DWS, Sunday 7th September to Saturday 13th September 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 7th September to Saturday 13th September 2014

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National News

Three Navy personnel held in Balochistan

Baqir Sajjad Syed

QUETTA/ISLAMABAD: Security agencies have arrested three personnel of Pakistan Navy from Mastung area of Balochistan in connection with the recent terrorist attack on a Naval facility in Karachi’s Dockyard area.

QUETTA/ISLAMABAD: Security agencies have arrested three personnel of Pakistan Navy from Mastung area of Balochistan in connection with the recent terrorist attack on a Naval facility in Karachi’s Dockyard area.

Official sources said on Thursday that the three had been arrested on Monday from the Lakpas area of Mastung when they were going to Quetta from Karachi in a car. It appeared that they had planned to escape to Afghanistan.

“Yes, security officials have arrested three Navy personnel when they were on their way to Quetta from Karachi,” a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.

Another security official, who also requested anonymity, told Dawn.com that the arrests were made during raids conducted on the basis of intelligence reports.

“The suspects are Navy officials,” he added, but said nothing about their ranks.

He said some suspects had been apprehended from Ormara and Karachi.

Sources said the three officers arrested from Mastung were taken to Karachi on Tuesday for interrogation.

They said the arrested personnel had provided important information about other people involved in the attack. The sources said the three had hired the car from Karachi and planned to cross into Afghanistan.

The car driver was freed after questioning.

When contacted, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti said the arrests had not been made by police or any other provincial force. But he did not entirely rule it out.

The role the three could have played in the terrorist attack, which is said to have taken place with insider help, is not clear yet.

A Navy spokesman when contacted refused to confirm or deny the report. “No comment,” the spokesman said, adding that the “investigations were going on and disclosure of any information would be counter-productive”.

The body of Navy officer Owais Jhakrani, who had a few months back quit the armed forces, was found near the scene of the attack and he is being linked to the attack.

The arrest of four of the attackers following the attack had provided the investigators with useful clues based on which several raids have been conducted and a number of arrests have been made.

Defence Minister Khwaja Asif told a joint sitting of parliament that the attack seemed to be an insider job. He said the attack looked to be a blowback of the North Waziristan Operation.

The Dockyard attack was the second major attack on a military installation since Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched in North Waziristan in mid-June. On Aug 14, the militants had attacked Army Aviation and Air Force bases in Quetta.

The latest attack on the Navy facility that was earlier claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has now also been claimed by newly formed South Asia wing of Al Qaeda.

“The operation near Karachi shore was an attack by Al Qaeda in the Subcontinent,” a statement in Urdu from the alleged group sent to AFP said.

The Al Qaeda statement claimed that the target of the raid was a “US supply ship” and said the dead attackers included former Pakistan Navy officers.

Although the claim by the Al Qaeda wing appeared questionable, the terrorist outfit was reportedly involved in the 2011 Mehran Base attack. That attack is also said to have taken place with the insider help.

Extremist groups have previously recruited senior armed force officers. In a high-profile case a serving brigadier and four other officers were convicted in Aug 2012 for links with the banned Hizbut Tehreer.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Lower Punjab on alert as raging river heads south

Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE/JHANG/MULTAN: As the peak of exceptionally high flood in the Chenab river was crossing Trimu headworks on Thursday, the Punjab government authorities expressed fears about floods in Multan because of chances of breaches at two bridges leading to the district.

LAHORE/JHANG/MULTAN: As the peak of exceptionally high flood in the Chenab river was crossing Trimu headworks on Thursday, the Punjab government authorities expressed fears about floods in Multan because of chances of breaches at two bridges leading to the district.

The Multan region was the focus of all relief and rescue operations and over 1,100 boats and 16 helicopters were being used to evacuate people from Jhang, Multan and Muzaffargarh.

So far 184 people have been killed in rain- and flood-related incidents and crops over hundreds of thousands of acres damaged in Punjab.

Talking to reporters, Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Floods, Shuja Khanzada, said the authorities were considering making another breach in an embankment at Athara Hazari, opposite Jhang, to handle a peak of 500,000 to 600,000 cusecs approaching Trimu over the next 24 hours.

But the irrigation department and the Jhang district administration said the chances were remote.

According to Mr Khanzada, the breach caused by Chenab at Vijhana, near Jhang, was being plugged to save areas around the city.

About 40,000 cusecs gushed towards Jhang through this point on Wednesday and the authorities claimed that the flow had been reduced to 2000 cusecs after the plugging of the breach.

To save Jhang and adjoining villages and towns, the authorities had on Wednesday blown up the Chenab’s right side embankment at Athara Hazari, diverting 120,000 cusecs to Athara Hazari and adjoining areas.

Now Shorkot city is under an increasing threat of flood and the authorities are making efforts to strengthen the city’s defence by beefing up the dyke and plugging vulnerable points.

A peak of 625,321 cusecs passed Trimu in the early hours of Thursday and the level was 592,304 cusecs at 4pm.

Mr Khanzada said Chenab downstream Trimu could pose a serious threat to Multan, mainly because of chances of breaches at Muhammadwala and Sher Shah (railway) bridges.

He said the discharge at Muhammadwala bridge was 350,000 cusecs and that at Sher Shah 250,000 cusecs at noon and the level was rising. “At present the two bridges are safe, but breaches on their right side (Multan) may be made if the flow in the river poses any threat to them,” Mr Khanzada said at around 12.30am.

In case of breaches, he feared, the floodwater would badly affect Multan district, but the city would be safe.

Irrigation department officials told Dawn at 8pm that both the bridges were safe and the floodwater was flowing within their dykes.

Sources at the Multan irrigation department told Dawn that a breach near Head Muhammadwala was likely because of faulty design of the bridge. They said the bridge had been built by diverting the river towards west of the city. The river was diverted about 6km off course and that is the point where water pressure is increasing.

The sources said the pressure was building up on the left bank of the river from Head Muhammadwala to Bund Bosan and to reduce the pressure the breach would be made. According to them, the water level on the gauge installed at Head Muhammadwala was at 412 while the breach will be made if water touched 417.

Meanwhile, the Flood Forecasting Division forecast high flood in the river Ravi at Sidhnai over the next 24 hours. The discharge at this point was 62,528 cusecs at 4pm and was expected to rise to 70,000 cusecs.

Ravi falls into Chenab near Ahmadpur Sial. The waters then head to Multan. The authorities said it would add to the peak in Chenab, creating more problems in the region.

The FFD forecast high to very high flood (600,000 to 700,000 cusecs) in Indus river at Guddu on Sept 15 and 16. Sukkur is likely to face a similar scenario on Sept 16 and 17.

It said peaks could inundate Muzaffargarh, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur, Jacobabad, Ghotki, Shikarpur and Sukkur districts and asked the authorities concerned to take measures to avoid any loss of life and property.

Meanwhile, Punjab Food Minister Bilal Yasin said that 1.8 million people had so far been affected by floods and rains in 21 districts where an emergency had been declared. Over 140,000 people have been rescued and shifted to safe places.

The Punjab government’s spokesman Zaeem Qadri said the army, navy and air force were assisting the provincial government in carrying out rescue and relief operations in the flood-hit cities and towns.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Opposition jirga presents ‘workable solution’ to end impasse

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The opposition jirga, mediating between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek, presented on Thursday what it called “the best possible formula” to end the month-long political impasse.

ISLAMABAD: The opposition jirga, mediating between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek, presented on Thursday what it called “the best possible formula” to end the month-long political impasse.

After a meeting at the residence of former interior minister and Pakistan People’s Party leader Rehman Malik, Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq held a press conference and announced that a formula had been devised and would be presented to the government and the two protesting parties.

“After threadbare discussions, we have prepared the best possible formula and have given three days to all parties to review it thoroughly and come up with a response,” Mr Haq told reporters.

He said that details of the formula could not be shared with the press “until we receive replies on it from the government, and the protesting parties”.

Apparently, all three sides are sticking to their respective stances and are not showing any flexibility. PTI Chairman Imran Khan keeps insisting that he will not budge from the sit-in in front of Parliament House unless Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N, for its part, has vowed not to sacrifice the prime minister and has termed the PTI’s demand “unconstitutional”.

PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri has also pledged to continue his sit-in until the entire political system in the country is revamped.

Following the press talk, the opposition jirga met the PTI’s negotiation team at the residence of PTI General Secretary Jahangir Tareen and presented their formula to them.

Addressing the media outside the PTI leader’s residence, both sides vowed to continue dialogue to end the prevailing crisis.

Here, Mr Haq said the opposition jirga wanted to give the three sides “a respectable way” to resolve the issue.

“If all sides take two steps back, we will find a solution to the problem,” he said, adding that the jirga would continue its efforts until a solution was found.

At this point, PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi interjected to say that the government needs take only one step back to end the sit-ins.

He said he had received the jirga’s suggestions and would review them within the party. “We have also presented our concerns to the jirga and hope that it will understand our point of view,” he added.

Rehman Malik said that of the PTI’s six demands, the government had met “four-and-a-half”.

The jirga leaders are also expected to meet PAT and ruling party leaders to present their formula to them.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

A compromised politician in hand is worth two more on D-Chowk

Arifa Noor

The quiet Farhatullah Babar took most people by surprise on Monday.

The quiet Farhatullah Babar took most people by surprise on Monday.

Instead of holding forth about script writers or castigating the government for its arrogance, the soft-spoken senator called the spade by its name and suggested a dialogue with the military.

The speech on the floor of the house intrigued many. What exactly did he have in mind?

“The civilians can’t be expected to face the consequences of decisions being made elsewhere,” he says, when asked.

But will this not trigger a conflict with the very force that civilians agreed to share space with in 2007 when both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan after negotiations with a weakened but unvanquished military?

“No,” he says, “As the dialogue will be secret, without any point scoring in the media.”

The senior politician is suggesting a frank, direct exchange instead of messaging through press releases, vague speeches about states within states and small, secretive, closed-door meetings at the GHQ.

Babar has to be given the credit for providing a solution unlike most other parliamentarians who have simply criticised ‘namaloom afraad’ who didn’t stop the PTV attack or sneered at the “chaar ka tola” while thundering about parliamentary sovereignty.

Indeed, the shadows of military intervention have hung over the latest political crisis from day one.

The differences between the military and the PML-N led to the conclusion that the former had played a role in the two protesting parties taking such a hard stand against the federal government and the one in Punjab.

The oblique and at times clear references from the League officials (ministers argued that their troubles were linked to former general Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial) and from Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri (who gleefully spoke of umpires and their gestures) didn’t help matters as didn’t the military’s role in the Red Zone. Javed Hashmi’s allegations were simply the last nail in the coffin.

But more importantly it was the role of the military during the PPP tenure that has allowed the perceptions to be accepted as truth. From Memogate to Raymond Davis to the fracas over the Kerry Lugar Bill, it was clear then that the military was not averse to indirectly pressuring the government to protect its turf.

This is a major reason why there is little scepticism for the idea that PML-N’s heavy-handed approach to issues such as Musharraf’s trial, trade with India and the war against militancy had convinced the military that Sharif needed to be cut down to size.

The current crisis simply brings back too many memories from 2008-2013.

And against this backdrop Babar’s words strike a chord — as the former president’s spokesman he had a ringside view of all the crises the PPP weathered.

Sharif’s present struggles to weather this storm is too similar to what Zardari went through, even though the latter was in a far weaker position, dependent on temperamental and greedy allies to maintain the numbers in parliament.

Take for instance Khan’s allegations of rigging which have been endorsed by nearly every political party in the parliament. From the PPP to the ANP to JUI-F, everyone has moaned about the victory they have been cheated out of.

Even if Khan goes back without anything more than an ordinary judicial commission to investigate the 2013 elections, a stubborn Nawaz Sharif (don’t expect the leadership to miraculously share power beyond the family with “talented backbenchers” simply because of a month-long crisis), now faces turbulent five years.

Sharif is now as ‘compromised’ as Zardari who ruled with the widespread perception that a beleaguered Gen Pervez Musharraf had wiped his corruption slate clean and robbed Pakistan of its hard-earned cash, stowed away in Swiss accounts.

The NRO implementation case and the consequent litigation (which sent one prime minister home) ensured that Zardari was never able to rest easy.

If there is a hackneyed script at play, perhaps the investigations into the alleged rigging and the Model town incident will similarly cause Sharif sleepless nights. Both the PTI and PAT have demanded investigations by joint investigation teams that will have the usual suspects including representatives from MI and ISI.

But where it is always difficult to connect the looking forward, one can connect them looking backwards, said Steve Jobs.

And his words hold true for Pakistani politics, where the future is difficult to predict but the past easy to analyse.

The current crisis too can be traced to a frequently made mistake — not heeding political forces.

For an entire year, the PML-N ignored the PTI’s allegations. A frustrated PTI announced rallies and then a long march, on the eve of which the prime minister finally suggested a judicial commission.

The N didn’t think the PTI was worth taking seriously, not realising that the growing alienation between the two would eventually be exploited by others.

Would there have been a crisis if the N had announced the judicial commission six months ago?

A similar moment came in Zardari’s tenure also. Had the president not refused to restore the judiciary and had his governor in Punjab not imposed an emergency in Punjab in 2009, the slightly reluctant Sharif may not have put his entire weight behind the judiciary movement and led the march to Islamabad? Would the superior judiciary been as hostile to PPP but for Zardari’s earlier refusals to restore it?

More than Sharif, it was the military which gained from the 2009 Long March when it jumped in to save the system.

We nearly witnessed a similar moment when a nervous government asked the military to ‘facilitate’; the public manner in which this request was made and accepted led to a controversy big enough to compel the military to back out.

But despite its low visibility, there is no doubt that Sharif’s weakness will add to the military’s space to manoeuvre.

This is one reason elected governments in the centre have to stop playing by the Westminster rules where an elected majority transforms into an executive that traditionally has the right to make decisions, ignoring the rest.

This was the mistake Zardari made in 2009 and Sharif repeated in 2014.

Instead they should view decision-making as constant negotiation, where the central government has to keep the provincial governments and, at times, other political players on board.

Secondly, this approach will provide a healing touch in our fractured polity, where ethnic groups, provinces and now major political parties complain of being ignored and then resort to measures such as street protests.

Pakistan can’t afford the precedent that a long march to Islamabad is the only way to get an intransigent government to listen.

Apart from the instability this causes, this trend also means that those who don’t have the numbers or the proximity to Islamabad cannot force a government to listen. This after all is what set the Baloch missing people march apart from the PTI/PAT dharnas.

Pakistan can’t afford the perception that only Punjab can and will be able to further influence a parliament it already dominates through numbers.

And as Sharif ponders this, he should also seriously consider the frank exchange with the military that Mr Babar suggested. Sometimes, an out-of-the box solution provides the only feasible answer.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Dyke blown up to ease pressure on Jhang

Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE: Authorities in Punjab blew up on Wednesday morning a strategic embankment at Athara Hazari on the right side of Chenab after the high flood in the river washed away another on the left side near Jhang city.

LAHORE: Authorities in Punjab blew up on Wednesday morning a strategic embankment at Athara Hazari on the right side of Chenab after the high flood in the river washed away another on the left side near Jhang city.

Although the breaches saved Jhang and Athara Hazari from complete devastation, they caused inundation of a vast area in the two regions, badly affecting life there.

Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif said in parliament and a Punjab government official told Dawn that the breach was made at 10am. At the time of the breach the discharge in the river at Trimu was below 500,000 cusecs. The level recorded at 600,000 cusecs at about 7pm was gradually rising.

But irrigation authorities claimed that the water level had reached the critical gauge and the embankment had to be blown up to save Jhang and adjoining towns.

A senior official at the Punjab irrigation department said the breach had been made to protect Jhang and downstream Trimu barrage from the gushing floodwater entering there from Jhaloana.

The river earlier eroded a protective dyke near village Vijhlana on the Jhang-Multan-Bhakkar highway which was immediately submerged.

The floodwater also entered villages around the Jhang-Shorkot railway line and Jhang-Multan road.

Irrigation officials said the embankment was first breached at 8.50am, but since the gap created was insufficient to release the pressure from Jhang, it was again dynamited after some hours. “We have succeeded in stopping the floodwater from reaching Jhang city,” one official said.

Athara Hazari and Ahmadpur Sial were submerged after the breach. Crops on thousands of acres were damaged.

The two villages have a population of 100,000 each and, according to the officials, they had already been evacuated.

The irrigation authorities said the floodwater which entered the villages through the eroded embankment near Jhang would be drained through Trimu-Sidhnai link canal.

Reports from districts suggested that about 200 villages had been submerged because of the breaches. The unexpected breach on the Jhang side created panic among people and the authorities, but major devastation was averted by the timely breaching of the Athara Hazari embankment.

According to the Punjab Disaster Management Authority, 178 people have so far lost their lives in rain- and flood-related incidents in Sialkot and Jhang regions. Crops over 527,972 acres have been damaged and 3,326 head of cattle have perished.

It said relief measures were being taken in Sialkot and other areas where floodwater was receding. About 16 helicopters and 145 boats are being used to evacuate people from the Jhang region and provide food and medicines to the affected people.

Administrations in the flood-hit districts have been provided Rs100 million each to purchase and distribute relief goods among the affected people.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Cleric among 4 shot dead in ‘sectarian attacks’

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: A prominent religious scholar and three other people were killed in renewed ‘sectarian attacks’ here on Wednesday.

KARACHI: A prominent religious scholar and three other people were killed in renewed ‘sectarian attacks’ here on Wednesday.

According to officials, Dr Masood Baig, a seminary teacher and son-in-law of Jamia Binoria Al-Almia’s founding chief Mufti Mohammed Naeem, was killed in an attack in North Nazimabad. He was going to pick his children from school.

Dr Masood had done his Ph.D on ‘tolerance in Islam’ from the University of Karachi and was also its visiting faculty member.

Meanwhile, Qasim alias Danish Raza, an activist of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, was gunned down in Sharifabad in an attack on his shop.

Hours later, Salman Kazmi, a coordinator of the MQM’s senior leader Hyder Abbas Rizvi, was killed in an attack on a barber shop in Jauharabad.

Imran Ali, another MQM worker, was killed when gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire at his TV repair shop in Surjani Town.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Operation to be extended to remote areas: army chief

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: As the Zarb-i-Azb military operation entered its second phase in North Waziristan, Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif vowed on Wednesday to take the fight against terrorists to remote areas of the tribal agency.

ISLAMABAD: As the Zarb-i-Azb military operation entered its second phase in North Waziristan, Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif vowed on Wednesday to take the fight against terrorists to remote areas of the tribal agency.

“Terrorists will be pursued even in the remotest areas and all their sanctuaries will be taken out,” he said while reviewing the progress of the operation at a meeting with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt. The meeting evaluated the coordination between the Pakistan Air Force and the army and the targeting mechanism.

The pledge came as troops battled militants outside Datta Khel town of North Waziristan. Sixty five terrorists were killed in latest air strikes north-west of Datta Khel and Shawal Valley.

Analysts believe that the “next phase” in the operation will be more challenging because of difficult terrain and forest area in Shawal valley. Moreover, many militants, after being evicted from their sanctuaries, have taken refuge in remote areas of the agency.

A military source said that during the first stage of the operation, the main towns of Mirali, Miramshah and Datta Khel, once considered militants’ strongholds, and the road connecting the towns had been cleared.

“Now we are moving ahead after consolidating the initial gains,” he added.

The chiefs of army and air force expressed satisfaction over the progress in the operation and pledged to use all available resources for making it successful.

The army chief had earlier announced that special intelligence-based operations would be conducted in other parts of the country to prevent terrorists from re-grouping and striking back.

“Planned with a clear end state and long-term objectives, the operation will accomplish (the task of) eliminating terrorists from these areas and from across the country,” a military spokesman said.

Meanwhile speaking at a meeting of the Senate’s foreign affairs committee, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security, Sartaj Aziz, said North Waziristan-based terrorists might have fled to other parts of the country after the start of the operation. But, he noted that the army was depriving them of the capacity to carry out terrorist attacks.

The military had previously said that 2,274 intelligence-led coordinated counter-terrorism operations had been carried out throughout the country to forestall any blowback of operation.

Over 40 terrorists have been killed and 114 arrested in the operations outside North Waziristan.

The army claims to have killed about 1,000 terrorists since the start of Zarb-i-Azb on June 15.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Sit-in: PTI to mark completion of one month

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Even on the 27th day of their marathon sit-in on Constitution Avenue, Imran Khan appeared defiant. His party members, too, appeared to be standing firm behind their leader.

ISLAMABAD: Even on the 27th day of their marathon sit-in on Constitution Avenue, Imran Khan appeared defiant. His party members, too, appeared to be standing firm behind their leader.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) core committee on Wednesday resolved to continue with their ‘Azadi March’ until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif steps down and allows the proposed judicial commission to conduct an unvarnished audit of the results of the May 2013 general elections.

Moreover, the party’s leadership, which met inside Mr Khan’s container at D-Chowk, decided to mark the completion of one month of their sit-in on Saturday, September 13.

Dubbed ‘One Nation Day’, the core committee meeting discussed the logistics of this intended celebration and pondered plans to make this event a well-attended affair. A member of the core committee told Dawn, “Although the crowd at D-Chowk usually swells over the weekend, the chairman wants to turn Saturday’s gathering into a massive show.”

He admitted that the unexpected floods in Punjab had taken a toll on attendance figures over the past week, but insisted that they were continuing with their sit-in due to the government’s stubbornness.

An official from the party’s media wing told Dawn that Mr Khan also gave core committee members a ‘pep talk’ and said that from this point they could only move forward.

“In the meeting, there were whispers asking for a cut-off date for the march. But the chairman insisted that they had come too far to call off the march without securing a free and fair probe into the elections, which was not possible as long as the PM stayed in office,” the office-bearer said.

The core committee also asked Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi to hold talks with Mumtaz Bhutto, following a proposal to invite the Sindh-based veteran politician to join PTI. Mr Bhutto had joined the PML-N before the general elections, but, since then, had developed serious differences with the Sharif brothers.

Mr Khan also directed the party’s Punjab chapter to make all possible efforts to help the victims of the devastating floods that ravaged parts of Azad Kashmir and Punjab.

Separately, the government and PTI held their 14th round of talks on Wednesday. Federal ministers Ishaq Dar and Zahid Hamid drove to the residence of PTI General Secretary Jahangir Tareen in the evening.

After the meeting, Mr Qureshi and Mr Dar – in a measured response – told reporters that, “Since the talks have entered a decisive phase, we cannot speak much about it.” However, they said they would meet again soon.

A PTI source told Dawn that having secured across-the-board support from within parliament, the government was deliberately using delaying tactics. “On the ground, both sides are sticking to their stated positions, waiting for the other to budge.”

While the controversy surrounding the government’s suggestion that the military play the role of facilitator is yet to die down, the presence of certain “unknown” individuals at the PTI-government talks has initiated fresh debate.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Politics spills over to flood-hit areas

Asha’ar Rehman

The scene may have shifted from the rain-drenched dharna in Islamabad that tickled the priggish nerve in so many but out there in the flooded plains of Punjab the same politics thrives that pits Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

The scene may have shifted from the rain-drenched dharna in Islamabad that tickled the priggish nerve in so many but out there in the flooded plains of Punjab the same politics thrives that pits Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

On Tuesday both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and PTI chief Imran Khan arrived in Sialkot which has been one of the first casualties of the flashfloods. Inevitably, there were comparisons between the incumbent and his only visible challenger.

The prime minister’s tour to Sialkot as well as some other flood-hit areas in the province was characterised by decorum and the usual solemnity. On the other hand, Imran’s visit, undertaken after he thought it necessary to make the diversion from the sit-in in Islamabad, was marked by excitement that a pretender to the throne must generate.

The PTI’s was a good enough show to spark a comment that “the gathering was of industrial workers who had been ordered by their employers to turn up in good numbers to greet Imran”. Away from these factories of Sialkot whose owners now press for some political clout by siding with the alternative in Imran, the PTI will have to ensure that the receptions accorded to its chief are big enough to justify his billing as the real competitor to the Sharifs. The circumstances, however, are not at all non-conducive to the PTI politics.

This is an uneven fight to begin with. The incumbents must be seen to be performing and their latest challenge has come when an opposition campaign to dislodge them has been on for some time. By contrast, Imran has to just stay in hot pursuit of those in power and he has a fair chance of gaining some capital here.

With all the government machinery at their disposal, the prime minister and the chief minister of Punjab are up against the impossible task of simply explaining the flood disaster. Addressing the problem brings its own difficulties. In the presence of television channels trying to outdo each other in bringing the sob stories to their viewers, there have already been a few reported instances highlighting the ceremonial work put in by the administration in honour of the Sharifs that has brought little relief to the affected.

For example, after Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was through with his familiar monsoon exercise of wading through waters in Hafizabad earlier this week, a television crew returned to the site where a relief camp had been set up. The medicines that had been put on show for the chief ministerial viewing were gone and the degs or cauldrons supposedly there to feed the hungry betrayed no signs of having been used in recent hours. The staff that diligently stood there for the chief minister’s inspection a while back was nowhere in sight. All that remained were the flood-hit people who narrated the latest stories of official neglect.

There is no escape for them from some negative publicity. The deeper the prime minister and the chief minister go into the flood-struck areas, the louder will be the complaints against an inefficient system that they are heading: which is precisely the point the PTI has been trying to make.

A tense situation prevails after the Model Town incident where the chief minister and the prime minister were accused of direct involvement in the killing of Pakistan Awami Tehreek followers. The criticism is that was a serious outcome of a policy where one person or one family concentrates powers in their hands and that the allegations would have been easier to refute had there been proper delegation of authority to the levels where it should actually belong. If Model Town was a jolt to Shahbaz Sharif’s reputation as an administrator, it is too recent an occurrence to not haunt the chief minister in his expeditions to the flood-hit areas of the province.

So large is the scale of the damage that there will be more than a few with genuine complaints which will have far greater resonance in today’s Pakistan, courtesy of the media and the PTI-PAT protest movement. This is not a question of how things should be but of how things are. The good words the prime minister and the chief minister are saying at these outings are so quickly drowned by the cries of anguish that emerge as soon as they depart.

Qamar Javed, a Hafizabad-based lawyer, insists that the visits by the chief minister and the prime minister are of little value to the people. “This could actually backfire since their daily intervention brings out the lack of system most starkly,” he says, just as some others point out how dangerous it is for the visiting Sharifs to appear to be siding with the PML-N lawmakers from the areas whereas the time demands unqualified neutrality.

A case in point is Jhang, threatened with the worst flood in recent history. There are reports the flood mitigation plan in the district was influenced by the preferences of the PML-N members of the National Assembly from the area. That there were apparent changes in the plan after Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s visit there on Tuesday add substance to the reports.

Syeda Abida Husain, who has represented a Jhang constituency for many terms in the National Assembly, has no doubt that the decision on diversionary course was shaped by the opinions of two MNAs belonging to the PML-N, which “exposed densely populated areas of Jhang to floodwaters.” “These are decisions which are best left to the administration,” she tells Dawn.

These are the old realities that the individuals heading the government must keep in mind, at the same time staying mindful of their chasers’ ability to exploit the situation to their advantage. Imran Khan has no such baggage and his advance is helped in no small measure by the fact that the initial deluge inundated parts of Punjab which had a large number of constituencies where the PTI has been saying it was wronged in the 2013 general election.

Sialkot and Hafizabad, where the PTI won a by-election on a provincial assembly seat recently, have been hit hard and both have been high on the PTI list of places where, according to it, elections were rigged. Lahore, which has also been the focus of the PTI’s rigging refrain, has had its own rain-related issues to contend with.

It is these contested districts that lie at the heart of the conflict between the PML-N and the PTI, and it is here that the politics of flood is going to be played out with all its complicated dimensions. This is an opportunity for both the PTI and the PML-N, but perhaps the Sharif camp could have wished for more peaceful times to deal with a problem as huge as these floods.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Flood imperils five districts, headworks

Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE: The super flood tormenting central and north-eastern Punjab was rushing towards Trimu on Tuesday night after causing widespread devastation, inundating over 1,400 villages, endangering the headworks and posing severe threats to its five adjoining districts.

LAHORE: The super flood tormenting central and north-eastern Punjab was rushing towards Trimu on Tuesday night after causing widespread devastation, inundating over 1,400 villages, endangering the headworks and posing severe threats to its five adjoining districts.

The design capacity of the headworks is 645,000 cusecs and a peak of 600,000 cusecs was expected to cross it by Wednesday. The real threat is expected after 48 hours when the water level was feared to rise between 700,000 and 800,000 cusecs.

Authorities said breaching of the right bank of the river, Athara Hazari, could not be ruled out to protect the headworks because the peak would be much more than it could withstand.

They said that districts of Multan, Muzaffargarh, Khanewal, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh could be directly hit by the flood. Therefore, a warning had been issued to the administration to adopt precautionary measures to minimise threats to life and property.

Punjab has already declared emergency in 21 districts that are directly hit by the floods in the river Jhelum and especially in the Chenab.

