicated term credit finance from consumers.

WASHINGTON: The government has assured the International Monetary Fund that it will levy another surcharge on electricity to recover Rs 240 billion of syndicated term credit finance from consumers.

According to an IMF report released on Monday, the government promised to impose the surcharge if the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority does not include financing of this syndicated loan in tariff determination.

A syndicated loan is provided by a group of lenders and is structured, arranged, and administered by them.

An IMF staff mission, in its third review report of a 3-year loan arrangement with Pakistan, notes that Pakistani authorities have promised to continue with their plans to bring electricity tariffs to cost recovery levels.

Nepra was working on an increase in electricity tariffs by on average 4 per cent, while eliminating subsidies on industrial, commercial, bulk, and residential consumers above 200kWh of monthly consumption. This tariff adjustment is expected to reduce the electricity subsidies to 0.5 pc of GDP in FY2014/15 from around 1pc in the previous year.

Also read: IMF sets new benchmarks for releasing next tranche

Arrears: After the significant payments made by the government to reduce arrears in June 2013, a preliminary analysis suggests that the stock of arrears stands at around Rs 500 billion by end-March 2014. This is about 2 percent of GDP. Half of this is the stock of payables in the power sector and the other half is at Power Sector Holding Company Limited (PSHCL) as a debt instrument.

The authorities have identified steps designed to prevent the accumulation of new arrears in the system by the end of a 3-year programme with the IMF, while also dealing with the stock. The measures include the following components:

The stock of arrears at the PSHCL in the syndicated term credit finance (STCF), facility stood at around PRs 240 billion at end-March 2014. The corresponding accrued debt service continues to add to the payables.

Before the close of the current fiscal year, the government expects to recover around Rs 100 billion receivables in the power sector owed to DISCOs and to use these resources to reduce the stock of arrears to around Rs 200 billion at the end-June, 2014.

The IMF notes that Pakistanis authorities are continuing to reduce losses and improve collections through capital expenditures and revenue protection measures including revenue based load management.

Also read: A fresh approach to energy solutions

At end-March 2014 the los­ses stood at around 17pc (down by 0.5pc from last year) and revenue collections incre­ased from 86.5pc to 88pc.

The IMF hopes that continued efficiency improvements and higher collection rates will gradually eliminate the accumulation of new arrears and — together with appropriate pricing policies and load management — should allow the residual stock of arrears to be addressed.

The report points out that since the outset of the revenue-based load shedding, collections have increased by 1.5 pc. The authorities are committed to further accelerate the collections.

The majority of receivables from power distribution companies are due to non-collection from consumers.

An additional 700 MW of supply capacity was added to the system. Rehabilitation of generation plants and upgrading electricity transmission and distribution facilities are aimed at recovering an additional 1–1.5pc of technical losses.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Eight Palestinians killed by Israeli air strikes

AFP

GAZA CITY: Israeli air strikes on Gaza killed eight Palestinian militants, medics said on Monday, after recovering several bodies from a collapsed tunnel in Rafah.

GAZA CITY: Israeli air strikes on Gaza killed eight Palestinian militants, medics said on Monday, after recovering several bodies from a collapsed tunnel in Rafah.

But Israel’s military said it had not targeted the tunnel, and that the militants had blown themselves up as they were handling explosives for use in attacks against the army.

The strikes came after a day in which armed groups allegedly fired at least 25 rockets and mortar rounds at southern Israel, and intermittent rocket fire kept up during the day on Monday.

Two of the militants were killed east of the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza in a missile strike, which came shortly before midnight (2100 GMT), witnesses said.

In a separate drone strike in the southern city of Rafah, another militant was critically wounded, and later died of his injuries, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al Qudra said.

The army confirmed a series of raids across Gaza, saying they had targeted a group of people involved in “launching rockets from central Gaza,” as well as “nine terror sites and concealed rocket launchers.”

Several hours after midnight, two militants were killed and two civilians wounded in what Mr Qudra said was a drone strike east of Rafah which caused the collapse of a tunnel.

The bodies of three more militants were pulled from the tunnel later, and one was found critically injured.

The military wing of the Islamist movement Hamas, which dominates Gaza, said that in total six of its militants were killed in that strike, without accounting for the sixth.

But Israel’s army said it had not targeted that tunnel overnight, although it had bombed it several days before.

“We attacked this site a few days ago,” said army spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner.

But “there was no Israeli air strike there” since then, he told journalists in a phone conference.

The militants were “planting explosives that were supposed to be used against Israeli forces… (and) meddled with some of the explosives… That was the (cause) of the explosion and that’s why they died,” he said.

Meanwhile, medics said five civilians were wounded in the northern town of Beit Hanun after a rocket fired by militants fell short of Israel.

The Israeli military said it had hit a total of 14 targets overnight. It alleged that militants had fired an anti-tank missile at an army patrol by the border fence, causing no casualties.

Later on Monday, the army said that a total of around “50 rockets fired from Gaza had hit Israel” since midnight.

The military was still carrying out strikes late on Monday, hitting several “concealed rocket launchers” and a “terror tunnel” in southern Gaza, a spokeswoman said.

Elsewhere, a soldier was lightly wounded by shrapnel after three rockets hit the Eshkol region which flanks the central and southern Gaza Strip.

The Gaza air strikes came as violence raged across annexed east Jerusalem and Arab towns in Israel following the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager in a suspected revenge attack by Jewish extremists who burned him alive.—AFP

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Over 60 escape Boko Haram captivity

AFP

MAIDUGURI: More than 60 women and girls abducted last month by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria have escaped their captors, sources said on Sunday, but more than 200 schoolgirls are still being held by the Islamists.

MAIDUGURI: More than 60 women and girls abducted last month by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria have escaped their captors, sources said on Sunday, but more than 200 schoolgirls are still being held by the Islamists.

Local vigilante Abbas Gava said he had “received an alert from my colleagues … that about 63 of the abducted women and girls had made it back home” late on Friday.

A high-level security source in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, confirmed the escape.

Gava, a senior official of the local vigilantes in Borno who are working closely with security officials, told journalists the women escaped when their captors went out to fight.

“They took the bold step when their abductors moved out to carry out an operation,” he said.

Clashes took place between the Islamists and the army on Friday night after an attack by the insurgents in the town of Damboa, where 53 of them and six soldiers were killed, the army had said.

The rebels attacked barracks and a police station while most of the troops were out on patrol in surrounding villages.

Spokesmen for the armed forces or the government could not be reached for comment on the latest developments in the kidnapping cases.

Activists of the Bring Back Our Girls movement meanwhile tried to march on the presidential palace in Abuja on Sunday to pressure the government over the fate of more than 200 girls kidnapped in Chibok, in Borno, on April 14, but were asked by security forces to turn back.

“It’s 83 days today that the girls have been abducted,” activist Aisha Yesufu said.

“We have been coming out for 68 days and nobody has really listened to us,” Yesufu told reporters after the march. That is why the group “decided that we should just take the protest back to the president so that he will know that we are still out there after the 68 days that we have been coming out daily”.—AFP

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

‘Coloured abayas’

Frances Bulathsinghala

COLOMBO: A leading Muslim organisation in Sri Lanka is conducting a campaign to persuade Muslim women to give up black abaya and instead wear coloured ones to make the Islamic sartorial custom more acceptable to the Sinhalese majority in the country.

COLOMBO: A leading Muslim organisation in Sri Lanka is conducting a campaign to persuade Muslim women to give up black abaya and instead wear coloured ones to make the Islamic sartorial custom more acceptable to the Sinhalese majority in the country.

“Bring your black abayas, we will give you coloured abayas,” says an announcement from the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka. “When everybody is in black, it gives the impression that we are a uniformed force. And the niqab has raised security concerns,” says an advisor to the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama.

Also read: Sri Lanka cancels on-arrival visa facility for Pakistanis

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2014

Modi to target record asset sales in budget

Reuters

NEW DELHI: India’s new government would seek to raise record $11.7 billion in asset sales in its maiden budget this week, a senior government source said, bolstering state finances and buying time for structural reforms to revive a weak economy.

NEW DELHI: India’s new government would seek to raise record $11.7 billion in asset sales in its maiden budget this week, a senior government source said, bolstering state finances and buying time for structural reforms to revive a weak economy.

The privatisation target could reach Rs700bn, almost equal to all proceeds over the last four years, in a budget Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes will launch the growth and jobs agenda that in May won him India’s biggest election mandate in three decades. The budget is due on Thursday.

“The finance ministry has approached different ministries to increase the divestment target,” said the senior official with direct knowledge of the budget process. The previous government had pencilled in sell-off proceeds of Rs569bn ($9.5bn).

The 63-year-old premier has made a decisive start by naming a streamlined cabinet, approving a slew of infrastructure projects and embarking on what promises to be a whirlwind first year of trade diplomacy.

But his government has been plagued too by the economic ills that brought down its predecessor: weak growth and high inflation caused by spending too much and investing too little.

Despite the market reforms of 1991 that brought down the curtain on decades of socialist isolation, tracts of Asia’s third-largest economy remain off limits to outside investors.

Modi wants to open up industries like defence, but selling controlling stakes in bloated state enterprises is out of the question. They are not competitive and any job cuts ordered by a foreign owner would cause an outcry.

Instead, he will whittle down state stakes in firms that have already been partly sold, like Steel Authority of India Ltd, without surrendering overall control, said the official and other sources familiar with the plans.

Also read: India should avoid fiscal slippage: World Bank

Indian stocks have enjoyed a Modi boom, rallying 23 per cent this year. Listed state firms have outperformed on hopes that wider ownership would discipline managers and that their bottom line would benefit from a loosening of price controls.

Leading the pack is Indian Oil, which has gained 62 per cent in 2014. ONGC, another oil firm, is up 46 per cent. Coal India has risen 36 per cent.

In setting an ambitious asset-sale target, the government will face inevitable scepticism from investors who are used to seeing its predecessors miss their privatisation goals.

The Modi government will also have limited scope to put its stamp on this first budget, which has been delayed by the election and will be delivered three months into the budget year to March 2015.

The deficit is already nearly half the annual goal inherited from the last government: 4.1 per cent of GDP.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to roll out other revenue measures in addition to the asset sales, including a General Sales Tax that would unite India’s 29 federal states into a common market.

The measure would make it easier to do business and, over time, broaden the tiny tax base, which last year was a mere 8.9 per cent of India’s $1.9 trillion gross domestic product — about a quarter of the average for the OECD club of developed nations.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Ordinary people caught up in NSA spying net, says paper

AFP

WASHINGTON: Regular internet users, including Americans, far outnumber legally-targeted foreigners in electronic communications intercepted by the National Security Agency, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

WASHINGTON: Regular internet users, including Americans, far outnumber legally-targeted foreigners in electronic communications intercepted by the National Security Agency, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The Post based its assertion on a four-month study of a large cache of NSA-intercepted electronic data provided by fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

According to The Post, nine of 10 account holders found in the data “were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else”. Those people were ordinary internet users, both in the United States and elsewhere.

The study was based on some 160,000 emails and instant message conversations, as well as 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts, intercepted during President Barack Obama’s first term in office (2009-2012).

Nearly half of the surveillance files “contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to US citizens or residents”. While NSA staff masked, or “minimised,” more than 65,000 references to protect the privacy of Americans, The Post found almost 900 other e-mail addresses, unmasked, that could be linked to US nationals or residents.

The Post also found that the NSA held on to material that analysts described as “useless”. These files “tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes”.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

S. Lanka’s Muslim council writes to India about terror strike allegation

Frances Bulathsinghala

COLOMBO: The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) has written to the Indian High Commissioner seeking to know if the government of India subscribes to the allegation levelled by Indian intelligence agencies that Lankan Muslims are being used by Pakistan to carry out terrorist strikes in south India.

COLOMBO: The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) has written to the Indian High Commissioner seeking to know if the government of India subscribes to the allegation levelled by Indian intelligence agencies that Lankan Muslims are being used by Pakistan to carry out terrorist strikes in south India.

“The alleged existence of Muslim terror groups in Sri Lanka is contributing to the hate campaign against Muslims in the country and Islamophobia is reaching crisis proportions. It is important that this is contained,” notes the statement, requesting an immediate clarification from the Indian government “to avert confusion and conflict in Sri Lanka which does not contribute to reconciliation, peace and stability in the country”.

The letter by the council also says that Indian media reports of the alleged involvement of some Lankan Muslim in terror plots in south India had helped fan anti-Muslim feelings in Lanka which had recently resulted in very destructive anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama and Beruwela.

The arrest of two Lankan Muslims, one in Chennai and the other in Malaysia, for preparing ground for a Colombo-based Pakistani diplomat, has led to India’s asking Lanka to evolve a border security system to filter arrivals from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As a result of this, Lanka last month withdrew the ‘Visa on Arrival’ facility from the Pakistanis.

Indian officials had told the Lankans that the antecedents of the Ahmadis and Christians seeking refugee status were not being checked. Attention of the Lankan authorities was drawn to the fact that many of the “refugees” had begun to work in Lanka.

Some had even got married to local women.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times in Colombo has said that Sri Lanka has decided to send all arrested Afghan and Pakistani asylum seekers and their families back to their countries as early as possible.

Quoting Immigrations Controller Chulananda Perera, the newspaper said the asylum seekers would be sent back and not deported, whereby there would be no record of deportation on their travel documents.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

US seeks credible probe into beating of teenager in Israel

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The United States has demanded a “speedy, transparent and credible investigation” into the alleged beating of a Palestinian-American teenager by Israeli police earlier this week.

WASHINGTON: The United States has demanded a “speedy, transparent and credible investigation” into the alleged beating of a Palestinian-American teenager by Israeli police earlier this week.

“We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force,” US State Department’s spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, Israel’s ambassador to the US assured Americans that those found guilty of burning alive a Palestinian boy will not be lauded as heroes.

Related: Jewish extremists held over Palestinian teenager’s murder

Six Jewish men were arrested this weekend in connection with the killing of the Palestinian Arab teenager, whose death last week sparked widespread protests in Arab areas of Jerusalem and northern Israel.

Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, was abducted early last week, and his charred body was found a short while later in a Jerusalem forest. Media reports depicted it as a revenge killing for the earlier deaths of three Israeli teens.

Fifteen-year old Tariq Khdeir, who was allegedly beaten by the Israeli police during a protest in Jerusalem, is a cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

In a statement issued in Washington, Ms Psaki confirmed that Tariq Khdeir is an American citizen and is being held by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem. An official from the US Consulate General in Jerusalem visited him on Saturday.

Also see: Israeli court hands US teen 9-day house arrest

“We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force,” Ms Psaki said.

In the same statement, the State Department “reiterated” its “grave concern” about the increasing violent incidents in Israel, and called upon all sides to “take steps to restore calm and prevent harm to innocents”.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

3 policemen shot dead in Hyderabad

Mohammad Hussain Khan

HYDERABAD: Three policemen were killed when a police party was attacked by gunmen here on Sunday night.

HYDERABAD: Three policemen were killed when a police party was attacked by gunmen here on Sunday night.

Another policeman and a pedestrian suffered bullet injuries in the attack in Latifabad No 7.

The deceased were identified as Ishtiaq, Rashid and Maqsood and the injured as head constable Munawar David and Qaiser Rizvi.

The policemen, who were posted at A-section police station, were carrying out snap checking when four armed men on two motorbikes fired at them, killing three on the spot.

The injured were taken to the city branch of Liaquat University Hospital.

Also read: Hyderabad jail chief faces Taliban threat

The DIG Hyderabad, Dr Sanaullah Abbasi, termed the incident a backlash of the military operation launched in North Waziristan last month.

In December last year, four policemen of the same police station were shot dead. The Taliban had claimed the responsibility for those killings.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Afghan candidates spar over release of poll results

AP

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election crisis deepened on Sunday as the two presidential candidates sparred over the release of preliminary results and calls mounted for a broader investigation of suspect ballots amid allegations of massive fraud.

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election crisis deepened on Sunday as the two presidential candidates sparred over the release of preliminary results and calls mounted for a broader investigation of suspect ballots amid allegations of massive fraud.

The impasse has threatened to undermine what the US and its allies had hoped would be the country’s first democratic transfer of authority after President Hamid Karzai agreed to step down after two terms as legally required.

Western officials were looking for a smooth transition to show progress ahead of the withdrawal of US and allied combat troops by the end of this year.

Whoever wins will inherit an impoverished country mired in insurgency and facing high unemployment and declining foreign aid. Both candidates have promised to sign a security pact with the Obama administration that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to remain in the country in a training capacity and to conduct counter-terrorism operations. A disruption in the announcement of election results could mean another delay in finalising that agreement, which was rebuffed by Karzai.

Abdullah Abdullah, who garnered the most votes in the first round of voting on April 5 but failed to get the majority needed to win outright, has boycotted the electoral institutions after alleging widespread ballot box stuffing and other efforts to rig the June 14 runoff vote against him.

His rival Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official, also filed complaints of irregularities in the balloting but has insisted that the agreed-upon counting process be respected and said any further delays in releasing results would be unacceptable.

Abdullah said on Sunday that he would not accept any results until all fraudulent votes were invalidated. He also demanded a more extensive investigation into suspicious ballots, including cases where more than 93 per cent of the ballots in a single box were for a single candidate.

“What we are asking for is, an audit and after the completion of the audit before the announcement of the preliminary results should be made,” he said on Sunday at a news conference. “There is no doubt that fraud has happened, massive fraud has happened,” he said.

“After all suspicious areas are audited, we will accept the election results, but not before that.”

The European Union’s election monitoring team in Kabul also has called for a broader investigation into fraud allegations, including highly improbable votes for a single candidate in polling stations or unlikely discrepancies between votes cast by women and men.

Diplomats and other international officials have long said they anticipated irregularities and the determining factor would be whether the rigging was sufficient to affect the overall outcome.

The 2009 re-election of Karzai was marred by widespread ballot box stuffing and proxy voting, leading Abdullah, who was runner-up at the time, to refuse to participate in the runoff.

According to the election commission’s official timetable, final results are to be announced on July 22.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Footprints: Violence returns to Okara farms

Nasir Jamal

“They came marching, guns blazing. I saw Noor Muhammad Kamboh drop after he was hit by a bullet. I rushed towards him, but then I pulled up — to save my life….”

“They came marching, guns blazing. I saw Noor Muhammad Kamboh drop after he was hit by a bullet. I rushed towards him, but then I pulled up — to save my life….”

Mohammad Ashfaq broke down as he recalled details of how the 55-year-old lost his life virtually at the doorstep of his home in the village (Chak 15/4 L), some three kilometres from G.T. Road on Tabrooq-Shahpur Road in Okara on Thursday afternoon.

“They had brought truckloads of armed troops — as if they were here to fight the enemy, or they had come to conquer Kashmir.”

The military action was preceded by the blockage a week or so earlier of water channels irrigating military farms inside the Okara Cantonment by some lessees. These tenants were protesting against the farm management’s “arbitrary” decision to hike their lease rent from Rs17,000 an acre to Rs22,000 and evict those who disagreed with these terms.

“The troops were sent to reopen closed water channels,” a policeman posted at the Okara Cantonment police station told Dawn on Friday. “When they reached there, the villagers pelted stones and fired shots at them. Warnings were given but the villagers didn’t stop. [Finally] the troops retaliated with fire and chased the protesters back to the village.”

The villagers say this is the army’s version, while the policeman confirmed that until Friday afternoon the police had not visited the site of the incident. “No shot was fired from our side. We didn’t carry arms; we never do,” said Noor Nabi, a spokesman for the Anjuman-i-Mazaraeen, an organisation fighting for the rights of tenants of military farms since 2000. He confirmed two men were killed and many others injured.

According to the villagers and local journalists, District Police Officer Babar Bakht Qureishi had worked to defuse tensions for the last one week since the farm management raised the rent. The army took five people in custody on Wednesday, later freed on the DPO’s intervention.

“The lessees had agreed to raise the rent to Rs19,000 per acre on the DPO’s intervention. But, apparently, this was not acceptable to the military farms management,” said a local journalist.

Hasan Ahmed, in his early 20s, was hit by a bullet from behind as he ran for cover. He died near the spot Noor Kamboh was killed. “As they went back, they took the bodies with them. When we approached the military for the return of the bodies they asked for written assurances that we would not initiate any [legal] action,” claimed Bashir Ahmed Sial, Hasan’s father.

The villagers said the troops forced entry into the homes to round up every man they could find inside. “They didn’t care who was in their way. They hit us with their rifle butts,” said a daughter of Noor Kamboh, showing her wounds.

There were many other women with bandaged heads and limbs and bruises. Many men had bullet wounds to show. Many houses were damaged. The villagers said the doors had been unhinged, roofs breached and window grilles pulled out for forced entry into homes. Empties could be seen strewn in different parts of the village with walls pockmarked by firing.

“Do we not have any rights? If the military thought some of us were responsible for blocking water — which we didn’t need to do as the canal was already dry — they could have gone to the police and let them investigate. How can they send 1,100 men to fire at and kill us? Just because we’re poor and powerless, they can do anything with us,” said Mohammad Siddique, whose lease contract was cancelled.

The DPO and the SHO of Okara Cantt weren’t available in their offices for comments. Both were said to be in a meeting with the military commander at his office. A policeman at the police station said the 63 men rounded up during the action were still in the military’s custody and the bodies were at the CMH Okara for autopsy. “Neither the military nor the villagers have approached us for registering a case,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon, SHO Mohammad Ali told Dawn the military had gotten a case registered against 150 villagers on murder and several other charges.

The FIR says 100-125 people armed with firearms, clubs and batons attacked an army [patrolling] team near the village. A rapid response force was called out. Meanwhile, the attackers opened fire on the patrolling party, resulting in injuries to a havildar and two sepoys. At this, more personnel of the response force were called out and the patrolling party retaliated in self-defence. It adds Hasan, who was targeting the army with a Kalashnikov, received a bullet injury and died on the spot, but Noor Kamboh was killed by the attackers.

Noor Nabi said the registration of a case by the army against an unspecified number of villagers and eight Anjuman leaders was a mockery of the law. “They aren’t returning the bodies of the two men,” he said. “They are trying to suppress evidence about the dead and injured they took away with them. The police are helping them.”

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

ISIS chief asks Muslims to obey him

AFP

BAGHDAD: The leader of a brutal militant group addressed worshippers in the militant-held Iraqi city of Mosul, ordering Muslims to “obey” him and calling for global jihad, in a video distributed online on Saturday.