Addressing a news conference, Minister Shuja Khanzada and Punjab government spokesman Zaeem Qadri said the government had started using police for forced evacuation of people. Such evacuations were being made from areas already hit by the floods or were extremely vulnerable.

They said that many people were reluctant to leave their homes or property, including livestock, despite warnings.

Mr Khanzada said there were chances that the right embankment of Chenab at Trimu would be breached. There was no decision yet but it would be taken after assessing the situation on the ground.

According to the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD), there was now no flood in river Chenab from Marala to Qadirabad.

Punjab government officials said floodwater that had entered villages and cities at these points was now receding.

But reports from districts said that several towns and villages from Sialkot to Sargodha were still under deep water that had affected nearly 200,000 acres of land.

According to Mr Khanzada, 156 people lost their lives during rains and floods in Chenab (in Punjab). Another 287 were injured. As many as 400,000 heads of cattle were affected and 215 were killed.

He said the exact losses to human life and property would be assessed only after a few days.

Mr Zaeem Qadri feared outbreak of gastroenteritis, fever and skin diseases in the flood-hit areas, saying the affected persons were being provided with proper medical care.

Meanwhile, people continued to suffer hardship in the flood-hit areas despite relief measures taken by the provincial government and Pakistan Army.

Read more here: More troops join relief operation

Reports pouring in from districts indicated that a large number of people, including women and children, were marooned from Sialkot to Sargodha, awaiting evacuation and were in need of food, medicines and water.

A large number of people have taken refuge at the top of their houses or at higher places.

Reports said floods damaged crops in a vast area of land and also swept away a large number of fish farms in the Gujranwala and Hafizabad regions.

Mr Khanzada and Mr Qadri said 12 helicopters, two each of the Pakistan Navy and the Air Force, and one each of the prime minister and the chief minister, were carrying out relief operations and shifting people to safe places.

The navy had given three heavy-duty boats and 20 operators. A total of 250 boats were being used for relief work.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

20 die as Lahore mosque roof collapses

Faisal Ali Ghumman

LAHORE: At least 20 people were killed and seven injured when the structure of a double-story mosque-cum-seminary partially collapsed in the congested Daroghawala locality on Tuesday.

LAHORE: At least 20 people were killed and seven injured when the structure of a double-story mosque-cum-seminary partially collapsed in the congested Daroghawala locality on Tuesday.

While rescue work continued till late night, volunteers and police feared that several people were trapped in debris.

Local people, rescue personnel and police faced hurdles in removing debris in the crammed locality because of presence of a large number of people. Police handed over a few bodies to families after legal formalities. The dead include a 12-year-old boy.

Lahore DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf told Dawn that preliminary investigation suggested that the lentil of the second storey collapsed on the roof of the ground floor which also caved in on people who were offering Zohr prayers. He said the entire structure was in a poor state.

But he said a thorough investigation would determine the exact cause of the collapse because police were concentrating on rescue work.

Residents said the mosque was at least 40 years old and its second storey was built about five years ago.

They said Jamia Masjid Hanfia was built with the help of local people and the structure apparently had developed no major fault or cracks. A portion of the mosque was converted into a seminary — Madressah Nizamia Taleemul Quran.

Resident Mohammad Arshad said the minaret of the mosque was renovated with tiles around a month ago and some material was still lying on the roof.

According to him, some rainwater might have penetrated into the structure and weakened it.

Another resident Mudassir Anwer said the pillar of the ground floor had broken and as a result the roof caved in.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Sana may move SJC over tribunal report

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: Punjab’s former law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan intends to move the Supreme Judicial Council with a ‘serious’ complaint over the report authored by Lahore High Court’s Justice Ali Baqar Najafi as the chairman of one-man inquiry tribunal on Model Town incident, and may seek permission of his party, the PML-N, for the purpose, it has been learnt.

LAHORE: Punjab’s former law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan intends to move the Supreme Judicial Council with a ‘serious’ complaint over the report authored by Lahore High Court’s Justice Ali Baqar Najafi as the chairman of one-man inquiry tribunal on Model Town incident, and may seek permission of his party, the PML-N, for the purpose, it has been learnt.

Sources said Mr Khan is basing his case for sending a reference against Justice Najafi to the SJC under Article 209 (5). The complaint will be based on three main points:

I – The tribunal wholly and solely relied on a report of an intelligence agency. Some points made by the agency were just copy-pasted in the tribunal report. On the other hand, the authorities (or their statements recorded before the tribunal) mentioned as responsible for the incident were not questioned (or cross-examined), the sources said.

II – Justice Najafi was on leave from Aug 4 up to Aug 31 as per the LHC record and, according to a law officer, he had announced not to come out with the inquiry report as far as a writ petition challenging his appointment as chairman of the inquiry tribunal was pending adjudication before an LHC larger bench. But the judge, the sources said, reached his office on Aug 9 and summoned the home secretary in the evening (at 8.30pm).

The officer, it is said, was called over to collect the “tribunal’s report that he had already written”. When the officer reached Justice Najafi’s office he found the media waiting outside “to witness the report handing over ceremony”. This was only hours before the Pakistan Awami Tehreek was to mark Aug 10 as the martyrs’ day to commemorate the 11 activists killed in the June 17 incident in Model Town which the tribunal was investigating.

The media coverage for such a report handing over event is “unprecedented in the history of the country”, the sources said.

III – The only copy of the tribunal report handed over to the home secretary was being kept secret. The government maintained this report was ‘inconclusive’ and wanted an analysis of it by a committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Khalilur Rehman Khan with law and home secretaries and advocate-general as its members. The sources said the home secretary was directed to not allow a copy of the report even for the chief minister or any other authority. The second copy of the report had been retained at the tribunal office as part of the record. But the report was leaked to the media after PAT and PTI long marchers reached Islamabad and the question being asked is that if the home secretary did not leak the document to the media then who else did?

When contacted, Rana Sana indirectly confirmed his intentions of moving the SJC by saying: “The Constitution allows any person having complaint against a superior court judge to take his grievance to the Supreme Judicial Council.”

Article 209 (5) of the Constitution says: If, on information from any source, the Council or the President is of the opinion that a Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court-(a) may be incapable of properly performing the duties of his office by reason of physical or mental incapacity, or (b) may have been guilty of misconduct, the President shall direct the Council to, or the Council may, on its own motion, inquire into the matter.

Rana Sana insists that his complaint falls under “on information from any source”.

Under the Constitution, the SJC comprises the Chief Justice of Pakistan and two next most senior judges of the Supreme Court and two most senior chief justices of high courts.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Dockyard attack an inside job: minister

Dawn Report

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Navy on Tuesday remained tight-lipped on the defence minister’s claim in parliament that the weekend Karachi dockyard attack was an inside job.

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Navy on Tuesday remained tight-lipped on the defence minister’s claim in parliament that the weekend Karachi dockyard attack was an inside job.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, speaking on a point of order by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, said “some of the navy staff of commissioned ranks and some outsiders” were involved in the terrorist strike.

Pakistan Navy’s public relations wing said on Monday night that its troops had thwarted an attack on the Karachi dockyard on Saturday in which one of its soldier lost his life while defending the facility.

Two militants were killed and four others were apprehended by naval security personnel. Some of the attackers were said to be wearing navy uniforms.

The defence minister promised to lay more details about the attack before parliament on Wednesday.

It is claimed that some navy men were also involved in the 2011 attack on Mehran Base, which is the deadliest attack so far on a navy installation.

A navy spokesman when contacted to comment on the claims about the involvement of some navy personnel in the dockyard attack said several arrests had been made from Karachi and other cities. He, however, refused to say if there were navy personnel among the dead or arrested attackers.

“Disclosing such sensitive information at this stage could compromise our investigations that are still continuing for unearthing the network,” the spokesman said.

He did not speak either on the reports that one of the attackers reportedly killed in the incident – Owais Jakhrani — was a former navy sailor, who had quit a few months ago. Twenty-five-year-old Owais was son of SSP Ali Sher Jakhrani.

“The body was handed over to the hospital and we do not have any further details to offer,” another navy spokesperson said.

He avoided commenting on the links of the militants. “It’s too early to say that”.

The proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. A person identifying himself as TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid sent messages to journalists, saying: “We claim responsibility for the attack on navy in Karachi.”

He claimed that support from “inside navy” had helped the TTP carry out the strike. Shahid vowed to carry out more attacks against the armed forces in future.

Police investigators in Karachi said a body found along the seashore on Sunday was that of Owais Jakhrani.

“It’s our own investigation which suggested that Owais was one of the attackers who targeted the navy’s dockyard facility,” Karachi police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo told Dawn.

“There was no bullet wound on his body. Though he died of drowning, he was one of the attackers. Initially, police took the body as of a drowning victim and shifted it to the Edhi morgue. Details emerged later to determine the facts and identity of the deceased,” he added.

Referring to his talks with SSP Jakhrani, who was in Saudi Arabia on an official visit, Mr Thebo said Owais had been recruited as a commissioned officer in the navy and quit the force some four to five months ago to join civil service.

“He left home on Friday informing the family that he was leaving for Islamabad. The family was under an impression that he was in Islamabad, but someone called his father in Saudi Arabia that his son was killed; go and get his body from Edhi morgue,” he said.

The facts shared by the city police chief, however, failed to quell the mystery shrouding the incident. Even police findings were not confirmed by the navy.

“We were not aware any of such incident (recovery and identification of Owais Jakhrani’s body)” said a navy spokesman. “We have already shared the details with the media and we stick to those facts. We are not aware of the reason behind the police claim so we cannot confirm that.”

Although the police authorities confirmed that Owais was one of the attackers, they distanced themselves from investigation into the attack, saying it was solely the navy’s job. That was perhaps the reason which restricted the law-enforcement agency to register an FIR of the attack.

If the facts shared by police and the navy are relied on, the number of attackers may rise.

There was no word from the Karachi police about information which led them to believe that Owais was involved in the attack. If he was, the question about the cause of his death remains unanswered. There is also a question why his body could not be spotted by security forces fighting the attackers.

Security sources see the fresh assault as a signal of global terrorism network’s revival in Pakistan.

“There are signs which suggest that the attack was carried out with the assistance of people within the force,” said a security official. “It is believed that the attack was carried out by Al Qaeda with help from within the Pakistan Navy. Al Qaeda in Pakistan is showing signs of revival. One cannot ignore recent announcement of Al Qaeda having formed an Indian branch of the militant group to spread Islamic rule and raise the flag of jihad across the subcontinent.”

Meanwhile, Owais Jakhrani was buried in Tark-i-Ali graveyard in Jacobabad. His funeral prayer was offered in the ground of a government school and attended by his relatives and a large number of people.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

D I Khan jailbreak: Action against 58 officers recommended

Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR: A high-level inquiry committee has recommended severe punishment and dismissal of 58 officers and officials of the civil and police administrations after holding them responsible for last year’s jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan.

PESHAWAR: A high-level inquiry committee has recommended severe punishment and dismissal of 58 officers and officials of the civil and police administrations after holding them responsible for last year’s jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan.

In its nine-page report submitted to the administration department, the committee also recommended departmental inquiry against 97 policemen deployed inside the jail.

“The entire administrative machinery at divisional and district levels crashed just like a house of cards. No writ of the government could be seen anywhere and none came to help to save the Central Jail D.I. Khan,” said the report available with Dawn.

This is the second inquiry carried out to fix responsibility on delinquent officers and officials. The first enquiry, more detailed and graphic, was conducted soon after the attack on the jail.

It is not clear if the government has issued any charge-sheet or taken action against them. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s establishment secretary was approached for comment but he was not available in his office.

A group of militants had attacked the D.I. Khan Central Jail in the night between July 29 and 30 last year and got 253 prisoners, among them 15 high-profile terrorists, freed. The attackers killed four prisoners belonging to the Shia community and two policemen.

The proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the brazen attack.

The PTI-led KP government had blamed intelligence failure for one of the biggest jailbreaks in the country’s history, but both the inquiries clearly suggested that intelligence was there but police had simply lost the nerve to fight.

The report revealed that the jail staff had sympathies with militants and said that when the attackers threw the gauntlet, none of the staff challenged them but rather seemed to facilitate them.

The committee was critical of the role of 50 to 59 jail staff who, despite having doubtful credentials and dubious characters, had been transferred from Bannu prison to D.I. Khan Central Jail.

The Bannu jail was attacked in April 2012 and militants set free about 400 prisoners.

The inquiry committee strongly criticised the role of police and intelligence agencies and said the entire exercise carried out at the divisional and district levels to counter the attack was purely cosmetic and no steps could be seen on the ground.

“Police were totally spineless and cowardly and rudderless since there was no-one to lead them. They have added black chapter to the history of police for which they could not be forgiven,” the report said.

It said that only two policemen in an armed personnel carrier put up resistance to the militants and engaged them inside the jail. The militants attacked the APC with two rocket-propelled grenades and both policemen were killed. That was the only minimal resistance the militants faced; not a single bullet was fired by policemen manning the strategic posts inside the jail.

The committee noted that the quarters concerned, including police and prison departments, had received a threat alert from the local office of Inter-Services Intelligence which was thoroughly discussed at a meeting held prior to the attack. Even intelligence agencies cautioned the administration to the extent that militants had reached the vicinity of D.I. Khan city and would definitely attack the jail. A meeting was held which was attended by senior officers of the district administration and law-enforcement agencies, including military. A contingency plan was chalked out to foil any attack.

The militants, according to the report, were armed with heavy weapons and improvised explosive devices and explosives-laden vehicles. “The attack was just like a blitzkrieg” and the attackers knocked out the outer cordon of police and easily entered the jail.

The committee did not recommend any action against the then divisional commissioner because he had made necessary efforts for the jail’s security. ‘Minor’ penalty has been recommended for the then regional police officer and deputy commissioner.

However, it said the role played by District Police Officer Sohail Khalid, who is at present in police’s counter-terrorism unit, as a team leader during the attack was disgusting and pathetic.

“The enquiry committee is of the opinion that DPO Sohail Khalid after evincing generous amount of cowardice rightfully deserves major penalty and is recommended for dismissal from service,” the report said. It also recommended dismissal of Touheed Khan, the then SP of Elite Force, and major penalty for former DSP Abdul Ghafoor Khan, ex-DSP Salahuddin, reserve inspector Umar Daraz Khan, ex-SHO Mohammad Nawaz Khan, line officer Noor Aslam and former superintendent of D.I. Khan Central Jail Ghulam Rabbani.

The committee recommended departmental inquiry against 97 policemen deployed inside the jail and removal of over 50 jail constables from service.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Swollen Chenab rages through Punjab

Dawn Report

SARGODHA/JHANG/CHINIOT: The swollen river Chenab continued to wreak havoc along its path and inundated over 400 villages in Sargodha, Chiniot, Khushab and Jhang districts on Monday.

SARGODHA/JHANG/CHINIOT: The swollen river Chenab continued to wreak havoc along its path and inundated over 400 villages in Sargodha, Chiniot, Khushab and Jhang districts on Monday.

Jhelum, also in flood (over 150,000 cusecs), also hit villages along its banks in Sargodha and Khushab, but the damage was not as severe as the devastation caused by Chenab which had a flow of over 800,000 cusecs.

The two rivers at their devastating peaks will meet at Trimu headworks in Jhang in ‘24 to 48 hours’.

According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department’s website, the barrage will have exceptionally high flood level until Sept 12. At 6pm on Monday, it had a flow of 224,000 cusecs.

Arrangements have been made to breach the protective dyke of Athara Hazari to take some pressure off Trimu headworks and protect it and Jhang city.

The headworks can sustain up to 700,000 cusecs.

The dyke breach is feared to flood 250 villages in tehsil Athara Hazari, including Athara Hazari town.

At their present level, Chenab and Jhelum rivers have already started inundating Mas­san and Chela areas of tehsil Jhang.

Sixty villages have come under six to 10 feet of water and people have shifted to higher places.

Also read: Poor flood planning

A small dyke recently constructed by the people of Kharora Bakir village succumbed to the pressure of floodwater, inundating several villages on the left bank of Chenab.

Jhang-Sargodha road between the Jhang protective dyke and Chound Bharwana and Jhang-Chiniot road between Jamiaabad and Chiniot toll plaza remained closed for the second day running.

The entire Athara Hazari tehsil presented a deserted look with people having moved to safe places.

Most of the 160 villages in Sargodha were under five feet water. According to unconfirmed reports, five people, including a student, have drowned.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited the flood-hit Kot Momin area in Sargodha and directed the administration to estimate the losses so that immediate relief could be provided to the affected people.

Displaced people complained that rescue and relief efforts were nowhere in sight and they had left their villages on their own.

More on this: At the mercy of the water

In Chiniot, 140 villages have been submerged. Flood damaged thousands of houses and crops on thousands of acres on both sides of Chenab. Floodwater also affected the Chiniot-Sargodha road, near Ahmad Nagar village, which was closed to traffic.

Although the administration had been making announcements about evacuation for three days, people were not ready to leave their homes and when flood reached their areas on Monday morning, most of them were left stranded. An army helicopter and 21 boats are trying to rescue them.

Hundreds of people in adjoining villages are still waiting to be evacuated or trying to get out by wading through waist-deep water, along with their cattle.

Chiniot police chief Abdul Qadir Qamar said that 125 villages had been affected and there was no road access to about 30 villages. He said police had shifted some 3,000 people to safe places, adding that there were reports that two people had drowned, but these were yet to be confirmed.

Amir Shahzad, of Pir Kot village, said people were not expecting such a huge flood. It suddenly came and gave them no time to save their belongings.

Amir Shahzad, a stranded villager, told this correspondent by telephone that they had neither money nor food.

Meanwhile, the army said on Monday that troops had rescued 1,500 people by helicopters and boats from flood-hit areas of Jalalpur Bhattian, Pindi Bhattian, Hafizabad, Wazirabad, Wani Tarar, Rasoolnagar, Chiniot, Kot Momin and Mandi Bahauddin.

According to the ISPR, 10,000 food packs were air-dropped for people trapped in various places. Army troops have also been moved to Multan, D.G. Khan, Liyyah, Sahiwal and Trimu headworks to meet the crisis situation. In Gilgit, 33 people, along with their livestock, have been evacuated from Deosai. They were trapped at the 16,000 feet height plateau because of heavy snowfall.

An army relief camp has been set up at Chilum, near Astore, for providing relief goods and medical care to the affected people. Since the start of the relief operation, army troops have rescued more than 17,000 stranded people.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

India urged to make disaster relief part of bilateral agenda

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif asked his Indian counterpart Naren­d­ra Modi on Monday to make disaster management cooperation part of their bilateral agenda.

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif asked his Indian counterpart Naren­d­ra Modi on Monday to make disaster management cooperation part of their bilateral agenda.

“I believe closer collaboration in disaster management should be part of our agenda of peace and development in the region,” Prime Minister Sharif said in a letter to Mr Modi. However, he stayed clear of any hint of a thaw in the stalled peace process.

Mr Sharif’s letter was in reply to an earlier missive by the Indian prime minister expressing concern over flooding in Pakistan due to torrential rains.

Mr Modi had in his letter offered assistance for flood victims in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Sharif responded by saying that the offer was “equally thoughtful”. He further noted that “such solidarity in the face of adversity is indeed valuable”.

The exchange between the two prime ministers assumed added significance because it was the first direct communication between them since India cancelled last month foreign secretaries’ talks on the pretext that the Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi had consulted Kashmiri leaders ahead of the planned meeting in Islamabad.

The dialogue process has remained suspended since January last year because of hostilities along the Line of Control.

Ironically the two sides, in the letters exchanged by their prime ministers, expressed concern over devastation in Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control and offered assistance to each other.

“As we chart a course to advance our common goals of peace and stability, we must also focus on addressing the deeper causes of recurrent floods and on strengthening the preparedness and resilience of our communities against natural calamities,” Mr Sharif said.

He spoke of the “human suffering and physical destruction” he saw during his visit to Kashmir and said he could feel the misery of the people living on the other side of the Line of Control.

“I am aware that the Kashmiris on the other side of the Line of Control have also faced heavy loss of life and material damage. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families in this difficult time, and we remain prepared to extend a helping hand, in whatever way possible, to the efforts for their relief and rehabilitation,” Mr Sharif said.

Mr Modi had in his letter expressed similar sentiments.

“It is a matter of great distress that the retreating monsoon rains have played havoc in many parts of our two countries,” the Indian premier wrote to his counterpart on Sunday.

“The devastation caused by the record rains and the consequent flooding is unprecedented,” he told Mr Sharif but gave no hint if the two might meet on the margins of the annual UN General Assembly session in New York later this month.

Mr Modi, who made an aerial survey of the devastated region, has earmarked an additional 10 billion rupees ($166 million) of relief.

The deadly flooding has for now overshadowed rising tension in Kashmir.

India last month called off the first formal talks with Pakistan in two years, citing the Pakistan high commissioner’s decision to meet Kashmiri separatist groups. Pakistan said the meeting followed “a longstanding practice”.

Mr Modi in his letter offered “any assistance that you may need in the relief efforts that will be undertaken by the government of Pakistan,” adding “our resources are at your disposal wherever you need them”.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

Militant attack on Navy facilities foiled

Dawn Report

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The Pakistan Navy claimed on Monday to have foiled a militant attack on one of its facilities in Karachi over the weekend.

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The Pakistan Navy claimed on Monday to have foiled a militant attack on one of its facilities in Karachi over the weekend.

Two militants were killed in the raid while four of the attackers were captured leading to more arrests in other parts of the country.

The Navy said in a statement late on Monday night that “on Saturday a group of miscreants tried to penetrate Pakistan Navy Dockyard area defences at Karachi. Pakistan Navy security personnel responded valiantly and in the ensuing encoun­ter killed two while apprehending four miscreants alive”.

“During their engagement with miscreants, one petty officer embraced Shahadat, while an officer and six sailors sustained injuries. No material loss has taken place,” it further said.

Although the statement did not disclose the exact nature of the assault, or whether it was launched from the land or sea, the number of attackers and their target, brief facts shared by the Pakistan Navy and deliberate delay in making the event public suggested the severity of the incident.

A defence source, meanwhile, claimed that the attackers had actually targeted one of the ships at the sea.

The details were withheld because of the sensitivity of the information.

The arrest of four of the attackers and their interrogation was followed by a search for collaborators and planners.

“Subsequent to interrogation of apprehended miscreants, immediate raids were conducted by the intelligence agencies which led to arrest of other collaborators and accomplices from different parts of the country,” the Navy statement said while explaining the delay in the release of information of the weekend attack.

During these raids, the statement said, a large quantity of arms and ammunition was seized.

The statement said the chief of the naval staff praised the “valour and alertness of all the personnel involved in the operation”.

“He also visited injured personnel and individually appreciated and acknowledged their bravery. In addition to a formal inquiry, investigations by Intelligence and other law-enforcement agencies are in progress,” said the statement.

It was the second terrorist attack on a military facility in a month. On August 14, militants attacked PAF and Army Aviation bases in Quetta.

The Pakistan Navy has a history of coming under terrorist attacks. In May 2011, terrorists targeted its PNS Mehran airbase along the main Sharae Faisal in Karachi considered as the biggest on its assets in recent history.

In that attack, which was claimed by the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the assailants stormed into the heavily-guarded facility using sophisticated weapons firing rocket-propelled grenades which badly damaged defence assets, including the Pakistan Navy’s surveillance aircraft P-3C Orion.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

Emergency imposed on ‘Shaukat’s advice’

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: As the special court resumes the treason trial of former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday, his legal team has finally got hold of a document to prove what they have been agitating for a long time that the civilian leadership abetted in the proclamation of Nov 3, 2007, emergency.

ISLAMABAD: As the special court resumes the treason trial of former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday, his legal team has finally got hold of a document to prove what they have been agitating for a long time that the civilian leadership abetted in the proclamation of Nov 3, 2007, emergency.

Led by Senator Farogh Naseem, the defence had twice filed applications in the special court headed by Justice Faisal Arab implicating a number of high-profile civilians and armed personnel in the treason trial for their alleged role in imposition of the emergency.

Even the prosecution side had produced a set of notifications issued by the cabinet division while imposing the emergency.

Now the defence team has with it a two-page letter written by then prime minister Shaukat Aziz to Gen Musharraf on Nov 3, 2007, tendering an advice under the Constitution for imposition of the emergency.

“This appears to be the only solution left to meet the national security situation,” the letter said, adding that the advice was being tendered after consultation and in concurrence with the cabinet.

The letter itself mentions that Mr Aziz wrote two letters on the same day to the president highlighting the critical situation prevailing then, but he did not tender any advice to the president in the first letter to proclaim the emergency. The contents of the first letter were also cited by the Supreme Court in its July 31, 2009 landmark judgment which declared the emergency unconstitutional, but the contents of the second letter were never mentioned anywhere earlier.

“This is an important piece of evidence but both the government and the prosecution tried to conceal it which is unfortunate,” Farogh Naseem said while talking to Dawn.

“To me it amounts to perjury and contempt of the court since the process of justice is obstructed,” he said, adding that he would request the special court to take notice of it when he would appear before the court on Tuesday.

“The advice of the prime minister or the cabinet is usually binding on the president but under Article 48(1) of the Constitution, the president can send any matter back to the cabinet for reconsideration. But if the same advice is again tendered then it will become binding upon the president to act on it,” explained senior counsel Advocate Idrees Ashraf.

When asked if the special court could summon Shaukat Aziz, he said it was up to the court to decide if the matter was brought before it since the court was hearing Article 6 case proceeds only against individuals named in the complaint.

“Pakistan is at the brink of a very dangerous situation as terrorism has become rampant in the country,” Mr Aziz said in the second letter. He mentioned suicide bombings, with extremists roaming freely, not afraid of law-enforcement agencies.

As a direct consequence, it said, the extremists and terrorists were violating the writ of the state as they had installed their own parallel government. Without naming anyone, the letter highlighted the role of some members of the superior judiciary and said they had subjected government officials to humiliation in their courts where they were admonished and, at times, sentenced.

The former prime minister said in the letter: “There are about 100 suo motu cases which are being processed in the Supreme Court while there are thousands of pending applications. These suo motu cases concern government departments and as a consequence the government functionaries have to visit the courts in response to notices requiring their personal attendance.

“Because of the attitude of some members of the superior judiciary, government functionaries are hesitant to take any decision on any matter or pass any order, lest this may end up with their being admonished, ridiculed or sentenced by the courts.

“A grave emergency exists in which the security of Pakistan is threatened due to the internal disturbances which are beyond the control of the federal and provincial governments. A situation has arisen where the government cannot be carried on in accordance with the Constitution. There is no way out but to take emergent and extraordinary measures.

“After examining the situation and after discussion with the people belonging to all segments of society, I advise you to immediately issue a Proclamation of Emergency, Provisional Constitutional Orders or President’s Orders, amending the Constitution, an order prescribing fresh oaths of office for the members of the superior judiciary to abide by the Proclamation of Emergency and orders issued in pursuance thereof.”

Read copy of the document below:

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

Zardari’s spokesman proposes secret civil-military dialogue

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: As parliament completed the first week of its joint sitting on Monday under the shadow of a protest siege, a senator who usually speaks for Pakistan People’s Party leader Asif Ali Zardari proposed a secret dialogue between parliamentary political and military leadership to find a permanent solution to what he called their “perennial tussle”.

ISLAMABAD: As parliament completed the first week of its joint sitting on Monday under the shadow of a protest siege, a senator who usually speaks for Pakistan People’s Party leader Asif Ali Zardari proposed a secret dialogue between parliamentary political and military leadership to find a permanent solution to what he called their “perennial tussle”.

The idea from Senator Farhatullah Babar for the dialogue through standing committees on defence of the two houses of parliament was one of six points he advanced as a “way forward” to resolve the present standoff threatening Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government since the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek began their sit-ins, in Islamabad 25 days ago.

“Let us hold a face-to-face in-camera dialogue” between the civilian political leadership and representatives of the army-led “establishment”, he said, proposing that Senator Mushahid Hussain of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Q or Senator Raza Rabbai, PPP parliamentary leader in the upper house who previously headed a parliamentary committee on national security, head a joint committee of the two houses to have “a serious and meaningful dialogue with the military leadership on what he called “simmering issues in the perennial tussle” between the two sides since the creation of Pakistan.

He blamed the present situation, which the joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate are debating since Sept 2 on the government’s refusal to meet the PTI’s original demand for an audit of only four National Assembly constituencies in Punjab and register a PAT complaint over a June 17 police shooting in Lahore that killed at least 14 PAT followers, as well as shows of arrogance by government ministers.

But, in line with the PPP’s present policy to support the prime minister to the hilt against the protesters’ demand that he resign from his office at least for a month for a free probe by a judicial commission of alleged massive rigging of last year’s general elections, he had no sympathy for the protest as well.

In his first proposal, he wanted the house to condemn the sit-ins in a resolution as non-political and unconstitutional “manifestation of a deeper malaise involving distorted relationship” between the civilian leadership and the so-called establishment.

Other points of Senator Babar included demands for the government to withdraw its notification issued in July invoking article 245 of the Constitution to call in troops in Islamabad without a judicial oversight, meaningful and expeditious electoral reforms, and implementation of four un-implemented articles, addressing civil-military relations, of the famous Charter of Democracy signed by Mr Sharif and assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto in 2006.