BAGHDAD: The leader of a brutal militant group addressed worshippers in the militant-held Iraqi city of Mosul, ordering Muslims to “obey” him and calling for global jihad, in a video distributed online on Saturday.

The appearance by the hitherto elusive chief of Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, at a mosque in Mosul for Friday prayers marks a significant change for the militant leader whose group has overrun swathes of territory across five provinces north and west of Baghdad.

A video posted on social media showed a portly man clad in a long black robe and a black turban with a long greying beard addressing worshippers at weekly prayers at Al-Nur mosque in central Mosul.

“I am the wali (leader) who presides over you, though I am not the best of you, so if you see that I am right, assist me,” said the man, purportedly Baghdadi.

“If you see that I am wrong, advise me and put me on the right track, and obey me as long as I obey God.”

Read: What ISIS and the ‘caliphate’ mean for Pakistan

Text superimposed on the video identified the man as “Caliph Ibrahim”, the name Baghdadi has gone by since the group on June 29 declared a “caliphate”.

The video is said to be the first official appearance by Baghdadi.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Hydropower project runs into trouble

Ahmad Fraz Khan

LAHORE: Work on Golen Gol hydropower project has stopped as the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has failed to make payments to both the consultant and the contractor.

LAHORE: Work on Golen Gol hydropower project has stopped as the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has failed to make payments to both the consultant and the contractor.

Wapda was put on a 30-day notice that expired this week.

The lender — Kuwait Development Fund (KDF) — has also expressed its inability to release funds for the Rs4.6 billion project because it has still not approved Wapda’s recommendation of award of the contract. The entire project has thus run into trouble.

In a letter to Wapda on June 3, the consultant fired the first warning shot: “We bring to your attention that payments of several hundred thousand euros are due for almost a year. As per the contract, the consultant has to notify the client (Wapda) once the payment is due and give a grace period of 45 days. After lapse of the period, the consultant might terminate the contract after 30 days. We, hereby, notify you under the contract and request outstanding payment within 30 days.”

The contractor chimed in with a similar complaint when in response to the engineer’s letter (Stoppage of Works and Extension of Time), it said: “With regard to engineer’s letter about possible extension of project time for the reason of stoppage of work because of non-receipt of contractual payment, the contractor, for the time being, is not in a position to provide supporting information as long as it does not receive the outstanding advance payment.”

Wapda has been writing to the KDF for release of funds, but the lender has refused: “Please be advised that we are unable to process payment of these (your) applications since our approval of your recommendation to award is still under consideration,” says its letter of April 4 this year. The unfortunate project suffered a delay of over three years during its bidding process because it was annulled repeatedly for corruption charges against Wapda high-ups.

The Transparency International, the National Accountability Bureau and the Ministry for Water and Power all got involved at different stages of bidding to bring transparency to the process.

Wapda, after extending even the last bid several times, ultimately awarded the contract to an Austrian company in January this year.

Wapda blamed the lender for repeated extensions in the last bid and said dates were extended because the KDF approval was awaited. But it has transpired that Wapda never waited for, or at least never got, an approval from the KFD which has now refused to release funds for the project pending its approval of the award of the contract.

A Wapda spokesman told Dawn: “The payment to the consultants and the contractors is to be made through the funds provided by the KDF. The payment will be made by Wapda as soon as the funds are released. The KDF has not refused funds for electro-mechanical works. In fact, the queries raised by the lender for release of funds are being addressed by Wapda.”

The 106MW hydropower project loc­ated on River Golen Gol — a tributary of the River Mastuj in Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — had been under the tendering and re-tendering process since June 30, 2011, and now the contact execution has run into problems.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Editorial News

Annual zakat deductions

Editorial

THE tail end of the month of fasting is a time of celebration for the country. It is also the time of the year that shopkeepers eagerly look forward to since more money is spent on expensive clothes, food and other accoutrements of a healthy, thriving lifestyle than perhaps at any other time. The quantity of money that is spent during this period is so large that the State Bank of Pakistan is compelled to instruct the banks to make special arrangements to ensure that ATM machines near major shopping areas are well stocked and replenished during the holidays. Demand for fresh currency notes skyrockets, and the government printing presses run overtime.

THE tail end of the month of fasting is a time of celebration for the country. It is also the time of the year that shopkeepers eagerly look forward to since more money is spent on expensive clothes, food and other accoutrements of a healthy, thriving lifestyle than perhaps at any other time. The quantity of money that is spent during this period is so large that the State Bank of Pakistan is compelled to instruct the banks to make special arrangements to ensure that ATM machines near major shopping areas are well stocked and replenished during the holidays. Demand for fresh currency notes skyrockets, and the government printing presses run overtime.

A small industry is built around the month of Ramazan, and in purely economic terms alone, the month brings with it a groundswell of economic activity that is comparable in size to the summer wheat harvest or any other major cyclical event. One of the largest impacts of the arrival of the holy month is the massive withdrawals that current accounts see, as people rush to empty out their accounts to prevent the mandatory zakat deduction from eating into their disposable incomes. Once the period for zakat deduction passes, the money flows back into the accounts with equally astonishing speed. It is not as if people hesitate to give zakat. The fact that papers are full of advertisements from various institutions asking for zakat donations is proof enough that a lot of money is given for philanthropic causes during this month.

But what is clear is that people do not want to direct their zakat through the government. That is understandable enough. Consider, for instance, that nowhere does the government reveal how much money is collected via zakat deductions every year. The websites of the zakat and ushr departme nts tell us nothing about who the beneficiaries are of the various schemes through which they channel the funds, and how those beneficiaries are selected. In contrast, other schemes, such as the Benazir Income Support Programme, have a highly developed mechanism for determining eligibility. Nothing of the sort exists for zakat funds. And to top it off, there is the philosophical question of our times: is it really the government’s job to be collecting and distributing zakat? There is no doubt that paying zakat is a religious obligation for Muslims. But surely, individuals are free to choose who to give their zakat to. For one, the law can be amended to make participation on an opt-in basis, giving people the choice to have their zakat deducted by the state as opposed to the current practice of opting out. Second, and equally important, the least we can expect is more transparency in the utilisation of the funds, and more rigour in the selection of beneficiaries.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Mudslinging won’t do

Editorial

THE problem with flinging mud around is that soon enough some of it is aimed back at the thrower. In the intensifying war of words between the PTI, PML-N and former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s newly media-savvy son, Arsalan Iftikhar, the loser was never going to be politicians but politics itself. The individual allegations and counter-allegations matter little; what is more important here is that, once again, politics itself is being sullied and tainted. Of course, much of the blame must lie with the politicians themselves. The temptation to go low, rake up scandal and pander to base instincts, is ever present in politics. It is a tactic as old as politics itself and its appeal is universal. And yet, that is precisely the reason why temptation is best avoided. To be sure, character matters, as do the personal dealings of individuals who aspire to represent the public via an election. But in Pakistan, the intersection of law and politics has been manipulated by anti-democrats over the decades to leave it utterly distorted. There is little distinction anymore between legitimate and genuine public interest and something decidedly more tawdry.

THE problem with flinging mud around is that soon enough some of it is aimed back at the thrower. In the intensifying war of words between the PTI, PML-N and former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s newly media-savvy son, Arsalan Iftikhar, the loser was never going to be politicians but politics itself. The individual allegations and counter-allegations matter little; what is more important here is that, once again, politics itself is being sullied and tainted. Of course, much of the blame must lie with the politicians themselves. The temptation to go low, rake up scandal and pander to base instincts, is ever present in politics. It is a tactic as old as politics itself and its appeal is universal. And yet, that is precisely the reason why temptation is best avoided. To be sure, character matters, as do the personal dealings of individuals who aspire to represent the public via an election. But in Pakistan, the intersection of law and politics has been manipulated by anti-democrats over the decades to leave it utterly distorted. There is little distinction anymore between legitimate and genuine public interest and something decidedly more tawdry.

If sense is to prevail, two things ought to happen. First, the politicians and aspiring public figures need to immediately cease their attacks on each other. None of the figures involved in this game of faux morality are any better or worse than the ones they are targeting. When allegations of the kind that are flying at the moment begin, there is no logical end point. Either everyone stops or no one will. Second, the problem each one of the perpetrators at the moment is referring to is rooted in the clauses of the Constitution that hold elected representatives responsible to a standard specifically introduced by a dictator to shut politicians out of politics. The parliamentary committee debate on the 18th Amendment was a great missed opportunity because the PPP bowed to the logic of coalition politics and caved in to religious sentiment when it came to purging the Constitution of Gen Zia-introduced religious clauses. In fact, unbeknownst to many, the 18th Amendment was a step backwards in some ways by changing the clause governing who is eligible to be the prime minister of Pakistan. Yet, that was at a time when the transition to democracy was still tenuous. Now there are fewer excuses. What is needed is reform.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Moment of truth

Editorial

THE football World Cup under way in Brazil, now in its final leg, has packed plenty of surprises, disappointments and drama. Perhaps the biggest shock of the tournament has been the absolute drubbing the hosts received at the hands of Germany in their semi-final clash at Belo Horizonte. Around the world, football enthusiasts have just one thing to say: 7-1. Brazil, a nation that has lifted more World Cups than any other, was expected to pick up a sixth title on home ground, but simply crashed and burned at the hands of a ruthless, well-oiled German footballing machine. Without talismanic young striker Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, Brazil looked like a group of amateurs, leaving the field in tears and plunging their football-mad nation into a state of mourning. Other than the historic semi-final, many of the big names in world football from Europe and South America fumbled, while up-and-coming nations showed moments of brilliance. The Algerians, for example, reached the round of 16 for the first time, while Costa Rica and Colombia also played some fine football. Perhaps the Algerian performance will prompt other rising African and Asian sides to improve their game.

THE football World Cup under way in Brazil, now in its final leg, has packed plenty of surprises, disappointments and drama. Perhaps the biggest shock of the tournament has been the absolute drubbing the hosts received at the hands of Germany in their semi-final clash at Belo Horizonte. Around the world, football enthusiasts have just one thing to say: 7-1. Brazil, a nation that has lifted more World Cups than any other, was expected to pick up a sixth title on home ground, but simply crashed and burned at the hands of a ruthless, well-oiled German footballing machine. Without talismanic young striker Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, Brazil looked like a group of amateurs, leaving the field in tears and plunging their football-mad nation into a state of mourning. Other than the historic semi-final, many of the big names in world football from Europe and South America fumbled, while up-and-coming nations showed moments of brilliance. The Algerians, for example, reached the round of 16 for the first time, while Costa Rica and Colombia also played some fine football. Perhaps the Algerian performance will prompt other rising African and Asian sides to improve their game.

But all things considered, the world is focused on the final scheduled for July 14 in Rio de Janeiro, where the Germans will take on Argentina. It looks to be a repeat of the final at Italia ’90, which the Germans won. That classic clash featured some legendary names, including the volatile genius of Diego Maradona as well as German masters like Jürgen Klinsmann and Rudi Völler. It remains to be seen whether Germany’s clinical precision will triumph over Argentina’s passion and flair. Though Germany looks to be the slightly stronger side, Argentina, spurred on by their star striker Lionel Messi, will be no pushovers. The Argentines will also be motivated to rub salt into Brazilian wounds by winning the cup on the yellow shirts’ soil. It will be a true battle of wits in Rio.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

A four-year term?

Editorial

THE reasons behind Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah’s call for a four-year parliamentary term can be understood, the politicians’ impatience being one of them. Recall the immediate aftermath of the Zia regime when none of the four elected governments could complete their five-year term. As pointed out by Nawaz Sharif, that was the era of ‘long marches’; and — what he didn’t say — of conspiracies that involved politicians and non-political actors manoeuvring to topple the existing government. A handy weapon was the Zia-gifted Article 58 (2b), which enabled the president to dissolve the Assembly and make a fresh reference to the people if he thought the government was not being run according to the Constitution. Invariably, the article was misused for reasons that had nothing to do with the people’s welfare. The article in question was done away with, then re-inserted by Pervez Musharraf and finally discarded again by parliament in the post-Musharraf era. Deprived of this article, the opposition today relies on ‘long marches’, ‘tsunamis’ and ‘revolutions’ to topple the PML-N government, which has just managed to complete a year in office. Mr Shah’s suggestion, that can always be debated by parliament, should be seen against this background, especially because his party has opposed the ‘marches’ and ‘revolutions’ some parties have threatened to launch.

THE reasons behind Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah’s call for a four-year parliamentary term can be understood, the politicians’ impatience being one of them. Recall the immediate aftermath of the Zia regime when none of the four elected governments could complete their five-year term. As pointed out by Nawaz Sharif, that was the era of ‘long marches’; and — what he didn’t say — of conspiracies that involved politicians and non-political actors manoeuvring to topple the existing government. A handy weapon was the Zia-gifted Article 58 (2b), which enabled the president to dissolve the Assembly and make a fresh reference to the people if he thought the government was not being run according to the Constitution. Invariably, the article was misused for reasons that had nothing to do with the people’s welfare. The article in question was done away with, then re-inserted by Pervez Musharraf and finally discarded again by parliament in the post-Musharraf era. Deprived of this article, the opposition today relies on ‘long marches’, ‘tsunamis’ and ‘revolutions’ to topple the PML-N government, which has just managed to complete a year in office. Mr Shah’s suggestion, that can always be debated by parliament, should be seen against this background, especially because his party has opposed the ‘marches’ and ‘revolutions’ some parties have threatened to launch.

However, there are other factors that must also be considered, such as the desirability of a developing country like Pakistan to stand what can be called the rigours, and expenses, of a general election every four years. Usually, it is in stable democracies that people go to the polls every four years. With constitutional institutions and democratic traditions in place, polls in developed countries are not the kind of shambolic phenomenon we see in the developing world. In Pakistan especially, poll results are often challenged through means legal and illegal, and it takes time for a new government to settle down. The issue also has a bearing on economic development, as governments find it difficult to complete projects within the five-year term. To reduce it to four years would hardly help, since new governments often scrap projects launched by their predecessors for no valid reason.

The social side of the elections too must be noted. Each time there is an election, the country is unhinged. Clannish loyalties, feuds, the involvement of criminal elements in the electoral process, the lavish use of money in excess of the official ceiling, and the brazen display and use of firearms dominate the essential democratic exercise. Time and space are needed for a more enlightened electoral culture to evolve. Headway towards this end can begin now by nominating a consensus candidate to the post of chief election commissioner to oversee the process of electoral reform.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Gaza under fire

Editorial

ISRAEL’S no-holds-barred bombardment of Gaza, which commenced on Tuesday, is the latest chapter in the Palestinians’ seemingly never-ending saga of misery. While Palestinians throughout the occupied territories have been victims of Israeli high-handedness for decades, Gaza’s plight has been particularly tragic. The latest violence appears to have been triggered by the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and the retaliatory killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem. In the aftermath of these incidents, tension had been building up, with Israel blaming Hamas for the abductions, a charge the militant group denied. As Israel started rounding up Palestinians in the wake of the murders, rocket fire into the Jewish state commenced from Gaza. While the murders of the Israeli teens and the Palestinian youth are equally condemnable, Tel Aviv’s brutal yet predictable response of pounding Gaza is totally unacceptable. Whenever the Jewish state crosses swords with Palestinian fighters, it seems to have no qualms about massacring civilians. In the latest hostilities, over 20 Palestinians have been killed; while militants are among the casualties, the majority of victims are reportedly civilians, including children. The assault on Gaza is a reminder of past Israeli aggression targeting the impoverished coastal strip, particularly the 2012 and 2008-09 conflicts. In the 2008-09 Gaza war, nearly 1,400 Palestinians were killed, which included over 900 civilian deaths, while Israel deployed barbaric weaponry in densely populated civilian areas, such as the notorious white phosphorous munitions.

ISRAEL’S no-holds-barred bombardment of Gaza, which commenced on Tuesday, is the latest chapter in the Palestinians’ seemingly never-ending saga of misery. While Palestinians throughout the occupied territories have been victims of Israeli high-handedness for decades, Gaza’s plight has been particularly tragic. The latest violence appears to have been triggered by the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and the retaliatory killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem. In the aftermath of these incidents, tension had been building up, with Israel blaming Hamas for the abductions, a charge the militant group denied. As Israel started rounding up Palestinians in the wake of the murders, rocket fire into the Jewish state commenced from Gaza. While the murders of the Israeli teens and the Palestinian youth are equally condemnable, Tel Aviv’s brutal yet predictable response of pounding Gaza is totally unacceptable. Whenever the Jewish state crosses swords with Palestinian fighters, it seems to have no qualms about massacring civilians. In the latest hostilities, over 20 Palestinians have been killed; while militants are among the casualties, the majority of victims are reportedly civilians, including children. The assault on Gaza is a reminder of past Israeli aggression targeting the impoverished coastal strip, particularly the 2012 and 2008-09 conflicts. In the 2008-09 Gaza war, nearly 1,400 Palestinians were killed, which included over 900 civilian deaths, while Israel deployed barbaric weaponry in densely populated civilian areas, such as the notorious white phosphorous munitions.

The fact is that until there is justice for the Palestinians, this part of the Middle East will not see peace. Palestinians have been treated in a subhuman manner by the occupying power for over six decades. Gaza, of recent, has been turned into a modern-day Bantustan, with high unemployment, rampant poverty, and an infrastructure in a shambles. Its woes have been amplified by a cruel Israeli blockade, which Egypt has been all too keen to police. The blockade has been in force since 2007 and declared illegal by many in the international community. In the immediate term, Israel’s friends and backers in the West must restrain it from unleashing even more destruction on the hapless people of Gaza. Tel Aviv has talked of a possible ground offensive while Hamas has vowed to pay Israel back in the same coin if hostilities escalate. Once the brutal bombardment of Gaza ceases, issues such as Palestinian rocket attacks on the occupied territories can be discussed. But first, Israel needs to cease fire immediately.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

‘Encounters’ as a norm

Editorial

IT is a painfully familiar situation. A youth is killed in Karachi while another goes missing, leaving his family to ponder over the worst-case scenario. There is talk of murder committed by policemen who often dispense their brand of justice in the form of staged encounters. Calls for investigation grow and they finally yield results: the allegations of police brutality are to be probed — by the police. If the story stays its normal course, maybe a few policemen will be blamed and suspended, only to re-emerge, occupying a police post sometime later. Amid so much talk about Pakistan’s journey to civilisation and the rule of law under the supervision of a judiciary which is all too frequently called upon to intervene in all kinds of issues, the resolve to end so-called police encounters is sorely missing. Sadly enough, administrations often implicitly and sometimes openly defend the encounter model of ‘justice’ as not only the most convenient but also the most effective means to combat crime. Not only this, the state has moved towards further empowering the already dangerous law enforcer by coming up with the Protection of Pakistan Bill. This is the justification the numerous encounter specialists bred over the decades must have been looking for.

IT is a painfully familiar situation. A youth is killed in Karachi while another goes missing, leaving his family to ponder over the worst-case scenario. There is talk of murder committed by policemen who often dispense their brand of justice in the form of staged encounters. Calls for investigation grow and they finally yield results: the allegations of police brutality are to be probed — by the police. If the story stays its normal course, maybe a few policemen will be blamed and suspended, only to re-emerge, occupying a police post sometime later. Amid so much talk about Pakistan’s journey to civilisation and the rule of law under the supervision of a judiciary which is all too frequently called upon to intervene in all kinds of issues, the resolve to end so-called police encounters is sorely missing. Sadly enough, administrations often implicitly and sometimes openly defend the encounter model of ‘justice’ as not only the most convenient but also the most effective means to combat crime. Not only this, the state has moved towards further empowering the already dangerous law enforcer by coming up with the Protection of Pakistan Bill. This is the justification the numerous encounter specialists bred over the decades must have been looking for.

There was a time when fake encounters needed to be dressed up for public consumption. That veneer is gone. Recent incidents in Karachi, Lahore and elsewhere in the country suggest that not too much of a cover-up is now required before a senior policeman calls up the media to proudly share the news about a ‘known’ criminal who has been disposed of in an encounter. The act has come to be accepted by and large as something that is inevitable, which is routine, or worse, which is desired. It is in this way that the policemen and those who pull their strings in the name of law and order and good governance have succeeded in their terrifying objectives, freeing the judiciary to take up other important issues.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

IMF’s third review

Editorial

THE third review of Pakistan’s ongoing IMF programme was released this week, and it presents a mixed picture of the economic turnaround that the government is claiming to have brought about. High up in the document, where most of its readers are likely to linger, terms like “mostly positive” and “generally satisfactory” are used to describe overall performance under the programme as well as more specific progress on fiscal and structural reforms. Important caveats are found a little further down, where “downward risks” on the external front are mentioned twice, and “delays and slippages” in the implementation of key structural reforms are highlighted as the biggest risk to growth and overall macroeconomic stability. A closer look at the assessment served up by the Fund reveals little room for complacency, particularly in the crucial areas of tax reform and external vulnerabilities.

THE third review of Pakistan’s ongoing IMF programme was released this week, and it presents a mixed picture of the economic turnaround that the government is claiming to have brought about. High up in the document, where most of its readers are likely to linger, terms like “mostly positive” and “generally satisfactory” are used to describe overall performance under the programme as well as more specific progress on fiscal and structural reforms. Important caveats are found a little further down, where “downward risks” on the external front are mentioned twice, and “delays and slippages” in the implementation of key structural reforms are highlighted as the biggest risk to growth and overall macroeconomic stability. A closer look at the assessment served up by the Fund reveals little room for complacency, particularly in the crucial areas of tax reform and external vulnerabilities.

Stability on the external front is one of the key accomplishments of the government in its first year. It is true that last year the country was drifting towards a balance of payments crisis. Today, the Fund says, the State Bank of Pakistan’s stock of net foreign assets turned positive in March 2014, for the first time since last September. But a breakdown shows most of the money has come through debt-creating flows, with $5.1bn coming from Eurobonds, Saudi money and accelerated multilateral loans. On the current account side, remittance inflows have been strong, but export growth has been anaemic at 3.3pc year on year.

In other areas too, all is not as rosy as it might seem listening to the government. For instance, government borrowing has not slowed down as much as it has shifted tracks, with Rs1.4tr raised through longer-term Pakistan Investment Bonds in the first quarter of 2014, against a target of Rs280bn. Longer maturities are a good thing, but the rising stock of external debt, especially higher-risk ‘bullet securities’ like the Eurobonds, means one type of risk has been substituted for another. Likewise, credit to the private sector may have increased by 5pc, year on year, but is “still negative in real terms”. On the fiscal side too, most of the visible adjustment is coming from the non-tax side — a cess on natural gas, remainder receipts from the 3G auction, provincial surpluses — while revenue collections in April show “a significant shortfall”. The structural reforms listed in the IMF’s third review would be credible if there was evidence of strong ownership at this stage. Given the continuing vacillation to fill key posts — in regulators and boards and consultants and management of public-sector enterprises — scepticism is mounting regarding the government’s resolve to follow through on the path of reforms. Whatever momentum the government has built thus far can dissipate quickly if strong follow-up action does not come quickly.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

Inexplicable vacancy

Editorial

THE government has been rightly criticised for leaving key ministries and public corporations without permanent heads and for running departments on an ad hoc basis. The office of the chief election commissioner has also been occupied by temporary incumbents ever since retired justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim resigned from the post in July last year, after overseeing the general elections. It is highly unfortunate that such a key constitutional office has been without a permanent head for one year; both the government as well as opposition parties are equally to blame for this. After all, with so many calling for electoral reforms, it is inexplicable why political forces have been unable to come up with a consensus candidate to head the Election Commission of Pakistan, the body that will be at the heart of the reform process. There has been some movement on the matter lately, but there is little to suggest a permanent CEC is about to be named.

THE government has been rightly criticised for leaving key ministries and public corporations without permanent heads and for running departments on an ad hoc basis. The office of the chief election commissioner has also been occupied by temporary incumbents ever since retired justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim resigned from the post in July last year, after overseeing the general elections. It is highly unfortunate that such a key constitutional office has been without a permanent head for one year; both the government as well as opposition parties are equally to blame for this. After all, with so many calling for electoral reforms, it is inexplicable why political forces have been unable to come up with a consensus candidate to head the Election Commission of Pakistan, the body that will be at the heart of the reform process. There has been some movement on the matter lately, but there is little to suggest a permanent CEC is about to be named.

After the 18th Amendment, the prime minister is — after consulting with the leader of the opposition — supposed to send three names to a parliamentary committee to select the head of the ECP. There was a move some time ago to nominate retired justice Rana Bhagwandas as CEC. However, despite the respectable credentials of the jurist, the idea was scuppered as Mr Bhagwandas had served as chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission, making him ineligible for the post. Ever since, the matter has been in suspended animation. Some initiative has come from Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Khurshid Shah, who wrote to the prime minister last month asking him to carry the process forward. Either there is an alarming shortage of qualified manpower for the post in Pakistan, or political forces are not taking their responsibility seriously. Even in the meeting that Mr Shah had with the finance minister and PTI leaders on Monday, no names were discussed. The political players in the country — members of the government as well as opposition parties — need to show initiative in this regard. The sooner a permanent CEC is appointed, the better. All efforts should be focused on coming up with a consensus candidate, though not one whose nomination could trigger controversy and delay the process even further. Meaningful electoral reforms as well as the evolution of the democratic project demand that a permanent head be installed to guide the ECP without further delay.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

Sunken treasure

Editorial

NOT often does the modern world present the opportunity to dwell upon sunken ships with treasure aboard, but fortuitously and unexpectedly, we have one now. As is well known, the Peshawar valley was once home to several monasteries and sites of the Gandhara civilisation. At Jamal Garhi was a Buddhist monastery dating back to that era. Its remains were found in 1848 by Sir Alexander Cunningham, the first director general of the Archaeological Survey of India. Most of the finds were sent off to various museums, including in Lahore, Kolkata and Britain. But there is evidence that several coins and sculptures from Jamal Garhi were amongst the cargo of such valuables that was sent in 1885 by Sir Cunningham for exhibition at the London Museum. Unfortunately, the steamship they were on, the SS Indus, sank somewhere near the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, and Indian and Sri Lankan authorities have spent the last century looking for it. Now, according to a Sri Lankan archaeologist, there are grounds to believe that the shipwreck has been located, and a test excavation is scheduled towards the end of the year.

NOT often does the modern world present the opportunity to dwell upon sunken ships with treasure aboard, but fortuitously and unexpectedly, we have one now. As is well known, the Peshawar valley was once home to several monasteries and sites of the Gandhara civilisation. At Jamal Garhi was a Buddhist monastery dating back to that era. Its remains were found in 1848 by Sir Alexander Cunningham, the first director general of the Archaeological Survey of India. Most of the finds were sent off to various museums, including in Lahore, Kolkata and Britain. But there is evidence that several coins and sculptures from Jamal Garhi were amongst the cargo of such valuables that was sent in 1885 by Sir Cunningham for exhibition at the London Museum. Unfortunately, the steamship they were on, the SS Indus, sank somewhere near the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, and Indian and Sri Lankan authorities have spent the last century looking for it. Now, according to a Sri Lankan archaeologist, there are grounds to believe that the shipwreck has been located, and a test excavation is scheduled towards the end of the year.

Unlike the other two countries involved in the search effort, Pakistan has not yet shown much interest in joining in. However, the newly appointed director of archaeology and museums, Dr Abdus Samad (an archaeologist by profession) intends to write to the Sri Lankan authorities to request Pakistan’s participation. It is certainly hoped that those spearheading the excavation offer local professionals a role, and that the artefacts are eventually recovered. If and when that happens, and it is possible to prove the link to Jamal Garhi, Pakistan should certainly aim for the items to be returned, and preserve these well. Too much of our own history is lost to younger generations simply because of lack of attention or administrative apathy. Where saving some of it is a possibility, every effort should be made in that direction.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

Succour for the internally displaced

Editorial

GIVEN that this was a crisis that the government had predicted, and that registration points and checkposts are in place, the lack of consensus that exists regarding the number of people who have fled North Waziristan is quite remarkable. A report submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the weekend puts the figure of those registered at 572,529, comprising over 44,000 families. However, officials also say that not all persons evacuating the area have been registered, and that the current estimates might be inflated by people from the same families registering themselves separately. The same day the report went to the prime minister, PTI chief Imran Khan, whose party governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that the number of those coming to the province alone had reached 750,000. Nevertheless, this much is obvious: the flood of people in need of immediate aid is huge, and the state and provincial machinery are under severe stress, both in terms of funds and logistics. This state of affairs is hampering a coordinated, concerted and multi-pronged effort to obtain the maximum benefit from available financial resources.

GIVEN that this was a crisis that the government had predicted, and that registration points and checkposts are in place, the lack of consensus that exists regarding the number of people who have fled North Waziristan is quite remarkable. A report submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the weekend puts the figure of those registered at 572,529, comprising over 44,000 families. However, officials also say that not all persons evacuating the area have been registered, and that the current estimates might be inflated by people from the same families registering themselves separately. The same day the report went to the prime minister, PTI chief Imran Khan, whose party governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that the number of those coming to the province alone had reached 750,000. Nevertheless, this much is obvious: the flood of people in need of immediate aid is huge, and the state and provincial machinery are under severe stress, both in terms of funds and logistics. This state of affairs is hampering a coordinated, concerted and multi-pronged effort to obtain the maximum benefit from available financial resources.

Given this context, then, it is impossible to disagree with Mr Khan when, on Sunday, he urged the army to allow foreign-funded NGOs into the area. Reportedly, several organisations that are in a position to make a difference are facing delays in obtaining no-objection certificates. The irony of this is only deepened by the fact that extremist organisations, through their ‘charity’ wings, are active in their relief efforts.

The fact is that in such cases where the number of refugees is so large, international aid organisations are best placed to make a difference since they have the resources and, most importantly, the training for leading a cohesive push. This was amply demonstrated in Pakistan in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake in the north. State and society did what was possible, but countless lives were saved — and not just physically — by NGOs that drew their funding from abroad. The army may be wary of letting people into the theatre of operations in North Waziristan, but that is where the exodus is from and relief organisations are needed not there but in the parts of Pakistan proper to which people are going. True, the realities of the region are such that there may be fears regarding the entry of foreigners with dubious credentials. But, crucially, it is being forgotten that the employees and workers of such NGOs are in large part Pakistani citizens who can effectively mobilise their local expertise and knowledge of the country’s specifics. Unless the government and army are themselves fully capable of handling this crisis that appears to be escalating — and so far they have not coped well — there is no good reason that NGO aid be denied to the hundreds of thousands of IDPs.

Published in Dawn, July 8th , 2014

Rebuilding lives

Editorial

WHILE people have been fed a steady diet of bad news thanks to over a decade of militant violence and terrorism, sometimes inspiring stories emerge from the rubble that provide hope that it is possible to start anew. The reconstruction of apartments in Karachi’s Abbas Town, nearly a year-and-a-half after bombings devastated the densely populated area, is one such story. Nearly 50 people were killed and around 180 injured in the bombings which occurred in March 2013. As reported by this paper on Monday, residents and shopkeepers have begun to move into the newly built flats and shops in an effort to restart their lives. The Sindh government provided the funds for the reconstruction, which was overseen by a committee comprising members of the local community. Religious and social welfare organisations also pitched in by helping victims with rent assistance and other needs during the reconstruction period. Looking at the picture of the new flats — which are a far cry from the devastated remains that stood in the aftermath of the carnage — we are reminded of the fact that it is possible to get back up after tragedy strikes. The relatively swift reconstruction has shown that when state and society work together, it is indeed possible to pick up the pieces and rebuild lives atop the ruins left in the wake of terrorism.

WHILE people have been fed a steady diet of bad news thanks to over a decade of militant violence and terrorism, sometimes inspiring stories emerge from the rubble that provide hope that it is possible to start anew. The reconstruction of apartments in Karachi’s Abbas Town, nearly a year-and-a-half after bombings devastated the densely populated area, is one such story. Nearly 50 people were killed and around 180 injured in the bombings which occurred in March 2013. As reported by this paper on Monday, residents and shopkeepers have begun to move into the newly built flats and shops in an effort to restart their lives. The Sindh government provided the funds for the reconstruction, which was overseen by a committee comprising members of the local community. Religious and social welfare organisations also pitched in by helping victims with rent assistance and other needs during the reconstruction period. Looking at the picture of the new flats — which are a far cry from the devastated remains that stood in the aftermath of the carnage — we are reminded of the fact that it is possible to get back up after tragedy strikes. The relatively swift reconstruction has shown that when state and society work together, it is indeed possible to pick up the pieces and rebuild lives atop the ruins left in the wake of terrorism.

Tens of thousands of people, both civilians and men in uniform, have either been killed or grievously injured in similar acts of terrorist violence across Pakistan. But while the military does take care of its own, there is hardly any safety net to speak of for civilians. That means that when breadwinners are lost to terrorism or incapacitated by injury, families are brought to the verge of destitution. However, as the Abbas Town example shows, this doesn’t have to be the case. The state has largely failed to provide refuge to those who have survived violence. Yet if it puts its considerable resources and infrastructure to good use by involving local communities, those affected by terrorism can be helped to get back on their feet. The pain of losing a loved one or having family members critically injured may never subside. But people still need to be given a helping hand to rebuild their lives with respect and dignity. Hence this spirit needs to be emulated nationwide by the state and communities to help those stricken by terrorism.

Published in Dawn, July 8th , 2014

Chaudhry Nisar saga

Editorial

THERE may be two ways of looking at the latest episode involving an angry Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. It could be frowned upon as fresh proof of old tribal tendencies, of how personal egos can make individuals act in strange ways in the most demanding of times, with Chaudhry Nisar pulled up for making a habit of it. Or it can be taken as an example of someone asserting his democratic choice to dissent within the party, rather than submitting blindly to the leadership. In either case, it is ill-timed, and in both scenarios, it can be presumed that we are far from having seen the last of it. ‘Informed’ reports about the meetings in Rawalpindi and Lahore, which pictured the PML-N leadership as trying to pacify an old party lieutenant, indicate only partial success. Chaudhry Nisar, who happens to be in charge of the interior ministry of a country that is fighting a crucial battle, is said to have been persuaded to continue in the post even when he stands by his right to disagree. Thus, this could well be momentary relief rather than a long-term solution. With speculation about factions within the PML-N filling the vacuum created by silence on the actual reason behind the differences, the problem could resurface soon.

THERE may be two ways of looking at the latest episode involving an angry Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. It could be frowned upon as fresh proof of old tribal tendencies, of how personal egos can make individuals act in strange ways in the most demanding of times, with Chaudhry Nisar pulled up for making a habit of it. Or it can be taken as an example of someone asserting his democratic choice to dissent within the party, rather than submitting blindly to the leadership. In either case, it is ill-timed, and in both scenarios, it can be presumed that we are far from having seen the last of it. ‘Informed’ reports about the meetings in Rawalpindi and Lahore, which pictured the PML-N leadership as trying to pacify an old party lieutenant, indicate only partial success. Chaudhry Nisar, who happens to be in charge of the interior ministry of a country that is fighting a crucial battle, is said to have been persuaded to continue in the post even when he stands by his right to disagree. Thus, this could well be momentary relief rather than a long-term solution. With speculation about factions within the PML-N filling the vacuum created by silence on the actual reason behind the differences, the problem could resurface soon.

If a democracy is strong enough to allow visible disagreement between a prime minister and his interior minister, the next level should be where these differences are identified and are seen to be discussed. Also, it is inevitable for a party of the parliamentary size of the PML-N to have groupings. But by creating the impression that the Chaudhry Nisar issue is something that can only be resolved by secret parleys and a resort to old notions of loyalty, the PML-N is fanning all kinds of rumours. At this stage of his long political career, the prime minister must be able to display not only tolerance of intra-party dissent but the skill and patience to address and resolve it.

Published in Dawn, July 8th , 2014

Balochistan: no progress

Editorial

THE battering that the National Party has taken nationally over the controversial appointment, now reversed, of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s son Arsalan Iftikhar was well deserved. But it also helped temporarily obscure a more basic failure of the Balochistan government: an inability to move forward, even marginally, on finding a political settlement to what is now the longest-running Baloch insurgency. On Saturday though, Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch found himself faced with probing questions from the media about what exactly his government has been able to do on the security front. The short answer: nothing. Perhaps earlier on in this government’s term it would have been possible to appreciate the candidness of the chief minister. To be sure, Dr Malik hardly has an enviable position in Balochistan, being undermined by the provincial leader of his coalition partner, the PML-N, and not having enough of a mandate to move with a sureness that could have made the insurgency’s leaders and the security establishment automatically follow his lead.

THE battering that the National Party has taken nationally over the controversial appointment, now reversed, of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s son Arsalan Iftikhar was well deserved. But it also helped temporarily obscure a more basic failure of the Balochistan government: an inability to move forward, even marginally, on finding a political settlement to what is now the longest-running Baloch insurgency. On Saturday though, Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch found himself faced with probing questions from the media about what exactly his government has been able to do on the security front. The short answer: nothing. Perhaps earlier on in this government’s term it would have been possible to appreciate the candidness of the chief minister. To be sure, Dr Malik hardly has an enviable position in Balochistan, being undermined by the provincial leader of his coalition partner, the PML-N, and not having enough of a mandate to move with a sureness that could have made the insurgency’s leaders and the security establishment automatically follow his lead.

Yet, a year on, the candidness of Dr Malik can largely be interpreted as reflecting the abject failure of his government and a virtual surrendering of responsibility for the province’s affairs. Already, Dr Malik’s assessment of his government has begun to sound eerily similar to his predecessor’s, Aslam Raisani. If that seems an unfair comparison, it has to be remembered that the National Party had a much greater burden of expectation on its shoulders, being one of the principal custodians of the democratic project in the province. So to hear Dr Malik try to switch the conversation from security to Balochistan’s alleged developmental progress triggers a sense of disappointment in the province’s leadership today. Balochistan’s economic backwardness is and will be a major challenge for any government for generations to come. But when large swathes of the province in the Baloch-dominated areas remain virtually cut off from the rest of the country and Quetta itself is a destination where most outsiders hesitate to travel to, what real chance is there of making any meaningful progress on development issues?

Clearly, the security problem is neither of the National Party-led provincial government’s making nor can Dr Malik solve it on his own. The federal government too seems to have shelved the security issue in the province and shows no inclination to even talk about it much. Similarly, the army-led security establishment, which continues to dominate the security policy on Balochistan, has given no indication that it is remotely interested in a rethink of its security-obsessed approach to the province and Baloch insurgents. The federal government and the army leadership are critical to any lasting solution to Balochistan’s insurgency-prone politics. But where too is the purposefulness and focus of the chief minister and his government? Unhappily, Balochistan seems destined to remain a lament for years to come.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Back-pedalling on gas

Editorial

THE last meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet appears to have taken a few expedient decisions relating to the use of CNG as a vehicular fuel. On the one hand, the committee lifted a years-old ban on the import of components for assembly of CNG kits reportedly because the ban had created a cottage industry in the manufacture and installation of substandard cylinders thus creating a public hazard. On the other hand, the committee refused to take a decision on any adjustment of gas prices, reportedly because the finance minister did not want to stir any political controversies at this time. It is true that consumer sentiments are very fragile during the month of Ramazan. It is also true that the government is facing political challenges, making this a very hot and testy summer indeed. But it is hard to dispel the impression that the government is rolling back its commitment to restraining the use of natural gas keeping in mind the resource’s growing shortage. Gas shortages are emerging as a key test of governance for any incumbent in our time, making it imperative for the government of the day to manage the shortages, and without any back-pedalling.

THE last meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet appears to have taken a few expedient decisions relating to the use of CNG as a vehicular fuel. On the one hand, the committee lifted a years-old ban on the import of components for assembly of CNG kits reportedly because the ban had created a cottage industry in the manufacture and installation of substandard cylinders thus creating a public hazard. On the other hand, the committee refused to take a decision on any adjustment of gas prices, reportedly because the finance minister did not want to stir any political controversies at this time. It is true that consumer sentiments are very fragile during the month of Ramazan. It is also true that the government is facing political challenges, making this a very hot and testy summer indeed. But it is hard to dispel the impression that the government is rolling back its commitment to restraining the use of natural gas keeping in mind the resource’s growing shortage. Gas shortages are emerging as a key test of governance for any incumbent in our time, making it imperative for the government of the day to manage the shortages, and without any back-pedalling.

Pakistan’s growing appetite for natural gas is in significant measure the result of the rising price of oil in international markets. As the price of oil spiralled upwards since 2002, more and more categories of consumers in Pakistan have flocked to gas, the preferred fuel, leading to spiralling demand. This is what explains the growing gas shortages in the country, and given the fact that no major gas find is on the horizon, the state of affairs is set to continue for the foreseeable future. Therefore, two steps are absolutely essential to ensure the growing shortages are managed effectively. One, the dwindling stock of domestic gas should be allocated to priority sectors first, and a consensus had emerged since the Supreme Court’s intervention in the matter a few years ago that the use of natural gas as a vehicular fuel is the lowest priority. Second, the price of gas must be steadily increased, and the subsidy withdrawn. Only a rigorous implementation of price reform coupled with steadfast enforcement of the gas allocation priority list will keep the shortages manageable. In the last ECC meeting, the government appears to have taken two steps back in both these crucial areas.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Diamer raid

Editorial

THE daring raid conducted by militants in the small hours of Friday, in which a police station was attacked in the Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan, will heighten the sense of insecurity prevailing in the region. GB has seen horrific sectarian violence in the past, which is why even the slightest militant activity is enough to ring alarm bells. What is most worrying is that the three dozen or so attackers who tied up the six policemen on duty were reportedly attired in military uniform. This is the fourth reported incident in the area in which militants donning security forces’ uniform have been involved in attacks. Past major incidents include the massacre of mostly Shia passengers who were pulled off buses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Kohistan district, which borders GB, and Babusar Top. Last year’s brutal slaying of 10 climbers at the Nanga Parbat base camp was also carried out by men wearing uniforms. Also troubling is the booty the attackers walked off with, which included weapons, ammunition, wireless sets and police uniforms.

THE daring raid conducted by militants in the small hours of Friday, in which a police station was attacked in the Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan, will heighten the sense of insecurity prevailing in the region. GB has seen horrific sectarian violence in the past, which is why even the slightest militant activity is enough to ring alarm bells. What is most worrying is that the three dozen or so attackers who tied up the six policemen on duty were reportedly attired in military uniform. This is the fourth reported incident in the area in which militants donning security forces’ uniform have been involved in attacks. Past major incidents include the massacre of mostly Shia passengers who were pulled off buses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Kohistan district, which borders GB, and Babusar Top. Last year’s brutal slaying of 10 climbers at the Nanga Parbat base camp was also carried out by men wearing uniforms. Also troubling is the booty the attackers walked off with, which included weapons, ammunition, wireless sets and police uniforms.

GB is a highly volatile region; while things have been quiet on the sectarian front in the recent past, instability in Fata and KP can have a spillover effect in the area. Both the regional and central governments and Islamabad, as well as the security establishment, need to keep a vigilant eye on happenings in GB, as militants may be looking to stir up trouble. The military specifically needs to investigate how the militants have been able to acquire their uniform. In the short term, patrolling needs to be stepped up, especially in the area bordering KP, while intelligence agencies must keep tabs on extremists within GB. In the longer term, the capabilities of the local police need to be vastly improved. While jihadi groups in the region may be lying low, as the Diamer raid shows they can strike at will, and the police appear to be in no position to challenge them effectively. The country cannot allow a new threat to emerge at an already disturbing juncture.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Charter and after

Editorial

ON the 37th anniversary of Gen Ziaul Haq’s coup against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the PPP has asked for political unity to combat the existing threat to democracy in the country. PPP Senator Raza Rabbani has listed the dangers that Pakistan is confronted with and has called out for dealing with them in the spirit of the Charter of Democracy signed by politicians, chiefly the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, in London in May 2006. That charter, which was signed almost seven years into Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime, asserted the supremacy of civilian, elected rule over the excesses of the military. As Mr Rabbani has summed up the situation now, the scope is wide. He has emphasised the dangers posed by militancy and the threat to derail the system by some political groups, besides mentioning the effects on people and livelihoods of sectarianism, crony capitalism and the designs he believes imperialism has on Pakistan. He has been more cautious in hinting at the perils of the pan-Islamist policy “pursued by elements within the state” and has reason to be upset by those who say the days of the elected government are numbered. And as if to unburden his conscience only days after his party played a crucial role in the passage of the controversial Protection of Pakistan Bill he has made the usual vows about protecting the people’s fundamental rights.