Alluding to references made to some unspecified scriptwriters of the present standoff during the debate, which began on Sept 2, he said parliament should beseech these scriptwriters, if any, with folded hands to “fold this circus”.

On a day when Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said he would consult Senate Chairman Nayyar Bokhari to refer complaints of recent attacks on media offices and staff, to standing committees of the two house on information, Senator Babar’s six points included one calling for a resolution of complaints of the private Geo television channel

Senator Babar Khan Ghori of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), whose lawmakers came to the joint sitting after days of absence amid reports that they might resign their seats as done by more than 30 National Assembly of the PTI, urged house members to refrain from blaming army or any other national institution for the present crisis and advised the government to show restraint to break the present deadlock in talks with the protest leaders.

Earlier, the speaker disagreed with MQM’s Senator Nasreen Jalil for a prorogation of the house to allow lawmakers to go to their constituencies to help flood sufferers and said the session would continue.

There has been no official word about how long the session would last, but parliamentary sources said it would continue as long as PTI and PAT sit-ins lasted.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan, parliamentary leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N, told Dawn the session could continue until Sept 19.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

Super flood in Chenab affects 600 villages

Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE: Hundreds of thousands of people were marooned, their houses submerged and livestock washed away as the river Chenab in ‘super flood’ hit 600 villages in Gujranwala and Sialkot regions on Sunday.

LAHORE: Hundreds of thousands of people were marooned, their houses submerged and livestock washed away as the river Chenab in ‘super flood’ hit 600 villages in Gujranwala and Sialkot regions on Sunday.

The Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) predicted high to very high flood in river Indus at Guddu between Sept 13 and 14 and at Sukkur on Sept 15. It urged the authorities concerned to take necessary measures to avert losses to life and property.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Sialkot and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif several flood-hit villages in the region, but there was little help for the affected people who were left at the mercy of the raging river and its nullahs.

A Dawn reporter saw people having taken refuge at the roof of houses and buildings and other higher places in Wazirabad, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin and Chiniot and waiting for help. Eight people were killed and there were apprehensions about many more deaths in the areas. Floodwater damaged crops over hundreds of acres and washed away livestock in many villages.

It appeared that people were neither evacuated nor asked to move to safe places before the peak entered the river from India, despite warnings issued by the Flood Forecasting Bureau. There was immediate need to rescue the marooned families and provide them food and potable water. There were no visible rescue and relief efforts in Gujranwala and Sialkot regions.

According to the FFD, a peak of 881,000 cusecs crossed Head Marala on Saturday night. The peak later moved to Khanki where the discharge was recorded at 947,000 cusecs on Sunday morning. The level later started falling and the discharge was 442,000 cusecs at 9pm.

The peak briskly moved to Qadirabad where the discharge was 942,000 cusecs at 12 noon. The water started falling afterwards with the discharge reduced to 774,000 cusecs at 9pm.

The authorities feared a peak of 675,000 cusecs at Trimmu between Sept 9 and 10 and warned of a disaster in areas around river Chenab because the design capacity of the barrage there was 600,000 cusecs.

The rush of peak from Marala to Qadirabad was brisk, causing widespread devastation in adjoining towns and villages. Unconfirmed reports suggested that river embankments were breached at Khanki to save the barrage when a peak of 947,000 cusecs was crossing it. Its design capacity is 800,000 cusecs.

Punjab government officials reported large-scale spillovers at Marala, Khanki and Qadirabad which inundated about 600 villages in the region.

According to reports, at least 56 villages in the Sialkot region near Marala, 53 in Sambrial, 25 in Zafarwal, 56 in Pasrur and 89 in Chiniot were submerged.

Sialkot city, Wazirabad, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Chiniot, Jalalpur Jattan, Phalia and Pindi Bhattian were directly hit by the flood which also damaged a number of roads, bridges and important installations. Five people were killed in Mandi Bahauddin and one each in Sheikhupura, Bhiki Sain village and Daska.

At least 16 people were killed in rain-related incidents in Azad Kashmir.

The prime minister had aerial view of the flood-hit areas near Head Marala, Sialkot, Sambrial, Wazirabad, Pasrur, Zafarwal, Narowal and surrounding areas from a helicopter.

He asked Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri to end their sit-ins and help the flood-affected people. He ordered the administration to speed up rescue and relief activities and said his government would not lag behind in helping the affected families.

APP adds: During his visit to the flood-hit areas of Sialkot, Prime Minister Sharif asked the nation to take notice of the elements who were holding sit-ins and obstructing national progress and prosperity.

About the flood situation, he said that Chenab was in high flood and there was a similar situation in other rivers, causing enormous losses to crops, cattle and property.

He said the government and the armed forces were carrying out relief and rescue work and had evacuated a large number of people from various areas, but added that the situation was ‘unexpected’ as the recent rainy spell had broken the record of 20 to 30 years.

He said the government should be assisted in such efforts which were more important than holding sit-ins.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Govt, PTI claim progress in talks

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Another round of talks between the government and the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was held in the capital on Sunday. While both sides claimed that “progress had been made”, they admitted that there were still certain “core issues” that needed to be resolved.

ISLAMABAD: Another round of talks between the government and the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was held in the capital on Sunday. While both sides claimed that “progress had been made”, they admitted that there were still certain “core issues” that needed to be resolved.

During a brief conversation with reporters following the three-hour meeting — held at the residence of PTI secretary general Jehangir Tareen — PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi declared that “meaningful dialogue has begun” and that both sides were making “serious efforts to rescue the nation from the prevailing impasse”.

This was the first time the PTI expressed such positive sentiments about the fate of the talks. On nearly all previous occasions, its negotiators accused the government of stonewalling or being non-serious about the negotiations.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who leads the government panel, told reporters that the two sides would meet again on Monday to sort out remaining issues. When asked what those issues were, he told mediapersons to be patient and wait till Monday.

When a reporter asked him how successful the talks had been, Mr Qureshi said that there was no way to quantify the success of the talks in percentage.

“Talks are continuing with seriousness and now meaningful dialogue is taking place,” he said.

Mr Dar said the government was making efforts to end the political crisis as the country had been suffering economic losses due to the crippling protests. “We want to see the end of this crisis so that the country’s economy can be brought back to its path,” he added.

The two leaders deftly evaded questions regarding stumbling blocks in the dialogue process, instead expressing grief over the loss of life in recent rains in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Mr Qureshi outlined the steps taken by KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to provide relief to the rain-hit areas of the province, while Mr Dar pointed out the efforts made by the federal and provincial governments to mitigate the sufferings of the rain-affected people of Punjab.

The two men also shared a light moment, with Mr Dar praying, “May Imran Khan end the sit-in to go help the flood-affected population.” Mr Qureshi quickly responded with a prayer of his own, saying, “May Allah soften Dar Sahib’s heart towards the participants of the sit-ins.”

Mr Qureshi also said the PTI had handed over another document in response to the government’s reply to the party’s proposals.

The PTI side was represented by Mr Qureshi and Jehangir Tareen and the government team consisted of Mr Dar and Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid. PTI MNA from Karachi Arif Alvi and KP Chief Minister Khattak also attended the meeting to assist their party leaders. A lawyer from the PTI was also present in the meeting to provide legal opinion on the issues being discussed.

Mr Alvi later told Dawn that “sticking points”, including the main issue of the prime minister’s resignation, had still not been settled. He was not particularly hopeful that the talks would end on Monday, saying he expected them to continue for another few days.

It was on the PTI’s request that the talks had been put off for a day on Saturday, as the party sought more time to review the government’s written response to the proposals it had submitted.

Political experts believe that following the cancellation of the Chinese president’s visit, the government now has more time to deal with both protesting parties.

The focus of the negotiators was reportedly on the preparation of the terms of reference (ToRs) and legal implications of the findings of the proposed judicial commission, to be formed to investigate charges of rigging in last year’s general elections.

Earlier in the day, Mr Khan also chaired a meeting of his party’s MPAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the KP House to discuss the prevailing situation. The meeting was also attended by some members of allied parties.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Three ‘militants’ killed in ‘encounter’

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: Three militants were killed in an ‘encounter’ in Site area here on Sunday, police said.

KARACHI: Three militants were killed in an ‘encounter’ in Site area here on Sunday, police said.

Police conducted a raid in Metroville on a tip that militants were present in the area, said SSP West Irfan Baloch. On seeing police, suspects opened fire and in the retaliatory firing by police three militants were killed.

The SSP said he believed that the deceased belonged to the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (Swat group). They were involved in the recent killing of ASI Hamid Khattak of the Special Security Unit besides the murder of other policemen, extortion and other crimes.

Police claimed to have seized three pistols and a motorcycle from the place of the shootout.

The bodies were taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

New schedule of Xi’s visit soon: China

APP

ISLAMABAD: A senior official of the Chinese embassy said on Sunday that a new schedule of President Xi Jinping’s visit would be worked out after the political situation in the country returned to normal.

ISLAMABAD: A senior official of the Chinese embassy said on Sunday that a new schedule of President Xi Jinping’s visit would be worked out after the political situation in the country returned to normal.

Chinese and Pakistani officials are holding consultations so that the visit took place at an early date, he said at a news briefing.

He termed the current situation an internal matter of Pakistan and said, “We are confident the Pakistani people have the capacity to resolve their political issues amicably.”

He said politics was an internal matter of Pakistan and no foreign country was entitled to interfere in it.

The official dispelled a perception that the postponement of the president’s visit could affect historical Pak-China ties in any manner. “How can postponement of a single visit between the two countries affect their decades old historical strategic partnership?”

He categorically stated that all projects agreed upon between the two countries would be implemented in letter and spirit.

He said his country was actively engaged in finding ways of moving ahead on projects which were to be signed during President Xi’s visit.

All attempts aimed at harming the relationship by using the postponed visit as an excuse should be foiled.

The official said the diplomatic channels and officials of the two countries had done a lot of preparation for the positive and concrete outcome of the visit and despite its postponement the expected outcome would be achieved.

Answering a question, he said China’s relations with Pakistan could not be compared in any manner with other countries. It is unique in nature, in terms of warmth at the people-to-people level.

The official said the Pak-China cooperation is broad-based and mutually beneficial and it cannot be defined in terms of loans or investments. It is not the question of short-term interest or benefit for one country. “We are working for mutually beneficial cooperative partnership.”

He said China and Pakistan were working to take up some huge economic projects like construction of Lahore-Karachi Motorway and two power plants, one at Port Qasim and the other at Sahiwal.

“Pakistan is our largest investment destination in South Asia. A stable and prosperous Pakistan is in interest of China,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Pakistan, India exchange relief offers

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: In a rare gesture of goodwill between the traditional rivals, both India and Pakistan offered to assist each other with relief operations in the rain-ravaged areas of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).

ISLAMABAD: In a rare gesture of goodwill between the traditional rivals, both India and Pakistan offered to assist each other with relief operations in the rain-ravaged areas of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).

On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, expressing distress over the devastation caused by torrential rains in the valley.

“In this hour of need, I offer any assistance that you may need in the relief efforts that will be undertaken by the government of Pakistan. Our resources are at your disposal wherever you need them,” said the letter, the text of which was released to the media by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

Reciprocating the Indian prime minister’s sentiments, a Foreign Office spokesperson in Islamabad expressed Pakistan’s “deepest condolences” over the loss of lives on both sides of the LoC due to rain and the ensuing floods, and offered to help the people of Indian-administered Kashmir in any way it could.

“The government and the people of Pakistan express deepest condolences over the loss of precious lives of our Kashmiri brethren on both sides of the LoC caused by torrential rains and flash floods. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif carried out an aerial survey of the affected area in AJK and Pakistan and is monitoring relief and rescue operations. We also feel the pain of the people of Indian-Occupied Kashmir and are ready to help in whatever way possible to mitigate the sufferings of the people affected by the floods,” said the spokesperson.

The Indian prime minister in his letter to Mr Sharif expressed “great distress that the retreating monsoon rains have played havoc in many parts of our two countries”.

Mr Modi wrote: “I visited some of the areas affected by unprecedented rainfall in Jammu and Kashmir today. The devastation caused by the record rains and the consequent flooding is unprecedented. There have been many deaths and heavy damage to property and infrastructure.”

The Indian prime minister said that while reviewing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir he was informed that “the damage to life and property is equally, if not more severe, in areas across the Line of Control as well. My heart goes out to the affected people and my deepest sympathies are with them and their families”.

Following the cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks by India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had last week sent mangoes to Mr Modi in a bid to ease the prevailing bitterness in ties between the neighbours.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Nisar and Aitzaz back off from mudslinging

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced on Saturday that he had no intention of continuing to indulge in a row with the Leader of Opposition in the Senate, Aitzaz Ahsan.

ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced on Saturday that he had no intention of continuing to indulge in a row with the Leader of Opposition in the Senate, Aitzaz Ahsan.

The announcement came at a press conference the minister addressed at Pun­jab House after being persuaded by the PML-N leadership to show restraint at a crucial time when the parliament was united against a perceived threat to democracy.

However, he proposed that a commission comprising one to three retired judges known for their integrity be formed to probe allegations levelled by the two sides against each other.

“Let the charge-sheet against me be treated as an FIR,” he said and declared that he would resign as a minister and quit politics if even one per cent of the charges were proved true.

He asked Mr Ahsan to nominate members of the commission with his little concurrence and hinted that he would have no objection if retired Justice Wajihuddin Ahmad and retired Justice Tariq Mehmood were nominated.

He said whatever happened in the parliament on Friday was something which should not have happened. He said Mr Ahsan had made some remarks against him while talking to reporters outside the Supreme Court and his statement was a reaction to it.

The controversy should not have been brought to the parliament, Chaudhry Nisar said. “The parliament is debating future of the country and democracy but the discussion was set aside and I became the topic of a debate,” he deplored.

He said he had a right to respond to remarks against him and even his deceased brother.

He had been made target of out of context criticism, the minister said, adding that he always reacted when something was said against him and his party and there was nothing to be sensitive about it. “This is democratic process. If you do not want a rejoinder, you should avoid making statements.”

He said he was not the one who had brought the arguments going on outside the parliament to the house. He wanted to respond to the unprecedented criticism on the floor of the house but was persuaded by the prime minister not to do so.

He said he had agreed to refrain from responding there and then on the condition that he would express his views at a press conference.

“My party’s leadership kept on defusing the situation but I think by my conscience which is not subservient to any interest or expediency. I am in politics for the sake of respect and will quit politics if I do not get it,” he said in an emotional tone.

He said to err was human and he might have made mistakes but these must be honest mistakes without an iota of bad intention. He said his loyalty with the PML-N was based on his style of defending his leaders in their absence and openly expressing dissenting views and voicing complaints in front of them.

He indirectly rejected the rumours of making behind the scenes attempts to become prime minister and secretly forming a strong group within the PML-N by saying that he could not even imagine of making a decision against his conscience.

Chaudhry Nisar said he had sought permission from the prime minister to address the press conference in his personal capacity and even after resigning as minister but was not allowed to do so.

“Finally I decided to go the way the prime minister wants. My personal views are not important than the collective approach. I have decided to set aside my self-respect because the country and democracy are more important to me.”

Aitzaz Ahsan welcomed Chaudhry Nisar’s remarks as a step to betterment. Talking to a private TV channel, he said he had reacted because he had been accused of using politics to promote his business interests and also benefiting from LPG quota.

“I can prove these allegations wrong at any forum,” he said while responding to Chaudhry Nisar’s proposal for constitution of a commission.

As the leader of opposition in the Senate, he said, it was his right to criticise the government which should demonstrate patience.

He described reconciliation with Chaudhry Nisar as another defeat of anti-democratic forces.

Referring to the protests launched by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, he said under “plan-A” the two parties were supposed to bring a million protesters to Islamabad but could not do so. “Under plan-B they moved to D-Chowk inside the red zone and failed in that as well. Under plan-C Prime Minister House and Parliament building were stormed.”

Asked if there was a “plan-D” also, he replied in affirmative but said the plan had also been foiled after reconciliation between Chaudhry Nisar and him.”Let’s see what plan-E is.”

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Chinese president’s visit put off, confirm officials

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Officials in Islamabad and Beijing announced on Saturday that they had decided to postpone Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan because of the political impasse in the country.

ISLAMABAD: Officials in Islamabad and Beijing announced on Saturday that they had decided to postpone Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan because of the political impasse in the country.

Statements simultaneously issued from the two capitals finally put to rest the uncertainty over President Xi’s visit thrown up by a tweet two days ago from Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

“In view of the current political situation in Pakistan, the Governments of China and Pakistan have mutually agreed to postponement of the state visit of President Xi Jinping to Pakistan, which was scheduled to take place later this month,” the two similarly worded statements said.

Mr Xi was due in Islamabad on Sept 15 for a two-day visit. It would have been the first visit by a Chinese president to Pakistan in eight years. The two countries were to sign 38 MoUs and agreements valued at billions of dollars in Chinese investment in various sectors in Pakistan.

The Chinese foreign ministry said the two governments had been “maintaining communication for some time on President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Pakistan in mid-September, and had made productive preparation for this visit”.

Mr Xi, elected last year, would however go ahead with his visits to India and Sri Lanka as part of his South Asia trip.

The postponement was forced by anti-government protests by Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, which, to quote the words of Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security, “have brought life in Islamabad to a standstill and severely hampered the working of the government machinery”.

Mr Aziz told the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday that the decision on postponement would be announced by the foreign ministries of China and Pakistan at the same time.

Other than stating that the decision to defer the visit was taken after consultations between the two governments, the two statements emphasised their desire for the trip to take place at the earliest.

“New dates for President Xi’s visit to Pakistan, at an early date, are being discussed through diplomatic channels,” both statements noted.

The statements further said: “Both sides attach high importance to the visit of President Xi Jinping to Pakistan, as early as possible, for promoting mutually beneficial cooperation between the two.”

In an attempt to pre-empt any speculation about the postponement, both countries underscored that they were “time-tested all-weather friends”.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Flood peak from Jammu threatens key barrages

Dawn Report

LAHORE/PESHAWAR: Rain and floods in River Chenab and its tributaries claimed another 36 lives in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir on Saturday.

LAHORE/PESHAWAR: Rain and floods in River Chenab and its tributaries claimed another 36 lives in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir on Saturday.

Alarm bells rang in the affected regions after the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) said a fresh peak of “extremely exceptional high flood” — 861,000 cusecs — had entered River Chenab at Marala from the India-held Jammu (Akhnoor). It was expected to rise to 900,000 cusecs before Sunday morning.

According to the FFD, breaches would have to be made at Khanki and Qadirabad as the capacity of the two barrages was a mere 800,000 cusecs.

“The next 24 hours are crucial as we expect breaches at Khanki and Qadirabad to save the two barrages as the fresh peak exceeds their design capacity. The breaches will cause massive devastation,” Riaz Khan, an FFD official said.

The first peak of around 700,000 cusecs had crossed the river at Marala on Friday. On Satur-day it crossed Khanki and Qadirabad headworks.

Know more: Villagers told to shift to safer places

The design capacity of the Marala headworks is 1.1 million cusecs and the limit of “exceptionally high flood” ends at 600,000 cusecs. “This situation is dangerous” Mr Khan said.

Chenab saw a discharge of 1.1 million cusecs at Marala on Aug 26, 1957. The discharge wreaked havoc on its way to River Indus.

According to the authorities, the fresh peak will pose a real danger at Khanki, where it was expected to reach in the small hours of Sunday, , and Qadirabad.

Riaz Khan, the FFD official, said he feared breaches and spillovers from Marala to Khanki. “The peak in Chenab will cause high flood in Indus as it will merge into it after five days.”

The FFD has advised the authorities in Gujrat, Faisalabad, Narowal, Mandi Bahauddin, Gujranwala and Sialkot districts to take precautionary measures to avoid any loss to life and property.

Earlier, the first peak of nearly 700,000 cusecs passed the River Chenab at Marala on Friday. Later it crossed Khanki and Qadirabad on Saturday.

The discharge at Khanki by 9.30pm was 594,000 cusecs and at Qadirabad 621,000 cusecs and the water level was falling.

A peak of 600,000 cusecs was recorded in River Jhelum at Mangla on Friday. But the inflow on Saturday fell to 150,000 cusecs.

RAVI IN MEDIUM FLOOD: The FFD also reported medium flood in River Ravi at Jassar with a discharge of 80,000 cusecs. It expected the peak to travel to Shahdara by Sunday.

Meanwhile, the monsoon low over Indian Punjab that wreaked havoc in north-eastern Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) over the past three days became insignificant after generating heavy rain in Sialkot and Gujranwala.

The entire Gujranwala region, particularly Sialkot, Wazirabad and Zafarwal, were badly affected by the swollen Chenab river.

As many as 11 people, including four women, were killed in Sialkot, three in Gujranwala, five in Kasur, three in Pasrur, and one in Narowal. The cause of deaths was either caving in of roofs or collapsed houses.

SEVEN DIE IN LAHORE: It did not rain in Lahore on Saturday. But seven people, including two women and two minor girls, were killed in different parts of the city as the rain-soaked roofs of their houses collapsed.

According to the Met office, the monsoon system almost dissipated before giving 163mm of rain in Sialkot, 74mm in Gujranwala and 37mm in Gujrat. Cities like Islamabad and Jhelum received light rain.

Reports from north-eastern districts of Punjab indicated large-scale loss to property and crops in the Sialkot region. Floodwater entered scores of villages after reported breaches in Nullah Dek and Chenab at Qadirabad.

Water spilled over the storm water channels in the region and entered Wazirabad, Kamonke, Pindi Bhattian and Jalalpur Bhattian. In Kamonke, the embankment of Nullah Mesri breached and its water entered the city.

People began to shift over to safer places with the help of the army which is conducting rescue operations in worst-hit areas.

Four people were killed in the Dertian area of Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when a house collapsed due to heavy rain late on Friday night.

An official said the deceased, including two children, one woman and one man, belonged to the same family. The house collapsed after the area received heavy rain. Local people retrieved bodies from the rubble.

Parts of Hazara division received heavy rains.

In various parts of Azad Kashmir, another seven people lost their lives in rain-related incidents between Friday and Saturday.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

COAS says nation supporting Zarb-i-Azb

Abdus Salam

BANNU: Army Chief General Raheel Sharif said on Saturday that the entire nation, particularly the tribesmen of North Waziris­tan Agency, stood by the army in the Operation Zarb-i-Azb being carried out against militants in the region.

BANNU: Army Chief General Raheel Sharif said on Saturday that the entire nation, particularly the tribesmen of North Waziris­tan Agency, stood by the army in the Operation Zarb-i-Azb being carried out against militants in the region.

Addressing the internally displaced persons at Bakakhel in Frontier Region Bannu on Saturday after visiting Mirali in North Waziristan Agency, he said that displaced people would be sent back to their homes very soon.

He said security forces had made major gains against militants in North Waziristan and trouble makers would never be allowed to re-establish their sanctuaries in the area.

“The progress of Operation Zarb-i-Azb is satisfactory and the army is proceeding effectively to flush out militants from the area,” Gen Sharif said.

“On September 6, 1965, the Pak Army had defeated the enemy and had won the war to establish peace in the country. At that time, too, the entire nation was behind the army and the same is case today when the army is engaged in the operation against militants,” he added.

Earlier, the army chief visited Mirali in the restive agency and addressed the troops engaged in Operation Zarb-i-Azb. He said that troops would rid North Waziristan of terrorists, adding that the role of the army in the operation was laudable.

According to ISPR, the army chief celebrated 48th Defence Day with troops in Mirali.

Appreciating special integrated security teams that have carried out sweeping pre-emptive operations in major cities and killed and captured hundreds of hard core terrorists, he directed continuation of such operations.

Gen Sharif said that soldiers involved in Operation Zarb-i-Azb were writing new chapters of valour and sacrifices. He appreciated the expertise and efforts of aviation and intelligence, who had immensely contributed in precise targeting of terrorists and disrupting their command arrangements.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Imran threatens to take Sharif to court

Irfan Haider

ISLAMABAD: Mounting pressure on the ruling PML-N, Imran Khan said on Saturday the government was not ready to accept PTI’s five demands in writing and announced that the PTI leadership would approach the Supreme Court to get Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif disqualified because he had allegedly lied on the floor of parliament.

ISLAMABAD: Mounting pressure on the ruling PML-N, Imran Khan said on Saturday the government was not ready to accept PTI’s five demands in writing and announced that the PTI leadership would approach the Supreme Court to get Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif disqualified because he had allegedly lied on the floor of parliament.

Addressing participants of the sit-in at D-Chowk, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief said the government’s dialogue committee was announcing on the media that five demands of the PTI had been accepted. However, he pointed out, the government’s dialogue committee was not giving in writing what its members spoke on the media.

Also read: PTI sit-in: Imran announces return to D-Chowk

“The PTI leadership will approach the Supreme Court to get Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif disqualified as he was telling lies on the floor of the National Assembly regarding the leadership of the PTI, PAT and the army,” Mr Khan said.

He alleged that the government was also lying to the people of Pakistan about the Chinese president’s visit because the latter had in fact no plan to visit Pakistan. The Chinese leader was only considering a visit to Pakistan, he added.

The PTI chief alleged that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had also lied on the floor of parliament that the growth rate had increased 4.1 per cent last year because he had told the IMF officials that the growth rate remained at 3.3pc in 2013-14.

“Today is the 23rd day of the PTI sit-in and I will compel Nawaz Sharif to consider the demands of the PTI,” he said, adding the PTI would play the role of real opposition for the government.

Imran Khan reiterated his stance that he would not leave the D-Chowk until Mr Sharif resigned.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Fortune in the dirt

Mirza Khurram Shahzad

Under the stained mats, in the dirt and sewage lines, another economy exists for those who have the patience to turn dirt into gold. They wait in the streets, collecting the dirt that has been discarded from the tables of master goldsmiths who spend hours designing, moulding, cutting and polishing gold ornaments.

Under the stained mats, in the dirt and sewage lines, another economy exists for those who have the patience to turn dirt into gold. They wait in the streets, collecting the dirt that has been discarded from the tables of master goldsmiths who spend hours designing, moulding, cutting and polishing gold ornaments.

Fifty-year-old Asif Masih wakes up at five in the morning in an Islamabad slum and rushes to board a van to reach the jewellery market of Rawalpindi’s oldest Bhabhra Bazaar, the heart of the area’s goldsmith business for over a century. He makes it there by seven, and by the time the shops open, his job here is done: collecting the dirt containing traces of gold particles.

His business tools comprise a bucket, a broom and a brush with which he gathers dirt off the streets. After collecting a good amount, he sits next to an open sewage line and starts washing it. Having separated the dirt from trash, he takes it to a small room he rents that is tucked above a jewellery shop.

There, he pours his booty into a pot, mixing it with silver and mercury and then adding some chemicals before putting the whole mass on a coal hearth.

After a while, more dirt comes to the surface and the gold and silver particles stick to the walls of the pot. Masih scrapes the particles out and once again puts them on the grate, where they melt together into a lump. This he takes to a jeweller and sells at the daily price of the gold.

“It’s a business of fortune,” says Masih as he starts sweeping for the day. “You may not earn anything for several months, and then you may get thousands of rupees on a single good day. Last Easter was the worst day of my life. I earned only Rs50 from a very tiny piece. I could not give money to my children, could not buy them anything for the big day, even food. But the very next day, I found a piece of 13 grams and earned Rs47,000.”

Masih says that it’s almost an addiction: “You never know when Lady Luck may smile on you. You get almost addicted to this, rendered unable to do anything else.”

“It’s a separate industry, a fully-fledged economic system,” says Zahid Yaseen, who turned to this when his eyesight weakened after years of embroidery work. “When we don’t earn money for weeks and months, we borrow from the jewellers with whom we trade.” He says that this profession is as old as the jewellery business itself is and has been passed down the generations.

These niyariye, the scavengers who sweep the goldsmiths’ streets, have to depend on fate to find the gold.

“We even buy dirt from jewellers,” explains Yaseen, who helped his brother carry on with his education until the Masters’ level and arranged his sister’s wedding through money earned from this profession. “They accumulate the dirt for the whole year under the carpet and then sell it once a year on a mutually agreed price. We wash it, collect gold particles, melt them into a nugget and then sell it back to them. We depend on very small, micro-particles of gold in the dirt which comes out in the street with the shoes of the customers and shop owners. Each scavenger collects around 200 milligrams of gold every day. In terms of money, you can say that on average we earn around Rs700 every day. But sometimes we can’t work for many weeks. For example, we can’t find anything in the rain and we lose our business during the monsoon.”

With the passage of time, other challenges have also emerged for this community. Yaseen says that “now, the latest machines have been introduced in the jewellery business. These machines don’t produce waste and shape the jewellery without any wastage of gold, unlike the artisans who would wash, rub and scrap the gold in order to shape it. That used to produce a lot of ‘gold dust’. In addition to this, the number of scavengers has also increased. In just our market, there were some 40 niyariye a few years ago. Now, there are more than 250.”