ON the 37th anniversary of Gen Ziaul Haq’s coup against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the PPP has asked for political unity to combat the existing threat to democracy in the country. PPP Senator Raza Rabbani has listed the dangers that Pakistan is confronted with and has called out for dealing with them in the spirit of the Charter of Democracy signed by politicians, chiefly the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, in London in May 2006. That charter, which was signed almost seven years into Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime, asserted the supremacy of civilian, elected rule over the excesses of the military. As Mr Rabbani has summed up the situation now, the scope is wide. He has emphasised the dangers posed by militancy and the threat to derail the system by some political groups, besides mentioning the effects on people and livelihoods of sectarianism, crony capitalism and the designs he believes imperialism has on Pakistan. He has been more cautious in hinting at the perils of the pan-Islamist policy “pursued by elements within the state” and has reason to be upset by those who say the days of the elected government are numbered. And as if to unburden his conscience only days after his party played a crucial role in the passage of the controversial Protection of Pakistan Bill he has made the usual vows about protecting the people’s fundamental rights.

Mr Rabbani was at the centre of the PPP’s campaign for constitutional reform during the party’s last term, between 2008 and 2013 — the first elected government after the Charter of Democracy — and there were points, many of them related directly to the army, where little progress could be made. There was, however, plenty of activity and some huge gains, for example, in the area of provincial autonomy. A level of maturity was displayed by parties in parliament over some other sensitive issues, not least significant of them the right of an elected government to complete its tenure. That was by and large between the PPP and PML-N.

By the time the 2013 general election happened, a new camp opposing the PPP-PML-N agreement on a few basic issues had emerged. The biggest challenge for those swearing by the Charter now is as to how they can convince the newly emerged forces to see the worth of an accord between the PPP and PML-N aimed at establishing a long-term system of civilian rule. That consensus is almost impossible to achieve given the current frictions in the country. Alternatively, Mr Rabbani’s message is meant to reassert the value of the PPP for PML-N in these trying times. Essentially, in the context of the growing political divide in the country and party politics, this is a reminder to the PML-N about the need to have and retain the PPP as an ally.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

DHA in Peshawar

Editorial

OVER several years now, there have been warnings that Pakistan is an increasingly food-insecure country, and large sections of its population are going hungry or are malnourished. There are several reasons for this, from rising prices of daily dietary essentials to increasing rates of poverty and the fact that food production is simply not keeping pace with the needs of a growing population. This is disturbing enough given that this is a country that has a largely agricultural economy. But even more worrying is the manner in which myopia, mismanagement and policymaking for short-term gains at the cost of long-term benefits combine to strip away citizens’ most fundamental rights. Consider, for example, the recent news that the Pakistan Army-managed Defence Housing Authority has planned two major housing schemes in Peshawar. That this is the only news on the sector from the area is in itself surprising because while there is a severe shortage of housing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (and the rest of the country), the need is for affordable, low-income dwellings rather than mansions of the sort that are identified with the DHA, and which come with price tags in the multiple millions. But, as if to further insult the poor of the province, there is the location. These schemes are to be established on a vast tract of land that is populated, fertile and being used for agricultural purposes. The area is, indeed, considered the ‘food basket’ of the province and a variety of fruit, vegetables and crops are grown there. Moreover, should work go ahead with these housing schemes, the displacement of some 100,000 people is likely, along with bringing to an end their source of earning — farming.

OVER several years now, there have been warnings that Pakistan is an increasingly food-insecure country, and large sections of its population are going hungry or are malnourished. There are several reasons for this, from rising prices of daily dietary essentials to increasing rates of poverty and the fact that food production is simply not keeping pace with the needs of a growing population. This is disturbing enough given that this is a country that has a largely agricultural economy. But even more worrying is the manner in which myopia, mismanagement and policymaking for short-term gains at the cost of long-term benefits combine to strip away citizens’ most fundamental rights. Consider, for example, the recent news that the Pakistan Army-managed Defence Housing Authority has planned two major housing schemes in Peshawar. That this is the only news on the sector from the area is in itself surprising because while there is a severe shortage of housing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (and the rest of the country), the need is for affordable, low-income dwellings rather than mansions of the sort that are identified with the DHA, and which come with price tags in the multiple millions. But, as if to further insult the poor of the province, there is the location. These schemes are to be established on a vast tract of land that is populated, fertile and being used for agricultural purposes. The area is, indeed, considered the ‘food basket’ of the province and a variety of fruit, vegetables and crops are grown there. Moreover, should work go ahead with these housing schemes, the displacement of some 100,000 people is likely, along with bringing to an end their source of earning — farming.

There are precedents that can be used to show that in the past, policymakers have recommended that agricultural land not be given over for commercial or other purposes. Better sense needs to prevail here. The DHA is a powerful group with interests all over the country; its practice of swallowing land wholesale to build colonies for the elite while leaving the poor dispossessed is amply in evidence. It is for KP’s policymakers and Peshawar’s city planning authorities to intervene and make sure that alternative locations are found. Certainly, cities need to expand. But development must not cater to one section of society at the cost of another. Further, a food-insecure country cannot afford to throw away precious agricultural land.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Militant-run relief camps

Editorial

ONCE again, extremist organisations are filling a vacuum created by the government’s torpor and lack of planning. This has been seen before in times of crisis, including natural disasters such as the earthquake in 2005, the floods in recent years, as well as the military operation in Swat in 2009, when internally displaced people were given succour by ‘charities’ run by extremist organisations. This time it is the IDP crisis unfolding in the wake of the military operation in North Waziristan that has once again seen such groups leap into the fray. A report in Dawn on Friday detailed a visit to relief camps run by the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation — the Jamaatud Dawa’s latest iteration — and supporters of Maulana Masood Azhar, the firebrand cleric who heads Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is banned both internationally and in Pakistan. The report quoted the FIF camp’s chief organiser lauding the army’s “cooperative” attitude towards them. At the same time, local NGOs are being asked to apply for no-objection certificates to set up relief camps.

ONCE again, extremist organisations are filling a vacuum created by the government’s torpor and lack of planning. This has been seen before in times of crisis, including natural disasters such as the earthquake in 2005, the floods in recent years, as well as the military operation in Swat in 2009, when internally displaced people were given succour by ‘charities’ run by extremist organisations. This time it is the IDP crisis unfolding in the wake of the military operation in North Waziristan that has once again seen such groups leap into the fray. A report in Dawn on Friday detailed a visit to relief camps run by the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation — the Jamaatud Dawa’s latest iteration — and supporters of Maulana Masood Azhar, the firebrand cleric who heads Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is banned both internationally and in Pakistan. The report quoted the FIF camp’s chief organiser lauding the army’s “cooperative” attitude towards them. At the same time, local NGOs are being asked to apply for no-objection certificates to set up relief camps.

The extremist threat to Pakistan is a deep-rooted one precisely because groups espousing dangerously obscurantist ideologies have been allowed to weave themselves into the warp and weft of society. They have been encouraged to fly the banner of patriotism while those with a secular approach have been marginalised and regarded with suspicion by the powers that be. The disastrous fallout from this attempt at social engineering is one reason the military finds itself fighting a battle in the mountains of North Waziristan today. However, to effect long-term reversal of Pakistan’s slide into radicalisation, every strain of extremism will have to be painstakingly excised from the body politic. Moreover, until the establishment severs its ties with ‘favoured’ militants, the country cannot truly change its trajectory. In times such as these, such groups must be denied the space to act as saviours of vulnerable people in terms of material assistance, while along the way making inroads into their minds in the guise of saving their souls.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Ordinary lives

Sakib Sherani

BARRING a patch in the mid-2000s, Pakistan’s economy has been mired in the quicksand of low growth, rising unemployment, increasing indebtedness, and galloping inflation for almost two decades. How have ordinary Pakistanis managed in these testing times?

BARRING a patch in the mid-2000s, Pakistan’s economy has been mired in the quicksand of low growth, rising unemployment, increasing indebtedness, and galloping inflation for almost two decades. How have ordinary Pakistanis managed in these testing times?

The following pen sketches are of people I have known closely during this time and their stories of struggle and survival. It is hardly a representative set, of course, mainly because it is a miniscule sample that is largely urban. However, combined with the stories that we know of from the smaller towns and cities across the length and breadth of the country, these brief outlines of the lives of our compatriots, who are largely invisible to the rest of us, are revealing in their own way.

However, despite a reasonable combined income, the household’s expenditures have been more elastic. Periodic weddings and funerals in the extended family have left Khala Sakina indebted on several occasions. Health shocks have been another constant drain on savings, with visits to quack health ‘practitioners’ not helping the family’s cause.

Of late, the electricity bill has been providing all the shocks. Despite the fact the family lives in Golra on the edges of Islamabad, their electricity bill has exceeded mine on several occasions. Quite a few times it has averaged around Rs5,000 a month—– an implausible amount for a family switching on a few tube lights and fans every night.

Asad: Asad washes my car each morning. An intelligent, hardworking and extremely well-mannered teenager, Asad is one of four brothers who wash cars full-time and don’t attend school. With a little help on the down payment, Asad bought a motorcycle on credit two years ago and has since seen his mobility — and income opportunities — improve sharply. However, without an education it is difficult to see how Asad will move up the economic ladder from here. The problem with financing his education is the opportunity cost for his family — someone will have to provide for the lost income before Asad will be willing to consider a formal education. A part-time enrolment may be an option.

It is sad to see Asad’s obvious intelligence and talent go to waste, but he represents millions of youth of this country who are all worthy citizens the state is too willing to ignore and brush under a ‘macro’ framework.

Shakirullah: An erstwhile trader in honey based in Nowshera, Shakirullah was heavily indebted when I first met him. A few bouts of disease and illness in the family had placed Shakirullah’s head firmly below water, so to speak. Financially, the final straw came when the floods in 2011 destroyed part of his house. Though he did eventually receive compensation from the government, it only partially covered the cost of reconstruction.

Barely literate, Shakirullah doesn’t have the capital to restart his business. Provided with some seed capital, a few attempts have gone awry, forcing him to work as a daily wage labourer for several months. To compound his worries, his daughter — the youngest among numerous children — has a heart condition that requires periodic hospitalisation; any saving that Shakirullah does eke out goes towards doctor’s fees and medication. In the past three years or so, his children have gone without proper food for countless days, with clear signs of malnourishment. When the domestic situation gets unbearable, Shakirullah ‘escapes’ with the help of the Tableeghi Jamaat — though his reason for leaving is always cast in more spiritual terms!

Babu: To me, Babu is the Pakistani we all forget about and leave behind. I have known him since he was a spritely teen, darting among cars hawking newspapers and the salacious, gossipy Indian film magazines at the Marriott signal in Karachi almost 40 years ago. We used to be on our way back from school, and Babu would be wearing his Hawaiian shirt and sporting his trademark smile.

Asif: Of all the ‘ordinary’ Pakistanis I know, Asif’s story is among the positive: he is clearly ‘on the up’ (along with his neighbour, Majeed, the laundry shop owner). Asif runs a mid-sized karyana store in F-11, and can be considered a successful shopkeeper. His weekly purchasing, all on cash, is close to Rs100,000 a week, and he has done well enough to recently buy a small plot of land near the new airport as an investment.

But for each story of hope such as Asif’s, there are countless other stories of bottomless despair across Pakistan. From the desperate emails and letters I receive, educated youth in small-town Pakistan are hurting the most, especially towns that are in the economic hinterland, not connected to a larger market town or industrial cluster. Lack of opportunities, administrative injustice and heavy-handedness, and a brewing public health crisis compound the everyday misery of millions. What can, and should be done, will be the subject of a subsequent article.

The writer is a former economic adviser to government, and currently heads a macroeconomic consultancy based in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Two and two together

Asha’ar Rehman

FOR a meeting written in fate, it was still a bit of a coincidence that Chaudhry Shujaat Husain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi were home when Shah Mehmood Qureshi arrived at their doorstep on Wednesday.

FOR a meeting written in fate, it was still a bit of a coincidence that Chaudhry Shujaat Husain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi were home when Shah Mehmood Qureshi arrived at their doorstep on Wednesday.

The two Chaudhry cousins are more at home at Allama Tahirul Qadri’s residence in Model Town these days, excitedly sizing up the consignment and measuring the merchandise as do seasoned goods forwarding agents. Dr Qadri is the latest stop their search for numbers has taken them to, and they have already signed up for the impending revolution.

If the Pakistan Awami Tehreek was what they had been waiting for, recognition from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that Qureshi’s visit has brought them would indicate that they are on to something big here.

That was an alliance which was doomed from the outset, and while Chaudhry Shujaat hasn’t been as forthcoming in regretting his other past associations, he has been categorical in admitting that his election alliance with the PPP was a huge mistake.

Again, he has not yet subjected the coming together of the PPP and the PML-Q in the government before the last elections to such critical evaluation, but given the results in the 2013 polls, it can be said the Q-League failed to extract from that ruling coalition the benefits it was aspiring to.

The 2013 poll ended a mystery and cut short a fairy­tale — of a party that was able to retain its significance in national politics despite everyone saying that it had lost its purpose.

After the departure of Gen Pervez Musharraf, the inventor of the PML-Q, from the scene, the thinking generally was that the party would disintegrate fast. When it didn’t, the feat was credited to the crafty leadership of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Husain, as also to the need of a shaky PPP desperate for just enough support in parliament. Unfortunately for the two Gujrat gentlemen who had been an integral part of Punjab politics since the late 1970s, their magic failed to work during the 2013 elections.

Faced as the Chaudhrys were with the task of reinventing themselves, for a little while they created the impression that they were about to place their trust in a new face from the family, Moonis Elahi. Ever so briefly it was thought that the young Moonis was from then onwards going to be allowed to lead the Chaudhrys’ charge with the blessings and under the supervision of Pervaiz Elahi and Shujaat Husain.

Short of that, Moonis was at least being tipped for some important role in the Chaudhrys’ image that badly needed reorganisation and an urgent sprinkling of the new to freshen it up. But that option was soon put on hold in favour of a continuation of some old-style politics.

Some may call the politics that followed from the PML-Q platform an attempt at saving an old brand that has been so central to the life of the system that has evolved over the years. As the PML-Q duo now makes their pledges to change the system, they are obviously not willing to rid themselves of the status of being the ultimate adhesive that guaranteed the longevity of the system — here obviously being two systems or establishments in the Chaudhrys’ book, one that needs to be razed and the other that has to be nurtured and perpetuated.

The choices here are clear but the course over time has certainly gotten tougher. Ever since it was wiped out in Punjab, its base, in the last elections, the PML-Q under the Chaudhrys has been soliciting the support of the PTI. The PTI was the only party with the capacity to challenge the PML-N, and like an outfit confident of its value and unwilling to unduly accommodate any free riders, it has taken its time in reciprocating the positive vibes from the PML-Q.

However, in aid of allegations about both the PTI and PML-Q being natural allies, Imran Khan has been careful not to mention the Chaudhrys’ contributions to the system he wants to dismantle in a hurry. The call on Wednesday by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, PTI’s vice president, signified that Imran is now ready to exploit the potential of this ally-in-store, in return for promising the two PML-Q leaders some much awaited real action in the middle.

Given that the PTI had so far resisted indulging the PML-Q could mean that Imran Khan is considering serious, direct action against the government of Mian Nawaz Sharif. He may well be thinking about carrying out his threat to resign from the National Assembly thus destabilising the government. There is a flurry of activity involving other players — the PPP, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, et al — that confirms that no one is taking the PTI’s warnings of a march on Islamabad and other actions lightly.

This points to a real opportunity for the Chaudhrys. They do not have the large disciples that Dr Tahirul Qadri has at his disposal or the parliamentary presence of Imran Khan’s PTI. They must pose as the guides and must believe that the map that they have been flaunting to woo parties much bigger in size will still take them to the old, familiar destination.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

A little respect

Tasneem Noorani

SOMEONE said that the “bureaucracy is the epoxy that greases the wheels of progress”, while a detractor said the “bureaucracy destroys initiative….”

SOMEONE said that the “bureaucracy is the epoxy that greases the wheels of progress”, while a detractor said the “bureaucracy destroys initiative….”

While the first quotation reflects how the British perceived the bureaucracy in this country, the latter quotation reflects how subsequent governments in Pakistan have been viewing it. Ever since the British left, we have been battering and moulding our bureaucracy to Pakistani requirements, which in essence has been to make it subservient to the rulers, whether military or civil.

The phrase ‘remnant of the colonial past’ was used conveniently to ‘reform’ the bureaucracy to make it a notch more subservient, conveniently ignoring all the other ‘heritage of the Raj’, like the systems and traditions of the Pakistan Army. Even criminal and civil laws have mainly stayed the same, as left by the British.

Bureaucracy bashing started with Ayub Khan firing 303 senior officers, followed by Yahya Khan’s dismissal of 1,300 officers; the withdrawal of constitutional guarantees by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto; his administrative reforms of 1972 followed by numerous other commissions to ‘reform’ the bureaucracy.

The final cut was the devolution reforms of Pervez Musharraf, which made the district administration, that touches the lives of 70pc of the population, unrecognisable. Twelve years later, the public still does not know what each of the plethora of new posts created in the name of devolution in the police and civil administration, is supposed to do.

It is easy to condemn the bureaucracy, but what should it be replaced with? To hire or post inappropriate civil servants, based on political loyalty, is the done thing, but when delivery declines, the bureaucracy and not the ruler is blamed. The removal of the IG Sindh, after a two-month tenure, for reportedly not signing a Rs8 billion procurement contract, is an indicator of the priorities of the rulers.

Posts in scores of crucial institutions are lying vacant because the government can’t find competent executives who are personally loyal also. The present rulers are reported to have said that the quality of bureaucracy has declined seriously since they were in power last, and they can’t figure out why.

The writ of the state is at an abysmal low because the bureaucracy is depressed, scared and directionless.

They are depressed because there are no postings and promotions on merit. It is who you know in the political hierarchy or whom you go to, to offer your ‘services’ that gets you postings and promotions.

Civil servants are scared because the courts have been summoning them on a regular basis. The criticism from the courts is reported in real time on TV. So without trial or charge, they often find themselves ‘convicted’.

A classic example was the fate of one of the most highly regarded civil servants, Kamran Lashari, for allowing a McDonalds in a park of Islamabad in violation of the capital’s master plan. While the eatery continues to thrive at the same location, his illustrious career was cut short. The current digging up of the capital, in violation of the master plan, is apparently going unnoticed by the courts.

As a solution, yet another round of reforms will not work. All that is required is to restore the respect and status of civil servants, rather than claim victory for bashing them. The powers and role of the heads of all departments and ministries, including the establishment secretary and chief secretaries, should be restored.

Once civil servants’ confidence and self-respect are restored and things again start happening on merit, the bureaucracy will start delivering and those who don’t should be held accountable, according to a transparent system of evaluation.

If nothing else, a subservient bureaucracy will run the country and also the government in power, into the ground.

The writer is a former federal secretary interior.

tasneem.m.noorani

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Old habits die hard

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

IT was in the early days of the Musharraf dictatorship that the now almost mythical Okara tenant farmers movement exploded into the public eye. The military junta was still lapping up the praises of the chattering classes content to support another ‘non-political’ government when the details of the institution’s rapacious land grab subjected it to a first major public relations disaster.

IT was in the early days of the Musharraf dictatorship that the now almost mythical Okara tenant farmers movement exploded into the public eye. The military junta was still lapping up the praises of the chattering classes content to support another ‘non-political’ government when the details of the institution’s rapacious land grab subjected it to a first major public relations disaster.

The Okara struggle was a game-changer for many reasons. That the otherwise docile peasantry of Punjab was expressing discontent with its beloved military, let alone confronting it, was of great historical significance. Then there was the fact that the Okara peasants opened the floodgates vis-à-vis public disclosures about what Ayesha Siddiqa would later call ‘Military Inc’. Finally the tenants’ uprising set off a chain reaction that would eventually culminate in the anti-dictatorship movement of 2007.

Most who followed the struggle will recall a relatively happy ending insofar as the military’s underhanded attempts to evict the tenants eventually failed in the face of severe public criticism. In the intervening decade or so the vast majority of the almost 100,000 residents of the Okara military farms have seen their lives transformed, freed from the tyranny of the men in khaki.

The upturn in their fortunes is noticeable; kutcha homes have been replaced by permanent structures; motorcycles and tractors are visible where bicycles were once the norm; and numerous families have diversified into non-agricultural occupations on account of the increase in income off the land.

Notwithstanding these ‘successes’, the spectre of a renewed assault by our holy guardians has never gone away. There have been numerous skirmishes between the tenants and military farm authorities over the years and a host of false criminal cases have been lodged against the tenants’ main leadership that have facilitated harassment and intimidation of all kinds.

A major confrontation was thus never too far away, and so it happened late last week. Hundreds of uniformed personnel descended upon Chak 15-4/L in a bid to take control over approximately 1,000 acres of land immediately adjacent to Okara Cantt. In the most bloody episode since the movement peaked in 2004, two tenants were killed and many more injured.

Faced with yet another very public fallout, the authorities have refrained from expanding the conflict. But even this relatively contained outbreak of violence confirms that the military has never accepted the claims of the tenants, and that it will, from time to time, continue to assert its own ‘right’ to take control of and appropriate the surplus from agricultural lands that are amongst the most fertile in central Punjab.

More generally, the sudden attack proves again that the military institution’s corporate interests compel it to periodically engage in brazen demonstrations of coercive power. It may or may not decide to again depose an elected government, but it is unlikely to ever tolerate a rollback of its innumerable profit-making ventures, given how central a part of the military lifestyle these have become.

At another level the renewal of hostilities between the self-proclaimed ‘guardian of the state’ and a relatively deprived class in the dominant province confirms that at least some segments of the population in the Punjabi heartland of the Pakistani state are willing to challenge the hegemonic project that has survived for almost seven decades on the back of support from a wide cross-section of Punjabi society.

Having said this, there is nothing like a critical mass of dissent necessary within Punjab for the military-dominated state to be definitively challenged. The non-Punjabi periperhies of the state remain at the very least suspicious — if not in a state of outright rebellion — of what is perceived as a ‘Punjabi’ military intent on maintaining exploitative relations.

A decade ago the Okara tenants effectively provided a window of opportunity for progressives in Punjab to assert that an effective alliance of working people in the dominant region with oppressed nationalities is by no means a pipe dream. Leaders of the Okara movement travelled the country, expressing solidarity with Sindhi fisherfolk, Pakhtun farmers and even Baloch nationalists.

Today Okara military farms are back in the spotlight, even if only briefly. The authoritarian and self-aggrandising military institution that they are resisting is engaging in much more severe violations of basic human freedoms in Waziristan, Balochistan and Sindh. There is now recognition amongst the Okara tenants — and others like them in Punjab who have seen the true face of the military — that theirs is only part of a much larger struggle against military hegemony.

Whether or not all oppressed groups in this country come together to challenge this hegemony will depend on the efforts of progressives across the ethnic divide. In the final analysis, it is only an organised political force of progressives that can foment a new vision for this country.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014

Obsession with a bad legal tool

I.A. Rehman

THE establishment’s aversion to a dispassionate discussion on the Protection of Pakistan Bill is quite amazing, for that way at least some of the concerns of the rights activists could have been allayed.

THE establishment’s aversion to a dispassionate discussion on the Protection of Pakistan Bill is quite amazing, for that way at least some of the concerns of the rights activists could have been allayed.

Nobody disputes the seriousness of the threat to the state and the government’s duty to protect its integrity. The whole debate is about the need to limit counter-militancy measures to the areas of conflict and to the enemies of the state, and to ensure that the derogation of fundamental rights does not exceed the limits prescribed by the national Constitution and international conventions.

When the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance was first issued on the last day of 2013, it targeted two categories of persons — ‘combatant enemy’ and ‘enemy alien’ — and both were liable to punitive action for waging war against Pakistan or joining the insurrection. Now the former category has been dropped — possibly to avoid liability under the laws of war — and the bill is wholly directed against ‘militants’, who include both Pakistanis and foreigners.

The draftsmen have apparently stumbled while defining an ‘enemy alien’ as a ‘militant’ who is an alien or has become one subsequent to loss of citizenship that he had acquired by naturalisation.

Since there is no mention of the alien’s involvement in war against Pakistan the provision seems to confer enemy status on any foreigner found in Pakistan. But aliens who have not taken up arms against Pakistan can be jailed under the Foreigners’ Act or deported under the Security of Pakistan Act. Why do we bring them under the Protection of Pakistan law? The problem could have been solved by including only combatants under the head of ‘enemy aliens’.

The establishment has created more doubts about its intentions while defining the ‘militant’. Five of the definitions identify a militant as one who raises arms against Pakistan or commits a scheduled offence and there is no quarrel with them. The definition of ‘militant’ that causes concern is as follows: 2. (d) (“Militant” means any person who) “threatens or acts or attempts to act in a manner prejudicial to the security, integrity or defence of Pakistan.”

Lawyers, students of law and victims of preventive detention laws are all familiar with the expressions used here. They are found in all laws authorising preventive detention because they constitute the first ground under Article 10 of the constitution for the validity of a preventive detention law.

And no words have been more thoroughly abused in Pakistan to deprive citizens of their rights, particularly their right to disagree with their rulers. This definition of a ‘militant’ has rightly fuelled apprehensions of attacks on basic rights and freedoms, especially among political dissidents in Balochistan and Sindh.

Another serious objection to the new enactment relates to the power allowed to armed forces, police and other civil armed forces to fire upon suspects. After much hassle it has been decided that only BS15 or higher ranked police officers can order firing. But no such conditions have been attached to army soldiers, Rangers, FC, and Coast Guards. The omission is quite unfair.

Besides, the point that has been missed during the debate on this provision is that it is not so much the rank of the officer who orders a firing that matters as the necessity of consultation with a judicious mind. Can the power to shoot at people be given to functionaries notorious for ‘encounter’ killings?

Further, the safeguards inserted by the Senate are inadequate. If an incident of firing results in death or grievous hurt, an in-house inquiry will be held. Few Pakistanis will buy this safeguard. In special circumstances, the federal government may order a judicial probe. If the lawmakers had due respect for the lives of their compatriots they could have recalled the existing law on the subject and made judicial inquiry in each case of death by LEA firing mandatory.

A most offensive provision of the bill is its Section 5 which gives retrospective protection to the arrest or detention of any person by the armed forces or civil armed forces before the PPO of 2014 was issued. This extraordinarily perverse provision legitimises the arrest and detention of all those people whose custody has for years been denied. Is anybody surprised at the strong reaction in Balochistan? Equally reprehensible is the legalisation of unauthorised detention centres /safe houses.

The unusual provision that allows the government to amend the schedule to the bill might be defended on the ground that the Anti-Terrorism Act has a similar section. Apart from the fact that bad precedents are better forgotten, the matter deserves the lawmakers’ serious attention.

Making changes in the schedule, especially the addition of new offences, will amount to legislation and that function cannot be delegated to the executive. What will happen if the government adds petty breach of peace to the schedule? The courts will of course strike that down. But leaving lacunae in legislation uncovered amounts to shoddy lawmaking. What about the suffering caused to the people before judicial intervention?

It is true that the bill finally adopted by parliament is not as bad as the one passed earlier by the National Assembly. This is no proper way of judging any law. A new law must stand on its intrinsic merit, its harmony with constitutional imperatives and international obligations, and its fair enforceability by the existing mechanisms. Otherwise the addition of a mild safeguard could make the Punjab Murderous Outrages Act of 1867 and the Rowlatt Act acceptable.

The establishment’s obsession with this particular measure and the efforts made to somehow push it through suggest that the executive’s desire to acquire a deadly tool has proved to be more decisive than the logic underlying the proposition. A bad omen for the defenders of the rule of law and civil liberties.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Reading the IMF

Khurram Husain

IT begins innocuously enough: “[t]he economy is showing signs of improvement”. Programme performance was “mostly positive”, the balance of payments is “improving, but remains delicate”. Reserves have also improved, although their position “remains insufficient” covering only two months of imports.

IT begins innocuously enough: “[t]he economy is showing signs of improvement”. Programme performance was “mostly positive”, the balance of payments is “improving, but remains delicate”. Reserves have also improved, although their position “remains insufficient” covering only two months of imports.

The IMF’s third review of its ongoing programme with Pakistan gives a fairly balanced picture of the economy, bowing deeply to political sensitivities yet finding a way to get its point across.

Besides security, the big threat to the economy is a rather mundane one: “slippages in policy implementation” and other delays in making key decisions. Conversations with business people here in Karachi have also revealed that one common concern is the weak ownership that this government is bringing to the reform process, the delays in making crucial decisions, the refusal to fill key positions like boards of important public-sector enterprises or regulatory bodies, or filling these posts stealthily, on the sly.

This is a major problem and it only leaves one wondering what the reason could be. Are they scared of appointing somebody with an independent mind? Do they prefer running things through people serving in a temporary and acting capacity since they are more likely to obey instructions? If so, then the Fund is right to flag “slippages in policy implementation” as the lead risk to growth since the reform path that lies ahead requires growing participation by private-sector professionals in turning things around.

The other big theme that comes up in discussions with investors and business leaders is the ad hoc nature of decision-making, as well as the cliquishness of the government leadership. “One never knows where things stand with them,” says one such leader from the business community in Karachi. “A minister will make a commitment then find himself unable to deliver.”

Another theme that keeps coming up is the growing engagement with China, and the space being given to the Chinese government and quasi government entities to come into Pakistan’s economy. “What will happen to existing players?” asks one leader with deep links to manufacturing, particularly for the domestic market. A comprehensive review ought to be done, these people argue, of the Free Trade Agreement that Pakistan signed with China to determine what impact it has had on Pakistan’s economy. “There is no clear policy on trade,” he says, going on to add that “trade is linked to other issues”.

Other issues in this case could be geopolitics or simply emotion. The only trade policy Pakistan has ever really had has been asking for concessional market access from the US and the European Union.

The weak ownership of any domestic policy agenda, and the repeated trips to China and signing of one MoU after another the terms of which are not known to anybody, is creating unease amongst business leaders.

But coming back to the Fund report, it gets more interesting a little further down. For instance, when discussing the fiscal situation, there is a small paragraph on government borrowing that notes a decline in banks’ participation in treasury bill auctions, arguing that “banks may require higher returns to cover fiscal financing needs, and may call for a revised debt issuance policy to accommodate such higher yields”.

This is a little puzzling, and since the Fund opts to simply leave the matter at that, we are left guessing as to what they were really trying to get at here. Is this a veiled suggestion to raise interest rates to reignite bank appetite for shorter tenor T-bills? And what sort of revisions does the Fund think will be necessary in the debt issuance policy to “accommodate such higher yields”?

What makes this statement a little more puzzling is that in the preceding sentence, the report says that “[s]taff discussed with the authorities implementation of recommendations in the new Medium-Term Debt Strategy”. And of course, one of the recommendations of this MTDS is precisely to shift borrowing away from T-bills towards Pakistan Investment Bonds, so now that that is happening why does the Fund feel that revisions to the strategy might be required?

In key portions, the statement stops short of saying something important. In another place, for instance, it mentions a “significant shortfall” in April’s revenue collection target, without saying much about how significant, except to say that “staff expect revenue will be quarter percentage of GDP lower than envisaged”. That’s a fairly sharp dip, especially considering the revenue target has already been revised downward twice.

“[T]he authorities do not share staff’s view that the exchange rate is somewhat overvalued, and place greater priority on the nominal exchange rate stability,” says the Fund, betraying signs of debate over the nature and impact of the inflows that have buoyed reserves. “[S]taff suggested that the[State Bank of Pakistan] should not bet on one-offs [sic] inflows”, urging the authorities to allow the rupee to fall and interest rates to rise. Clearly the Fund did not prevail in this debate. We can expect to learn a little more about this in the State Bank’s third quarterly report that is scheduled to be released any day now.

Many of the structural reforms the government has committed to are massive in nature. Withdrawal of exemptions in the taxation regime to unbundling of gas distribution infrastructure to privatisation, all require that a strong guiding hand be visible at this stage. If the government is serious about implementing any of these commitments, we should be seeing some very major movement very soon.

“As crisis risks begin to ease, there may be renewed pressure to slack off on politically sensitive reforms,” warns the Fund. As per many of the voices from the business community, signs of slackening off are already manifest.

The writer is a business journalist based in Karachi.

khurram.husain

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Burgeoning growth

Michael Kugelman

THE military offensive under way in North Waziristan has triggered a humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Many are staying in refugee camps in KP. However, if history is any guide, scores will eventually end up in Pakistani cities.

THE military offensive under way in North Waziristan has triggered a humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Many are staying in refugee camps in KP. However, if history is any guide, scores will eventually end up in Pakistani cities.

For decades, war and conflict have helped fuel the growth of Pakistan’s cities. Many of the six to eight million Indian Muslims entering Pakistan at Partition settled in urban Sindh and Punjab. In the 1980s, amid the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan, masses of Afghans ended up in Quetta and Peshawar. More recently, military offensives in the tribal belt have sparked an exodus of Pakistanis to Peshawar, Quetta, and Karachi.

Unfortunately, these new arrivals face as many problems in their adopted cities as they did in the conflict-ravaged hinterland they left behind. Media headlines focus on urban violence, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Pakistan’s Runaway Urbanisation, a new Wilson Center study, (for which I am editor and a contributor), paints a troubling picture of the country’s rapidly expanding urban spaces.

Approximately 50pc of urban Pakistanis live in slums — 95pc have no garbage collection; 6pc lack latrines. Many urban poor have access to enough water to meet only a fifth of the daily human drinking water requirement. Urban residents are highly vulnerable to non-communicable diseases. In a nation of 180 million people, they face a tight job market — one that creates less than 700,000 new jobs annually on a national level.

These urban problems are literally getting larger by the year. Pakistan’s annual urbanisation rate, 3pc, is the fastest in South Asia. Karachi’s population grew 80pc between 2000 and 2010, the largest increase of any city in the world. By 2030, Pakistan’s urban population will have grown by a projected 90pc.

One often hears that Pakistan’s population is currently about one-third urban, and will be nearly 50pc urban by 2025. Yet these numbers don’t tell the full story.

According to density-based definitions of urban, Pakistan’s urban spaces include not just metropolises, but also “ruralopolises” encompassing the eastern half of Punjab, a large area outside of Peshawar, and a triangular region connected by Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta. Taken together with traditional cities, these areas make Pakistan’s population 65pc urban. Forget about Pakistan’s population becoming nearly half urban by 2025. Pakistan is actually two-thirds urban today.

What can be done to manage Pakistan’s burgeoning urban growth? Pakistan’s Run­away Urbanisation recommends overhauling an inefficient urban bureaucracy; passing new laws that explicitly describe how urban land is to be developed and used; redesigning cities to emphasise more vertical growth and less sprawl; allocating more resources to public transport and less to car-friendly infrastructure; and exploiting the power of technology and telecommunications to build awareness about healthier urban lifestyles.

We also call for new ways of thinking about Pakistan’s urbanisation. Urban-rural linkages must be better understood — from the reality of urban agriculture and non-farm rural sectors to the proliferation of cars and internet connections in remote areas. Additionally, policymakers should consider the experiences of other countries. In the West, city planners have concluded that suburban sprawl is untenable. African cities abound with examples of effective public transport. Latin American cities offer lessons in reducing urban violence.

Finally, we call for public-private partnerships. The public sector lacks the resources and capacity to tackle Pakistan’s urban challenges on its own. Private capital is vital. Admittedly, given its many challenges, it’s unrealistic to expect Pakistan to tackle its urban problems anytime soon. Until there is sufficient political will — that is, until there is across the board buy-in from key political stakeholders — we can’t expect much change. In essence, officials must be convinced that moving forward is necessary. On that note, it’s worth highlighting the risk of radicalisation if urbanisation goes unaddressed.

Even today, the existence of urban militancy is undeniable. Terrorism is increasing in cities; Karachi’s 2,700 casualties from violence last year marked a new record. Sectarian strife is convulsing Quetta and Peshawar. In recent years, militants have joined civilians in their migrations to cities from war-torn tribal areas. Parts of Karachi have become virtual havens for the Pakistani Taliban. Ex­­tre­­mist groups are recruiting new generations of fighters from Pakistan’s urban middle class.

And yet if Pakistan fails to cope with urbanisation on the most basic level, ie if it fails to provide basic services to its growing urban citizenry, a new generation of young people could suffer from acute privation and unemployment — a demographic primed for radicalisation. The security implications of Pakis­tan’s unfettered urbanisation are concerning, and amplify the need for immediate action.

The writer is senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC

michael.kugelman

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

Worse than death

Saba Karim Khan

A LITRE of acid in Pakistan costs less than a bottle of water in the US. In less than one dollar, it has the power to destroy an individual’s life in less than a few seconds. This is a unique form of ‘gender terrorism’, a personal attack, which garners much less attention in the public eye versus bomb explosion-centric terrorism.

A LITRE of acid in Pakistan costs less than a bottle of water in the US. In less than one dollar, it has the power to destroy an individual’s life in less than a few seconds. This is a unique form of ‘gender terrorism’, a personal attack, which garners much less attention in the public eye versus bomb explosion-centric terrorism.

The Department for International Deve­lop­ment reported that between 2007 and 2012 there were a total of 786 acid attacks in Pakistan. In 2011, Pakistan passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill, which attempted to criminalise acid attacks by recommending up to 14 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs1 million for perpetrators.

According to Valeria Khan, president of Acid Survivors Pakistan, convictions rose from 6pc before the bill was passed to 18pc in 2012. A follow-up Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crimes Bill was also presented in the Punjab Assembly earlier this year.

Whilst improvement has occurred, the scales of justice have not been in favour of victims from the start. Despite legislation, approximately 150 cases of acid attacks are reported each year in Pakistan, with numerous incidents going unreported due to fear of consequences. A key reason for the gap between law and positive outcome is the fact that the bill did not address the much needed restriction of the availability of acid. Another issue is the legacy of accepted female subjugation and domestic violence that continues to exist as background noise in Pakistan.

According to the Acid Survivors Founda­tion, 65pc of victims are women, 15pc are children, and 80pc of survivors earn under Rs8,000 a month, rendering it an undoubtedly gender-skewed phenomenon. The crime is ubiquitous in countries where acid is easily accessible and women are not empowered. From jilted lovers to allegations of ‘dishonour’ to women demanding divorces, ‘reasons’ for such attacks are usually unproven and baseless.

Acid attacks have a two-pronged underlying motive: firstly, to ruin an individual’s physical appearance; secondly, to reiterate control by destroying a person’s identity. By disfiguring a person’s face, the attempt is to incapacitate them to continue pursuing a regular life, but without killing them — in many ways a fate more brutal than death.

The socio-psychological effects of these attacks are innumerable. Many acid attack survivors face mental health issues upon ‘recovery’. Their dependency on men in­­creases as their chances of attaining employment are minimised due to disfigurement and handicap.

In Pakistan, medical care is prohibitively expensive, out-of-court settlements exacerbate injustice, reliable statistics are unavailable and state intervention to provide pro bono services is virtually non-existent.

The Acid Survivors Foundation works towards supporting victims and provides legal recourse, and has played a role in catalysing the bill that was passed earlier against acid attacks in Pakistan. Dr Mohammad Jawad, a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon also began visiting Pakistan to provide volunteer treatment to women who were targeted when he learnt about the scale of such attacks. He was inspired by the bravery of TV presenter and acid attack victim Katie Piper (whose face he rebuilt) and thereafter continued to help other mutilated women.

Neighbouring countries including India also struggle with providing justice to victims of acid attacks. In 2013, acid sales in India were regulated; the ruling came by the country’s top court on the heels of an acid attack on four sisters by two men on a motorbike.

Additionally, Indian acid attack survivor Shirin Juwaley founded the Palash Foun­da­tion to help other survivors with psycho-social rehabilitation, an im­­portant element of the recovery process. The predicament is nonetheless serious and whilst the private sector and individuals can lobby for change, meaningful transformation can only be achieved with state-level intervention and action.

In countries such as Pakistan and India, it is vital to acknowledge the socio-cultural infrastructure that has existed for several decades to allow such crimes to occur and which cannot be overturned with immediacy. In such a context, medium- to long-term measures must address these ‘norms’, for until they are not questioned, the majority of victims will refrain from raising their voices for justice.

Whilst some would assume that most of these cases should be ‘open’ and ‘shut’, that is far from reality. The investigative process and the role of the security forces and law-enforcement agencies have to become much more efficient and transparent.

Finally, there is an argument that women must understand that remaining veiled to obscure their physical destruction is synonymous with remaining silent and will only exacerbate this violence. But then, it must also be said that the onus of providing these women with a voice lies primarily on the state, for it is only in an enabling, secure environment that we can expect them to fight this battle, without the fear of provoking even more brutal consequences.

The writer has studied anthropology at the University of Oxford.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2014

ISIS is no Taliban

Zahid Hussain

THE dramatic rise of the Islamic State organisation formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its proclamation of a so-called caliphate portend a new and more brutal face of global jihadism. The organisation may not espouse Al Qaeda’s global agenda of terrorism; nevertheless, it is terribly wrong to compare the group with the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

THE dramatic rise of the Islamic State organisation formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its proclamation of a so-called caliphate portend a new and more brutal face of global jihadism. The organisation may not espouse Al Qaeda’s global agenda of terrorism; nevertheless, it is terribly wrong to compare the group with the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

ISIS is a phenomenon in itself with an ambition of extending its rule over the entire Muslim world. Representing a more radical version of Sunni Islam it seems to have already marginalised Al Qaeda at least in the Arabian peninsula. The stunning victories gained by ISIS, largely owing to its superior organisational capability, has helped the group take control of large parts of the region known as the cradle of civilisation.

Despite their fierce rivalry in the battle for Syria, ISIS and Al Qaeda are not ideologically very distinct from each other. The cadres of both militant networks are inspired by the same jihadist worldview. In fact, the group is an offshoot of Al Qaeda.

But both groups are unlike the Taliban whose support base is largely tribal and parochial. The ISIS fighters mostly come from urban educated backgrounds. The network has also drawn a sizeable number of young Muslim jihadists from the Western countries into its ranks. Some 3,000 foreigners form a large chunk of the group’s fighting force reflecting its global jihadist appeal.

Some analysts tend to draw a parallel between the rise of ISIS and that of the Taliban militia in Afghanistan in the 1990s. This argument cannot be more flawed. There is no similarity between the two groups at all.

For example, in his article titled ‘ISIS: the new Taliban’, published in the New York Review of Books, Ahmed Rashid argues: “In many ways, what the group is doing to Syria and Iraq resembles what the Taliban did in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early 1990s.” He further contends that like the Taliban, ISIS’s war so far has been “about conquering territory rather than launching an Al Qaeda-style global jihad”.

While it may be true that the Taliban did not have a global jihad agenda and were only interested in establishing a retrogressive order in Afghanistan, that is certainly not correct in the case of ISIS. The group is truly committed to global jihad in contrast with the Afghan Taliban’s narrow local agenda. Though Mullah Omar had also declared himself ‘amirul momineen’ his ambitions have never been global. Unlike the Taliban supreme leader’s being a village mullah, the ISIS leader has a doctorate in Islamic ideology.

In a rare public appearance last week, ISIS leader Abu Bakar al Baghdadi (who has now declared himself ‘Caliph Ibrahim’) called for global jihad ordering the Muslims to ‘obey’ him. “I am the wali (leader) who presides over you,” declared Baghdadi.

Addressing the Friday congregation at the central mosque in Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, which was recently captured by his fighters, Baghdadi admonished the Muslims: “Do jihad in the cause of God, incite the believers and be patient in the face of this hardship.” The changing of the group’s name is an expression of its ambitions beyond Iraq and Syria.

The purported ambition of ISIS is defined by a widely circulated online map showing the areas that the group ostensibly plans to bring under the control of the ‘caliphate’. They include most of the Muslim countries as well as parts of Europe that were once ruled by Muslims.

With its genesis deeply rooted in the sectarian conflict in Syria and Iraq, the organisation is essentially fighting an anti-Shia war. The killing of members of rival sects and the destruction of shrines is the hallmark of the group’s ideology. Though the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban too have a strong anti-Shia bias, that has not been the ideological base of their struggle.

A major factor contributing to the stunning success of ISIS is the vacuum created in Iraq and Syria by the collapsing state authority. The militant group has also benefited from the growing discontent among the minority Sunni community against the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. In fact, the alliance with rebel Sunni tribes has played a critical role in the capture of northern Iraq by ISIS.

Notwithstanding its growing influence, ISIS remains a loosely connected sectarian group. The fact is that it is not such a single-minded monolith, but a coalition of radical Sunnis, former Baathist military officers and various tribal factions discontented with the government of Nouri al-Maliki.

Interestingly, while the militant organisation wants the people living in the regions under its control to observe ultra conservative Islamic traditions, it relies hugely on a hyper modern and sophisticated social media and even well-made feature-length movies to promote its ideology, recruit fighters and intimidate rival groups.