“You never know when your good day comes,” Masih tells me. “You may find a good piece of jewellery from the street even on a rainy day. That is why every member of our community keeps his eyes on the dirt while walking in the street.”

But sometimes that also brings trouble. “If we find a big piece of jewellery, there is danger of being charged with theft,” says Ali Ijaz. “And when there is a robbery in the market, we are the first ones to be investigated.”

Ijaz chose scavenging over a factory job. “I was getting Rs8,000 as salary in a Sialkot factory,” he explains. “Here, I earn at least Rs16,000 a month. If destiny is giving me more money over here, why should I think about any other job?” He speaks, of course, while his eyes scan the ground.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Obama spells out strategy for combating IS militants

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: As the United States observed on Thursday the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Barack Obama declared that America’s battle against militants of the Islamic State (formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham) would not be limited by political borders.

WASHINGTON: As the United States observed on Thursday the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Barack Obama declared that America’s battle against militants of the Islamic State (formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham) would not be limited by political borders.

He said in a televised address that he would not hesitate to take action in Syria, as well as Iraq. But he ruled out cooperation with the Syrian government.

In the fight, “we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorises its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost,” said Mr Obama.

“Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like IS, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”

The speech is a policy statement that sets out the US strategy for combating Islamist militants and prepares the American public for yet another long military engagement that may continue for years.

Mr Obama also separated the militants from the larger Muslim community, telling Americans that they were not Islamic.

All four key points of the new policy — taking the war to Syria, shunning the Assad government, the warning that it will be a long war, and that IS did not represent Islam — drew immediate criticism both in and outside the United States.

The Syrian government reminded him that Syria was a sovereign state and any military operation in Syria had to be coordinated with Damascus.

Mr Obama’s critics in the US Congress pointed out that the Americans were still involved in two long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and did not have the appetite for yet another long military engagement.

And as CNN reported, critics clogged social media networks, telling Mr Obama that IS was a religious organisation.

Mr Obama, who had anticipated such criticism said in his address that the militant organisation was certainly not Islamic because “no religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of IS victims have been Muslim”.

Responding to the criticism that targeting IS positions inside Syria would violate the country’s sovereignty, Mr Obama said: “IS is certainly not a state; it was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognised by no government nor by the people it subjugates.”

Attacking the group was justified because IS was a terrorist organisation, “pure and simple, and it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way”, the US president said.

Addressing his nation’s reluctance to get involved in yet another long war, Mr Obama said it was not a war but “a counter-terrorism campaign” and the United States would enter this fight with a coalition of like-minded nations.

The aim was to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militants through air strikes and by preparing moderates opposition groups to replace the militants.

“We have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress, again, to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters,” he said.

His strategy calls for strengthening the Syrian opposition as “the best counterweight” to extremists, while “pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”

President Obama said that following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, “I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” but he did not name the countries that have joined the alliance.

He said that he would use “a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” to eliminate IS.

“This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” said Mr Obama while referring to two US journalists the militants beheaded recently.

The president asked Congress to explicitly authorise US military personnel to train Syrians, Iraqis and others to combat the Islamist militants in both countries. He also announced that he was sending an additional 475 service members to Iraq for this purpose.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Expert says tsunami can ‘wipe out’ Karachi

AFP

KARACHI: Karachi can be “wiped out” by a tsunami, an official said here on Wednesday after a drill simulating a major earthquake in the Indian Ocean.

KARACHI: Karachi can be “wiped out” by a tsunami, an official said here on Wednesday after a drill simulating a major earthquake in the Indian Ocean.

The test, and one carried out a day earlier that simulated another quake off Indonesia, were designed to check an early-warning system set up after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 230,000 people.

The exercise organised by the UN was based on a hypothetical 9.0-magnitude quake in the Makran Trench, off the coast of Pakistan.

“This would create waves 0.9 to seven metres high that could reach Karachi in one and a half hours,” Tauseef Alam, the Chief Meteorologist who was supervising the tests, said. “This could wipe out the city as the waves would be immensely powerful.”

Karachi was hit by a tsunami in 1945 that killed at least 4,000 people, Mr Alam said. “The city is vulnerable because there is a chance of another tsunami in the same vicinity but we don’t know when,” he said. In the event of a tsunami, real-time data would be sent to the Met Office in Karachi from Indonesian, Australian and Indian centres.

An alarm would sound when an alert was issued and the team would start disseminating the data to around a dozen disaster management departments. “Our goal is to ensure the timely and effective notification of tsunamis, to educate communities at risk about safety preparedness and to improve our overall coordination,” Mr Alam said.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Soldier dies in attack on polio team

Anwarullah Khan

KHAR: A paramilitary soldier escorting a polio vaccination team was shot dead in Mamond tehsil of Bajaur Agency on Wednesday, officials and local people said.

KHAR: A paramilitary soldier escorting a polio vaccination team was shot dead in Mamond tehsil of Bajaur Agency on Wednesday, officials and local people said.

Health workers accompanied by two Levies personnel were going to a village to administer polio vaccination drops to children when masked gunmen opened fire on them in the mountainous region of Damadola.

Solider Nawab Khan was hit and died before he could be taken to the hospital, said Shah Naseem Khan, an official of the local administration.

The other soldier took position and fired back on the attackers but they escaped.

Bajaur Agency Political Agent Syed Abdul Jabbar Shah told Dawn that the target of the attack was health workers but they remained safe because of firing by the Levies soldier.

He said Kalashnikovs, TT pistols, cartridges and masks had been found at the place of the incident.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Mrs Saeed Haroon passes away

From the Newspaper

KARACHI: Parveen Saeed Haroon passed away late Wednesday afternoon after a protracted illness, the family said in a statement. She was 81.

KARACHI: Parveen Saeed Haroon passed away late Wednesday afternoon after a protracted illness, the family said in a statement. She was 81.

Mrs Parveen Haroon was the daughter of Allah Nawaz Khan and wife of Haji Sir Abdullah Haroon’s youngest son, Saeed Haroon.

Her lifetime was spent out of the public limelight looking after her husband and children, but she retained an active interest in Pakistani cinema, the devotional Sufi music of Sindh and the culinary arts.

She is survived by her five offspring — sons Abdullah Hussain Haroon, former Speaker Sindh Assembly and Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN; and Hameed Haroon, the CEO, Dawn Media Group; and daughters — Sherood Ali Khan, Roweena Askari and journalist, Fahimeh Fifi Haroon.

Her funeral prayers will be held on Thursday at Seafield, Abdullah Haroon Road, at 3.30pm.

Expressing profound grief on the demise of Mrs Parveen Saeed Haroon, the office-bearers and members of the executive committee of All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) offered their condolences to Hameed Haroon and his family and prayed that Almighty Allah may rest the departed soul in peace and give them courage and patience to bear the irreparable loss.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Legislators still fear unconstitutional steps, SC told

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Mian Raza Rabbani, one of the main architects of the 18th Amendment, told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that he was afraid certain unconstitutional measures might be in the offing, in the wake of the prevailing political situation.

ISLAMABAD: Mian Raza Rabbani, one of the main architects of the 18th Amendment, told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that he was afraid certain unconstitutional measures might be in the offing, in the wake of the prevailing political situation.

“The impasse has led to apprehensions within parliament and the political parties represented there, that an extra constitutional step may be on the cards,” Mr Rabbani told the court on behalf of the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Balochistan National Party (Awami).

When the chief justice asked Mr Rabbani whether he had any basis for his views, the counsel replied that his view was based on experiences from the turbulent history of the country.

This was why, he said, he had formulated three questions in a rejoinder to the petitions he had submitted, which required the court’s energies and needed to be answered definitively.

Firstly, Mr Rabbani asked whether any political party or any other group could, at all, seek constitutional office-bearers to disengage from office under threat of violence or use of force in violation of the Constitution.

Secondly, whether any political leader could legitimately involve the Pakistan Army in his/her designs to achieve his/her unconstitutional objectives by attempting to reassure his/her followers that the army will determine the future course of his actions through a simple “yes” or “no”.

Thirdly, the counsel asked whether such a political leader could misrepresent the support of the army for his/her cause in public or private communication, thereby compromising the image of a national institution.

Considering the questions important in view of ongoing developments, the court sought answers from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek counsel on these questions, saying that concise statements should be submitted within the next three days, after which, the case will be adjourned for a week.

The chief justice observed that despite the issuance of the restraining order, the apprehensions expressed by Raza Rabbani were still doing the rounds; therefore the court would like to keep the matter open.

When Advocate Raziq Khan, representing the Pakistan Muslim League pleaded that the petitions be rejected, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja reminded him that dismissing the petitions would also “blow the restraining order of August 15 into thin air”. The judge explained that the court would decide the matter clinically and dispassionately.

When Raziq Khan pleaded that the public was not inconvenienced by the sit-ins, but rather due to the containers placed by the administration on key thoroughfares, the chief justice observed wondered whether the counsel was trying to justify the protesters’ blocking of Constitution Avenue on the basis of that blockade.

Attorney General Salman 0 Butt told the court the government was deliberately showing restraint, despite repeated attacks on state property by the protesters. “Speaking for myself, what is being done is absolutely unconstitutional,” the AG lamented.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Five polio cases confirmed

Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD: Five new cases of polio have been confirmed by the Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, official sources said.

ISLAMABAD: Five new cases of polio have been confirmed by the Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, official sources said.

An official associated with the Prime Minister’s Monito­ring and Coordination Cell for Polio said two cases had been reported from Federally Administered Tribal Areas, two from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one from Balochistan.

Twenty-four-month-old Jan Said, son of Jandar Khan, is facing onset of paralysis. The baby lives in Milward area near village Karrap in tehsil Bara of Khyber Agency.

Other polio patients are as follows. Sixteen-month-old Hamid, son of Mirtaj, is a resident of Kito Par Hassan Khel near village Noor Khel Hassan Khel Spin Wam in tehsil Mirali of North Waziristan Agency.

Fifteen-month-old Marwan, son of Mohammad Wali, belongs to union council of village Jando Khel in tehsil Bannu. One-year-old Shaukatullah, son of Aftab Mehsud, lives in UC Garra Baloch near village Wazirabad in tehsil Tank.

The fifth victim of the crippling disease is 12-month-old Gul Mohammad, son of Abdul Nabi. He belongs to UC 13 D, village Ganj Bosa Mandi, Eastern Bypass in Quetta district.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

Dockyard attack could be linked to Zarb-i-Azb, says minister

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told parliament on Wednesday that “inside help” aided a deadly weekend attack on the Pakistan Navy dockyard in Karachi, which he said was bravely foiled by Navy personnel, one of whom was killed.

ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told parliament on Wednesday that “inside help” aided a deadly weekend attack on the Pakistan Navy dockyard in Karachi, which he said was bravely foiled by Navy personnel, one of whom was killed.

In his second comment in the joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate in as many days on the breach of the dockyard defences on Saturday night by a group of “miscreants”, the minister said the foray was a possible “blowback” of the ongoing “Zarb-i-Azb” military operation against local Taliban and foreign militants in the North Waziristan area.

He appeared more cautious in describing the incident than on Tuesday — when he said some Navy staff of commissioned rank were also involved — now saying: “In this, inside help cannot be ruled out.”

What he estimated as “about seven” attackers could not have breached the defences “without inside help”, he said.

But, citing fear of compromising the investigation of the incident, he declined to speak more about the identity of the attackers except that their domiciles were spread around the country with one having connection in North Waziristan.

The minister said three “miscreants”, including an ex-navy officer, were killed, although the Pakistan Navy’s public relations wing in Karachi had said on Monday that two attackers were killed and four captured alive.

He called it an “isolated incident”, but said its occurrence on Sept 6 Defence Day could be a reaction to the Zarb-i-Azb operation as was the case with an aborted attack on the Pakistan Air Force base at Samungli, near Quetta, on the night of Aug 14, the Independence Day, when six attackers were killed. “The terrorists are reacting,” he said.

Among materials captured from the Karachi attackers were three AK-47 assault rifles, four 30-bore pistols, five 9mm pistols, four suicide jackets, 24 handcuffs and some religious books, he said, regretting that terrorism was being carried out in the name of religion.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2014

‘Overt ouster’ of Sharif may trigger sanctions: US report

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The anti-government protest in Pakistan has reversed the country’s struggle to establish a sustainable democratic system, says a report prepared for the US Congress.

WASHINGTON: The anti-government protest in Pakistan has reversed the country’s struggle to establish a sustainable democratic system, says a report prepared for the US Congress.

The report — “Pakistan Political Unrest” — warns that “any overt military ouster” of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “could trigger another round of democracy-related US sanctions on foreign assistance to Pakistan”.

This could put “an indefinite halt to what has been one of the highest-priority American aid programmes since 9/11”.

The report also warns that the unrest could impact Pakistan’s relations with India by increasing the army’s influence in foreign policies.

“The Pakistan Army’s more openly direct control of Pakistan’s foreign and security policies may, over time, shift Pakistan’s approach towards Afghanistan further into a policy framework that seeks to counter Indian influence there,” warns the report prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The report notes that while the Sharif government does not face an imminent ouster, “many observers see the current unrest weakening Mr Sharif”. It also represents “a setback to democratisation in a country that has suffered three outright military coups in its 67 years of independence”.

The report informs US lawmakers that despite the protest, Pakistan is unlikely to change its foreign or security policies that are of interest to the United States.

But the US government has sought to help in fostering Pakistan’s democratic system, and that effort has been disrupted by the current unrest.

The unrest could “also present new challenges to the goal of improving India-Pakistan relations, and put a damper on hopes for effective regional cooperation and commerce in South Asia,” says the author, Alan Kronstadt, CRS specialist in South Asian affairs.

“Whether Mr Sharif sought out or merely acceded to the army’s late August intervention as a facilitator between the government and the protesters, most analysts contend that because he has not demonstrated civilian control over domestic security he will be left in a weakened state,” the report adds.

CRS warns that the army’s involvement could have negative implications for US efforts to strengthen Pakistan’s democratic governance institutions as well.

“Observers doubt, however, that the army would seek to take direct control of the government, not least as it is embroiled in offensive operations against Islamist militants in western tribal areas,” the report adds.

The army, however, might welcome “a soft coup in which popular support for the civilian government is reduced such that the army can take full control of foreign and security policies”.

Reviewing the situation that led to the PTI-PAT protest, CRS points out the PML-N government has been criticised for its perceived fecklessness.

“Beyond an annual budget, parliament has failed to pass a single new law under Sharif. Important posts — including that of foreign minister — remain unfilled, and regulatory agencies have no chiefs.”

CRS notes that the party is “too centred around one family” while Nawaz Sharif “maintains an autocratic and detached ruling style” and has “neglected to reform Pakistan’s sclerotic governance system”.

Mr Sharif’s rule has continued to be “dynastic”, with a “kitchen cabinet” of unofficial advisers and a lack of responsiveness to public sentiment.

The report points out that relations between the Sharif government and the army began to deteriorate further in 2014, when Mr Sharif allowed the launch of a legal effort to prosecute Pervez Musharraf for treason.

“Mr Sharif later stood by and defended Geo News, when Geo accused the military of attempting to assassinate one of its leading journalists. He also pursued a policy of negotiations with TTP, even as that terrorist group continued to launch deadly attacks.”

The army, however, “was intent on launching offensive operations” and the army leadership also was reported to be unhappy with Sharif’s commercial overtures to India”.

CRS notes that “Mr Sharif’s perceived air of detachment from the country’s woes and his increasingly poor relations with the generals appear to have combined to embolden some of his political detractors to take to the streets, by many accounts with covert or implicit prodding from the army”.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Hundreds of thousands marooned by floods in India-held Kashmir

AFP

SRINAGAR: Emergency workers battled on Tuesday to reach hundreds of thousands of people marooned by floods in India-held Kashmir, as anger grew over the speed of the rescue effort.

SRINAGAR: Emergency workers battled on Tuesday to reach hundreds of thousands of people marooned by floods in India-held Kashmir, as anger grew over the speed of the rescue effort.

The army said it was airlifting boats to the worst-hit areas of the disputed territory, where whole villages had been submerged and an estimated 400,000 people stranded in the worst flooding for half a century.

“The situation in Kashmir Valley is still very grim, it is quite critical,” said Rajesh Kumar, police Inspector General of the Jammu region in Jammu and Kashmir state.

“I don’t know how many exactly, but there are many stuck in neck-deep water and need help as soon as possible,” he said.

But with large parts of the state — including the capital Srinagar — under water, rescuers were struggling to find enough vessels to ferry stranded people to safety.

The home ministry said over 260 boats had been deployed, while the army said 100 were being airlifted from New Delhi.

But many Srinagar residents said they were left to fend for themselves in the fast-flowing floods when rescue workers failed to arrive.

One man was seen hanging precariously from a rope strung from one side of the raging waters to another — his only way of getting across.

Another, retired college teacher Abdul Latif Rather, said he and his wife had waited hours for help on Sunday as the waters engulfed their home.

Local boys eventually came to their rescue with a makeshift raft and ferried them out to safety. “They risked their own lives to get us,” he said as he sat on the roadside near his flooded home.

“The entire (state) administration is a failure, is a disaster.”

Indian authorities said the death toll from the floods was around 200 people. Some 400,000 people remained stranded mainly in Srinagar and south Kashmir, the Press Trust of India news agency quoted local officials as saying.

“There are still a few hundred thousand stranded in Srinagar (alone). About 60-70 per cent of the city is flooded,” Jammu divisional commissioner Shantmanu, who uses just one name, said.

At a wedding hall on Srinagar’s outskirts, some 400 people, including families with young children, sat exhausted on the floor, after floodwaters submerged their homes.

“Everything happened so fast. The waters came rushing and we didn’t have time to pack anything,” Ruqsat Banu said as she comforted her elderly in-laws.

“The (rescue workers) were prioritising people, they were taking the women and the children but the men were left behind,” said Banu, who had to leave without her husband.

“We don’t know if he is all right, what has happened to him,” she said. “We lost everything.”

Banu, who is in her mid-twenties, arrived on Sunday at the hall in Sanatnagar where residents have flocked since days of heavy monsoon rains flooded the Jhelum river.

Locals who run the Sir Mohammed Iqbal hall, one of the few refuges with electricity, were busy serving food to victims, while others were stockpiling bandages and basic medicines in a corner.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime. It’s unprecedented, everything is underwater,” 70-year-old S. Nabi said as he watched the chaos around him.

The military has stepped up its rescue efforts, with 47,227 people evacuated so far and 61 planes and helicopters pressed into action, the home ministry said.

Some water and electricity lines were restored in areas that were less severely affected, Mr Kumar said.

“The main highway is still cut off from everything. But thankfully, many other road networks have been restored to a large extent. “Closer to central Srinagar, past rows and rows of flooded houses and other buildings, Abdul Rashid, his wife and two daughters gathered with others on a bridge to wait for help.

The Rashid family was rescued by army helicopter from the roof terrace of their neighbour’s home where they had scrambled in the middle of Sunday night.

“We got there (to the terrace) just in the nick of time. We watched as our house just collapsed in the waters,” said Rashid.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Minister urges Imran to shun ‘irresponsible politics’

Amin Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal has urged Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan to avoid indulging in “irresponsible politics” and asked him to play a “positive role in parliament” instead.

ISLAMABAD: Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal has urged Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan to avoid indulging in “irresponsible politics” and asked him to play a “positive role in parliament” instead.

Speaking at a press conference here on Tuesday, Mr Iqbal said that Mr Khan had even “politicised” the floods which had caused “colossal damage” to the economy.

Calling upon the PTI chairman to end what he called the “politics of sit-ins”, the minister remarked: “This is not the time for politics, rather a time for taking the national agenda forward.”

Mr Iqbal said the sit-ins had caused a loss of Rs1,000 billion to the economy.

Due to the devaluation of rupee against dollar, the country’s debt against foreign loans had gone up to Rs2,500bn, for which Mr Khan was responsible, he alleged.

Moreover, the stock market had suffered a loss of Rs350bn and the economy a loss of between Rs200bn and Rs250bn due to the devaluation of the rupee against dollar.

It was because of Mr Khan that the government could not pass on to consumers the benefit of decline in prices of petroleum products in the international market, Mr Iqbal said.

Turning to the PTI chief’s claims that top PML-N leaders did not pay taxes, the minister presented himself for scrutiny. He said he had always paid taxes commensurate with his income.

Showing the FBR’s directory of parliamentarians, the minister said that 11 members of National Assembly belonging to the PTI were not paying income tax. When asked to name such MNAs, he said the names were mentioned in the directory.

About the agreements that were to be signed during the postponed visit of Chinese president, he said the projects concerned largely pertained to the energy sector. Under the power purchasing agreement, any foreign investor could set up power projects in the country. No special power tariff was suggested for China, he explained.

State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman said that of the so-called “35 punctures” only 15 involved constituencies of Punjab. Five of the infamous cases pertained to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three to Fata, five to Sindh and seven to Balochistan.

“How was it possible for the caretaker chief minister of Punjab to rig elections to 15 seats in his province, on top of the 20 that fell outside his jurisdiction?” she asked.

In any case, the PML-N won only 12 of the 35 seats, she added.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Govt, PAT accommodate each other, but agreement still not in sight

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The government replied in writing on Tuesday to Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s demands as both sides appeared to be accommodating each other on critical issues in negotiations.

ISLAMABAD: The government replied in writing on Tuesday to Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s demands as both sides appeared to be accommodating each other on critical issues in negotiations.

However, an agreement remained elusive and the negotiators agreed to meet again on Wednesday.

The government’s response presented to PAT negotiators covered both the investigation aspect of the Model Town firing incident and the demand for reforms.

According to sources, in response to the PAT’s proposal on the composition of a joint investigation team (JIT), the government suggested a six-member commission comprising three police officers and one officer each representing the Military Intelligence, Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau.

The PAT had demanded a 12-member JIT consisting of three officers each of the MI, ISI and IB and as many police officers from outside Punjab.

The PAT is said to have accepted in principle the composition of the JIT proposed by the government, but the sources said that problems could arise again over the nomination of the three police officers.

The PAT wants the nomination to be mutually agreed.

On the timeframe for the investigation, the government has proposed three months. The PAT wants it to be 30 days, extendable by 15 days in case of compelling circumstances.

The government delegation told the PAT team that it was ready to reconsider the suggestion about timeframe.

On the issue of the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who has been named as one of the 21 accused in the case relating to the incident, the jirga of the opposition parties has been asked to come up with a suggestion acceptable to both sides.

Earlier, the PAT had made the resignation a non-negotiable pre-condition, while the government had categorically rejected it.

Talking to reporters about the negotiations, Jamaat-i-Islami leader Sirajul Haq said there were many speed breakers on the way but “I am not pessimistic”.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Three Britons, 2 Americans and an Australian shortlisted for Booker

AP

LONDON: Three British writers, two Americans and an Australian are finalists for the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction, open to US authors for the first time.

LONDON: Three British writers, two Americans and an Australian are finalists for the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction, open to US authors for the first time.

The shortlisted British books, announced on Tuesday, were Ali Smith’s dual-narrative story “How to Be Both”, Howard Jacobson’s futuristic dystopia “J” and Neel Mukherjee’s Calcutta-set “The Lives of Others”.

The US is represented by Joshua Ferris’ cyber-identity tale “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour” and Karen Joy Fowler’s unusual family story “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves”.

Australia’s Richard Flanagan has been nominated for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”, a wartime love story.

Bookmaker William Hill made Mr Jacobson — who won the prize in 2010 for “The Finkler Question” — and Ms Smith the joint 3/1 favourites.

High-profile authors who did not make the cut from the 13-book long-list included Irish-American writer Joseph O’Neill, for “The Dog”, and David Mitchell, for “The Bone Clocks”.

“That’s just how the cards fell,” said philosopher A.C. Grayling, chairman of the judging panel. He said it was a “very, very rich year” for fiction.

This is the first year writers of all nationalities have been eligible for the Booker, previously open only to authors from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of dozens of former British colonies.

Some British writers have expressed fears that the change in eligibility may lead to US dominance of the 46-year-old award, officially named the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC.

The winner of the 50,000-pound ($80,000) prize will be announced at a ceremony in London on Oct 14.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Muslim group asks Sri Lankan govt to guard against terrorists’ infiltration

Frances Bulathsinghala

COLOMBO: The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka which last week denounced the Islamic State (IS) as a terrorist outfit, has called upon Sri Lankan authorities to observe extreme vigilance in order to ensure that Sri Lanka is not infiltrated by any terror group.

COLOMBO: The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka which last week denounced the Islamic State (IS) as a terrorist outfit, has called upon Sri Lankan authorities to observe extreme vigilance in order to ensure that Sri Lanka is not infiltrated by any terror group.

Expressing concern over the recent announcement by Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri on the formation of the Indian branch of his global armed group to spread Islamic rue and ‘raise the flag of jihad’ across the subcontinent, the Muslim Council Vice-President Hilmy Ahamed said in a statement the authorities should ensure that every step was taken to thwart any form of infiltration into Sri Lanka by any extremist, religious or ideological groups that spread terror.

“We have witnessed the terror and destruction that have been caused to our partners in Saarc, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the destruction the Islamic State is causing towards world peace. Therefore the presence of such violent groups should not be allowed at any cost in Sri Lanka or any of our neighbour countries,” the statement said.

Mr Ahamed has asserted that no space for any form of extremism or terrorism should be allowed in Sri Lanka.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Chinese president to visit India next week

AFP

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping would make his first state visit to India next week, officials said on Tuesday, as Beijing sought to allay fears it was “encircling its neighbour”.

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping would make his first state visit to India next week, officials said on Tuesday, as Beijing sought to allay fears it was “encircling its neighbour”.

The announcement came just a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to take ties to a “new level” with Japan, a move seen as an attempt to shore up regional alliances to counter China’s increasing might.

Mr Xi’s four-nation trip begins on Thursday in the central Asian state of Tajikistan, before going on to the South Asian island states of the Maldives and Sri Lanka, and culminating in India, the Chinese foreign ministry said on its website.

It did not give specific dates but said the tour would finish on September 19.

Ties between India and China have long been clouded by suspicion over disputed territory in the Himalayas, which saw a brief border war in 1962.

Beijing has also moved to establish port facilities elsewhere in South Asia, in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, raising fears of encirclement among some Indians.

Chinese assistant foreign minister Liu Jianchao dismissed such fears at a press briefing on Tuesday, saying: “China has not and will not encircle India.”

Liu added that “both sides hope they will find acceptable solutions as soon as possible” to the border issue, without giving details.

Also on Tuesday, Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval met Mr Xi in Beijing, saying that he carried a letter from Mr Modi, and extended an invitation to the prime minister’s hometown.

“When it was decided you will be visiting India, Prime Minister Modi was extremely keen that you come to his hometown of Vadnagar,” Doval added.

China is India’s biggest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling close to $70 billion. But India’s trade deficit with China has soared to more than $40 billion from just $1 billion in 2001-02, Indian figures show.

Beijing sent Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Delhi in June soon after rightwing Modi’s landslide election victory, delivering a message that India and China were “natural partners”.

After meeting Mr Xi at a summit of the BRICS emerging economic powers in Brazil in July, Mr Modi called for increased Chinese investment in India, where economic growth has slowed in recent years.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

At the mercy of the water

Nasir Jamal

Women hugged one another as if they hadn’t met in ages; men kissed children like they had returned home from war.

Women hugged one another as if they hadn’t met in ages; men kissed children like they had returned home from war.

A decrepit boat had just brought in 16 women and children who had been trapped in the floodwaters in Boon Fazil, a village in the floodplain along the Chenab River some five kilometres from Jalalpur Bhattian in Hafizabad since midnight on Saturday.

Safia Bibi pushed her way through a large crowd of spectators gathered near Jamal Town, about a kilometre from Jalalpur Bhattian on Vanikay Road, to reach her family on the boat. “If you can’t help us, at least don’t keep us from our loved ones,” she told policemen trying to stop her from heading to the boat.

Her eyes filled with tears, Safia, along with several other men and women whose families had been unable to evacuate before the raging waters drowned their villages and washed away their homes, cattle and belongings, had been imploring district administration officials to arrange boats to pull out their marooned relatives.

But boats and emergency assistance were slow to arrive. The administration, led by Hafizabad DCO Mohammad Usman, was taking its time. When confronted, he claimed that 20 boats had already been sent out. “We’ve saved 1,200 people,” he added, before running off to greet Saira Afzal Tarar, the area’s MNA, who didn’t even bother to step out of her luxury jeep.

Other district officials told Dawn that they didn’t have a single boat and were totally dependent upon the army’s assistance for rescue. “If someone says boats are out saving villagers, he is lying,” said a district government official on the condition of anonymity. “We haven’t pulled anyone out so far.”

An army team had just arrived with two boats, but was finding it difficult to take them down from the truck as everyone wanted them to be immediately sent to their villages to bring back their families. By the time the boats were pushed into the water, one had already cracked and the engine of the other wouldn’t start. Two more boats were brought a little later. Yet only one could be sent out.

In these conditions, the arrival of the boat from Boon Fazil gave hope that others trapped in the Chenab’s waters could still be saved. The three oarsmen were greeted by the crowd as heroes.

“There’re at least 400 to 500 more villagers waiting for help,” said one of the boatmen. “Some retreated to their rooftops and others climbed up trees.” One of his passengers said she had spent the night standing on a metal box in water.

Though the DCO said only a couple of thousand marooned people needed to be rescued from the 150 flooded settlements around Hafizabad district by late Sunday afternoon, Fakhar Alam, a resident of Chak Bhattian, told this reporter over the mobile phone that roughly 15,000 people were stranded in his village, which was surrounded by floodwater.

Meanwhile Abdus Sattar, a resident of the Khutay Shah village, admitted that people had been warned of floods and told to evacuate, but added: “Warnings of water coming mean nothing to poor people; nobody will leave his home and belongings unattended. It’s also the government’s responsibility to make arrangements to evacuate us to safety, and protect our property and cattle.”

Miles from Jalalpur Bhattian, a Punjab irrigation official at the Qadirabad headworks said he had not seen the Chenab so furious in years. “The last time the river swelled to this level was in 1997 when the discharge from the barrage peaked to 873,000 cusecs against a normal peak flow of 400,000 cusecs. Even that was modest against today’s peak of more than 940,000 cusecs.”

In the last few days, the Chenab has left a trail of devastation on its way from Marala to Sialkot, the place from which the river enters Pakistan from India, to Wazirabad, Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Hafizabad and Chiniot. Torrential monsoon rains and a surge in the seasonal drains have exacerbated the situation. Crops on large swathes of farmland have been destroyed, hundreds of settlements submerged, thousands of houses washed away and several roads cut off. Scores of lives are reported to have been lost.

The government’s response has been slow and inadequate all along the path we took between Wazirabad and Hafizabad. “Water levels had been rising for the past three days; Saturday night proved to be the worst. Many houses have collapsed and our crops have been totally washed away. Yet nobody has come to help us,” said Mohammad Hussain, a resident of Chanda Kot village on the Wazirabad-Gujrat bypass, an almost five-minute drive from the Chenab. “We had to evacuate on a self-help basis,” he added, pointing to three families waiting to be evacuated from their rooftops.

Shahnaz Bibi, whose family was rescued by a local boat owner, was angry with the government and her elected representatives for abandoning her family after the deluge hit her village, Chhanni Sultan, four kilometres from Qadirabad. “When they need our votes, they are always around; when we require their help, they are nowhere to be seen. Now they will collect funds in our name which will never reach us,” she said.

Mohammad Arshad, whose family was also evacuated by the same boat owner after the former’s farm equipment, crop, home and belongings had been swept away, wasn’t angry. “It is enough that I have my wife and my child safe beside me,” he explained.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2014

Al Qaeda man killed in drone strike

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: An Al Qaeda leader, listed by Saudi Arabia among the most wanted suspected terrorists, is believed to have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan two months ago, private intelligence group SITE said.

PESHAWAR: An Al Qaeda leader, listed by Saudi Arabia among the most wanted suspected terrorists, is believed to have been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan two months ago, private intelligence group SITE said.

The Search for Internatio­nal Terrorist Entities, a US-based terrorist tracking organisation, said militant sources had reported the death of an individual in a US air strike.

The suspect added voice to videos for Al Qaeda’s Al-Sahab media foundation and interviewed leaders of Al Qaeda. In posts on Twitter on Sunday, militants mourned the death of Umer Talib and his family.

A Twitter user said the attack took place about two months ago.

Umer Talib was also known as Adil Salih Ahmad Al Qumayshi, listed by Saudi Arabia in 2011 among 47 most wanted terrorists.There have been seven drone strikes in North Waziristan since May and it is not clear which one killed Al Qumayshi.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2014

Khalilzad, wife facing money laundering probe

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Auth­ori­ties in Austria are investigating a former American ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, for suspected money laundering through his wife’s bank account, the US media reported on Monday.

WASHINGTON: Auth­ori­ties in Austria are investigating a former American ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, for suspected money laundering through his wife’s bank account, the US media reported on Monday.

On Monday, an Austrian State prosecutor, Thomas Vecsey, confirmed the investigation — first revealed by an Austrian magazine Profil — but declined to give details.

The money allegedly came from oil and building deals in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, which violated US law.

Reports in the US media claimed that Mr Khalilzad transferred about $1.5 million in May 2013 to his wife Cheryl Benard’s account in Vienna, Austria.

Documents pointing to the transfer were found in a garbage container used by the state prosecutor’s office in Vienna, the magazine reported.

Austrian authorities have frozen Ms Benard’s account.

Mr Khalilzad, 63, was US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN in the Geo­r­ge W. Bush administration.

Ms Benard’s lawyer, Hol­ger Bielesz, said that US authorities had yet to express “reasonable grounds for suspicions”.

The former diplomat heads a business consulting firm called Khalilzad Associates, based in Washington. The firm focuses on business in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2005, Mr Khalilzad oversaw Afghanistan’s first elections and was a close adviser to President Hamid Karzai. His wife heads a non-profit research group in Wash­­ing­ton, which supports cultural activism in former war zones.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2014

Govt-PTI talks: decision left to leaders of both sides

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the government held yet another round of talks on Monday, precisely the 12th sitting in which both sides concluded their arguments and now the decision lies with leaders of the two sides.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the government held yet another round of talks on Monday, precisely the 12th sitting in which both sides concluded their arguments and now the decision lies with leaders of the two sides.

Just before midnight, Senator Ishaq Dar, who led the government team, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, chief negotiator of the PTI, appeared before the media and made brief statements.

According to Mr Qureshi, whatever the PTI had to say was shared in detail with the government and now it’s up to the latter to respond.

Senator Dar quickly replied that as far as one issue (the prime minister’s resignation) was concerned it was non-negotiable, everything else came under discussion. “We have almost reac­hed consensus on all other issues,” he claimed.

Talking to Dawn, Dr Arif Alvi, a senior PTI leader who throughout has been part of the talks and even attended the first session of the meeting held early afternoon, said the terms of reference (ToRs) of the proposed judicial commission and the prime minister’s resignation were two sticking points. One thing the PTI wanted in the ToRs of the commission, he said, was clarity in its mandate: how and what the commission would actually investigate.

In its written proposals, the PTI said the commission should have the power to investigate, prosecute and issue a binding judgment for the contesting parties — the government and the PTI. The primary function of the commission, according to the PTI, will be to “undertake an independent investigation into the allegations levelled by PTI about rigging or manipulation of the 2013 elections and based on its investigation to submit within 30 days a legally binding and enforceable final report”.

The government is against such a commission which it had in its written response to the PTI’s proposals termed super election tribunal. The government insisted on Article 225 of the Constitution which only allowed election tribunals to deal with applications regarding rigging.

When asked if Monday’s meeting meant that deadlock persisted, Dr Alvi said the two sides had in-depth face-to-face discussions and presented their arguments. “As the lead negotiators from the two sides have said the final decision will be made by their respective leaders, let’s see what they decide. In politics, there always remains possibility of moving forward,” he added.

Once again, both sessions of the meeting were held at the residence of PTI General Secretary Jahangir Tareen Khan. Senator Dar and Zahid Hamid represented the government side, while the PTI team comprised Mr Qureshi and Mr Tareen.

After the first session, Senator Dar told waiting journalists: “We are coming back for talks.”

But on the insistence of media, Mr Qureshi said: “The PTI has been very reasonable and demonstrated considerable flexibility in its demands. We have been very positive in our attitude.”

A senior PTI leader told Dawn that until know it seemed the government was only interested in buying time. “At every meeting, the government negotiators give an impression that they are serious in talks, but at the same time refuse to move even an inch from their stated positions.”

Although with every passing day pressure was building both from within the PTI and outside on Imran Khan, but if the government believed that by defying “us in our just demands” it would emerge as a winner, its advisers were highly mistaken, he said. “Now everybody is talking about the need for electoral reforms and investigation into the election results; therefore, even if the prime minister doesn’t resign as a result of our demand, the government cannot run away just like that.”

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2014

PTI wins KP by-poll

Muhammad Irfan Mughal

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf candidate Ehtisham Javed Akbar won the by-election held for Khyber Pakhtun­khwa Assemb­ly’s PK-68, Dera Ismail Khan-V, constituency on Monday.

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf candidate Ehtisham Javed Akbar won the by-election held for Khyber Pakhtun­khwa Assemb­ly’s PK-68, Dera Ismail Khan-V, constituency on Monday.

According to unofficial results from all the 108 polling stations, Mr Akbar bagged 37,178 votes against 32,640 polled by Syed Murid Kazim Shah. Mr Shah contested the poll as an independent candidate but he enjoyed the backing of PPP, Awami National Party and JUI-Fazl.

The voter turnout was around 60 per cent. The constituency has 127,617 registered voters (69,003 men and 58,614 women) and 27 polling stations were set up for men and 27 for women. Fifty-four polling stations were such where both men and women were allowed to cast their votes.

In all, 13 candidates were in the run.

The seat had fallen vacant after Javed Akbar, who had won as an independent candidate, was disqualified by an election tribunal in a fake degree case. Mr Ehtisham, Javed Akbar’s son, contested the by-poll on a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf ticket.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2014

No full stop in diplomacy: Swaraj

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: India on Monday blamed Pakistan for derailing the dialogue process by holding talks with Kashmir’s Hurriyat Conference leaders but said there was “no full stop” in diplomatic relations and people always moved forward after short pauses.

NEW DELHI: India on Monday blamed Pakistan for derailing the dialogue process by holding talks with Kashmir’s Hurriyat Conference leaders but said there was “no full stop” in diplomatic relations and people always moved forward after short pauses.

Press Trust of India quoted Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj as suggesting at a public function that there may be a window for resumption of talks in the near future. Ms Swaraj was releasing her ministry’s report on the completion of 100 days of the Modi government.

Questioning the rationale behind Pakistan holding talks with leaders of the Kashmiri resistance, Ms Swaraj said it was not “too much” to accept from Pakistan that it should not interfere in the internal matters of India.

However, when asked about future strategy in dealing with Pakistan, she said: “There is no full stop in diplomacy, it’s always comas and semi colon. And, after all this, people always move forward. There are no full stops in diplomatic journey.”

Asked if Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sideline of UN General Assembly in New York later this month,

Ms Swaraj was quoted as saying it would depend on how the situation emerges in coming days and that they were not going there with any “preset mind”.

Noting that consequent to the meeting between Mr Modi and Mr Sharif, who had come here for swearing-in of Mr Modi, it was decided that the two foreign secretaries would meet in Islamabad on Aug 25.

“I do not know what was the need for their High Commissioner to invite the Kashmiri separatists and talk to them. He himself invited them. Why they derailed the talks (with India)? What did they achieve?….Who derailed the initiative? (It is) Pakistan,” she said.

Ms Swaraj also expressed India’s disappointment in the delayed trial of Mumbai terror attack case in Pakistan while drawing a distinction between 2008 attacks in the country’s commercial capital and bomb blasts in Samjhauta Express in 2007.

Presenting a ‘report card’ of 100 days in office, she also talked about wide range of foreign policy-related developments including inviting Saarc leaders to the swearing-in of Modi government, priority to neighbourhood by visiting Bhutan and Nepal, upcoming visit of the Chinese president and Mr Modi’s high- profile visit to the US later this month.

Mr Modi will hold bilateral talks with US President Barack Obama on Sept 30 apart from addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, PTI quoted Ms Swaraj as saying.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2014

Abdullah rejects Afghan election outcome

AP

KABUL: Abdullah Abdullah, one of two contenders for Afghanistan’s presidency, said on Monday that he would not accept the expected outcome of the election’s second round and that talks with his opponent to form a national unity government are deadlocked.

KABUL: Abdullah Abdullah, one of two contenders for Afghanistan’s presidency, said on Monday that he would not accept the expected outcome of the election’s second round and that talks with his opponent to form a national unity government are deadlocked.

Abdullah said he believed he won both times that Afghans voted this year — in April and again in a June runoff — and he accused election authorities of giving the win to his opponent, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. The country’s election commission is expected to announce the second-round results later this week following a weeklong audit process carried out to weed out the many fraudulent ballots cast.

“We were the winners of the election,” said Abdullah, who appeared uncomfortable and possibly tired as he spoke behind a wooden podium. “We are the winners of the election based on the real vote of the people.”

The US has been pressing Abdullah and Ghani Ahmadzai to form a national unity government, and President Barack Obama spoke with both on Saturday. The two sides have not been able to agree on what powers the newly created position of chief executive would have.

The two met for face-to-face talks earlier on Monday but clearly could not reach a deal. “The political process has reached a deadlock,” said Abdullah, who did not say he was pulling out of talks or that the idea or a national unity government was dead. The threat of violence hangs over the election process.

Tuesday is a national holiday here to honour a former militia commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud, a figure who has attained hero’s status in the country’s north. Massoud was killed two days before the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the US. Knowing that tensions could run high, Abdullah asked the country for calm on Tuesday and told supporters not to mix their emotions over the election and Massoud.

A spokesman for Abdullah over the weekend said that “radicals” in Abdullah’s camp could foment violence if Abdullah is not given a share of power. Abdul Rahim Wardak, the country’s former defence minister, said in an interview on Monday he believed violence is possible.

“I think there is the possibility,” Wardak said. “There are some countries that want that. Both to our east and west,” he said, in apparent references to neighbours Pakistan and Iran. Kabir Ranjbar, a member of Ghani Ahmadzai’s election team, essentially blamed Abdullah for being a poor loser and said he should accept the outcome of the vote given that the audit was aided and observed by the UN and the international community. Abdullah, who placed second in Afghanistan’s 2009 vote after what he alleged was massive vote fraud in favour of President Hamid Karzai, did not say what he planned to do next.

He said he would make a decision “based on consultations with the people”.

The international community had hoped for a smooth transition of power as most foreign forces withdraw by the end of the year. The US wants the next Afghan president to quickly sign a security agreement to allow some 10,000 troops to remain to assist with counterterrorism operations and training Afghan forces.

Karzai, who has been in power since the 2001 US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban, has refused to sign the accord. Both candidates have said they will sign it; one must be sworn in first.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2014

UK govt offers Scots new powers after survey shock

AFP

LONDON: The British government on Sunday pledged greater fiscal autonomy for Scotland, after a poll put the pro-independence camp ahead for the first time — just 11 days before the referendum on separation.

LONDON: The British government on Sunday pledged greater fiscal autonomy for Scotland, after a poll put the pro-independence camp ahead for the first time — just 11 days before the referendum on separation.

British finance minister George Osborne said greater tax and spending powers would be announced in the coming days and would be implemented if Scotland votes on September 18 to retain the 300-year-old union with England.

The offer came after a YouGov poll in The Sunday Times newspaper gave the pro-independence “Yes” camp 51 per cent support compared to the “No” camp’s 49 per cent, excluding undecided voters. Six per cent said they had not made up their minds.

Although the two-point lead is within the margin of error, the findings dramatically raise the stakes ahead of the vote.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, of the separatist Scottish National Party (SNP), dismissed Mr Osborne’s move as a “panic measure”, saying it was “ridiculous” to announce it now, with many people having already voted by post.

Reacting to the poll, Mr Osborne told BBC television: “If people were in any doubt that they can stay at home, that they don’t need to go out to the polls and vote ‘No’ to avoid separation, they won’t be in that doubt today.

“They should also be in no doubt about the consequences of this decision,” the chancellor of the exchequer added.

“No ifs, no buts: we will not share the pound if Scotland separates from the rest of the UK.”

Mr Osborne said it was “clear” that Scots wanted greater autonomy and the three main United Kingdom-wide parties — the Conservatives, their Liberal Democrat junior partners in government and the Labour opposition — had agreed to “deliver” on that.

“You will see in the next few days a plan of action to give more powers to Scotland. More tax powers, more spending powers, more plans for powers over the welfare state,” he said.

“Then Scotland will have the best of both worlds. They will both avoid the risks of separation but have more control over their own destiny, which is where I think many Scots want to be.”

Any vote for Scotland to leave the UK would raise questions about Britain’s standing in the international community.

Mr Salmond claimed the momentum was now “decisively with the ‘Yes’ campaign”. “The Westminster elite are losing this campaign… we’ve got them on the run,” he told BBC television.

He said there was “clear panic in the ‘No’ campaign. They’ve failed to scare the Scots; now they’re trying to bribe us”.

The Better Together campaign, which backs Scotland staying in the United Kingdom, has been ahead in opinion polls for months but its lead has narrowed in recent weeks.

The “No” camp had a 22-point lead in YouGov polling just one month ago.

Another YouGov survey for The Times newspaper on Tuesday showed a marked narrowing of the gap to six points.

Mr Osborne’s Labour predecessor Alistair Darling, the Better Together leader, said the latest poll showed the referendum “will go right to the wire”.

“Every voter in Scotland can now tip the balance in this referendum,” he said.

“It’s not a protest vote, it is about the future of our country. If we decide to leave, there is no going back.”

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

US expands air campaign against militants to Sunni areas in Iraq

Reuters

BAGHDAD: US warplanes carried out four strikes on Islamic State (IS) militants menacing Iraq’s Haditha Dam on Sunday, witnesses and officials said, widening what President Barack Obama called a campaign to curb and ultimately defeat the group.

BAGHDAD: US warplanes carried out four strikes on Islamic State (IS) militants menacing Iraq’s Haditha Dam on Sunday, witnesses and officials said, widening what President Barack Obama called a campaign to curb and ultimately defeat the group.

Mr Obama has termed IS, formerly known as ISIS, an acute threat to the West as well as the Middle East and said that key Nato allies stand ready to back Washington in action against the well-armed sectarian force, which has seized expanses of northern Iraq and eastern Syria and declared a border-blurring ‘caliphate’.

The leader of a pro-Iraqi government paramilitary force in western Iraq said the air strikes wiped out an IS patrol trying to attack the dam — Iraq’s second biggest hydroelectric facility that also provides millions with water.

“They (the air strikes) were very accurate. There was no collateral damage … If Islamic State had gained control of the dam, many areas of Iraq would have been seriously threatened, even Baghdad,” Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha said.

The aerial assault drove IS fighters away from the dam, according to a police intelligence officer in the vast western province of Anbar, a hotbed of Islamist militancy.

A mix of fighter and bomber aircraft destroyed five IS Humvees, one armed vehicle, a checkpoint and also damaged an IS bunker, the US military added in a statement.

The strikes were Washington’s first reported offensive into Anbar since it started attacks on IS forces in the north of Iraq in August.

Almost three years after US troops withdrew from Iraq and 11 years after their invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, the war on IS is drawing Washington back into the middle of Iraq’s power struggles and bloody sectarian strife.

“If that dam would fall into (IS) hands or if that dam would be destroyed, the damage that that would cause would be very significant and it would put a significant, additional and big risk into the mix in Iraq,” Mr Hagel told reporters during a trip to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Afghan rape gang sentenced to death

AFP

KABUL: An Afghan judge on Sunday sentenced seven men to death for the gang-rape of four women in a case that sparked nationwide outrage and highlighted the violence women face in the country.

KABUL: An Afghan judge on Sunday sentenced seven men to death for the gang-rape of four women in a case that sparked nationwide outrage and highlighted the violence women face in the country.

The seven men, who stood in the dock dressed in brown traditional clothing, were found guilty of kidnapping and attacking the women members of a group driving home to Kabul from a wedding.

President Hamid Karzai on Sunday had called for the men to be hanged. The death sentences were technically handed down for the crime of armed robbery rather than rape.

In a televised trial that lasted only a few hours, the court heard that the men, who had obtained police uniforms and were armed with guns, stopped a convoy of cars in the early hours of August 23.

They dragged the four women out of the vehicles, robbed them, beat them up and then raped them. One of the women was reported to be pregnant.

“We went to Paghman with our families. On the way back, they took us,” one victim, dressed in a burqa, told the packed courtroom as noisy protesters outside demanded the death penalty.

“One of them put his gun to my head, the other one took all our jewellery, and the rest started what you already know,” she said.

Applause erupted inside the court after Kabul police chief Zahir Zahir called for the men to be hanged. “We want them to be hanged in public so that it will be a lesson for others,” he said.

“We arrested them with police uniforms. They confessed to their crime within two hours of their arrest.”

The judge said the seven had the right to appeal against their sentences.

Under Afghan law, the president must also sign a death warrant for an execution to go ahead.

The gang-rape had unleashed a wave of public anger via street protests, the media and the internet.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Situation ‘catastrophic’ in Srinagar: police

Agencies

SRINAGAR: The death toll from flooding in India-held Kashmir climbed to 175 on Sunday, with homes, military bases and hospitals inundated in Srinagar.

SRINAGAR: The death toll from flooding in India-held Kashmir climbed to 175 on Sunday, with homes, military bases and hospitals inundated in Srinagar.

The rain-swollen Jhelum river flooded large parts of the city and forced frantic residents onto rooftops, with reports saying the first floors of a children’s hospital and of another hospital were under water.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew over Kashmir valley to inspect the damage cause by floods. The worst flooding in 60 years has submerged villages and ruined crops in the disputed region.

“This is a national-level disaster,” Mr Modi said. He announced Rs11 billion ($180 million) in disaster relief payments, as well as compensation to victims and their relatives.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of J&K in this hour of crisis,” Mr Modi said in a tweet.

His visit comes in the build-up to state elections in the affected state of Jammu and Kashmir by the end of the year.

His nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is seeking to expand support beyond the mainly-Hindu lowlands of Jammu and oust regional leader Omar Abdullah, who was allied to India’s last government defeated by Mr Modi in May.

Although heavy rains abated on Saturday afternoon, floodwaters rose sharply overnight in Srinagar, a city of 900,000, catching many people living in low-lying areas unawares.

“I could not save anything as the government did not issue any flood warning,” said Abdul Aziz of Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar, who drove his family to safety when water entered their home at around 4am.

“The majority of my neighbours who were sleeping are still trapped in their homes,” he said.

A police official in Srinagar said he feared the true extent of the devastation was not yet known because phone networks were down and areas cut off.

Thousands of troops, police and other emergency personnel, backed by helicopters and boats, have been deployed across the disputed region to reach those stranded, with at least 11,000 people rescued.

“Thousands of people are still stranded and we have rescued several thousands,” police Inspector General of Jammu region, Rajesh Kumar, said.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

It’s time for new push against IS: Obama

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Sunday that now was the time to launch a new offensive, including “military elements”, against the Islamic State militants.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said on Sunday that now was the time to launch a new offensive, including “military elements”, against the Islamic State militants.

Mr Obama plans to address his nation on Wednesday and outline his strategy for defeating the militants.

In interviews to various US television networks, senior Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they would support Mr Obama’s plan as they too believed that the IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), posed a major threat to US interests.

In the address, Mr Obama will “describe what our game plan’s going to be”, and meet congressional leaders on Tuesday to seek their support for the strategy.

“What I want people to understand is that over the course of months … we are going to systematically degrade their capabilities,” Mr Obama said in an interview aired on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

“We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately, we’re going to defeat them.”

Mr Obama, however, assured his war-weary nation that he had no plans to send US troops to either Iraq or Syria.

Although there would be a “military element” to the strategy, he would announce on Wednesday, “this is not going to be an announcement about US ground troops”, he said.

Yet, he said, his speech would prepare Americans for a new phase in US military actions against the militants.

“I’m preparing the country to make sure that we deal with a threat,” Mr Obama told NBC.

Despite America’s war-weariness, President Obama faces tremendous pressure — both in and outside Congress — to launch punitive actions against IS militants who recently beheaded two Americans journalist in Syria.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Mr Obama would outline plans for a more aggressive action against the militants.

“I think that this is a major change in how the IS is approached,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union”, noting that two days ago, the United States formed a new alliance against the IS, which includes Washington’s European and Middle Eastern partners.

“(The actions against the militants) is overdue, but the president is now there, and I think it’s the right thing for America,” Senator Feinstein said.

She said she would also support deploying the American military’s special operations forces in the region to ensure that the offensive against the militants succeed.

The senator also demanded a crackdown on sources of Islamic State funding to prevent its resurgence.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said in a statement issued by his office that the Islamic State threat was “real and it’s growing”.

He urged President Obama to “exercise some leadership” and to engage Congress with “a strategic plan”.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Abbas threatens to end unity govt deal with Hamas

AFP

RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip.

RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip.

Mr Abbas’s accusation that Hamas was effectively running a parallel administration in Gaza drew an angry reaction from the Islamist movement, which denounced his allegations as “baseless”.

But it raised fresh questions over the future of a fragile intra-Palestinian unity deal aimed at ending seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

“We will not accept the situation with Hamas continuing as it is at the moment,” Mr Abbas said in remarks published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

“We won’t accept a partnership with them if the situation continues like this in Gaza, where there is a shadow government… running the territory,” he said.

“The national consensus government cannot do anything on the ground,” he charged.

Later on Sunday, Mr Abbas appeared to be on the verge of another public attack on Hamas in the opening of his address to the Arab League in Cairo. Just 30 seconds into his speech, which referenced Hamas’s forcible takeover of Gaza in 2007, he was handed a note and abruptly stopped speaking as an official quickly ordered journalists out of the room.

The public dispute erupted some two weeks after the end of a major 50-day confrontation between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 72 in Israel.

In Gaza, spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Mr Abbas’s allegations that Hamas was hampering the operations of the national consensus government were “unjustified”. “It is untrue, baseless and unfair to our people,” he said.

Throughout the conflict, Hamas and Fatah put up a united front, working side-by-side to further indirect truce talks with Israel in Cairo, which resulted in an open-ended ceasefire that took effect on August 26.

But as the guns fell silent, their long-held divisions again came to the fore.

The deal sought to end years of bitter and sometimes bloody rivalry between Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The new cabinet took office on June 2, with Gaza’s Hamas government officially stepping down the same day.

Despite the handover, Hamas has remained the de facto power in Gaza, with moves to implement the provisions of the unity deal put on hold in the face of the deadly offensive that Israel launched on July 8.

“This unity government should control both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but there are many things blocking its work,” the prime minister said in an interview.

First and foremost among the problems was the matter of salaries, which had left him between a rock and a hard place, he said.

Since signing the agreement in April, Hamas has demanded the new government take responsibility for paying its 45,000 employees, 27,000 of whom are civil servants.

“The government and the banks operating in the Palestinian territories were warned that if they make these payments to former Hamas government employees in Gaza then the government and the people will be boycotted,” he said.

“If this happens, the Palestinian banking system will face a huge problem that will threaten the Palestinian situation in general.” The Palestinians are heavily dependent on international aid with a boycott likely to have a devastating financial impact on its financial viability.

Mr Hamdallah said an unidentified “third party” was working to solve the crisis by delivering the payments, with “positive indications” it would be resolved soon.

Qatar has agreed to cover the costs of the former Hamas employees, although the money has yet to be transferred.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Footprints: Balochistan, a land divided

Saher Baloch

The area of Baleecha in Tump tehsil is eerily silent. Destroyed mud houses, schools and a virtually vacant bazaar are all that is left in one part of it, which just a week ago housed about 10,000 people. The one or two people on the street scurry away when I approach them.

The area of Baleecha in Tump tehsil is eerily silent. Destroyed mud houses, schools and a virtually vacant bazaar are all that is left in one part of it, which just a week ago housed about 10,000 people. The one or two people on the street scurry away when I approach them.

The first thing on the minds of this area’s residents is how many informants are there in their midst. The people I talk to don’t specify who is being reported back to. The army operation in Tump, Gomazai and Mund — the border areas of insurgency-infested southern Balochistan — has further fuelled such misgivings.

There have been casualties. Twelve dead, including two children, some locals say. But the number varies depending on which organisation or institution you’re asking. People, whether in a mud house or a well-furnished office in Baleecha, refuse to say much; they don’t want their actual views on the situation to become known.

Know more: Govt, military on same page, says CM Balochistan

But 12 dead it is. “Militants”, if one speaks to the Frontier Corps (FC), and “freedom fighters”, if one looks at the graffiti on the way to Tump. And in the case of those who are neutral, the deaths are referred to as those of innocent men and women.

It is the ones who choose to remain neutral that are the worst affected by the ongoing insurgency in Kech district. That it is a minority is a sad reminder of the state of affairs in the province. This past one week, Kech district has been in the news as incidents of extremism and operations in insurgency-hit areas have occurred in quick succession.

A few minutes before Fajr prayers, a government officer in Tump was woken up by the sound of helicopters. “Minutes later, there were shouts from the main bazaar that the army is here,” he says. “Then came the sound of heavy shelling and bombardment from Baleecha and Gomazai, which are 20 kilometres apart.” Twenty people were picked up by the FC. Some have returned, the officer adds, but most haven’t.

Locals say a meeting between the Balochistan Liberation Front and the Balochistan Republican Army was under way in Gomazai when the military attacked. “They were settling an internal dispute when helicopters surrounded the area. Men from both groups managed to escape through the watercourses [known as karez]. But it resulted in an all-out operation,” the officer says.

A social worker in the area claims that some people were brutally tortured before being thrown out from a helicopter. Faisal Baloch, son of Salaam, was among the ones tortured in front of his family, locals say.