According to some analysts, the militant group has one of the most sophisticated social media strategies of any extremist group. Its powerful propaganda machine played an extremely important role in winning the psychological war against the enemy.

All that makes ISIS distinctly different from the rustic Pakistani and Afghan Taliban movements. The context of their respective wars also varies significantly. Although Pakistani and Afghan Taliban share the same retrogressive ideological worldview, even these two groups have some divergences. What is common among all three groups, however, is the use of terrorism as a major weapon to achieve their objectives.

The sectarian agenda of ISIS has already triggered the process of fragmentation of Iraq, which was unthinkable a few years ago. So the dream of uniting the Muslim world under a ‘caliphate’ is nothing more than a wild fantasy. What is most worrisome, however, is the creation of a new generation of global jihadists. There is genuine concern that thousands among the foreign militants fighting in Iraq and Syria may trigger a new wave of terrorism when they return to their home countries.

The writer is an author and journalist.

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Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

The merit visa

Rafia Zakaria

“THE US has the best research universities in the world, which is why we attract the best students from around the world. Forcing them to leave, rather than allowing them to stay and add their skills and knowledge to our economy, is one of the most short-sighted policies we have.”

“THE US has the best research universities in the world, which is why we attract the best students from around the world. Forcing them to leave, rather than allowing them to stay and add their skills and knowledge to our economy, is one of the most short-sighted policies we have.”

These words were spoken by Michael Hennessy, the president of Stanford University. The message to the Obama administration seeking to revitalise efforts for immigration reform was clear: if the American economy is to remain vital, it is crucial to support the influx of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates into the country and then provide them with incentives to remain.

Proponents also cite studies that suggest that STEM graduates at top American research universities are disproportionately likely to initiate entrepreneurial start-ups that contribute to the economy and the intellectual capital available in the country they make their home. One recent example includes WhatsApp, which recently sold to Facebook for $19 billion. It was founded by a Ukrainian immigrant.

This immigration debate, and who counts as the ‘good’ immigrant and who does not, is an old one and it pertains not simply to host countries such as the US but also to labour-supplying countries like Pakistan, India, and numerous others who will likely see their best and brightest attracted to foreign shores.

On the American side, the conversation seems to be moving in favour of creating a more merit-based immigration system, one that removes regulations and curbs on those belonging to certain highly skilled categories.

A recent survey of policymakers at the American Hoover Institution Working Group on immigration found that 89pc of the 38 people polled favoured a switch to a more merit-based immigration system. Furthermore, 72pc favoured unlimited green cards for scientists.

The group from the Hoover Institution is not a representative sample of the American population, where many continue to believe that an influx of immigrants takes away jobs from the local population.

However, the fact that these precepts are being seriously considered at the policymaking level suggests that there is a possibility for a future in which highly skilled immigrants, particularly scientists, engineers, doctors, researchers and others, would enjoy greater labour mobility than they do currently.

If the practice spreads to more countries in the global north and is actually adopted as policy, a time could be near when countries compete with each other to attract these highly skilled workers.

Instead of a system that leaves even the most talented people in the global south begging for admission in interminable visa lines, there could be one in which the individual could choose which country provides the best potential match for his or her skills.

The question that remains is what this sort of system would do to the labour markets of the global south. If the precept that talent is attracted to opportunity is indeed true, then these smaller countries, facing a host of problems at home and without the resources to devote to developing environments for research and entrepreneurship, are likely to lose the very people who could make things better.

Within Pakistan, brain drain is often looked at as one of the reasons why the country remains stuck in a quagmire of apathy and stagnation. But that of course is one way of looking at the equation. It could also be argued that within Pakistan merit does not equal much of a chance of economic success or upward mobility.

Numerous other factors such as family connections, endemic corruption, and a general lack of respect for the self-made soul all intervene in the path of success for the would-be scientist, engineer, or other entrepreneur. Given these circumstances, the creation of relatively more egalitarian environments — where hard work, intellectual prowess and original thought would count for more than the mediocrities of name and lineage — may mean the difference between the waste and use of talent.

Then, again, is the question of global inequality. It would seem that transferring intellectual capital from developing to developed nations would also continue to make the world an even more unequal place. But research carried out in recent years reveals this premise to be false.

In India, remittances from a nearly 25 million-strong immigrant labour force scattered around the world sent $24bn back into the Indian economy, providing a reliable source of rejuvenation and investment in the local market. Other studies done by the World Bank in countries like Mali also demonstrate that the influx of remittances has been shown to reduce the poverty rates in these countries.

Admittedly, the data is piecemeal and the numbers of immigrants sending back money to their home economies is not separated by skill level (ie it includes both highly skilled and unskilled labourers).

In the Pakistani context, looking at remittances is also useful because unlike other sources of revenue generated locally, these represent a source which is not affected by the tumultuous law and order situation in the country. Those that earn abroad can send money to family within the country even while the latter is ravaged by the uncertainties of war and conflict.

The instatement of the merit visa is not an impending reality. While policymakers in the developed nations of the industrial north may be considering the premise, the realities of local politics and the evils of nativism and racism restrict what they may be able to do.

For the talented, however, such a construction would make achievement less a product of luck or birthright and bring their futures into the far more egalitarian realm of intellect and ability.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

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Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

No standards set

Zubeida Mustafa

THE health sector should be of concern to all — even to those who go to the best private medical practitioners. Disease transcends borders, and strikes the rich and poor alike, though the latter are more vulnerable. Besides, health issues affect the country’s international status as was demonstrated by the polio emergency that led to the imposition of new conditions on Pakistanis embarking on foreign travel.

THE health sector should be of concern to all — even to those who go to the best private medical practitioners. Disease transcends borders, and strikes the rich and poor alike, though the latter are more vulnerable. Besides, health issues affect the country’s international status as was demonstrated by the polio emergency that led to the imposition of new conditions on Pakistanis embarking on foreign travel.

Hence should not the concerned citizens be involved in what can be termed the regulation of the medical system as they are reaching out in the education sector? Not just altruism or civic responsibility but also narrow self-interest should prompt the intelligentsia to take more interest in the healthcare delivery system.

There are many factors contributing to the dismal state of the health infrastructure in Pakistan. One is our inability to train skilful physicians committed to upholding the noble spirit of the profession. Another is our willingness to give the medical profession a free hand in indulging in malpractices of the worst kind.

As a result, the products of our medical colleges and universities are not made of the stuff that will change the dismal scenario. The fact is that the system for regulating medical education and licensing doctors that we have in place is highly inadequate and obsolete. Additionally, it is riddled with corruption.

Although many sane and responsible voices in the medical profession have from time to time expressed their concern, their calls have fallen on deaf ears. The problem has centred on the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) which describes itself as the “statutory regulatory body setting standards for medical and dental and professional competence, care and conduct of medical/dental practice to protect public interest in Pakistan”.

Few would deny that the PMDC has failed to perform its duty conscientiously and honestly. Stacked with principals of private medical colleges it assumed the responsibility for regulating medical education as well. As was expected, private institutions proliferated and from one in 1990 their number has jumped to 52 today. There are only 32 in the public sector.

The PMDC has had a good share of the limelight — not favourable at all. After being deprecated for its misdeeds it was suspended by an ordinance issued by the government in March this year and superseded by an interim committee that was asked to hold new elections within 120 days. But not even a month had passed when the ordinance was rejected by the Senate and the move aborted.

Meanwhile, scores of medical colleges have been ‘de-recognised’. This vindicates the charge that medical education, like many other branches of knowledge, is being undermined by corruption. The only problem is that it is a matter of life and death when there is cheating in medical education. That is what it amounts to when medical colleges are allowed to operate without a permanent faculty or an attached teaching hospital.

It now appears that many doctors are dissatisfied not just with the composition of the PMDC. They also believe that now is the time to redefine its role. Dr Naeem Jafarey, a veteran physician who is professor emeritus at the Ziauddin Medical University and its adviser academic affairs, asks, “Should the PMDC be a licensing authority or a regulatory body?”

He believes the PMDC should be “a licensing body and this is the function on which it should focus”. He cites the example of the UK’s General Medical Council whose role is defined on its website: “We protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public by making sure that doctors follow proper standards of medical practice.”

That should also be the role of the PMDC and for that, Dr Jafarey believes, the PMDC will have to be restructured since this is not simply a medical issue to be decided by professionals alone.

Besides as a licensing body it will hold qualifying examinations and also accredit the medical colleges whose graduates would qualify for these exams.

Dr Jafarey has a point when he suggests that the licensing and regulatory roles of the PMDC should be separated. The Higher Education Commission or the universities could play the regulatory role by laying down the criteria — facilities, faculty, curricula, etc — for medical education institutions.

The fact is that the time for reforms is here. If medical education in the country has to be saved restructuring must be introduced. A system of checks and balances could pre-empt the concentration of powers in one body that leads to so much corruption.

Most importantly, there is need to provide an avenue for redress for the public when it suffers at the hands of medical professionals. The PMDC website details the procedure for launching complaints against registered medical practitioners. One hears many complaints from people but little about what is being done.

www.zubeidamusta.com

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

War against boats

Mahir Ali

ON Monday, the High Court of Australia granted a temporary injunction against the transfer of 153 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers to that country’s authorities after a boat conveying them from India was intercepted by an Australian “border protection” vessel near the Cocos Islands.

ON Monday, the High Court of Australia granted a temporary injunction against the transfer of 153 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers to that country’s authorities after a boat conveying them from India was intercepted by an Australian “border protection” vessel near the Cocos Islands.

This followed an admission by Australia’s immigration minister, Scott Morrison, that a boatload of 41 people had been handed over to the Sri Lankan authorities off the port of Batticaloa. It has been claimed that only four of those would-be refugees were Tamils, and that the rest were Sinhalese.

It is unclear exactly when the transfer took place. Nor is there any clarity about the fate of the 153, given that Morrison and other Australian officials have refused to say anything about them.

This has been one of the most disturbing angles since late last year of Australia’s approach towards ‘boat people’: the reluctance to divulge the truth, which is remarkable for what purports to be a democracy.

A vow to ‘stop the boats’ was among the more prominent slogans of the conservative coalition that won power in last September’s elections, and it was borne out shortly thereafter by a militaristic policy tagged Operation Sovereign Borders whereby refugee boats emanating from Indonesia, the main transit point, were towed back into Indonesian waters — at least occasionally violating its sovereignty.

Abbott’s predecessor, Kevin Rudd of the Australian Labor Party, had already declared that no one attempting to reach Australia by boat would receive refugee status: that the best they could hope for was “offshore processing”. Abbott enhanced that policy, and compounded it with a news blackout.

The policy of detaining asylum-seekers goes back to Labor prime minister Paul Keating, whose government introduced it in 1992. His successor, the deeply conservative John Howard, reinforced it, and a watershed moment came in 2001 when a Norwegian vessel, the Tampa, which had rescued hundreds of refugees from a floundering vessel, was boarded after it defied warnings to stay out of Australian waters, and most of the asylum-seekers were transferred to Nauru.

“We decide who comes to our country and the conditions in which they come,” Howard remarked at the time, and his attitude is credited with winning him the 2001 elections. What’s far less frequently recalled is that the claims of the vast majority of those rescued by the Tampa — a large proportion of them were Hazaras from Afghanistan — were determined to be genuine, and many of them were eventually accommodated in Australia or New Zealand.

More broadly, Howard’s approach, while feeding xenophobia at home, did sharply diminish the number of boats headed towards Australia. Would-be refugees did not, however, give up on perceiving Australia as a desirable destination, and the flow resumed after Howard was replaced by Rudd, who initially withdrew some of the more draconian restrictions.

One of the present regime’s mantras has been that it is actually doing asylum-seekers a favour by stopping the boats, given that deaths at sea are an inevitable corollary of their chosen mode of transport. That’s not an absurd argument, but there’s also another way of looking at it: try to imagine the desperation of those who, knowing the risks, still take this life-endangering path in the quest for a better life.

Another argument is that many of the boat people are in fact economic refugees, fleeing dire prospects unrelated to political or religious persecution. That may well be so in some cases, but is it really a crime? Global capitalism is more than comfortable with the free transfer of capital and profits, but human resources are viewed far less benignly.

No country is keen to invite an influx of refugees, but that should not entail casting all considerations of compassion, empathy and humanitarianism to the winds. UNHCR, has expressed “profound concern” about Austra­lia’s latest acknowledged action, and many lawyers within the country are convinced it is flouting its international obligations.

A couple of months ago, a Tamil refugee in Victoria burned himself to death in the face of the imminent prospect of repatriation. At least two others have attempted self-immolation. Meanwhile, the nation’s human rights commission has documented “shockingly high” instances of self-harm and thoughts of suicide among children in immigrant detention.

The government remains bent upon keeping such news out of the media cycle, lest the average Australian be pushed to consider the demonised asylum-seekers for what they are: persecuted or deprived fellow human beings who have been promised that the prize for making their getaway is indefinite incarceration in a country they made the mistake of perceiving as a refuge.

Small wonder, then, that a growing number of Australians are increasingly ashamed of their country’s pathetically distasteful predilections, while there is little hope in the short term for a humane change of direction.

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2014

Pie in the sky

Syed Saadat

GOVERNANCE in Pakistan has gone haywire. No, this state of affairs is not due to the ubiquitous Gullu Butt, but has resulted more from the lack of institution-building over so many years. The reason for this failure to strengthen institutions can be traced to those in the corridors of power who want a piece of the pie for their personal benefit.

GOVERNANCE in Pakistan has gone haywire. No, this state of affairs is not due to the ubiquitous Gullu Butt, but has resulted more from the lack of institution-building over so many years. The reason for this failure to strengthen institutions can be traced to those in the corridors of power who want a piece of the pie for their personal benefit.

A nexus between politicians and bureaucrats ensures there are plenty of pies to go around. Meanwhile, gullible masses are made to believe each time that, finally, there is something concrete in the works but all they get is the proverbial pie in the sky, nothing else.

Falling in this category is the idea to introduce a new cadre of bureaucrats known as the National Executive Service (NES). The justification for this step, as given by the minister for planning and development, is that the bureaucracy brain drain has risen to such alarming proportions that the Planning Commission, despite repeatedly inviting applications through newspapers, has not been able to find a suitable person for the position of chief economist.

The said post has been lying vacant for several years now. This, he said, was because the pay scale (Rs400,000 per month) MP-1 (management position) offered by the government for private-sector professionals was acceptable only to mid-level executives and not senior professionals. Hence, the government is considering the introduction of NES, a super service of super bureaucrats with super pay scales.

The policymakers again seem to have lost the plot as it is not only money, if it is that at all, that is the consideration of top professionals. To explain what I mean, let me share something from Cosmic Anger, Dr Abdus Salam’s biography by Gordon Fraser.

Abdus Salam declined a research position at Princeton (which of course paid a lot more) and returned to Lahore in 1951, where he joined Government College as professor and chairman of the mathematics department. According to his biographer, Mr Salam was not well received by his colleagues, partly because of anti-Ahmadi sentiment but largely because they felt threatened.

In the words of Fraser, Salam was seen as “a young upstart, too big for his boots, a high-flying student who had escaped the double trauma of the partition of a country and a province”.

His colleagues resorted to political and administrative manoeuvring and like all men of substance the great physicist neither had the time nor the inclination to indulge in petty politics. Therefore, he returned to Cambridge within two years and the rest, as they say, is history. Sadly, in Pakistan things have not changed much since then; in fact, they have become worse.

Men of excellence are not sycophants, and sycophants are not men of excellence. A true professional would not be obsequious towards the daughter of the prime minister or the son of a chief minister, just because of their parent’s status. Furthermore, examples such as the removal of a State Bank governor if he tries to exercise some inflationary control on the sweet will of the financial wizards do not make the task of attracting top professionals to work for the government any easier.

Similarly, the government machinery provides for very limited freedom of action and span of control for technocrats. Top professionals from the corporate world are known to set tangible goals and then achieve them. Conversely, our mainstream bureaucracy is stuck in the last century.

In its current form, the bureaucracy is good at creating ambivalence at best. In the corporate world, it is all about responsibility and accountability whereas in the bureaucratic world, responsibility is never pinpointed, thus diluting accountability. The two streams are like east and west — they never really meet.

Also, our high-

flying, well-placed bureaucrats who are part of the prevalent system think of themselves as the rightful heirs to positions of power, and any outsider no matter how competent he or she may be, is considered a threat to their dominion and all efforts are made to render him or her ineffective.

The NES would only provide new grazing grounds for top-level bureaucrats as it has been indicated that secretary-level bureaucrats would have the option to join the NES if they are up to the mark, and the benchmark, as is always the case in Pakistan, would be defined by the extent of servility towards ‘royalty’.

Rather than lofty ideas such as creating the NES which would achieve nothing more than making the affluent class of bureaucrats more affluent, the government needs to inject some money into the lower levels of bureaucracy.

Better remuneration and working conditions should be provided to civil servants at junior levels who live and work in deplorable conditions and often struggle to make ends meet. The policymakers — both politicians and bureaucrats for once need to focus on people rather than the pie.

The writer is a former civil servant.

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Published in Dawn, July 8th , 2014

The people’s duty

Khadim Hussain

THE fundamentals of the Constitution are clear. Policies will be formed by the elected civilian government, laws will be made by an elected parliament, and the same laws will be interpreted by the judiciary. Lacunae in foreign, internal and external security policy and in state departments will be dealt with by the government, which must also oversee its citizens’ economic wellbeing, the equitable distribution of power and fair implementation of the rule of law.

THE fundamentals of the Constitution are clear. Policies will be formed by the elected civilian government, laws will be made by an elected parliament, and the same laws will be interpreted by the judiciary. Lacunae in foreign, internal and external security policy and in state departments will be dealt with by the government, which must also oversee its citizens’ economic wellbeing, the equitable distribution of power and fair implementation of the rule of law.

Failure to do so because of vested interests and inefficiency would be a failure of the state itself.

It is against this backdrop that we must view extremist violence resorted to by militias representing a particular type of religious interpretation. Their formation divests people of their share in the social contract outlined in the Constitution

Militias, whether they strike against the state itself or against other states, negate the principles of the social contract. Complaints against the state can be addressed through mechanisms designed to bring about amendments to the social contract or to implement the latter. The government has a monopoly on power, for a specified tenure under the Constitution. It has at its disposal institutions that can act on behalf of the people to counter internal and external forces that jeopardise public security.

Civil society is the major stakeholder in the social contract, comprising as it does professional groups, trade unions, academia, non-profit organisations and political parties. It must resist and stand up to any violation of constitutional basics. That is its right and responsibility.

Any decrease in instances of violation of basic rights is seen as directly proportional to an increased level of vigilance and the adoption of due process by civil society. In fact, such checks help raise the level of trust that ordinary people have in the state. This in turn helps the state move towards a better future for its people.

On the basis of this, lobbying for bringing peripheries into the mainstream and advocating equity in the distribution of power and resources is a prime responsibility of civil society. And one place where such change is necessary is Fata, whose administrative, political and economic structure is more than simply anachronistic — the area has become a breeding ground for militias and for organised crime to thrive in.

Militias and crime cartels are manned by both Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis. They have developed a lethal nexus with sectarian groups and international jihadists in and around Pakistan to embark upon a three-pronged strategy to disrupt the social contract of the state.

First, they have perpetrated terror to instil fear in civil society and to convince the people that their social contract with the state is not worth their trust. Second, these networks and cartels have disrupted the governance machinery, putting pressure on the state in an attempt to bankrupt it and isolate it from countries in the neighbourhood and beyond. Third, the network has achieved some success in developing ideological, political and financial constituencies among certain elements, groups and areas.

Those that have stakes in fomenting extremist violence, supported by crime cartels, aid the overall terror network by extending a helping hand to each other when the state uses force prescribed by the Constitution to disrupt the terrorism structure.

What they are capable of is well known. They spread irrational propaganda to misguide the common people, often resorting to their own print and electronic media resources to reach as many people as possible to put pressure on the state. Additionally, they mobilise their ‘welfare’ wings to create a trust deficit between the state and its citizens. By winning the people’s trust, the terror network finds the space to melt away, re-organise and reshape its anti-state strategies.

This can best be observed in the current military operation in North Waziristan. The humanitarian tragedy, in the shape of thousands of IDPs, could have been easily managed. The space that ‘welfare’ wings of militant groups achieved could easily have been denied to them with a little hard work and some coordination among civilian relief departments.

The Fata Disaster Management Authority and KP’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority should have coordinated their efforts, and a workable liaison among various departments of the KP government would also have been welcome under the circumstances.

A system of coordination could have easily been developed among the local Bannu administration, KP’s social welfare department and local civil society groups to minimise IDP suffering. One can see that those espousing extremist violence want to push matters to a stage where the federal government and military come under immense pressure to halt the much-needed operation in North Waziristan.

The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.

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Published in Dawn, July 8th , 2014

In defence of the provinces

Shahid Kardar

IN recent months, the provinces have become the favourite punching bags of Islamabad, donors and commentators alike. They are being chastised for failing to generate adequate resources to fund their constitutional responsibilities to provide social and economic services such as law and order, education, health, water, sanitation, etc. This article examines the fairness of this censure without getting into the merits of the last National Finance Commission (NFC) Award that has given provinces close to 60pc of the national divisible resource pool, although they currently meet less than 40pc of the expenditure burden.

IN recent months, the provinces have become the favourite punching bags of Islamabad, donors and commentators alike. They are being chastised for failing to generate adequate resources to fund their constitutional responsibilities to provide social and economic services such as law and order, education, health, water, sanitation, etc. This article examines the fairness of this censure without getting into the merits of the last National Finance Commission (NFC) Award that has given provinces close to 60pc of the national divisible resource pool, although they currently meet less than 40pc of the expenditure burden.

Let us, to begin with, recognise that on the grounds of equity, greater efficiency and administrative convenience, taxes in a federal system are levied and collected by the central government with expenditure responsibilities assigned to lower formations of government. The resultant vertical imbalance requires transfers of resources from the centre to the provinces through the NFC Award.

A highly centralised tax structure, a depressed tax-to-GDP ratio of the country, a low level of provincial effort to mobilise revenues and frequent upward revisions in salary and pension payments that have a ripple effect on provincial budgets are structural factors that had contributed to the deterioration in the fiscal situation of the provinces until the last NFC Award.

Moreover, the revenue-raising capacity of the provinces is limited because of the taxation powers enshrined in the Constitution and the structure (general sales tax, or GST, in VAT mode) put in place under an earlier IMF programme. The federal government has also pre-empted and exploited the revenue base of the provinces. For instance, it has levied a variety of silly withholding and other taxes on motor vehicles and property transfers, important revenue bases/instruments for the provinces.