Most houses in Baleecha, Gomazai and Mund now have more women than men, a tribal elder says. Young boys show a video they made of a house burning down to ashes, which is also available on their social networking page.

Most people prefer to remain anonymous. It is safe, they say, not to have an honest opinion in such times. At the moment, the road leading to Gomazai is open but not many people venture there as they are scared of being “picked up”. By whom, they choose not to disclose.

According to the spokesperson for the chief minister of Balochistan, Jan Mohammad Buledi, “This is not a planned operation. These are continuing skirmishes between the militants and the FC. Their families say that these men [militants] are innocent. But most of them are not.”

He says that in August “a bus carrying FC personnel was attacked by militants in Nasirabad, which set off a wave of search operations and attacks by law enforcement agencies.” However, he adds, that “unfortunately, some innocent people also die in the thick of the fight. We [the government] do not have a writ in these areas. As a result, you see an explosion of various extremist organisations cropping up in Mund, Dasht, Gomazai and Turbat.”

About Baloch militant groups, Mr Buledi said: “We want to hold talks with them but they refuse to budge from their position. Presently, various separatist and extremist groups are fighting each other over resources and power-sharing around the border Balochistan shares with Iran. To some extent, the situation is very confusing.”

The reason the situation in Balochistan’s Kech district seems confusing, according to columnist Manzoor Baloch, “is because of the absence of the media. Local reporters fear for their lives. Those who do venture to such areas, no matter how powerful, are coerced into changing their tone.”

Afghanistan, India and the Jundullah, often named in the same breath, are also cited by locals as reasons for the growing tensions in the district.

The few notable developments in the past 14 years are said to include a rise in Kech’s literacy levels. “It is a fact which can’t be digested by a few people,” one observer says. “Education would mean better and detached understanding of issues. If most people in Kech start thinking in a constructive manner, then who would involve themselves in armed conflict? Balochistan is a mine of resources and everyone wants a piece. The issues are designed to look confusing. They aren’t actually.”

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Memos justifying wiretapping of US citizens released

AFP

WASHINGTON: The US Justice Depart­ment has released two memos detailing the Bush administration’s legal justification for monitoring the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.

WASHINGTON: The US Justice Depart­ment has released two memos detailing the Bush administration’s legal justification for monitoring the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.

The documents, released on Friday night, relate to a secret programme dubbed Stellar Wind that began after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

It allowed the National Security Agency to obtain communications data within the United States when at least one party was a suspected Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliate member, and at least one party in the communication was located overseas.

“Even in peacetime, absent congressional action, the president has inherent constitutional authority … to order warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance,” then-assistant attorney general Jack Goldsmith said in a heavily redacted memo dated May 6, 2004.

“We believe that Stellar Wind comes squarely within the commander in chief’s authority to conduct the campaign against Al Qaeda as part of the current armed conflict and that congressional efforts to prohibit the president’s efforts to intercept enemy communications through Stellar Wind would be an unconstitutional encroachment on the commander in chief’s power.”

The document was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union rights group through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Mr Goldsmith also headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under then-attorney general John Ash­croft and then-deputy attorney general James Comey, who now heads the FBI.

According to Mr Goldsmith, Congress authorisation for the use of force passed shortly after 9/11 provided “express authority” for Stellar Wind. “In authorising ‘all necessary and appropriate force’, the authorisation necessarily included the use of signals intelligence capabilities (wiretapping), which are a critical, and traditional, tool for finding the enemy so that destructive force can be brought to bear on him.”

He suggested that the congressional approval granted the president authority that “overrides the limitations” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law requiring a court order to monitor the communications of any American or person on US soil.

The second memo, dated July 16, 2004, pointed to a Supreme Court decision handed down just over two weeks earlier as providing additional justification for Stellar Wind.

Mr Goldsmith noted that five of the Supreme Court justices agreed that the detention of US citizen Yaser Esam Hamdi, who was captured while fighting in Afghanistan, was authorised because it was a “fundamental” and “accepted” incident of waging war.

“Because the interception of enemy communications for intelligence purposes is also a fundamental and long-accepted incident of war, the Congress­ional Authorisation likewise provides authority for Stellar Wind targeted content,” he added.

The programme was brought under FISA court supervision in 2007, six years into its existence.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Brigadier among three killed in attack on shrine

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

SARGODHA: A brigadier and two others were killed and seven people injured when armed men attacked a shrine here on Saturday.

SARGODHA: A brigadier and two others were killed and seven people injured when armed men attacked a shrine here on Saturday.

A Mehfil-i-Samaa was in progress at Astana Fazal in the suburb of the city when unidentified assailants opened fire at the audience, killing Subhani, the head of the shrine (Gaddi Nasheen), his brother Brigadier Fazal Zahoor Qadri and one Malik Ayub. The attackers escaped.

The injured were taken to the district hospital where their condition was said to be critical.

After the incident, tension gripped the area. Mr Subhani was known as a moderate preacher.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Editorial News

The crisis after military action

Editorial

AS Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan enters its fourth month, has army chief Gen Raheel Sharif hinted that the operation may have to be expanded to other areas or simply reiterated that the slow progress in North Waziristan will continue until the entire agency is cleared?

AS Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan enters its fourth month, has army chief Gen Raheel Sharif hinted that the operation may have to be expanded to other areas or simply reiterated that the slow progress in North Waziristan will continue until the entire agency is cleared?

On Wednesday, the ISPR reported that Gen Raheel has pledged that terrorists will be pursued to the “remotest corners” and military action will continue until all militant “sanctuaries are taken out”.

Also Read: Gen Raheel meets Chief of Air Staff

What is known is that clearing and holding territory by the military in North Waziristan is incrementally moving ahead, but that it may take a while yet — perhaps several months more — before the military can claim to have regained territorial control of the agency.

In addition, what is often speculated — facts being difficult to independently verify in a war zone that is sealed off — is that many militant groups have already melted away from North Waziristan and re-established themselves elsewhere in Fata.

So can the so-called decisive operation in the agency really be a turning point in the fight against militancy unless, after Zarb-i-Azb succeeds in retaking control of North Waziristan, the fight is taken to new sanctuaries established elsewhere?

The military leadership though prefers to share information in a piecemeal manner with the country and seems more intent on the public relations aspect of the war than sharing meaningful information on the overall strategy to fight militancy.

Also Read: Countrywide actions avert Zarb-i-Azb backlash: ISPR

Set aside the issue of what comes next for a minute though and consider what the military’s plan is for the ground it has already covered — and reclaimed.

With devastation left in the wake of the military machine cutting a swathe through North Waziristan, there is simply no question of IDPs returning to their homes unless a massive rebuilding effort is undertaken in the towns and areas shattered by the war machine.

Yet, there is simply no word from the military about when and how the rehabilitation effort will begin. Surely, equally important as ensuring that the territory is properly cleared and secured is to make certain that the civilian population can return as quickly as possible and pick up the pieces of their lives.

Ghost towns do not amount to territory that is held and secured in any meaningful sense.

Inevitably, when the question of the return of IDPs, rehabilitation and reconstruction is raised, the question of quite where the civilian administration is must also be debated.

Displaced inevitably and enormously by the presence of a massive war machine in Fata, the civilian administration stands marginalised.

To revitalise it, to get the administration back into some kind of shape to address the urgent needs of a returning population — when the population does return — the civilian administration itself will need to be revived first. Is there even any thinking happening on that front, in either military or civilian circles?

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

More sectarian targets

Editorial

THE spectre of sectarian killing continues to haunt Karachi. Professionals — especially doctors — as well as leaders of religious organisations and their members, teachers, small-time shopkeepers, etc, have all found themselves targeted on account of their faith.

THE spectre of sectarian killing continues to haunt Karachi. Professionals — especially doctors — as well as leaders of religious organisations and their members, teachers, small-time shopkeepers, etc, have all found themselves targeted on account of their faith.

On Wednesday, at least two individuals lost their lives to sectarian killers. One of the victims was Dr Maulana Masood Baig, son-in-law of the founding chief of Jamia Binoria al-Almia, Mufti Mohammed Naeem. On the face of it, his murder could be seen as a tit-for-tat response to two recent killings.

Also Read: Cleric, trader & activist shot dead in ‘sectarian attacks’ across city

Last week, Allama Ali Akbar Kumaili, son of Jafria Alliance Pakistan chief, Allama Abbas Kumaili, was shot dead. Before that, in July, a senior lawyer and son-in-law of prominent Shia scholar Allama Talib Jauhari was killed while on his way home from court.

However, looked at in a larger context, Dr Baig’s murder is consistent with what appears to be a shift in strategy by those carrying out this deadly campaign; targeting family members of prominent clerics.

Also Read: Son of Shia scholar Abbas Kumaili gunned down in Karachi

Usually, while most high-profile religious personalities — those considered most at risk — qualify for the highest security detail, their relatives are comparatively vulnerable.

They are ‘soft targets’ going about their daily business; mundane practicalities of life make it difficult to perpetually be surrounded by a phalanx of police mobiles. Allama Kumaili, for example, was accompanied by only two guards when he was targeted while going home from his ice factory.

Yet more vulnerable, of course, are those hapless millions who have no security at all.

And here another trend has been evident over the last two years or so, which is the targeting of victims regardless of the presence of accompanying women and children, which has resulted in the deaths of several family members as well.

Last month, a Shia man and his daughter were killed and his wife and another daughter injured in a sectarian attack in Khuda ki Basti locality.

While one can scarcely hope for a ‘code of honour’ among those who commit murder in the name of religion, it seems that the benchmark of savagery has risen still further.

And why should it not? For, while the usual platitudes emanate from official quarters, the much-vaunted Karachi Operation has been unable to stop sectarian killers running amok.

Granted, the tentacles of sectarianism are many, deep-rooted and diffuse — but that in itself demands a comprehensive, coherent and nationwide strategy which appears nowhere on the horizon.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Mosque tragedy

Editorial

AS workers continue to sift through the rubble of Jamia Masjid Hanifia in Lahore’s Daroghawala area, several families are mourning the over 20 people who died on Tuesday when the mosque’s second storey collapsed.

AS workers continue to sift through the rubble of Jamia Masjid Hanifia in Lahore’s Daroghawala area, several families are mourning the over 20 people who died on Tuesday when the mosque’s second storey collapsed.

Those fortunate enough to survive say that there was a loud bang immediately followed by the caving in of the newly constructed roof. Within minutes, say eyewitnesses, the whole edifice had turned to rubble.

What makes the episode even more tragic is the all-too-common reason: substandard construction and additions to the original design on the one hand, and the lack of governmental oversight in ensuring that building requirements were met on the other.

Also Read: Eighteen killed in Lahore after mosque roof collapses

Five or six years ago, the mosque administration decided to expand the 40-year-old building whose design had not been approved by the district administration since the government then was still some decades away from issuing no-objection certificates.

Unfortunately, it also bypassed consultation with any architect or civil engineer whose concern it is to ensure that a building is structurally sound and safe for the purpose for which it will be used.

The result was a second storey resting on inadequate foundations.

This made the collapse more or less inevitable.

While the mosque administration must of course be taken to task for its negligence, the city administrative apparatus must equally shoulder the blame for not enforcing the standards that are thoroughly spelt out by the law.

Also Read: Bad civil work made mosque death trap

The fact is that across the country, it is routine for structures — whether mosques, houses, buildings or any other construction — to be built in violation of the structural requirements, and without government agencies ensuring that all rules and regulations are complied with.

In terms of mosques, their administrations, too, often play a controversial role: any questions about mosque expansion are usually met with outrage, and the issue is distorted through a religious lens.

Tuesday’s tragedy should serve as a wake-up call: building codes need to be urgently enforced, and not only the administration but the citizens themselves need to recognise their importance.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Abject surrender

Editorial

TWO words best describe the reaction of the law-enforcement personnel who were supposed to guard the Dera Ismail Khan jail when TTP militants stormed it last July: abject surrender.

TWO words best describe the reaction of the law-enforcement personnel who were supposed to guard the Dera Ismail Khan jail when TTP militants stormed it last July: abject surrender.

This is the gist of a new report looking into the incident issued by an inquiry committee formed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration.

This is the second report investigating the D.I. Khan disaster; while the earlier probe was a much more detailed analysis of what went wrong, the new report, finalised recently, has a more specific focus on the role of police and jail staff.

Also Read: Action against 58 officers recommended

It certainly minces no words about the lack of resistance put up by the law enforcers. To recall, a band of militant raiders stormed the facility in a well-organised foray and succeeded in freeing over 250 prisoners, including a number of dangerous terrorists.

The D.I. Khan affair followed the 2012 Bannu jailbreak, in which militants were able to free over 400 inmates. The report says that the D.I. Khan jailbreak was not due to intelligence failure — an intelligence agency had apparently issued an alert — but because police and jail staff did not put up a fight.

A particularly troubling finding of the inquiry committee is that many amongst the jail staff were sympathetic to the raiders and apparently facilitated the jailbreak.

Also Read: Pakistani Taliban free over 175 inmates in DI Khan jailbreak

What is absolutely shocking is the finding that over 50 jail staffers with “doubtful credentials and dubious characters” were transferred from Bannu and posted at D.I. Khan jail. It is incomprehensible how individuals with suspect backgrounds were posted at a facility that contained dangerous militants.

It also points to a grave and growing problem we have highlighted in these columns — that of the presence of individuals with sympathies for extremist causes within the security forces and law-enforcement agencies.

The report has summed up the performance of the police in a frank, damning fashion. However, it offers no new recommendations about what action to take — apart from calling for the dismissal of some police officers as well as penalties for others who were seen as most responsible for the debacle.

It also fails to follow up on the recommendations made by the earlier inquiry report. It is not clear if the KP administration has taken any action against the errant officers.

Simply issuing a hard-hitting report and not taking subsequent corrective action can do little to improve a dangerous situation.

Without doubt the D.I. Khan and Bannu jailbreaks are just two of many major security lapses this country has seen.

Like so many incidents before and after them, they have exposed the weaknesses in the national defence and law-enforcement structure, at the same time highlighting the remarkable organisational capabilities of the militants.

Unless the state learns from its mistakes, adapts its law-enforcement and counterterrorism strategy to the needs of the time, and holds those responsible for lapses to account, it will be extremely difficult to prevent further terrorist atrocities.

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

From China, with love

Editorial

MINISTER for Water and Power Khawaja Asif wants us to believe that China is standing by with $34bn worth of ‘investments’ for Pakistan if only matters would settle down.

MINISTER for Water and Power Khawaja Asif wants us to believe that China is standing by with $34bn worth of ‘investments’ for Pakistan if only matters would settle down.

He insists that the funds are “not a loan” and will “not show up on Pakistan’s balance sheet”.

But scepticism remains regarding the government’s claims, which many think will not stand up to scrutiny. For starters, we don’t know the breakdown of the $34bn figure.

Nowhere in its regular cache of economic documents does the government go into any meaningful detail about it. The finance ministry’s latest Economic Survey has a small box with a simple list of the various energy and road projects, but says nothing about the amounts for each project or about the terms.

Also Read; Postponement of Chinese president’s visit will not affect ties: senior diplomat

In its revised determination for an upfront tariff for coal-fired power projects issued on June 26, Nepra said investors can include a 7pc financing charge against Sinosure fee in their project cost “in case the investors avail Chinese financing” — this is the fee for reinsurance against default for borrowing from Chinese banks. This clearly indicates that at least some of the funds in question are in fact loans for private parties to set up coal-fired power plants, using Chinese technology.

If a sum of $34bn has indeed been arranged by the government as Chinese ‘investment’, and a signature is all that remains, then one would think it would feature more prominently in chapters on growth, investment, energy and infrastructure.

It would be included in documents like Vision 2025, for instance, where a small section on the Pak-China Economic Corridor again lists areas as disparate as agriculture, energy, tourism and media for “investment and economic cooperation”.

Also Read: Imran’s remarks about Chinese assistance rejected

According to the document, the projects “will be financed through substantial inflow of foreign investment and disbursements”.

So the question remains: what mix of “investment and disbursements” is contained in the $34bn figure claimed by the government? And how does the figure break down between the various projects? The government’s claims would be less open to politically motivated attacks if there was more transparency in the details of the projects.

The minister’s credibility would also benefit if he could clarify whether or not the entire amount of $34bn is “investment”, and if so, what exactly is the status of the “early harvest” projects being incorporated under the Pak-China Economic Corridor initiative.

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

ICC’s ban on Ajmal

Editorial

THE indefinite suspension of spinner Saeed Ajmal by the International Cricket Council over an illegal bowling action has come as a body blow to Pakistan cricket.

THE indefinite suspension of spinner Saeed Ajmal by the International Cricket Council over an illegal bowling action has come as a body blow to Pakistan cricket.

The player, who was reported for the offence in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle last month, later went through biomechanics tests in Brisbane which confirmed the doubts raised by umpires over his bowling action.

Ajmal had easily been the country’s leading wicket-taker during the past five years and a match-winner on whom hinged the country’s hopes of reaching the podium at the 2015 Cricket World Cup that will be hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand.

The 36-year-old spinner now faces the stiffest challenge of his career — he must alter his bowling action altogether in order to make a successful comeback to international cricket.

Also Read: ICC bans Saeed Ajmal from bowling

The timing of Ajmal’s ban is also catastrophic for the national cricket team as it prepares for one of its toughest challenges in years, in the form of the Australians with whom they will play a full cricket series in Sharjah next month. He was seen as Pakistan’s trump card in the Aussie clash.

Now the team’s hopes of making the series a real contest seem to be vanishing fast.

Sadly, the country’s cricket cupboard stands bare at the moment as there’s no immediate replacement of Ajmal’s calibre in sight.

For this, the blame lies with the Pakistan Cricket Board which has fallen short of organising domestic cricket on professional lines to produce and groom back-up players and match-winners.

Also Read: Saeed Ajmal reported for suspect bowling action

With as many as seven Pakistan bowlers being reported for suspect action during the past two decades at the international level, and countless such bowlers featuring in domestic cricket, it is lamentable that the PCB has not been steadfast in adopting measures to nip the menace in the bud.

Even after the ICC’s imposition of the ban on Saeed Ajmal on Tuesday, the PCB continued to dillydally over the possible course of action despite the clear option of appealing the verdict.

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

Extremism within the ranks

Editorial

Much secrecy shrouds the foiled militant attack targeting the navy’s dockyard in Karachi.

Much secrecy shrouds the foiled militant attack targeting the navy’s dockyard in Karachi.

Though the attack occurred on Saturday, the maritime force released only sketchy details about the incident on Monday.

But while there was no official word on who the ‘miscreants’ — as the navy described the assailants — were, the banned TTP’s spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said on Tuesday that his outfit was responsible for the assault with “support from inside” the navy.

Also Read: Taliban claim attack on Karachi navy dockyard

At the other end, security officials say that Al Qaeda carried out the attack — again with help from within the naval force.

Regardless of which militant group targeted the naval facility, if claims of insider help are correct, it would reinforce the view that weeding out militant sympathisers within the armed forces is as daunting a task as eliminating battle-hardened terrorist groups.

Also Read: Terror attack thwarted at Karachi Naval Dockyard

Unfortunately, there are a number of cases where those with links to the armed forces have been involved in attacks targeting the military.

For example, former army medic ‘Dr’ Usman was said to be one of the main planners in the 2009 militant assault on GHQ.

Also, dreaded militant Adnan Rasheed, known for various terrorist exploits, including a failed attempt on Pervez Musharraf’s life, was a former air force man before he turned his guns on the state.

Even in the navy’s case it was reported that information from within the service was provided to those involved in the 2011 Mehran base raid.

So concerns of insider links are valid, as such attacks bear out. With the army conducting a counterterrorism operation in North Waziristan, the military is especially in the cross hairs of militants of all stripes.

Yet, there has been little focus on de-radicalisation efforts within the services.

The increased use of religious language and symbolism in the forces began during the Zia era; however, today the problem has morphed into something far more complicated — and dangerous.

The foremost challenge is to conduct a thorough internal audit of the armed forces to identify any personnel with links to terrorist groups. If such connections are established, firm disciplinary action is required.

The second — and admittedly more challenging — step is to initiate a long-term de-radicalisation process within the forces.

While the military’s top brass — including the serving army chief — has spoken about the threat posed by extremism in general terms, very little has come out, at least publicly, about extremist sympathies or trends within the ranks.

The forces will need to candidly assess the situation and understand where the problem lies and thereafter initiate a process to counter the extremist narrative.

This will not be easy as for decades both society and the forces have been influenced by ultra-conservative trends.

But unless remedial steps are taken soon, the presence of extremist sympathisers within the military will only increase, creating a complex new security crisis for Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Musharraf trial

Editorial

NEW revelations in the Pervez Musharraf trial — revelations purporting to exonerate or lessen the burden of blame on the former dictator — seem exquisitely timed, with the protesters on Constitution Avenue seeking to ramp up their agitation once again after days of rain.

NEW revelations in the Pervez Musharraf trial — revelations purporting to exonerate or lessen the burden of blame on the former dictator — seem exquisitely timed, with the protesters on Constitution Avenue seeking to ramp up their agitation once again after days of rain.

The discovery of a second letter that then-prime minister Shaukat Aziz is believed to have written to Mr Musharraf in the run-up to the imposition of the 2007 Emergency certainly buttresses the Musharraf camp’s argument that the former strongman did not act alone and was acting on the advice of his government in November 2007.

Also Read: Emergency imposed on ‘Shaukat’s advice’

The letter contains Mr Aziz’s clear advice to Mr Musharraf to impose an Emergency — unlike an earlier letter where no such explicit recommendation was given.

As such, the Musharraf defence team will likely once again try and highlight the so-called political nature of the trial on the grounds that only Mr Musharraf has been targeted and none of the other alleged co-conspirators have been hauled up.

Certainly, there are two aspects to the issue here.

First, the legal one. Whether Mr Musharraf received advice or not, whether he had any co-conspirators or not, the imposition of Emergency in November 2007 occurred when Pervez Musharraf in his capacity as chief of army staff signed on the dotted line.

That means regardless of who else may also have been responsible, Mr Musharraf certainly was — and all that remains to be determined in his case is whether the imposition of Emergency was a legal and constitutional act or not.

To allegedly act in good faith on bad advice if the aim and result is a gross violation of the Constitution is surely not a viable defence.

Also Read: Musharraf supports public’s demand for ‘change’

But there is clearly more to the Musharraf trial than just the legal issues at stake. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s personal decision to have Mr Musharraf tried, the army leadership’s reluctance to accept a Musharraf trial and the resultant civil-military tension are clearly — even if they shouldn’t be — factors in what will happen eventually to a Musharraf trial, to the Sharif government — perhaps even to the democratic system itself.

The second letter that has now mysteriously emerged will energise Mr Musharraf’s defence and further events in the days ahead may suggest a path is being paved for an exit from the country for the former army chief.

Only time will tell whether or not the PML-N government can fend off the political pressure.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

By-election message

Editorial

THE by-election in Dera Ismail Khan is a vindication for everyone. The PTI victory in PK-68 can be seen according to the way one wants to see it.

THE by-election in Dera Ismail Khan is a vindication for everyone. The PTI victory in PK-68 can be seen according to the way one wants to see it.

That the PTI chose to contest is a confirmation of how its fate is tied to democratic politics.

Sending a new PTI man to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, which is in turmoil at the moment because of the threat of en masse resignations by PTI members, will surely aid those voices who ask Imran Khan to, above all, respect his own mandate.

The advice would be for him to use his party’s presence in the various elected houses to the collective benefit of the people.

Also Read : PTI wins KP by-poll

Indeed, in the wake of this fresh evidence of his popularity, Mr Khan, in the present crisis, could also be accused of following a policy that has verged on insulting the people’s trust in him.

On the other hand, with the application of equally simple logic, the election can also be used to build an argument against the anti-Imran Khan theories that are circulating today.

Even though it involves just one provincial assembly seat, the by-election victory counters the assertion that the PTI’s popularity ratings have dropped because of its leader’s refusal to budge from his demand for the prime minister’s resignation.

Mr Khan’s candidate was pitted against a formidable opponent supported jointly by the PPP, the ANP and the JUI-F.

All three parties have traditionally had a good presence in Dera Ismail Khan.

Nevertheless, the PTI candidate won by a respectable margin, which indicates the possibilities that lie ahead for the party and its potential both as the challenger of the old and a harbinger of change.

The victory is in line with the PTI leadership’s effort to project the party as the sole agent of change, and emphasising through this contest that the old system is in dire need of reform — even if the party’s role in the present crisis has been a controversial one.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Poor flood planning

Editorial

Far from the sound and fury in Islamabad that is agitating many a politician’s mind, the hapless millions watch as vast swathes of land are inundated by the rivers Chenab and Jhelum in flood.

Far from the sound and fury in Islamabad that is agitating many a politician’s mind, the hapless millions watch as vast swathes of land are inundated by the rivers Chenab and Jhelum in flood.

The speed at which the current tragedy has unfolded is astounding; up until just before the weekend, the relevant authorities — while concerned about the levels of rain that the northern parts of the country were receiving — continued to believe that this year, Pakistan would not suffer flooding on a large scale.

And true, the eastern rivers Ravi and Sutlej have not yet shown any signs of being unable to cope with the volume of water.

Also Read: Deadly monsoon: Pakistan’s climate change policy remains stagnant

But in central Punjab, the area through which the Jhelum and Chenab wind their way, havoc has been wreaked: many thousands are marooned, dozens upon dozens of settlements and villages inundated, and cattle, livelihoods and lives have been washed away.

With the memory of the catastrophic floods of recent years still fresh, many are wondering why the present calamity was not better predicted, flood warnings were not issued with more urgency, and mitigation measures not undertaken speedily.

District administrations are now swinging ponderously into action and in some areas the army has had to step in to assist.

But surely, prior experience should have meant that Pakistan would now have a system in place to effectively deal with floods.

Also Read: No lessons learnt in flood-hit Pakistan

A few villagers confessed to the media that they did receive warning of rising water levels and that they were asked to evacuate.

But, as they pointed out, would anyone abandon residences and belongings believing that they would be protected or helped by the government and administration?

Surely the rulers can do better than focusing all their attention on the political manoeuvrings taking place in the capital city.

The task immediately at hand is to rescue those who are stranded or marooned, and ensure that adequate food, shelter and medicine are made available. Beyond that, though, there is still time to take measures to mitigate more damage further downstream in Sindh where the waters are headed.

As is usual, prior to the monsoons some routine measures had been taken, such as the desultory silting of a few — but by no means all —canals in the extensive irrigation network. But that has not proved very effective, and may not stave off further damage now.

The relevant sections of the administration and bureaucracy, both at the federal and provincial levels, need to urgently review the situation on the ground and plug in the gaps on a war footing.

Without that, there is risk of downstream areas being trapped in the same situation as the one prevailing in central Punjab.

Further, Pakistan needs to critically review its understanding of what the monsoon weather pattern is evolving into, and revise its preparedness in that context.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

Hacktivism unchecked

Editorial

While street protests led by the PTI and PAT have brought governance to a standstill in the red zone, a similar effort is being led online by a network of hackers, or ‘hacktivists’ who claim to be independently seeking the ouster of the PML-N government and accountability for the Model Town tragedy.

While street protests led by the PTI and PAT have brought governance to a standstill in the red zone, a similar effort is being led online by a network of hackers, or ‘hacktivists’ who claim to be independently seeking the ouster of the PML-N government and accountability for the Model Town tragedy.

The hackers — a local chapter of global hacktivist network Anonymous — have attacked hundreds of local websites belonging to the government, media and security forces.

The weeklong campaign rendered many sites temporarily inaccessible through denial of service attacks, many pages defaced, and worryingly, private data records of government employees and security forces leaked online.

Also Read: ‘Anonymous Pakistan’ take down government sites, leak bank records

While the role that hacktivism and online data leaks play in exposing corruption and human rights violations has been applauded worldwide thanks to the efforts of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, the ongoing hacking spree targeting local sites is hardly worthy of praise.

Leaving aside the question of who is behind the attacks, who the targets are and the questionable timing, the justification of ‘taking down the system’ in the public interest does not translate to leaking thousands of bank records, names, contact information and CNICs of government officials and security personnel unrelated to the political crisis.

By exposing the names, addresses and contact information of police officials, the hackers have potentially put lives at risk.

By releasing personal bank records of government employees, a massive breach of privacy has occurred.

By releasing data dumps of the army and ISPR websites, including names, contact information, usernames and passwords, a potential threat to national security has arisen.

If those undertaking this hacking campaign are doing so under the misguided notion that they are raising political awareness, the attacks could at best be labelled mischief with unintended but potentially dangerous results.

Also Read: ‘Anonymous Pakistan’: Hacking spree continues, PTI sites targeted

However, the possibility of this effort being something more cannot be ignored. In either case, the state must act beyond restoring broken sites, blocking online access to the data leaks and changing passwords.

The new Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill has been in limbo for over a year.

The FIA has often said it is unable to act on cybercrime except in the case of influential persons, or those crimes that fall under the inadequate Electronic Transactions Ordinance, 2002.

The PTA blindly follows the orders of a shadowy Inter-Ministerial Web Evaluation Committee.

This is a case that requires governance and state action for the public good, and not for short-sighted political gains in cyberspace.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

The great unwashed

Editorial

Listening to the way some politicians talk about the protesters in Islamabad, one would think the biggest problem we face at the moment is that the pristine grounds of the parliament building have been sullied by the arrival of an unwashed multitude.

Listening to the way some politicians talk about the protesters in Islamabad, one would think the biggest problem we face at the moment is that the pristine grounds of the parliament building have been sullied by the arrival of an unwashed multitude.

For instance, Minister Ahsan Iqbal opened his speech in parliament by referring to the large numbers camped out on the lawns, and complained the protesters had made the parking lot inaccessible.

PkMAP chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai, too, had contempt for the protesters’ drying their laundry on the front fence of the Supreme Court.

Also Read: SC’s objection to ‘dirty laundry’ ignored

Privately, political figures from the PPP — whose populist slogans revolve round lifting people out of poverty — have also showed their disdain for the camped protesters who have now been pushed out of parliament’s grounds by the authorities.

These attitudes reek of snobbery unbecoming of elected officials.

There was a time when only bureaucrats held the masses in disdain while elected politicians showed awareness of the citizenry’s toils.

Also Read: In pouring rain, Qadri lashes out at parliamentarians

But it appears that the establishment of democracy has caused our leadership to retreat further behind their hermetically sealed walls of privilege.

Even at the best of times, Constitution Avenue remains inaccessible to those whose interests are supposedly served from there. It is exempt from load-shedding, its roads are never flooded, and ordinary people dare not venture too close.

The protest encampments on the lawns of parliament, then, represent the reality of a nation whose rulers have failed to live up to their promises of improving the lot of the people.

No doubt, those leading the protesters have a flawed approach to achieving their goals, and showed themselves remarkably contemptuous of the inviolability of the country’s most representative forum when they permitted their armed rioters to run amok in parliament’s precincts.

However, that is no excuse for the attitude of our politicians.

They must recognise that they are the representatives of the people — the same men, women and children who hung their laundry out to dry in front of the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

Harder push for solution needed

Editorial

It was a quiet weekend on the political front, but perhaps in a crisis that is as confounding as it is protracted no news may be good news — at least nothing untoward happened over the weekend.

It was a quiet weekend on the political front, but perhaps in a crisis that is as confounding as it is protracted no news may be good news — at least nothing untoward happened over the weekend.

The Aitzaz Ahsan-Nisar Ali Khan war of words that had overshadowed the joint session of parliament looks to be over after the interior minister addressed the media on Saturday and did not instigate further trouble for the PML-N.

Meanwhile, the PTI and PAT returned to the respective sites they occupied in the red zone on Aug 19 likely to try and dodge further trouble with the Supreme Court which has been unhappy about the protests significantly disrupting access to state institutions housed on Constitution Avenue.

Also read: Parliament unity in disarray over Chaudhry Nisar row

The PTI and PML-N negotiating teams also steered clear of controversy and eschewed tough, unnecessary public statements.

Notwithstanding Imran Khan reiterating that he will accept nothing short of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation it appears that serious floods in parts of the country may have dampened the appetite for theatrics and hyperbole on both sides, at least temporarily.

A quiet weekend though does not mean that the PML-N can afford to show anything but urgency in dealing with the PTI and PAT.

The government would be mistaken if it thinks the longer the crisis is drawn out the more life will flow out of the protests.

The at times paltry numbers gathered during the day at the PTI and PAT protests venues can quickly swell if Imran Khan or Tahirul Qadri decide to move towards Prime Minster House or parliament, as they did two Saturdays ago.

Moreover, and perhaps most crucially, it is not known where the army leadership truly stands on the issue.

If the army leadership were to stop treating the government and the protesters as co-equals and clearly come out backing the government, the danger to the democratic system at least would pass and make the matter of dealing with the PTI and PAT demands that much easier.

Also Read: Stalemate persists, but negotiators keep hopes alive

The veneer of army neutrality though still remains — which is surely a large part of the reason why the crisis continues and why the protesters and their leaders may yet do something reckless.

At this point, it is perhaps important for the civilian interlocutors who have been trying to bridge the differences between the government and the PTI/PAT to redouble their efforts.

The PPP and Jamaat-i-Islami leadership in particular have put in a lot of effort already and may find that a concerted push at this stage could bring the government and the protesters to the middle ground that has proved elusive so far.

But with the joint session of parliament set to resume today, other parties could also try and play a role in resolving the impasse.

The joint session went off track towards the end of the week; perhaps this week parliament can get down to doing some serious work.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Anti-IS coalition

Editorial

Foreign military intervention in the world’s trouble spots is not always a sustainable option. In the past few decades, we have seen slow-motion disasters unfold in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya thanks to military intervention planned in distant capitals.

Foreign military intervention in the world’s trouble spots is not always a sustainable option. In the past few decades, we have seen slow-motion disasters unfold in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya thanks to military intervention planned in distant capitals.

We have seen Nato and its allies bombard countries and engineer regime change, but efforts at ‘nation building’ have failed miserably.

Now, it seems a fresh military adventure is in the offing.

Following the recent Nato summit in Wales, a new coalition has been formed to counter the self-styled Islamic State.

Led by the US and containing other major Nato members and Australia, the coalition will also try and bring Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikhdoms on board.

There can be little argument with the premise: the Islamic State is a vicious transnational terrorist outfit that needs to be defanged for the security of the Middle East and the international community. The problem is with the modus operandi.

We must ask if a Western-led military incursion is the best solution to eliminating IS. While American jets have already bombed extremist targets in Iraq, there are several plot holes America and its allies have not plugged.

It was indeed the Iraqi government that had asked for US air strikes to target IS. But any attempt to successfully neutralise the extremist group will need the support of regional states.

While Turkey is already a coalition member and the Saudis are being wooed, other regional countries are being ignored.

Also Read: US forms new coalition to fight IS

The Americans have said Iran and Syria will have no role to play in the coalition, despite signals from Tehran and Damascus that they are willing to confront IS from a joint platform. Ignoring these two regional countries would be a definite folly.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and the West all see the extremist outfit as a common enemy; why, then, isolate Tehran when it wields considerable influence in Baghdad and shares a long border with Iraq? Keeping Bashar al-Assad out of the picture also defies logic.

Also Read: IS fears make Gulf monarchies set aside differences

As much as the West dislikes the Syrian strongman, it is parts of his country that IS occupies. Attacking IS in Syria while simultaneously aiding the anti-Assad opposition will only add to the anarchy that prevails in that hapless country and may actually end up helping the militant organisation.

Perhaps the most effective way in which the West and its allies can counter the group is by cutting off its sources of manpower and funding.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Domestic cricket revamp

Editorial

The recent statement of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s new chairman Shaharyar Khan regarding the revamp of the domestic structure of the game has been lauded by cricketing circles.

The recent statement of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s new chairman Shaharyar Khan regarding the revamp of the domestic structure of the game has been lauded by cricketing circles.

Coming on the heels of the national cricket team’s disastrous tour to Sri Lanka, the PCB chief’s remarks are a step in the right direction. That Pakistan cricket is on the decline is no secret.

Also Read: Domestic structure needs revamp: Shaharyar Khan

With the Cricket World Cup barely six months away, the national team appears woefully short of match-winners and has struggled to attain top grades in International Cricket Council rankings in all formats during the past couple of years.

Cricket experts accurately attribute this to a haphazardly organised domestic cricket structure.

They argue that despite possessing the talent, our players hardly ever experience the kind of pressure or competitive spirit in local matches required to meet the rigours of the game at the international level.

While it is a fact that most PCB chiefs in the past have attempted to reorganise domestic cricket in Pakistan, they have met with little success.

Also Read: Team’s poor show compels PCB to revisit Sethi-era policies

But the current chairman, after holding a series of meetings with skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, head coach Waqar Younis, chief selector Moin Khan and a few others, appears set to re-launch plans of a domestic cricket overhaul.

Armed with prior experience of running Pakistan cricket, he may be better equipped to understand the present difficulties confronting the game.

That said, he is likely to face opposition and a number of problems once he actually gets down to implementing the plan.

There are lobbies, mafias and other groups, comprising former cricketers and officials, that have their own ideas on how domestic cricket should be structured.

Similarly, there are factors such as scheduling of matches in various regions, the state of grounds and pitches, pressure from sponsors and the availability of players for domestic matches that must also be kept in mind.

It remains to be seen how well the PCB chief overcomes the challenges ahead to improve domestic cricket.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

The intransigence continues

Editorial

WEEKS into a crisis and after many rounds of negotiations between the government and the PTI, the intransigence of both sides is striking.

WEEKS into a crisis and after many rounds of negotiations between the government and the PTI, the intransigence of both sides is striking.

The PTI chief Imran Khan has publicly once again declared that his party will not leave Constitution Avenue until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns — a claim that could be true, but may also have something to do with keeping the pressure on the PML-N negotiators.

Meanwhile, Mr Khan’s negotiating team has told the government that it wants a judicial super-commission, backed by a presidential ordinance and having extraordinary powers, to announce binding judgements in the case of even individual constituencies where the May 2013 elections are disputed by the PTI.

The difference between the super-commission demanded by the PTI and the judicial commission offered by the PML-N is not trivial: the PTI’s proposal would bypass existing rules, including constitutional ones, in a way that would turn the electoral and criminal systems on their head. Surely, while the overall goal of the PTI may be to prove the electoral fraud it has alleged and to reform the electoral system, putting the horse before the cart is not in the greater interest of the democratic system.

Yet, for every bit of foolishness and intransigence the PTI can demonstrate, the PML-N seems willing to outdo its political foe. Quite remarkably, at this late stage, the PML-N negotiating team has once again closed the door to recounts in selected constituencies. That was the original demand of the PTI, a demand the PML-N dithered on until the PTI demands increased, before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself publicly suggested that re-examining the results in selected constituencies could be done.

Quite why the PML-N would backtrack now on a pledge made in public by the prime minister is difficult to fathom — unless the PML-N is reverting to type and once again misreading the situation. Following PTI president Javed Hashmi’s bombshell allegations and the robust defence of the democratic system in the joint session of parliament, the PML-N had regained some of the space it had lost during last weekend’s violence on Constitution Avenue. Feeling a little more confident, perhaps the PML-N decided now is not the time to make any concessions to the protesters.

That would be a mistake. The joint session of parliament has made it clear that while the opposition fully supports the democratic system, many a party in the opposition has reservations about last year’s results too. To close the door on vote recounts as the PML-N negotiators have done is to not only rile up the PTI, but to potentially provoke the ire of the opposition. While the PML-N has democratic allies, it does not have carte blanche. Misreading the mood of parliament could end up giving the protesters outside parliament another lease of life.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Chinese whispers

Editorial

THE cancellation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan has added to the anxiety being felt by investors — foreign and domestic — in Pakistan.

THE cancellation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan has added to the anxiety being felt by investors — foreign and domestic — in Pakistan.

The cancellation, as well as the manner in which it has been announced, is a reminder of the steep cost Pakistan is paying for the current power struggle in the country.

It is symptomatic of the chaotic response that the government is giving to the challenge posed by the continuing protests that the announcement came on the personal Twitter feed of a senior government minister while official circles were busy denying the news. Then the Chinese foreign office refused direct comment on the matter, only saying that since the visit had not been officially announced, the question of any cancellation did not arise.

More than 36 hours later, Pakistan’s Foreign Office finally issued a formal announcement of the visit being put off. In the intervening period, speculation and rumour filled the air, and many of the privately posed reasons behind the cancellation will continue circulating long after the dust has settled.

More damaging has been the question of the fate of the $34bn worth of projects the president was said to be bringing with him. The government is saying these ‘investments’ have suffered a setback, whereas PTI chief Imran Khan has been loudly responding that these projects were never ‘investments’ to start with, they were loans, and compared their terms — 7pc — with those offered by multilaterals like the World Bank and the ADB.

Both parties are being disingenuous at best. The funds in question are not investments, they are more like project financing that require the machinery in question to be procured from Chinese entities. And comparing their terms to those offered by the multilaterals makes no sense since the latter do not want to touch coal-fired power plants due to environmental concerns.

Pakistan’s next best alternative is private financing, which if the returns on the last Eurobonds are anything to go by, are close to 7pc. The uncertainty is further aggravated by Moody’s announcement that Pakistan’s Fund programme might be disrupted by the protests.

The stalled talks on the fourth review with the Fund are a further reminder that large stakeholders from outside are waiting for the protests to be resolved. The government needs to do a better job of communicating the facts to prevent rumours and speculation from taking over.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Lahore submerged

Editorial

MUCH of Lahore is currently inundated and a large number of homes, especially those in low-income localities, have suffered damage because of the incoming floods. All damage to infrastructure in the city is in addition to the tragedy of numerous rain-related deaths in the provincial capital and north-country generally.

MUCH of Lahore is currently inundated and a large number of homes, especially those in low-income localities, have suffered damage because of the incoming floods. All damage to infrastructure in the city is in addition to the tragedy of numerous rain-related deaths in the provincial capital and north-country generally.

Most of the deaths occurred because of roofs and walls collapsing as the heavens opened up, an indictment of the enforcement — or, more accurately, the lack thereof — of building codes. But the flooding in Lahore in particular, a city that is used to the annual monsoon deluge, holds certain crucial lessons for the authorities here as well as in other cities.

The last time Lahore witnessed flooding on a comparable scale was in 1996, when the situation was so dire that people had to be rescued from their homes in boats. Following this experience, city authorities invested heavily in putting in place storm drainage networks and buying related machinery. Since then, even through the flood years, Lahore has remained relatively free from the long-term accumulation of water.

Of course, after a downpour water would collect in some places, but it did not overwhelm the drainage network. So what happened this time around? True, the recent rains were heavy and sustained, but this time certain other factors have compounded the crisis.

One factor is linked to the city’s needs for drainage. These have, over the years, outstripped the capacity of the drainage network which has not been developed at a commensurate pace. City development, if it is to be sustainable in the long term, is a constant balancing act.

Every new building, road expansion or constricted green space has an impact on other areas of the city. For example, an extra lane for motorists means, as we see in parts of Canal Road, less green space which is vital for absorbing water. Without holistic and thorough planning that takes a broad view, situations such as the one currently faced by Lahore are inevitable.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Consensus for change?

Faisal Bari

THOUGH the dharnas started out with less loftier objectives, slowly the rhetoric of the leaders has moved to grander visions of what they would like to achieve. Apart from specifics about action against those involved in the Model Town killings and issues of election fraud, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leaders have also articulated demands for changes in the social and economic structure of society.

THOUGH the dharnas started out with less loftier objectives, slowly the rhetoric of the leaders has moved to grander visions of what they would like to achieve. Apart from specifics about action against those involved in the Model Town killings and issues of election fraud, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leaders have also articulated demands for changes in the social and economic structure of society.

They want speedy justice, social and economic equality, and a working democracy where the voice of the ordinary and poor citizen is readily heard. They want education and health systems where the rich and the poor are treated the same irrespective of their income status. They want better redistribution of wealth and income, a much more effective welfare state, effective governance and cleaner, more transparent and accountable government. They want a naya Pakistan.

Know more: We agreed to five of PTI’s six demands: Saad Rafique

Do PAT and PTI leaders think this naya Pakistan can be created from within the current parliamentary system, with the existing Constitution and the current institutions as well as the current set of players who are managing the affairs of the country? The answer, though crucial, is not clear.

Though their position on the Constitution is not well-defined, PAT leaders do not feel the current set of players, in government as well as the opposition, and at the helm of other important state institutions, would be willing or able to challenge the status quo. They feel that the players in power have benefited and continue to benefit from the current system and status quo, and why would they want to change that. They will not only resist change, if any change does occur, despite their resistance, the current players are likely to work on minimising their impact on the system as well as on their individual and class interests.

For the PTI, the answer is a lot less clear. Their leader’s rhetoric, in some of his speeches, hints that the current system will not deliver change and the appeal has to be made to the people of the country directly and it is only direct pressure and people’s presence on the streets and in dharnas that will eventually lead to the momentum for change. Accountability will have to precede rebuilding, institutions will have to be redone, and the rules of the game, even the Constitution, might have to be rewritten.

But, when other leading voices from the party talk, they often take a softer line. They talk of respect for the current democratic arrangements, even for some of the current players. The differences in rhetoric might be a reflection of the party’s strategy or it might even reflect genuine differences within it. Either way, it is something that will need resolution eventually.

For the moment though, it does allow certain ambiguity to persist about the aims and objectives of the party as well as the methods that the party considers kosher or might consider kosher (street agitation, military intervention, in-house changes etc.).

The ambiguity surrounding their methods, aims and objectives, deliberate or not, is not a trivial issue. It can have serious consequences for where we might go, as a people and country.

Before the dharnas and even throughout them both parties very carefully avoided saying anything about the army. They have, publicly, opposed the possibility of army intervention and there has been talk of implicit or tacit army support for them (or not), and there has been plenty of talk of how everyone salutes the bravery and sacrifices of our soldiers. But the conversation has never gone to the important question of what is the army’s take on the social and economic restructuring and re-engineering that the two parties are talking about.

The armed forces in Pakistan, directly and indirectly, have a huge economic stake in the current economic and social set-up. They are and have been one of the most significant beneficiaries of the current system. They, directly or indirectly, are one of the largest owners of rural as well as urban land in the country. They run schools, universities, banks, airlines, fertiliser plants, food processing plants, commercial activity in cantonments, construction companies, heavy mechanical industries and many other enterprises. They have a significant stake in the status quo.

Will they be happy with the social and economic reorganisation that the PTI and PAT are suggesting? It is interesting that neither party has so far addressed the issue. But, clearly, it is a very important question — and one that might not only determine the success or failure of the endeavours of PTI and PAT. But the answer they come up with might have implications for the methods that the two parties can use to force the change they want.

It is worth clarifying that the issue being mentioned above is not about the role of the military in politics or even what is discussed under the rubric of civil-military dynamics in Pakistan. It is also not about corruption or lack of transparency and accountability of military expenditures and the incomes of senior officers. The issue being mentioned is much simpler but much bigger. Will the military, one of the largest and most significant gainers from the current status quo, in terms of its economic and social interests, side with the reformers or with the forces of status quo? Have the PTI/PAT leadership thought about that? Has the military leadership done so?

If a significant revamping of the social/economic order is being thought of and proposed, can a military that has benefited hugely from the existing set-up, be realistically expected to support change? And if they do not, what will this mean for the PTI and PAT? For their aims and for their tactics? It will be interesting to see how this question is addressed in the days to come.

The writer is senior adviser, Pakistan, at Open Society Foundations, associate professor of economics, LUMS, and a visiting fellow at IDEAS, Lahore.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Unusual and suspect actions

Asha’ar Rehman

PAKISTAN cricket is again in shock, following the ban on Saeed Ajmal over his objectionable bowling action. The development seems to have badly affected the country’s plans for next year’s World Cup and has generated the all too familiar nationalist calls that project Pakistan as a victim of some international conspiracy.

PAKISTAN cricket is again in shock, following the ban on Saeed Ajmal over his objectionable bowling action. The development seems to have badly affected the country’s plans for next year’s World Cup and has generated the all too familiar nationalist calls that project Pakistan as a victim of some international conspiracy.

It is the same spirit that had found Pakistanis crying out loud against the global conspirators who had in the past hideously raised questions about Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar to name but a few on the long list. Then there was national outrage when the young Mohammad Amir was barred from playing.

Also read: ICC bans Saeed Ajmal from bowling

There is another, more rational, approach to the problem, the one which is being followed by the Pakistan Cricket Board. Saqlain Mushtaq, the long-sidelined inventor of the lethal off-spinner’s weapon famous by the name of doosra, has entered the frame.

Made to quit his duties rather abruptly and without explanation or ceremony some years ago, Saqlain is to now work on improving Saeed’s action. In other words, Saqlain’s job will be to ensure that, during the delivery, Saeed’s arm doesn’t bend to a degree where it becomes illegal. If in the process the veteran manages to pass a few other secrets to his successor it would be a bonus.

Meanwhile, an urgent search appears to be on in the country. A good enough replacement has to be found in case, God forbid, the magic Saqlain-Saeed duo fails to fix the puncture, only one in this case, that threatens to take the wind out of the challenge Pakistan hopes to mount at the World Cup next year.

Some of the names that have been thrown up as possible replacements for Saeed would sound unfamiliar to a lot of cricket fans here. Their records in domestic cricket which show they have been around for many years are a revelation since, apparently, not too many too keenly follow the progress of players at the domestic level these days. The fans here like to be surprised and relish the stories of the sudden rise of national heroes from nowhere. The myths and legends sustain them. Fed on these legends for so long, they are not necessarily looking to the system to solve this latest problem.

Saeed Ajmal has himself been a bit of a freak in the manner of the long Pakistani tradition. Even if some of the sport journalists could predict — or could later claim to have predicted — his rise to centre stage, not too many among the general enthusiasts were aware of his skills until he was handpicked — by Misbahul Haq it is said — to represent the country.

The entry was a triumph for hidden talent, latest in a series of mystery packages that had provided the national side with some of its exceptional talent. There are so many stories of players having been plucked out of thin air. Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Tauseef Ahmed … in recent memory. According to one account, Mohammad Yusuf was set on course to mature as one of the finest batsmen of his time after ‘someone’ convinced the great Zaheer Abbas to have a look at him.

Inzamamul Haq, people in Multan will tell you, was an unrecognised talent, to many a quiet, low-trajectory left-arm spinner with a suspect action, until he was ‘by chance’ spotted by ‘someone’. The system, as we know, was not as well equipped as it should have been to help him correct his bowling arm, nor, unlike Ajmal and others who bowl unnoticed at the domestic circuit, was such a correction needed in his case.

He got his opportunity and soon, he was to be hailed as the epitome of lazy Multan elegance at the batting crease.

These are stories that dreams are made of, which create hope among the fans of another freak entry coming to their rescue. The system, with all this talk about getting it right over all these years, fails to inspire. It is no surprise then that some of us are waiting for a Saeed-Saqlain lookalike, a teesra or a third one in the series, to emerge out of nowhere and do the business for us.

Among these fantasy stories there is one about Mushtaq, a teenager who was asked to disembark from a train and walk onto the national platform as the then youngest Test player in the history of international cricket. He went on to become one of Pakistan’s most successful captains. It was he who first used a young all-rounder by the name of Imran Khan who had yet to prove his batting abilities in a late-evening batting ambush against India during a Test match in 1977-78.

Sent in by disregarding the established (batting) order, Imran not only did the job for his skipper then, he seemed to have learnt an important lesson. He was to frequently use the element of surprise to trouble his opponents in the cricket field during his own tenure as captain over the following years. Not quite having a Qadri on his side yet, he would be bold enough to propel a Qadir up the order to enact a batting cameo for him. Next the kaptaan would find someone else to play the hand for him.

That — the promotion of the unusual which could upstage the fine experiments collected in the gentleman’s coaching manual — was Imran Khan’s hallmark. Perhaps this long romance with the freak can also help illustrate the substance in Imran’s ambush in Islamabad right now. He has never been one for using conventional means of combat in his battles — a tendency that emboldens his opponents to raise these claims that his action is suspect. This is what has brought him his victories. That’s the only way for him.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Financial duties

Nikhat Sattar

THE global economy thrives on capitalism. The emphasis is on reducing the cost of production and maximising profits, resulting in accumulation of wealth on one side, and exploitation on the other.

THE global economy thrives on capitalism. The emphasis is on reducing the cost of production and maximising profits, resulting in accumulation of wealth on one side, and exploitation on the other.

Financial institutions grow as they lend to borrowers who pay heavy interest. The result is growing poverty, as world resources are consumed by the minority, and the cost of degradation is borne by the poor. On the other hand, the state-controlled economy is restrictive.

Also read: Promoting Islamic finance

Islam brought a system of cumulative financial responsibility based on a unique understanding of custodianship of resources, equity and interdependence among human beings. Everything in the universe belongs to God. But if we can never ‘own’ anything and must eventually return to Him, how can we lay claim to wealth that we only appear to accumulate in this world?

According to Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, the diversity of human beings on earth has necessitated that each one of us be dependent on the other for skills we may lack, but that are essential for the smooth running of our lives. We are given a particular role according to our mental, physical and emotional abilities. We could be scientists or teachers, or tasked with sweeping rooms or the streets.

We may not be aware of this, but our lives depend on how well the others perform their work. We are thus bound to each other by ties that go beyond blood and clan.

God has also allocated to some of us more wealth and resources than others, not because we are better, but so that each group may be of use to the other, and so that He may test us in our willingness to share, use wisely and redistribute what we have been given in excess.

The seemingly inequitable distribution of wealth and our interdependence are entwined and must be understood so that we may purify our wealth and prove ourselves worthy in this life. This is a trial from God.

Financial responsibilities of the state and the individual have thus been clearly laid out. Muslims must pay zakat on assets and production. It is to be distributed to deserving relatives, the poor (Muslims or not), or to causes as defined. If this is well-managed, an Islamic government must reorganise other taxes accordingly. This issue requires careful deliberation by intelligent scholars.

All property that is not privately owned (through legitimate means) must become state property and be made available to all for common use. This may include land, water, other natural resources and their use among people may be decided by consultation between the latter and the state. This is necessary so that resources do not remain restricted to a few, depriving others of their benefits.

Muslims are strictly forbidden to usurp wealth or property that belongs to others. Immoral or unethical means in financial transactions include corruption, bribery, fraud, cheating and lying, gambling, taking interest, false advertisements, adulteration, black marketing, hoarding, speculation and all small and big actions that are considered ethically wrong.

Wrongdoings in trade include the practice of weighing less and charging more. This is severely admonished in the Quran (83:1-6). Such actions may render all prayers, fasting, Haj and zakat irrelevant in the eyes of God. God forgives sins committed against Himself; He does not forgive those that man commits against fellow human beings.

Financial transactions must be accompanied by documentary evidence (2:282-283). Verbal dealings can be exploited and may not be honoured, hence are discouraged.

Loans must be given without interest, businesses should operate on a profit-and-loss basis and the borrower must make every effort to pay back the loan. So important is returning a loan that the borrower cannot go for Haj if he is indebted. If he dies while indebted, the first action his inheritors must carry out is to pay off the debt.

God requires Muslims to live within their means and not be spendthrifts. “And give to the kinsman his due and to the poor and to the wayfarer. But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift” (17:26).

“And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty” (17:29).

A truly Islamic society demonstrating financial responsibility would have Muslims paying zakat into a baitul maal, without fear of corruption, with the state responsible for the poor and for general welfare services. People would live simply, giving away part of their excess wealth and the market would operate on principles of fairness and justice with appropriate checks and balances in place.

The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Modern temples

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

IN what has become a consistent pattern, large parts of Punjab and Sindh are facing devastation on account of monsoon-induced flash floods. Given that this is the fifth successive year that large swathes of the Indus Valley have been severely inundated by rains during the late summer months, one can only wonder why those responsible for such matters have not tried to buck the trend.

IN what has become a consistent pattern, large parts of Punjab and Sindh are facing devastation on account of monsoon-induced flash floods. Given that this is the fifth successive year that large swathes of the Indus Valley have been severely inundated by rains during the late summer months, one can only wonder why those responsible for such matters have not tried to buck the trend.

Sadly but predictably, the corporate media has not really been asking piercing questions of the powers-that-be. It is more interested in the ongoing stage drama on Constitution Avenue/D-Chowk. Live coverage of flood-affected areas would ostensibly force the bureaucracy and government — and the rest of us — out of our collective stupor and into thinking about long-term remedies to a serious problem.

Also read: No lessons learnt in flood-hit Pakistan

To the extent that the mainstream media is commenting on the flooding, a substantial amount of time and energy is being dedicated to demonising India for apparently exacerbating the problem by discharging more water than usual into ‘our’ rivers. Given that India-haters usually bash the old ‘enemy’ for withholding water, the propagandist nature of the present accusation merits no response.

What is true is that it has rained much more in Indian Punjab than anywhere in Pakistan and that the surfeit of water upstream has flowed into the Chenab and Jhelum rivers on our side of the border, thus causing the devastation. This, of course, has nothing to do with India’s evil designs, and at most should reignite the debate over the Indus Water Treaty.

The geographical spread of the monsoon rains also means that relatively developed regions like Sialkot, Gujranwala and Chiniot have suffered the brunt of the floods so far. In summers past eastern and central districts were far less affected than the Seraiki regions to their south and west. Of course, the brunt of nature is such that the floodwaters are sweeping all before them as they travel towards the sea, ie many regions face devastation even though they have experienced little rain.

Indeed, ‘experts’ are fearing the worst for more than one of the many barrages that litter the Indus Valley basin, starting with Head Trimu near Jhang, close to where the Chenab and Jhelum meet. The Sukkur and Guddu barrages in upper Sindh are also said to be facing severe strain and potentially calamitous breaches.