There is no denying that the provinces have not done enough to collect taxes on incomes derived from agriculture (making it worse by treating land rented out also as agricultural income) or by making urban property tax more progressive and robust. But they have made some decent effort in recent years to mobilise additional revenues by widening the base of GST on services. Unfortunately, however, some of the federal government’s taxation initiatives have encroached on provincial tax bases, narrowing their options to exploit the full potential of GST on services. To illustrate, by what twisted logic can Islamabad levy GST on hotels and restaurants and distribution of utilities like electricity and gas, etc and a conceptually bizarre GST on retail outlets. All these entities are providing services, and a GST on services is a provincial tax under the Constitution, with no federal role.

As for the strident criticism of the provinces one would like to understand why any government anywhere in the universe would commit the politically unpopular act of imposing or increasing a tax, provoking the ire of its constituents, to muster additional resources which it would be required to save so that a higher entity (the federal government) could spend this surplus? Under the ongoing IMF programme, the provinces are required to produce surpluses — budgeted at Rs289 billion for the new year. Why on earth would they accede to a demand to levy more taxes simply to generate surpluses for Islamabad to spend?

Examining the expenditure profile of provincial governments, the biggest chunk is taken up by salaries and pensions. The federal government has contributed to the rapid growth in allocations for this component. Whereas Islamabad does not have a well-conceived policy to regulate the size of its workforce it periodically revises salaries and pensions. The resulting increases, which are lumpy, are introduced in an ‘ad hoc’ manner. They impose a massive burden on the provinces (who employ close to 80pc of the civilian workforce in the public sector), without regard to the size of the employee base of a province, its capacity to pay and the general level of wages outside the government. And it is politically impossible for the provinces to deny their employees pay hikes even if they cannot so afford.

There are other recurrent expenditures of the provinces that have resulted from a variety of decisions imposed on them by the federal government. Until the 18th Amendment, the federal government was fully empowered to determine both the level and the terms at which the provinces could borrow from any source.

Islamabad used this provision to lend to them at interest rates substantially higher than what it itself was paying. Until a decade ago, it even profited from the loans given by multilateral donors to the provinces by levying a hefty service fee on the concessional interest rates charged by donors.

In the past provinces were induced to borrow on the basis of population ratios without regard to their capability to service the debt, creating an incentive for financial imprudence. However, in a dramatic move in 1999/2000, without addressing the issue of the burden of the large stock of debt, the federal government ceased lending to provincial governments, expecting them to fund their own recurrent expenditures and development programmes from the transfers under the NFC Award.

Until this abrupt decision the debt burden of the smaller provinces was already high — some of which resulted from the pressure put on them by Islamabad to spend money on federal programmes or to accept foreign loans for projects of dubious value because the federal government needed foreign exchange to discharge its external liabilities.

To summarise, it is easy to run down the provinces for not marshalling adequate resources, without factoring in the context in which they are operating, the baggage they are already either carrying, or that is being placed on them, on account of federal decisions and programmes which impact their budgets and for being expected to launch politically harsh initiatives to increase the tax burden on their citizens so that savings are generated purely for Islamabad’s use.

The writer is a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, July 8th , 2014

Fulfilling a poet’s worrying prophecy

Jawed Naqvi

PRE-MUGHAL mystical poet Kabir gave higher grades to truth discerned from personal experience than what he assigned to any wisdom received from the reading of the scriptures. ‘Mai kehta hoon aankhan dekhi, tu kehta hai kaagad lekhi’. (I share with you what my eyes see. You sadly derive your insights from the written word.)

PRE-MUGHAL mystical poet Kabir gave higher grades to truth discerned from personal experience than what he assigned to any wisdom received from the reading of the scriptures. ‘Mai kehta hoon aankhan dekhi, tu kehta hai kaagad lekhi’. (I share with you what my eyes see. You sadly derive your insights from the written word.)

If Kabir is right then we should be in a position to question many religious axioms. And we should of course be able to, for our present purposes, critique the exalted Hindu seer who has quoted from the scriptures to slam the millions of worshippers of Sai Baba of Shirdi as un-Hindu.

Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati of the Dwarka Muth has reportedly said that the Sai Baba was someone “who used to eat meat and worshipped Allah, [and] a man like that can never be a Hindu god”. But the 19th-century genial mystic is deified hugely by the masses nevertheless, and the more recent Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, identified by his Afro coiffure and orange robe, had claimed to be a reincarnation of the original (now impugned) Sai Baba who died in 1918. The Puttaparthi avatar, who was revered among others by cricket stars Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar and Zaheer Abbas, passed away in 2011.

The date for the origin of the institution of the shankaracharya is generally accepted as the late 8th century AD although there are wild swings in calculation by even centuries when the first shankaracharya, the founder of the institution, was born in Kerala. In broad strokes, of the four existing shankaracharyas, the muth of Dwarka in Gujarat is traditionally accorded the highest perch. Hitherto though it was not necessary that all Hindus followed the shankaracharya’s prescriptions.

In his edict announced to a news channel, Swaroopanand Saraswati claimed that the scriptures decreed only five gods as worthy of worship. They were Shiva, his consort Shakti, their elephant-headed son Ganesh, Lord Vishnu (who sustains the world) and the river Ganges. In which case, at least I have wasted crucial days from my youth when I would join throngs of bare-bodied men stretching on baking hot roads doing the paikarma of the Hanuman mandir in remote Aliganj, outside the city perimeters of Lucknow. I have also heard some of the best Carnatic musicians at the malai mandir in Delhi, which is dedicated to Murugan, Ganesh’s lesser advertised brother. Malai mandirs, including at least one in Malaysia, are devoted to the worship of Murugan, who is also known as Kartikeya and Subramanyam.

Legend goes that one day when Ganesh and Murugan were ordered to travel around the world, the latter earnestly sat astride his pet peacock and took off. Wherever the peacock stopped to rest en route, and it usually chose a hill, a malai mandir came into being. Ganesh, whose potbelly is revered as a boon among many Maharashtrians, took a profound short cut by going round his parents’ feet and declaring them to be his world.

It is odd that important icons such Hanuman and Murugan have been left out as worthy of worship by the shankaracharyas. People, however, ignore the restrictions and carry on with their beliefs anyway. I was surprised to know from Hindu scholars that even the mighty Lord Brahma, the creator in the Hindu pantheon, didn’t have a temple where he could be worshipped. One day my mother, a pious Muslim woman, found a Brahma temple in Pushkar near Ajmer and we accompanied her there to see with our own eyes, to quote Kabir, the world as it is. Apparently there is another temple to Brahma near Kanpur though the point remains that the creator was not listed by the shankaracharya of Dwarka among the five deities worthy of worship.

While there have been older disputes among Hindu sects about who to worship and who to leave out, including the Arya Samajis who oppose idol worship altogether, the current stand-off has an eerie similarity to events taking place in the extremely volatile world of Islam. And the shankaracharya’s edict looks eerily close to what a feminist poet from Pakistan had warned us about.

“Tum bhi karoge fatwey jaari kaun hai Hindu, kaun nahi hai?” The line is from Fahmida Riaz’s biting poem she read to thunderous applause in Delhi over a decade ago. It succinctly describes galloping religious sectarianism in India, which according to her follows the example set by reactionary mullahs in Pakistan of the 1950s.

Riaz was referring to the violence within the Islamic fold in her country, which began in the 1950s when orthodox groups declared the Ahmadis as heretics and non-Muslim. Z.A. Bhutto subsequently put the legal imprimatur of parliament on the orthodox rampage.

The sectarian genie was out and it was not going to be easy to put it back in the bottle. Pakistan’s minority Shia Muslims were the next target of the increasingly militant orthodoxy although the diehard extremists didn’t spare the majority Sunnis either, slamming those among them that were inclined towards Sufi mysticism as grave worshippers because they congregated periodically at mausoleums of Sufi icons to celebrate their message, usually with music. Much of this is shunned, to the chagrin of middle roaders like Fahmida Riaz, as un-Islamic by politically influential bigots, and not in Pakistan alone.

The shankaracharya’s edict on un-Hindu worship has a ring to it that has discernible echoes of the narrow-minded mayhem that Iraq and Syria are witnessing. The Sai Baba affair has landed the dispute in a law court, which probably is the most civilised and peaceful way to settle any stand-off. However, there is also a potentially violent edge to the issue with a whole community of militant Naga sadhus threatening to wreak havoc in support of the edict against a mystical icon of Hindus. There are reports that the Congress party supports the shankaracharya, as it once tragically did Sikh militant Bhindranwale.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi

Published in Dawn, July 8th , 2014

Seeking justice by force?

Babar Sattar

WILL vying for instant solutions instead of lasting policy and institutional reform help save Pakistan? Agreed, for democracy to be credible we need the electoral process and its outcomes to be just, fair and honest. And for rule of law and constitutionalism to prosper we need a court system that is seen to be free from bias and producing results that are timely and consistent with established principles of equity and justice.

WILL vying for instant solutions instead of lasting policy and institutional reform help save Pakistan? Agreed, for democracy to be credible we need the electoral process and its outcomes to be just, fair and honest. And for rule of law and constitutionalism to prosper we need a court system that is seen to be free from bias and producing results that are timely and consistent with established principles of equity and justice.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) gripe that it hasn’t been meted out justice by the electoral or the judicial system is serious. But it is the proposed (non)solutions in the face of perceived injustices that leave one wondering if Imran Khan’s personal frustration at not being prime minister (already) and his contempt for the Sharif brothers have gotten the better of his judgement or if PTI despite seeing itself as the harbinger for change simply lacks the vision to fix the mess we find ourselves in.

Imran Khan has reportedly declared that the Aug 14 long march can be suspended only if a three-member judicial commission under Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk investigates the election fraud and gives its findings in two weeks. Is PTI’s march really against the judiciary then, as my friend Saad Rasool argued in his column last week? If the Supreme Court aggrieves a political party, which principles of law, justice or democracy justify raising a mob to seek recompense?

Having named his party Tehreek-i-Insaf (movement for justice), does IK not realise that courts must be allowed to function without considerations of fear or favour? If PTI was wronged by the Iftikhar Chaudhry Supreme Court that is alleged to have been motivated by the consideration of favouring PML-N, can such wrong be righted by placing the present Supreme Court under the fear of a million man march? Is IK opposed to courts being drawn into the political thicket as a matter of principle, or only if done by a rival party?

Do IK and other thinking minds in the PTI (especially Asad Umar, Jehangir Tareen and Dr Alvi) not realise that blackmailing a court into meting out desirable outcomes is a perversion of justice? The litigation process is designed to produce winners and losers. Every time the court disposes of a matter at least one party is unhappy. What precedent is the PTI trying to set here? That if the court fails to dispense desirable justice till the exhaustion of patience of a litigating party it is fair game to bring out a mob to force the court’s hand?

Does the PTI not know that the Constitution holds the Election Commission responsible for holding free and fair elections and not the judiciary or the executive? That 60 days past the publication of returned candidates even the Election Commission cannot declare a poll void, and such authority vests exclusively in election tribunals? That the Supreme Court as the highest court of the land is not meant to be a trier of facts, and when such role was assumed by CJ Chaudhry it was seen as an abuse of authority and rightly so?

Does the PTI not know that appeals against election tribunal decisions lie before the Supreme Court under the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976, and it is thus undesirable for the court to pre-empt a trial or defeat the right of appeal by holding factual inquiries into allegations of election fraud in the exercise of suo moto powers (or under threat of a mob march)?

Has the PTI checked with Mr Hamid Khan if failure of election tribunals to render decisions within the four-month statutory period is a conspiracy against the PTI, or a manifestation of customary (even if abhorrent) delays in our justice system across Pakistan, including in PTI-led KP? If judicial delay is the festering endemic problem that it is, how can the PTI’s proposed solution be as vacuous as a long march?

Article 222 of the Constitution vests in parliament the legislative authority to deal with “doubts and disputes arising in connection with elections” and “corrupt practices and other offences in connection with elections”. In exercise of such power, parliament promulgated the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976. If this law now seems inadequate or ineffectual, where are the PTI’s proposed amendments?

The inordinate delays in our justice system leave thousands of citizens aggrieved on a daily basis. Has the PTI proposed any legislative measures at the centre or taken any executive measures within KP to address the crisis of our malfunctioning court system? Who is preventing it from passing laws to reform the judicial system in KP so that courts there stand in contrast to those in the rest of Pakistan?

The point is that sloganeering, censure or threats will not instigate the institutional and behavioral reforms we need in our electoral and justice sectors. Sustainable change needs serious painstaking work in its most mundane form. It doesn’t produce breaking news and its gratification is not instant. Led by pygmies, we in Pakistan have unfortunately begun to confuse rhetoric with reform and accusations and media trials with accountability and justice.

Electoral or judicial reforms are matters worth protesting and marching for, as contingent on them is the health and future of Pakistan’s democracy and rule of law. But will recount or reelection in four constituencies ensure that electronic voting gets introduced in Pakistan, or that returning officers in the next election are trained and independent, or that the machinery in place to address election disputes is credible and efficient?

Will the threat of a long march as a means of seeking justice bring us closer to the constitutional promise that courts shall treat all citizens equally (whether it is IK who is aggrieved or the average Joe) or will it further entrench the ‘ground reality’ that some, who are more equal than others, are to be treated preferentially? If PTI is genuinely interested in being the harbinger of change for Pakistan, it must get down to the nuts and bolts of policy reform and acquaint itself (and its supporters) with the idea of delayed gratification.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Ideological welfare

Umair Javed

A REPORT published recently in this paper shed light on the relief efforts undertaken by religious groups in areas affected by the ongoing military operation.

A REPORT published recently in this paper shed light on the relief efforts undertaken by religious groups in areas affected by the ongoing military operation.

As has been the case in previous humanitarian crises, such as the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir and KP, the 2009 Swat operation and the 2010 floods, religious organisations have been amongst the first civil society actors to establish fund-raising campaigns in metropolitan centres, and a ground presence in the affected areas.

This time around, their presence has gained even greater importance because of the army’s refusal to allow foreign donors and their local counterparts to work in and around North Waziristan.

Reports on the duplicitous nature of religious charities have been doing the rounds in Pakistan for at least the last decade. It is an established fact that many of these organisations, while often engaging in important humanitarian work, function as benign fronts for militant recruitment and jihad funding. This year, the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) is seeking Ramazan-inspired alms for both, local IDPs from North Waziristan and the ‘righteous jihad in Syria’. While the security implications of their work remain a major analytical concern, a deeper diagnosis of the skew induced within Pakistan’s civil society landscape remains missing.

A key factor distinguishing religious charities from what is conventionally (and exclusively) called Pakistani civil society ie ‘secular’ NGOs and advocacy groups, is their ability to mobilise local resources, such as zakat and chanda, and informal sources of international funding, such as donations from expatriate businessmen and professionals.

By many rough estimates, and rough estimates are all we have, Pakistani citizens spend around $6 billion on charitable activities in various forms. A considerable portion of this amount is spent through large, national-level Islamist actors like the Jamaatud Dawa, and through unregistered charities associated with religious institutions (mosques and seminaries), and bazaar-based trader groups (an Islamic version of corporate social responsibility).

In local outreach, first-response abilities, and even in tasks central to civil society work — such as the donor-favoured ‘community mobilisation’ and ‘civic participation’— Islamic welfare groups exhibit far greater capacity than their bureaucratised NGO counterparts.

Moreover, carefully selected religious rhetoric garners all aspects of the charitable work. Popular appeals include examples from the lives of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions, and the reminder of the fundamental perch that zakat and alms-giving occupies within Islamic theology. Through such invocations, the notion of an ‘ideal, public-minded, and religiously inspired’ citizen is first created and then repeatedly reinforced.

Establishing a grass-roots presence through volunteer networks, and developing social institutions which provide basic services and engender a shared sense of community, are time-tested strategies of groups of all ideological bents. It allows them to retain presence and popularity regardless of any actual control over formal political power, and helps in influencing discourse, political attitudes and public morality at the neighbourhood and household level.

This has been the case in numerous countries, most notably India (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), Egypt (Ikhwan), Turkey (the Justice and Development Party), and Lebanon (Hezbollah), where religious (or religion-inspired) groups have invested considerable time and money in the shape of sophisticated community structures — often voluntary in nature — to counter and ultimately defeat the popularity of progressive/secular alternatives.

Within the right-wing in Pakistan, and in the four countries mentioned here, the idea of welfare and charity remains central to the development of a new kind of citizen and a new and just society. Without the material aspect of helping out those in need, the ideological posturing remains fairly empty, and rarely gains traction.

What makes Pakistan’s case somewhat unique and perhaps more troubling, when compared to examples of religious groups from other parts of the world, is the lack of equally potent alternatives. Given the unsustainable, and foreign aid-reliant nature of most progressive NGOs and advocacy groups (barring notable exceptions like Shaukat Khanum and Edhi), there is literally little check on or indigenous response to the burgeoning presence and influence of right-wing groups.

The troubling aspects of this open-field situation are already apparent. Mobilisation on religious causes (blasphemy/sectarian hatred) is much more potent now precisely because of the years of effort put in by the welfare wings of Islamist groups. The successful utilisation of public spaces, like the mosque and bazaar as hubs of dispensing charity (over and above their existing roles as platforms to meet, greet and preach), is part of this same phenomenon.

This is especially visible during Ramazan, when one can often see welfare organisations distributing free iftar amongst the urban poor, and channelling zakat for a range of activities such as the provision of basic medicine and grants for orphan marriages.

Given the scale of work and its deep roots within society, the latest example of religious groups responding to a humanitarian crisis needs to be analysed beyond the political economy of militancy and jihad. A deeper appreciation of the problem would ideally incorporate an understanding of how welfare work combines with ideological messaging on a day-to-day basis to produce a canvas splattered with violence and exclusion.

More importantly, progressive civil society actors, many of whom have taken strong positions against ideological extremism and religious violence, would have to understand and acknowledge the limitations of advocacy and welfare work that’s so heavily bureaucratised and tied to foreign aid. This will be a small, but a sure first step towards rectifying the existing skew.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

umairjaved87

Twitter: @umairjav

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

The persecuted

Huma Yusuf

IF nothing else has made Pakistanis awake to their country’s serious predicament, perhaps this will: a country that has historically welcomed refugees — first migrants from northern India and subsequently those fleeing turmoil in Afghanistan — is now generating them. Thousands of Pakistanis have flooded into Afghanistan to escape the fallout of Operation Zarb-i-Azb, a fact being widely reported and remarked upon. What is less discussed is the steady flow of Pakistanis seeking asylum in Sri Lanka.

IF nothing else has made Pakistanis awake to their country’s serious predicament, perhaps this will: a country that has historically welcomed refugees — first migrants from northern India and subsequently those fleeing turmoil in Afghanistan — is now generating them. Thousands of Pakistanis have flooded into Afghanistan to escape the fallout of Operation Zarb-i-Azb, a fact being widely reported and remarked upon. What is less discussed is the steady flow of Pakistanis seeking asylum in Sri Lanka.

The issue of Pakistani refugees in Afghanistan is gaining attention not only because this is the first time cross-border migration has occurred in this direction but also because it has security implications on both sides of the border.

Are members of the TTP and Haqqani Network seeking sanctuary in Afghanistan, having travelled across the border alongside civilians fleeing the military operation? Are they armed and likely to further destabilise Afghanistan? Will their treatment at the hands of Afghan authorities exacerbate bilateral tensions? Unfortunately, these questions have trumped broader questions about the long-term ramifications of displacement caused by military operations. But at least these refugees are on the public’s radar.

The awareness about Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka seems to be lower. According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, 1,489 asylum seekers arrived in Sri Lanka from Pakistan in 2013, a dramatic increase from just 102 in 2012. Most are Christians and Ahmadis fleeing systemic persecution in Pakistan.

Last month, the Sri Lankan authorities arrested 142 Pakistanis and they are currently at risk of deportation, though international human rights groups have urged Sri Lanka not to return them to Pakistan where they will be further persecuted. This ongoing issue is why Sri Lanka recently suspended the visa-on-arrival for Pakistanis. It is also a reminder of how Pakistanis are being globally perceived: as unwanted sources of trouble.

The Pakistani response to this situation has been perverse. The Foreign Office has shown little sympathy for the asylum seekers by saying they gained asylum by “badmouthing Pakistan”. Similar contempt and denial on the part of the state was displayed when news of Hindu migrations to India began surfacing about two years ago, with various government officials suggesting the whole thing had been a misunderstanding. Others have grumbled about the cancellation of Sri Lanka’s convenient visa policy. What no one is asking is: why are those Pakistanis there in the first place?

The Sri Lanka episode is the latest reminder of how bleak the situation is for religious minorities in Pakistan. The watchdog organisation Minority Rights Group Inter­national (MRGI) has ranked Pakistan the world’s top country in terms of increases in threats to minorities since 2007.

Since the start of the year, there have been 27 reported incidents in which religious minorities’ temples or holy books have been desecrated. A recent report from Human Rights Watch records the killing of 450 Shia in 2012, and 400 in 2013 (Hazaras in Balochistan comprised one quarter of the victims in 2012 and half in 2013). A separate MRGI report cites higher statistics, saying 700 Shia were murdered in targeted attacks in 2013.

Meanwhile, Hindus are allegedly abducted and forcibly converted, forcing them to migrate to India each year to flee persecution (MRGI puts the number of annual migrants as high as 5,000). Christians are regularly targeted in brutal militant attacks and falsely accused of blasphemy. Ahmadis are also systematically targeted, de­­nied religious freedoms, and routinely accused of blasphemy.

The worse the situation gets, the less political will there seems to be to address it. Much of the persecution of religious minorities occurs in Punjab, the current seat of power, and also home base for the most brutal anti-Shia militant groups. Much has already been written about the links between PML-N politicians and sectarian groups. But the government is not the only guilty party.

Since Operation Zarb-i-Azb began, military spokespeople have been quite vocal about the commitment to root out anti-state terrorist groups, even previously condoned groups such as the Haqqani Network have apparently been blacklisted. But there has been no mention of groups that commit atrocities against religious minorities. In fact, these groups are instead being given greater space to operate in Balochistan and Sindh to counter rising nationalist sentiments.

The champions of democracy have been gearing up for a fight as the elected government faces pressure from the absurd machinations of other state institutions, Tahirul Qadri’s revolutionary rants and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s many marches. But we cannot protect something that doesn’t exist. And the plight of Pakistan’s minorities is clear proof that we’re still a long way off from a truly democratic state.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

huma.yusuf

Twitter: @humayusuf

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Done in, again

Hajrah Mumtaz

MANY of us in Pakistan might feel from time to time that we could have been luckier in terms of the country of citizenship. But a gentleman of my acquaintance feels he has it worse, and that too for a reason that many might have to be forgiven for thinking is possibly the most piddling. He loves — believes in, craves, needs — order. And what is Pakistan but the exact antithesis to order, a place where the rules that make societies neat and tidy come to give up the ghost, the epitome of chaos?

MANY of us in Pakistan might feel from time to time that we could have been luckier in terms of the country of citizenship. But a gentleman of my acquaintance feels he has it worse, and that too for a reason that many might have to be forgiven for thinking is possibly the most piddling. He loves — believes in, craves, needs — order. And what is Pakistan but the exact antithesis to order, a place where the rules that make societies neat and tidy come to give up the ghost, the epitome of chaos?

He’s always driven himself. Now in his 70s, he refuses to hire a driver on the basis that he won’t add to the chaos by putting on the streets yet another maniac who doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the rules. (It has been pointed out to him that a potential solution is to train the man properly, but he refuses to budge.)

After some 50 years of traversing Pakistan roads, rural and urban, mountains, plains and deserts, he doesn’t miss a single bit of road-related disorder that you or I might fail to see, engrossed as we are in our effort to avoid running over the four-year-old beggar while manoeuvring around the donkey cart coming the wrong way and at the same time swerving around the ballistic rickshaw.

He sees the anarchy everywhere, and is not shy of letting his companions know. Being in a car with him can be, on bad days, something of a trial. Those who have been honoured with the experience tend to emerge with glazed expressions, heads resounding with a running commentary along the lines of, “look at that motorcyclist, he’s got the entire village riding with him and look at the risks he’s taking … and that van driver. He’s going to cut across three lanes now … see, I told you. As for that car, does he even know that the white line isn’t for keeping between your wheels and telling you that you’re still pointed forwards?”

And so on. It’s a non-stop litany, peppered with curses, but one can forgive him because it’s obvious that the traffic is literally driving him crazy. His most stringent criticism is reserved for the untidiness of dress, especially when it becomes a traffic hazard: “Look at that guy, painchas flapping around and slippers falling off. Does he even realise the risk he’s posing to himself and others when any bit of cloth could become entangled at any time in the wheels or cogs of his bike?”

Not surprisingly, women appropriate a special status for this gentleman’s wrath in this regard, even though off the roads he’s as gender-blind as can be, also affording to the fairer sex, for example, absolutely equal rights to changing a flat tire or the engine oil. Not surprisingly, I say, because of the cultural modes of women’s apparel in Pakistan. Burqas, trailing dupattas and untold yards of flapping cloth are really not the most advisable things to wear when riding a motorbike, particularly when it’s side-saddle and a couple of children — maybe three or four — are also along for the ride.

The gentleman’s lament stands vindicated, though. Last week, the newspaper told me that “loose dress with trailing ends is a major contributor to road traffic injuries suffered by women pillion riders” in Karachi. The surveillance-based study, the first of its kind, was carried out in collaboration between the Aga Khan University Hospital, Aman Healthcare Services and the Road Traffic Injury Research and Prevention Centre, along with a couple of other research bodies.

Apparently, “women suffered injuries in 74pc cases out of 986 clothing-related road traffic injuries recorded over three years. The risk analysis data shows that female pillion riders were 31 times more likely to be involved in clothing-related motorcycle injuries than male pillion riders. Further estimation shows that 97pc of clothing-related injuries in pillion riders could be attributed to females”. This, from the report published in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion.

One could take this as evidence of yet another way in which our cultural codes are doing us in, joining the pantheon of odd notions of honour, gun-ownership in certain sections of society, and so on. But that would be to be flippant about something deadly serious.

I suppose I cannot recommend that people change the way they dress in order to be safe whilst riding in a country that is notable for its lack of public transport and where motorcycles are used by millions upon millions. However, could we have some entrepreneurial interventions? Perhaps something modelled along the lines of the sidecar that was so popular in the West until largely the 1950s? I know it’ll add to the traffic chaos — the motorcycle with the attachment would require more than an inch of clearance — but it would probably save lives and limbs.

The writer is a member of staff.

hajrahmumtaz

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2014

Pakistan’s ‘war on terrorism’

Munir Akram

FINALLY, Pakistan has declared its own ‘war on terrorism’. The North Waziristan operation, the prime minister’s pronouncements and the adoption of the Protection of Pakistan Bill by the National Assembly are significant signals of serious intent to rid the country of the terrorist menace.

FINALLY, Pakistan has declared its own ‘war on terrorism’. The North Waziristan operation, the prime minister’s pronouncements and the adoption of the Protection of Pakistan Bill by the National Assembly are significant signals of serious intent to rid the country of the terrorist menace.

To succeed, the government will have to plan and pursue a comprehensive strategy and utilise all relevant instruments of state power — military, police, intelligence, diplomatic and economic.

The North Waziristan operation was long in coming. The political reticence was overcome by the failure of the talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its relentless acts of terrorism. The attack on the Karachi airport was the final straw.

The North Waziristan operation is unlikely to be fully successful since it lacked the vital element of surprise. Most of the militants, it must be presumed, have slipped out of the agency. Even so, the military operation will disrupt the militant groups that are affiliated with the TTP and cleanse the epicentre of anti-Pakistan terrorism.

However, the presumed dispersal of the motley group of TTP militants will require the elimination of their external (Afghan) safe havens and their ‘internal’ hideouts within Pakistan. Both objectives are challenging.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rightly, if belatedly, requested Afghan President Hamid Karzai to seal the escape routes from North Waziristan into Afghanistan. Given the known and self-declared support given by Afghan Intelligence to elements of the TTP and the safe haven provided to Mullah Fazlullah, the current TTP ‘leader’, Karzai’s unhelpful response was not surprising.

To eliminate the Afghan safe havens, and end the support to the TTP and the so-called Balochistan Liberation Army from Afghan (and Indian) intelligence, Pakistan might find itself considering both soft and hard options.

Like Washington, Pakistan can hope that Afghanistan’s next president will be more helpful than Karzai. Pakistan can reciprocate Kabul’s cooperation by using its presumed ‘influence’ with the Afghan Taliban to promote reconciliation within Afghanistan. Unfortunately, if the Afghan election ends in controversy and crystallizes that country’s ethnic and regional divisions, the likelihood of any cooperation from Kabul to eliminate the TTP’s safe havens will recede further.

Failing to secure such cooperation, Pakistan could press the United States to use its vaunted drones to attack the TTP safe havens inside Afghanistan. This would be an acid test of America’s sincerity in combating all terrorists. If such US action is not forthcoming, a much harder option might be considered: Pakistan’s acquisition of armed drones (from China) to target the TTP’s safe havens in Afghanistan.

Since elements of the TTP consist of Uzbeks and Chechens, who also threaten Russia and Central Asia, and Uighurs, who threaten China, Pakistani authorities might seek support from Moscow and Beijing — both military and political — to eliminate the TTP safe havens. (Collaboration with Moscow and Beijing may also be useful in promoting internal reconciliation within Afghanistan.)

Eliminating the TTP’s ‘havens’ in Pakistan will be equally if not more difficult. A priority aim must be to smoke out the TTP terrorists from their hideouts in Karachi. Further terrorist attacks like the one on the airport in Karachi could stifle all chances of investment and economic revival in Pakistan.

A second priority should be to neutralise the Punjabi Taliban. This will need bold decisions by the ruling party, some of whose members have well-known political links with sectarian groups. These groups should be pressed to break with the TTP and renounce terrorist violence or suffer the consequences of security action by the state.

Among the Pakistani groups, the Lashkar-i-Taiba has a unique position. It is not a part of the TTP. Its agenda is pro-Kashmir and anti-Indian. A dialogue can be attempted with the LeT to dissuade it from embarking on adventures, like Mumbai, which do not serve the larger interests of the Kashmiris, the Indian Muslims or Pakistan. It should be encouraged to pursue its agenda through political means.

Combating terrorism in Fata and adjacent areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will involve winning over insurgent factions, such as the Sajna group, and tribal leaders, through a combination of incentives and disincentives. The incentives could include: provision of speedy justice, electricity, health services and education, political representation, monetary rewards and job creation, especially through infrastructure projects. A parallel endeavour is essential in Balochistan.

Halting terrorist financing is crucial. All the three main sources of such financing need to be addressed: criminal activities, such as kidnapping and drugs; contributions from religious zealots, both foreign and domestic, and money supplied by hostile foreign agencies and governments. With a determined, honest and intelligent effort, most if not all terrorist financing can be controlled.

Success in the counterterrorism campaign will depend considerably on effective intelligence and police functions. Existing structures are not up to the task. One or more special units, equipped with honest and qualified personnel, modern investigative and operational capabilities, and the intimate involvement of the armed forces and the intelligence agencies, will need to be created to address the multi-dimensional objectives of the counter-terrorist campaign.

It also seems essential to create an apex body, similar to the Nuclear Command Authority, where the political, armed forces, intelligence and diplomatic leadership can jointly formulate and oversee the execution of an agreed national counterterrorism strategy.

Ultimately, Pakistan’s ‘war on terrorism’ will be won only if it addresses and resolves the root causes of extremism and terrorism in the country: poverty, unemployment, injustice, inequality, ignorance and the erosion of tolerance, decency, humanity and nationalism within our society and polity.

This will be a long ‘war’. It will entail suffering and sacrifice. But it is a war worth fighting to achieve peace and prosperity for Pakistan’s 200 million people and to reclaim the soul of the country that was created by Pakistan’s founding fathers.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Two chiefs, one army

Cyril Almeida

YOU gotta love the boys. Admire them even. They’ve elevated this stuff to an art form.

YOU gotta love the boys. Admire them even. They’ve elevated this stuff to an art form.

Throw the previous guy under the bus, then ride that jalopy to your own version of Gloryville. Once there, hang around until everyone figures out you’re no better than the last chap.

Then, hand over the mess to the next chap and assume the position — it’s your turn to be thrown under the bus. For the glory of the institution!

In all of this silliness of boo to the last chief/hail to the new chief, it’s easy to forget we’ve seen all of this before.

Kayani was the anti-Musharraf, Musharraf the anti-Karamat, Beg wasn’t Zia, Zia wasn’t Yahya — each different, until they became the same, ie passed on a mess bigger than they had inherited.

But the past is another country. To the present. The Kayani doctrine is dead, long live the Raheel doctrine.

Except, really? Back to toggling, back to that other country.

From the front page of this newspaper, Nov 30, 2010:

“In detailed comments on the military’s approach to North Waziristan Agency, the senior official said, ‘(The US) has an increased focus on North Waziristan for understandable reasons’.

“But the official added there was serious domestic cause for concern, too: ‘Most terrorist attacks inside Pakistan originate from North Waziristan. So the question is not if but when and how to tackle it militarily’.”

It was a background briefing, so his name couldn’t be printed. Four years on, we don’t have to be so coy.

Officially, Kayani gave three reasons for not going into NWA then: wrapping up the South Waziristan operation first; blowback in Pakistan proper, in terms of terror attacks and IDPs; and the lack of a political consensus.

Unofficially, there were two other — arguably, more fundamental — reasons: shielding the Haqqanis; and waiting out the American ‘do more’ mantra on NWA — because an American connection would fuel the militants’ propaganda.

Put all of that together and one year always loomed large: 2014.

And here we are, in 2014, a military operation in North Waziristan under way. The Kayani doctrine doesn’t look so dead after all, does it?

Too complicated, almost conspiratorial? Only if you’re more interested in seeing Raheel crowned as the next saviour-in-chief, the latest general worshipped by his adoring masses.

Conversely, there is nothing really to be had in denying Raheel the glory about to come his way. In politics and war, credit usually goes to the guy who’s around when a job gets done. It’s just the way things work.

But there is a deeper problem with this Decisive Raheel/Dithering Kayani business: it ignores the historical pattern, and it’s possible continuation into the present.

Kayani too was decisive once. As was Musharraf. As was, probably, Zia. It’s not how they start that matters because they all start well. It’s how they end that matters. But in the beginnings do lie clues about what the end may look like.

Already we have an IDP crisis, the very thing the army knew — what Kayani knew and what Raheel knows — should not happen. The difference is, Raheel’s army has been in the counter-insurgency business for a decade. Kayani’s army largely learned on the job.

Well, the boys would argue that the problem is the same as it always has been: the civilians aren’t up to scratch. And this time it’s even worse because Nawaz was unwilling to even accept that an operation was necessary.

The army can’t do everything, but neither can it stand by and do nothing — the, possibly not unreasonable, army contention is.

OK, so move on to the next big thing: what next? The army will do reasonably well at pushing out militants from NWA and retaking lost territory. Then, the civilians will have to do their job, to provide administration, justice, development and reforms.

Already though everyone knows that won’t happen — arguably cannot happen while a massive troop presence is on the ground. If you’ve ever seen a civil servant or local politician around even a junior military officer, you wouldn’t even need to ask why.

So then why do this at all, when counter-insurgency will slowly sink into the quagmire of civilian ineptitude and civ-mil imbalance?

Again, the same answer from the boys: we know we can’t do everything, but neither can we stand by and do nothing. The corollary: some results are better than no results.

Again, both are not unreasonable contentions. Something really had to be done about North Waziristan.

Still, if the same problems and compromises of the past are already spilling into the present, then where does that leave soon-to-be hero Raheel’s purposefulness?

The same as where it left Kayani’s. With one difference though: the era.

Kayani was a squeezed-in-the-middle general. There was nothing really for him to do in his era. Musharraf caught the start of the militant explosion/war in Afghanistan and had to make the big decisions, eventually botching them.

Raheel is around for the beginning of the next phase — and may have to make some of the next big decisions.

Some of those decisions are path dependent. Fata will never be the same. The army is there to stay. Afghanistan too will never be the same. The army needs to prevent it from spilling into Pakistan.

But some decisions will depend on Raheel’s mettle. To wit, will he be the general to at long last subordinate narrow military strategy to the much wider national-security strategy?

Or would he rather be the next saviour-in-chief, trying to save us all until he can’t even save himself?

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

The knowledge level

Farhan Bokhari

THE next knowledge revolution in Pakistan will not be driven by a long overdue expansion of public libraries or a much-needed revamp of educational institutions across the public sector. Instead, following in the footsteps of a questionable distribution of laptops across Punjab spearheaded by the ruling PML-N, a mass distribution of internet devices popularly known as EVOs is now supposedly under way.

THE next knowledge revolution in Pakistan will not be driven by a long overdue expansion of public libraries or a much-needed revamp of educational institutions across the public sector. Instead, following in the footsteps of a questionable distribution of laptops across Punjab spearheaded by the ruling PML-N, a mass distribution of internet devices popularly known as EVOs is now supposedly under way.

The government’s Higher Education Commission has been given charge by the authorities in Islamabad to oversee the distribution of up to 100,000 such devices in the first instance, ostensibly to create a knowledge revolution. And yet, imparting knowledge through this mechanism is far easier said than done.

How much have the laptops already dished out to students made a difference to the knowledge level across the populous province? Anecdotal evidence suggests very little has changed by way of lifting the knowledge level, notwithstanding the frequent pats on their backs by key members of the ruling structure. The next phase led by mobile internet devices may be similarly doomed to eventually become inconsequential.

Fundamentally, there are two equally vital gaps surrounding this initiative. First, Pakistan lives with the legacy of becoming a country which has repeatedly tried to run before it could even walk properly. The idea of arming young students with laptops and internet connectivity as they are churned out of educational institutions without gaining globally acceptable academic proficiency, is nothing short of mind-boggling and perhaps gimmickry.

There are multiple tales of mediocrity among job applicants which make the rounds among recruiters based on the performance of entry level fresh graduates. Clearly, there is a generation of young graduates armed with degrees but not necessarily the knowledge.

Second, arming students with laptops and mobile internet devices fails to mask the fundamental gaps surrounding Pakistan’s re­­peated inability to get its priorities right. Resources allocated to education have historically been disappointing.

But if allocations for education remain tight, that’s all the more reason to vigorously and tightly scrutinise every paisa dedicated to the cause of lifting the knowledge level. The pathetic state of Pakistan’s commitment to education has been ably articulated recently by Faisal Bari, a respected academic, in this newspaper.

Among the ‘four big problems’ surrounding the education sector which are waiting to be resolved, Bari’s reference to the 20 to 25 million students between the ages of five to 16 who are presently out of school, is a powerful reminder of the gap between Pakistan’s pathetic realities and the pipe dreams so forcefully put across by the ruling elite. Should Pakistan’s tight budgetary resources not be primarily devoted to putting every child into school rather than shoving the matter under the carpet and dishing out laptops and mobile internet devices?

This case of misplaced priorities is another reminder of a wider and ongoing policy challenge in Islamabad. For too long, Pakistan has remained a country driven by whimsical choices that have ignored some of the country’s most telling realities.

In pursuing the vision of a more promising future for the country, the ruling structure led by the PML-N appears to have embarked on a spendthrift drive in the name of revamping the economy. The new financial year has begun with the controversial approval of a Rs300 billion-plus motorway that plans to link Lahore to Karachi by 2017, a year ahead of 2018 when the next national elections are due to take place.

A reality check can simply not ignore that more than one-third — and possibly exceeding 40pc — of Pakis­tan’s population lives below the poverty line. The relative relief from long duration electricity cuts which is felt in parts of Pakistan during Rama­zan goes little beyond a temporary phenomenon, perhaps loaded more with the political narrative meant to prevent public protests than an act of official generosity.

Other sectors, notably reliable and safe water supply, healthcare and public safety all remain the subject of neglect. Ultimately, Pakistan becoming a ‘hacienda’ type economy emulating the Latin American experience is well on the cards. Based on the present trajectory, the journey will indeed end up creating islands of wealth surrounded by ever growing parts of Pakistan locked in continuous turbulence of one kind or another.

Tragically though, this outcome may increasingly remain unchallenged by the relatively few young graduates whose ability to dissect the broad contours of Pakistan’s future will not be driven by knowledge gained from visits to libraries, as was the trend surrounding many of their forefathers. Instead, the coming generation will gain their ‘knowledge’ from ever proliferating and officially provided laptops and internet connections.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist.

bokhari62

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

Unfair polls?

Dr Niaz Murtaza

ACCUSING the PML-N, caretakers, the Election Commission and judiciary of unprecedented rigging against it in 2013, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is threatening a long march. Other parties have also complained of rigging though are not threatening drastic action. So, were these elections rigged?

ACCUSING the PML-N, caretakers, the Election Commission and judiciary of unprecedented rigging against it in 2013, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is threatening a long march. Other parties have also complained of rigging though are not threatening drastic action. So, were these elections rigged?

Since politicians often employ hyperbole, one must review the reports of neutral election observers — the EU, the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Pakistan-based Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen). While all three identified pre- and election-day flaws, none questioned overall electoral credibility.

The EU and NDI, having monitored Pakistani elections for decades, actually termed overall election processes significantly improved. None reported systematic rigging against the PTI. The EU and NDI did report that the PPP and Awami National Party were not allowed by the TTP to campaign freely in KP. This ironically benefited the PTI. Thus, inferences from neutral reviews actually paint the PTI as an indirect beneficiary rather than victim of electoral flaws.

Data from a Fafen review of post-election complaint-handling also undermines rigging charges. Out of 410 complaints lodged with the ECP, 301 stood decided by May 31, 2014. While over 100 complaints are pending, election tribunals are not delaying PTI complaints only. If 21 of PTI’s 58 total complaints are still pending, so are 28 of PML-N’s 66. The PTI had zero success rate to-date in its 37 decided complaints; the PML-N only had four successes in 38 decided complaints. Tribunals have de-seated two PTI but also nine PML-N winners to-date. There appears to be little evidence that the tribunals are biased.

Even if the PTI miraculously wins all of its remaining complaints, it would not gain power in Punjab or nationally. Even if the PML-N loses all complaints pending against it, it will retain power in both places. So, the alleged rigging has not tipped things decisively. There is a wide gap between PTI’s massive rigging rhetoric and available evidence. Such limited rigging provides no justification for launching long marches which could topple democracy.

Even if democracy survives and the PTI forces early elections, there is no guarantee that it will win. Even if it wins, it may reintroduce ruinous 1990s-type politics as the PML-N may then attempt to topple the PTI early. Despite all its faults, the PML-N respected the PTI’s 2013 KP mandate even though it could have cobbled a majority there. The PTI must reciprocate graciously or risk undermining the good things it is planning in KP governance-wise.

If the party has strong rigging evidence, it should submit it to the courts. If it feels that they are biased against it, before taking drastic measures like quitting assemblies and invading Islamabad, it should convince neutral civil society elements, eg bar associations, human rights groups, media, and other major opposition parties about its stand. It should not appear as judge, jury and executioner all alone.

Democracies allow legitimate protest. But, not even advanced democracies allow protest by people (like Qadri) planning overtly to topple elected governments unconstitutionally. PTI promises legal protests only for achieving poll reforms. But it hints of a premature end to PML-N rule. Such premature end, genuine reforms and constitutionalism are not all possible together given the enormity of required electoral reforms.

These include rules and mechanisms for time-barred disqualification of convicts and government defaulters; better mechanisms for appointing ECP members, interim governments and returning officers; constituency delimitation and voter list re-verification based on a new census, and stronger election day processes like electronic voter identification and voting and associated voter education etc. Poll reforms need two to three years to complete.

The PTI can only have any two of the three outcomes mentioned above together. If it chooses the early end of PML-N rule and constitutionalism, reforms are not possible since elections will become due in three months under a PML-PPP-appointed interim government. Secondly, if it chooses an early end to PML-N rule and reforms, it would mean an unconstitutional interim government institutes reforms over two to three years. Finally, it could choose reforms and constitutionalism by foregoing an early end of PML-N rule and pressuring it together with other political and civic groups to institute reforms over the next four years.

This is the sensible choice that genuine democrats should select. The PTI must publicly announce its commitment to assemblies completing their terms. This will help it gain the support of numerous political and civic groups currently wary of its intentions. Even if initially reluctant, the PML-N will be unable to resist their combined reform demands coupled with judicial pressure.

The writer is a political economist and a Senior Fellow with UC Berkeley.

murtazaniaz

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2014

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