Quite aside from the ad hoc ‘solutions’ that engineer-bureaucrats are devising by the minute — most of which involve deliberate breaches of dykes so as to divert the onrushing water — there still appears to be something resembling a consensus amongst decision-makers about barrages, canals and dams, namely that such infrastructure is indispensable and that we must save what already exists and build more where we can.

Humanity has long harnessed natural resources, water most of all, as a means of reproducing and enhancing social life. It will continue to do so in the future, as it should. But modern technology can and should be questioned, especially when the evidence suggests an urgent need to do so.

There are serious problems with much of our most celebrated mega water infrastructure; the storage capacity of dams like Tarbela and Mangla has been severely curtailed by the piling up of silt over decades and natural drainage systems that could ostensibly help us manage our water resources better have been left to decay.

Yet despite the failings of engineering science, and even while the wrath of the floods unfurls, some are lamenting the fact that floodwaters are going to ‘waste’. This is a lament similar to that which some progressives feel vis-à-vis untapped coal reserves in the Thar desert and minerals in the far reaches of Balochistan.

The dialectical relationship bet­ween human society and the eco-system that sustains it, relatively stable for thousands of years, has been thrown into complete disarray over the past half century precisely because of our insistence that all natural resources must be mobilised for human use, without delay.

Or should I say multi-national corporations ever seeking new sources of profit insist on the ruthless exploitation of nature? Yet the scandal that is capitalism will be exposed only when the consuming public turns against the money-making monstrosities that thrive by commodifying everything.

In the final analysis, mega water projects should only be thought of as a means to facilitate human progress, not least because maintaining a balance between ‘development’ and the natural environment is crucial to the survival of future generations. This means questioning those who accord dams, canals and barrages God-like status. As we are witnessing for the umpteenth time, what Nehru once called ‘modern temples’ can have effects as profane as any other modern human invention.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2014

Journalists under attack

I.A. Rehman

PAKISTAN’S journalists are making news again. In Quetta, they are desperately protesting against the killing of their colleagues, and trying to persuade the authorities to reduce the risks to their security. In Islamabad they appear to be pursuing a less laudable objective.

PAKISTAN’S journalists are making news again. In Quetta, they are desperately protesting against the killing of their colleagues, and trying to persuade the authorities to reduce the risks to their security. In Islamabad they appear to be pursuing a less laudable objective.

Both instances highlight the seriousness of the hazards the country’s working journalists are facing. That should alarm all those who value the right of media persons to inform the people and the latter’s right to know.

The pattern of threats the journalist community faces has been brought out in Reporting under threat, a recently launched study. Adnan Rehmat has collected the accounts of 57 journalists who have faced life threats or have been exposed to deadly risks. Forty-eight of them have narrated their brush with death in their own words while stories of nine deceased journalists have been recalled by friends.

Know more: Journalists’ murder

A territorial breakdown of the 57 stories offers significant pointers. The largest single group of victims — 18 — is from Sindh, a fact understandable in view of the thug-raj in Karachi. Balochistan, with 17 stories, comes next. But considering the relatively small number of publications and journalists in Balochistan, the media persons there face the highest level of hazard.

The other stories are from: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, nine; Punjab, five; the tribal areas, four; Islamabad, three; and Afghanistan, one. Three of the deceased journalists belonged to Balochistan, another three to KP and two to the tribal areas. The fact that Punjab, that has the largest journalist community of any province, has reported less than one-third of the number of victims from Sindh or Balochistan reinforces the widespread impression that the provincial authority there has mastered the secret of keeping the media community contented or the forces that wish to suppress the truth can achieve their objective without threatening journalists.

These testimonies may not tell us about the circumstances in which more than 200 Pakistani journalists have been killed since 2000, but they do throw sufficient light on the sources and nature of the threats faced by journalists. The politicians in power, security agencies and the police do not want the disclosure of any fact that could hurt them. Likewise, militant, extremist and criminal gangs make similar demands on media persons. And both sides have the means to capture journalists, detain and torture them, forcing them to surrender or consider giving up their profession altogether.

No journalist worth his salt will be party to the suppression of the truth, and this is confirmed by the heroism of many journalists profiled in the study but even more dangerous and harmful to society is the demand to report lies, falsehood and half-truths that both law-enforcers and lawbreakers make on journalists.

The situation is particularly bad in the conflict zones where journalists are often denied access to the theatre of conflict and the people affected. They can question the version offered by the security forces or the militants only at great peril to themselves. How many people are killed in armed encounters, what are the identities of the victims, and to what extent was the use of force unavoidable? These are questions the people are left to speculate on. One of the hazards Pakistani journalists face is their use, known to them or otherwise, in spreading disinformation and thus forcing people to base their judgements on the basis of heavily doctored narratives.

The journalists are victims not only of elements that do not conceal their hostility to their calling, they are often targeted by ‘friendly’ patrons. The art of using journalists for making what is not true appear credible has been greatly developed over the past many decades. Some of this can be seen in the media, especially electronic media, coverage of the dharnas in Islamabad.

Political economist Akbar Zaidi may be right in suggesting that the dharnas will end the moment the TV crews pull out of the anarchy zone in Islamabad but his prescription envisages interference with the media’s right to report whatever is happening in the country that any democrat or defender of citizens’ rights is unlikely to endorse. But the way a part of the media is lapping up libellous stories and scandals supplied to it by none-too-secret hands has no precedent in the history of Pakistani journalism. It constitutes as serious an attack on the integrity of the media and media persons as setting up an ambush for Saleem Shahzad or Hamid Mir.

The government, political parties, militants and even land grabbers can present their point of view by issuing statements, publishing pamphlets or buying time on the electronic media. The people will know who is saying what and the message will not carry the stamp of authenticity that only journalists of standing can provide.

This is not to deny the right of media houses or journalists to side with a political faction. But even party organs and partisan propagandists are subject to certain rules of fair play. They may try to give their favourites more exposure and their rivals much less time but a conscious audience will have no difficulty in finding them out. The distinction between exposure of political rivals and scandal-mongering need not be blurred. The Islamabad melodrama has vulgarised the political idiom and the media is not free from blame.

One threat the media faces is the pressure from the vested interest or manipulators of information to distort reality. The channels did not have to wait for the floods before telling their viewers that dharnas were not the only things happening in the country. The abuse of public information space for personal vendetta or for the love of lucre is as serious an attack on the media and journalists as a militant’s diktat to a Quetta journalist to report only what he orders.

In a way, the media’s travails reflect the political profile of Pakistan — the takeover of public space by mafias, some armed with guns, others with venom, while people’s rights and truth are nobody’s concern.

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

Protesting our losses

Khurram Husain

HERE we go again. It seems swatting away dubious numbers is almost a full-time occupation for an economic journalist in this country. This time the number relates to the quantum of loss that the economy has suffered due to the ongoing protests in Islamabad. We’ve heard so many wildly different numbers being thrown around by now that only one thing is clear: we have no way of quantifying this loss.

HERE we go again. It seems swatting away dubious numbers is almost a full-time occupation for an economic journalist in this country. This time the number relates to the quantum of loss that the economy has suffered due to the ongoing protests in Islamabad. We’ve heard so many wildly different numbers being thrown around by now that only one thing is clear: we have no way of quantifying this loss.

Only a week ago, ministers on TV claimed the loss amounted to Rs450 billion. Then a few days later, the number had risen to Rs547bn as the attorney general told the Supreme Court. Earlier, newspaper articles circulated a figure saying the loss was Rs800bn.

Also read: Rs500bn lost so far due to PTI’s protest: PML-N

And now, only a few days after all this, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal trumped them all by saying the loss has been in excess of Rs1 trillion.

I wonder if the people bandying about these figures realise that the latter are larger than our GDP. Consider the Rs1tr figure as an example. The total output of the entire country’s economy, is just about Rs70bn per day. Now if we take the Rs1tr figure, and assume it was incurred over a period of two weeks, that gives us Rs70bn per day.

Know more: Economic cost of protests

This means the minister is actually claiming that the entire country and its total economic output — goods, services, agriculture, everything — shut down for two weeks. For that to be accurate, you would see all factories and offices and petrol pumps and power plants and shops shut for two weeks. You would also see agriculture come to a halt, and no livestock being bought or sold or slaughtered. No flights would be taking off or landing, no train departures, no cheques being cleared, no restaurants or shops functioning. Hotels would be shut as would banks. No marriage ceremonies would be taking place and all schools would be closed. If all this happened, and a lot more, then you might end up with a Rs1tr loss in two weeks.

It doesn’t get much less absurd if you tweak the assumptions a little bit, let’s assume that the losses were incurred in three weeks and not two, or that they were restricted to the formal sector only. The Rs1tr figure is so laughably absurd on the face of it that it’s a little surprising to hear it coming from a minister of the calibre of Mr Ahsan Iqbal.

So how has it been derived? All the figures, earlier as well as the ultimate Rs1tr one, use two common yardsticks. One, they argue that the devaluation of the rupee, from 98 to a dollar to 102 is the consequence of the protests and therefore all price movements connected with it such as elevated payments for imports as well as debt servicing, are part of the “losses” suffered by the economy. Two, they all say the declines suffered by the stock market are a “loss” for the economy. Let’s deal with each in turn.

How has the currency devaluation been caused by the protests? The value of the currency moves in connection with the supply of and demand for foreign exchange in the money markets. Usually, sharp downward swings are seen when reserves are low, which in turn cause shortages in the markets, and sometimes trigger speculative moves.

This is not the case these days. In fact, through the protests, reserves have only improved slightly, so there is no real shortage of foreign exchange in the money markets to create a downward move. The only other way a downward move can be produced is if the State Bank stops intervening for a brief period, thereby allowing the currency to fall as per a predetermined judgement.

The currency saw its steepest fall on Aug 11 when it crossed 99 to a dollar, considered a “psychological barrier” by the superstitious. That same day the IMF sent out a tweet urging us all to not “get overly concerned about 1 day movements in the exchange rate”. Somebody asked them: doesn’t this reflect the political uncertainty in the country? “Certainly” came the response. “My only point was that a one day movement is not yet a trend. Panic helps no one.”

But don’t believe everything you see on social media! The context of this little exchange was not the political protests, but the meetings that were under way in Dubai between the IMF and the government. You see, the State Bank and the Fund have been warning for a long time that the rupee is overvalued at 98 to a dollar, and the money markets were abuzz with rumours on that day of steep declines that the government has yielded to the IMF and agreed to bring the rupee to 102.

Subsequent movements in the exchange rate appear to bear this out. Even now, market players suggest that they see the State Bank begin to intervene every time the rupee goes too far from 102, meaning that it appears to be the new value. The protests only provided an excuse for a downward movement that was inevitable.

And yes, the stock market saw some declines in the early days of the protests, which some valued at Rs350bn, when it fell by 2,000 points over a couple of weeks. But it regained 1,900 of those points in the past few days, so what does that say for the “loss” suffered by the economy?

Truth of the matter is that the real cost of this whole exercise is impossible to quantify. There has been some material impact, in terms of loss of output and destruction of capital, but that is marginal compared to the real loss. In fact the real loss has been in confidence that Pakistan’s democratic story will survive, and it’s hard to put a number on that.

khurram.husain

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

Belated pillow fight

F.S. Aijazuddin

THE Temple of Heaven within Beijing’s Forbidden City was not built circular by accident. It symbolised the conviction that the throne of the Chinese emperor within it represented the epicentre of power. From it, authority radiated throughout China and beyond it, the world. The modern equivalent in Pakistan is a rectangular air-conditioned goods container, or more precisely two containers, parked in Islamabad’s forbidden Red Zone.

THE Temple of Heaven within Beijing’s Forbidden City was not built circular by accident. It symbolised the conviction that the throne of the Chinese emperor within it represented the epicentre of power. From it, authority radiated throughout China and beyond it, the world. The modern equivalent in Pakistan is a rectangular air-conditioned goods container, or more precisely two containers, parked in Islamabad’s forbidden Red Zone.

For the past three weeks, since Aug 14, two leaders — Tahirul Qadri a born-again Pakistani, and Imran Khan a born-again democrat — have claimed the right severally and jointly to determine the governance of 180 million plus Pakistanis.

With the same arrogance that the Chinese court once displayed in demanding that every visitor ‘kowtow’ to its emperor, these two have commanded their adoring public to pay homage at their feet. They demanded that opposition politicians approach them as supplicants. And at a diplomatic empyrean, they expected the Chinese president to visit a capital besieged by them, a capital in which even the country’s president cannot guarantee his own safety.

Nothing could be more symptomatic of the condescension with which Pakistan treats its relationship with the People’s Republic of China than its behaviour over the visit of the Chinese president, postponed only days before it was due to take place.

While both governments, like some Hollywood actor-couple asserting the durability of their marriage, take pains to repeat that their diplomatic conjugality is “as high as the Himalayas, as deep as the ocean, and as sweet as honey”, nevertheless, despite Pakistan’s cockiness and China’s Confucian sagacity, their relationship is like the painstakingly carved jade bowls from which the emperors once sipped their tea — adamantine, yet fragile.  

It has been said before that while Pakistan loves China for what China can do for Pakistan, China loves Pakistan despite what Pakistanis do to themselves. Move away for a moment, though, from an Islamabad-centric view. Step out of its Red Zone, and take a look at Pakistan from a Chinese perspective.

Also read: Postponement of Chinese president’s visit will not affect ties: senior diplomat

China needs Pakistan no more than a person suffering from schizophrenia needs two migraines. China does not require a warm water port that can provide it access to the oil-rich Gulf. Pakistan, unlike some equally unstable African countries, is not poised on an atoll of irresistibly valuable minerals. Pakistan can never match what India has begun to offer China — as a trading partner, as a friendly albeit wary neighbour, and as a powerful ally in international forums.

Unlike China and in time perhaps India, Pakistan will have barely enough food to feed its burgeoning population, scarcely enough electricity or gas to meet its escalating energy needs, hardly enough industrial growth to support its economic development, and nowhere near the science-based technical skills or IT expertise needed to compete in international markets. Then why should China continue to carry the weight of this basket-case of a country?

There is no one in Pakistan who could provide a cogent answer. There is probably no one in China who would dare to. One thing is known for sure. The Chinese must be sorely disappointed at the turn of events in Pakistan that should have resulted in the postponement of the visit of their president.

State visits at this level are the fruition of months of meticulous planning. Just as an example, before Queen Elizabeth II visited Pakistan in 1997, numerous advance teams came to reconnoitre — from the local British High Commission, the Foreign Office, the Queen’s Household, even the conductor of the military band that would play at the various royal functions.

Everything was planned — who she would meet; who she would shake hands with in the receiving line; who would receive only a nod; who would receive an award. The only thing left to chance was the behaviour of the aged Rolls Royce that she had used during an earlier visit in 1961 and which had been resurrected for a second round of duty with her.

State visits by foreign dignitaries are not like hotel bookings, vulnerable to last-minute cancellations. Everyone involved in arranging this visit is putting a brave face to this debacle. However, even the Chinese must have watched with dismay at what caused it, at the unseemly contest between Imran Khan, Chaudhry Nisar, Aitzaz Ahsan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi — all four of them Aitchisonians, all engaged in a pillow fight that should have been resolved years earlier, in their dormitories, not in parliament.

Know more: Aitzaz warns govt and ‘revolutionaries’ against violence

Many believe that Aitzaz Ahsan’s Mark Antonian-style speech during the joint session of parliament merits a place in Pakistan’s parliamentary history. The advice he gave to Nawaz Sharif had a briefer parallel in the remark made by a British parliamentarian to his opponent: “We are not your enemies. We are your adversaries. Your enemies sit beside you.”

The writer is an author and art historian.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

Two years after

Zeenat Hisam

“The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor” — Voltaire

“The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor” — Voltaire

IT has been two years since Pakistan’s worst industrial disaster took place in a garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi on Sept 9, 2012. A fire in the factory that day led to the loss of 259 precious lives and injuries to 55 workers who got trapped in the building because three out of four doors were locked from the outside. Locking the workers inside the premises is not uncommon in garment factories exporting to international buyers. An inquiry report released by the FIA as well as the case proceedings revealed violations of labour laws, safety laws and building by-laws by the factory owners and a number of state institutions.

Know more: Two years after factory fire tragedy, trial yet to start

Two notable aspects of the follow-up to this disaster are the nature of the criminal proceedings in the Sindh High Court (SHC) and the compensation to the bereaved families. Developments in both took place due to the pressure built by civil society organisations.

The scale of the tragedy compelled the Station House Officer concerned to register an FIR against the factory owners and relevant state bodies. The trial got impetus from two constitutional petitions filed collectively by labour and human rights groups. The first requested the SHC to determine the causes of the disaster, prosecute the accused individuals and state bodies for negligence and ensure compensation to the affected families. The second, filed by the same civil society groups, successfully halted the interference of the then prime minister in the criminal prosecution. This was one of the rare instances where the factory owners spent three and a half months behind bars for criminal negligence. Released on bail, they are not acquitted of the charges. The next hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

The labour organisation, PILER, in concert with a European labour pressure group, the Clean Clothes Campaign, pressurised German retail company KIK Textilion — the main importer of the Baldia factory’s products — to accept its share of responsibility. The company paid $1 million to the affected families and promised to negotiate long-term compensation. The high court constituted a commission to disburse the joint fund, contributed to by KIK Textilion, the factory owners and local philanthropists, to the affected families. The commission completed its task on Aug 28, 2014.

The third, and critical, aspect of the disaster relates to the existing safety conditions and labour law violations in thousands of big and small industrial units in the country. Sadly, when you review the post-disaster period, there is nothing much to write home about. Soon after the tragedy, there was a great public outcry. Different stakeholders — labour, corporate sector and the state — all shaken, held meetings, organised seminars, and spoke of the need to ensure labour compliance. Then the din died down.

There has been one initiative, that too, alas, on paper. Spurred by the International Labour Organisation-Pakistan, the Joint Action Plan for Promoting Workplace Safety and Health in Sindh (2013-2016) was formulated by the Sindh government, Employers Federation of Pakistan and Pakistan Workers Federation after a tripartite consultation in December 2012.

The three-year plan, launched in January 2013, talks of ‘proposed actions’ and ‘key deliverables’ that include provincial policies of occupational safety and health, labour inspection, amendments in laws, capacity building, etc. An eight-member task force was created to implement the plan. However, 18 months after its unveiling, aside from the formation of the steering committee, which has met twice, every ‘action’ remains ‘proposed’.

According to a member of the Joint Action Plan Task Force, “Currently there is no labour minister in Sindh, the labour adviser is not interested in labour issues and the labour secretary is changed every now and then. This government is not serious about labour compliance.” The corporate sector does not trust labour. Labour is highly fragmented, has no leadership and no vision.

There are no trade unions in the textile sector. Out of 2,500 textile houses in Pakistan, only 200 are exporting. Given that the right to form a union is an integral part of labour compliance, you would think 200 exporting houses would have active unions. Sadly, the exporters tend to register fake unions to get international certification. This was the case with Ali Enterprises, the factory in Baldia, which had no union and no safety provisions but was certified by the Italian company RINA for compliance.

Thus the most important dimension of the industrial disaster — safety and health at workplaces — remains unaddressed. The number of industrialists who recognise the importance of labour compliance is yet to reach a critical mass, while the existing labour movement is in total disarray and unable to initiate a collective campaign. Civil society organisations are project-oriented, with little space, resources or vision to push for real change.

The writer is associated with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.

zeenathisam2004

Published in Dawn, September 11th , 2014

Competing for jihadi space

Zahid Hussain

AMID the political melodrama currently being performed inside and outside parliament a more ominous development has escaped our attention. As the country’s political scene becomes more chaotic, global jihadi groups are seeking to expand their influence, taking advantage of the state’s increasingly fragmented authority. Both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State movement (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) are now competing for support from Islamist militants, raising serious security concerns in the region.

AMID the political melodrama currently being performed inside and outside parliament a more ominous development has escaped our attention. As the country’s political scene becomes more chaotic, global jihadi groups are seeking to expand their influence, taking advantage of the state’s increasingly fragmented authority. Both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State movement (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) are now competing for support from Islamist militants, raising serious security concerns in the region.

Apparently, prompted by the rapid rise of IS as the most powerful international militant network, Ayman al Zawahiri last week announced the creation of a new Al Qaeda franchise under the banner of Qeadat al-Jihad in an attempt to bolster his organisation’s presence in South Asia.

Operating for a long time from its bases in the tribal territories, Al Qaeda now fears it will lose ground to a better organised and a fiercer splinter militant network with an ambition to establish a so-called Islamic khilafat.

After its spectacular military success in Iraq and Syria, IS has announced its emergence in the restive South Asian region. Pamphlets urging Muslims to join the fight for establishment of a khilafat are being circulated and stickers featuring IS messages have regularly been spotted in north-western Pakistan.

A breakaway group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) calling itself Jamaatul Ahrar has expressed support for IS, which has established its brutal rule in large areas of war-ravaged territories in the Middle East. It will not be surprising if other radical militant and Sunni sectarian groups jump on this bandwagon soon. Apparently, hundreds of Pakistani volunteers form a significant part of the international jihad brigade currently fighting along IS in Syria and Iraq.

Afghanistan and Kashmir are the other regions where IS is reportedly seeking to boost its influence. Needless to say, both Pakistan and Afghanistan are shown as part of the Islamic caliphate envisaged in the Islamic State’s map. The group’s propaganda pamphlets in Dari and Pashto have reportedly appeared in eastern Afghanistan and in Afghan refugee camps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

For the IS, the uncertain security and political situation in Afghanistan close to the withdrawal of the US-led coalition troops by the end of the year provides an extremely favourable environment to win new supporters for its cause. It is, however, not clear whether the group will receive any positive response from the Afghan insurgents led by Mullah Omar.

Being an Al Qaeda breakaway group, IS has old links with various TTP factions and other Pakistani militant groups that go back to the war against the American forces in Iraq.

According to a website run by the group, two TTP members were sent by Qari Hussain to carry out the suicide bombing against the occupation forces in Iraq. A frontline TTP commander and a trainer for suicide bombing, Qari Hussain was killed in a US drone strike some time ago.

“The Mujahideen from Pakistan to Iraq are united, and there are no differences between them, and names like Tehreek-i-Taliban or ISIS are nothing but a strategy of war with no difference in belief. We are one,” declared a message on the website”.

That close ideological links between the Pakistani militant movement and IS exist was further substantiated by the recent demand for the release of Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for the release of Western hostages in the custody of IS. Recently, the group beheaded two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, after the demand for her release was rejected.

A Pakistani neurologist, Siddiqui, who was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 and is now serving a 86-year jail sentence in the United States, has been declared by IS as a “daughter of the ummah”. She fled the United States in 2002 after coming under FBI surveillance for her alleged connections with Al Qaeda. The circumstances of her arrest have, however, remained highly controversial. But the campaign launched by the Islamic State to get her released gives credence to the reports of her global jihadi connections. The move may also help the IS mobilise support among the Pakistani militants.

Substantially weakened by the loss of Osama bin Laden and many of its other senior leaders killed in CIA drone strikes or currently in US custody, Al Qaeda finds it extremely tough to compete with the impressive and highly effective propaganda machinery of IS.

After sweeping through Iraq and Syria, IS appears to have far greater capacity to lure Muslim militants across the world than Al Qaeda whose leaders are mostly operating underground and who do not have control over any territory. Thousands of foreign jihadists including those from Europe and the United States have helped IS develop into a fierce fighting force.

Over the years, Al Qaeda in Pakistan has been transformed, with local militant commanders replacing the dead and arrested members of the original leadership nucleus. The new generation of Al Qaeda commanders mostly comes from the ranks of outlawed Pakistani militant groups and from mainstream Islamic political parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami. The capacity of Al Qaeda to operate has been further crippled by the latest offensive by the Pakistani Army in North Waziristan Agency that had become its main base.

In this situation, the Islamic State, pursuing a more violent form of jihad, is most likely to find greater appeal among the militant cadres as evident from the large number of foreign fighters joining its ranks. Unsurprisingly, IS has overshadowed Al Qaeda whose increasingly fragmented and tired leadership is hardly a match for the well-oiled fighting machinery of the new global jihadi outfit.

The political imbroglio in Islamabad and the shrinking authority of the state have only opened up new opportunities for global terrorist networks. What is most troubling, however, is that the rise of the IS with its fiercely anti-Shia stance could further fuel sectarian violence in the country creating more problems for Pakistan’s struggle against militant violence.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Men and explanations

Rafia Zakaria

IN 2008, author Rebecca Solnit went to a party with a female friend. The event was organised by a well-known and wealthy man. At the end of the party the host approached the author and her friend and asked, in the patronising manner reserved for children being asked about their favourite candy, “What do you do?”

IN 2008, author Rebecca Solnit went to a party with a female friend. The event was organised by a well-known and wealthy man. At the end of the party the host approached the author and her friend and asked, in the patronising manner reserved for children being asked about their favourite candy, “What do you do?”

The exchange, and its arrogance and condescension (the man proceeded to lecture her about the content of a book she had written), provoked Solnit to write the essay Men Explain Things to Me. As she says in the opening, “the out and out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is in my opinion gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they are talking about.”

Solnit’s essay caused a stir. Feminists are used to mourning the vast list of gendered violence, exclusion, wage differentials and social controls that are heaped on women around the world. They are less likely to underline and protest what Solnit aptly termed “micro-aggressions”, the small everyday ways in which women are silenced, disciplined and shown condescension.

This, Solnit argued, was the slippery slope of silence, which begins with men believing that they are entitled to and hence always have the superior knowledge to instruct and inform women. In its most egregious cases, it involves the diminution of women to lesser humans. The example she gives is that of Pakistan where, by law, the testimony of women in rape cases does not equal that of a man. The germ of the idea that a woman is less credible and unreliable is here magnified in its most grotesque form.

The publication of Men Explain Things to Me has in the years since birthed its own vocabulary of contention, challenging this everyday form of male aggression. The term ‘mansplaining’, coined by a pseudonymous blogger and based on Solnit’s ruminations, has since come to stand for the practice when a man chooses to tell how things really are, ignores your opinions or expertise or considers it unworthy of respect. In a more recent iteration, the hashtag ‘Yes All Women’ was coined as a response to what Solnit isolates in the essay as the ‘not all men’ argument.

This is the label for the condition that occurs every time a conversation is begun with a man (or men) regarding gender violence, sexual assault, or any such issue; its direction is immediately diverted by the man or men to his individual innocence rather than the depth or breadth of the problem. The supremacy of the male thus controls the conversation, often determining that the issue in question is not worthy of attention (or worse still, must be discarded as a joke) simply because he is not personally culpable. ‘Not all men’ is dished out often and with little restraint; its consequence, the shutting up of ‘yes all women’.

Solmit’s essay’s particular pertinence to Pakistan also deserves mention. For the few in Pakistan who care, and their numbers dwindle every day, the location of the country as the far recess of women’s emancipation is now no longer a novelty. It is thus little surprise that the continuum of silencing that Solnit mentions marks its farthest point in Pakistan, where, as she mentioned in a recent interview, women are “stoned” on courthouse steps. Indeed, in the face of such large and dark burdens of male domination, should the micro-aggressions, the slippery slopes of silencings as Solnit calls them, even be considered?

The answer is yes and the reasons are simple. Isolating and noting the everyday behaviour in which men routinely silence and patronise women points out the aggressions and entitlements not simply of the men who encase their misogyny in religious garb, but those who otherwise tout their theoretical commitment to gender equity. These men have their own arsenal of intimidation, where respecting women who choose to debate with them is perceived as a request to be automatically denied.

A woman’s engagement with men, they believe, means a tacit acquiescence to being treated poorly, looked down upon, roughed up and toughed up; civility, propriety and all the other rules they would use with other men are hence simply and easily discarded. Such men are the biggest champions of the ‘not all men’ argument, instruments ultimately in ensuring that patriarchy, which they theoretically oppose but daily enjoy, persists forever.

Another reason why such vigilance to ‘mansplaining’ and its misogynistic micro-aggressions is useful in Pakistan is because it connects women in a structural environment committed to disconnecting them from each other and a collective consciousness of gender identity. If the highly educated doctor ‘mansplained’ to by a wealthy businessman, or the lawyer talked down to by the son of the owner of the company can understand just how these behaviours connect to the larger gender-based inequities in Pakistan, then bonds have been created that do not currently exist.

Cumulatively, it takes away the trope that imagines misogyny to be a war that needs to be fought only by the women pelted with acid or imprisoned for adultery, and applies to all the rest whose abilities to contest and challenge may be significantly greater. Solnit’s own words summarise the situation well: “Arrogance might have something to do with the war, but this syndrome is a war that nearly every woman faces every day, a war within herself too, belief in her own superfluity, an invitation to silence.” As Solnit asserts in her conclusion, women everywhere, Pakistan and elsewhere, must thus fight a war on two fronts: one for the right to speak on any particular topic, whether it be war or peace or security or law or medicine; and the other the right to speak at all.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Our own Berridales?

Zubeida Mustafa

DEMOCRACY is a misunderstood term that has been overused in the discourse surrounding the ongoing political drama in Islamabad.

DEMOCRACY is a misunderstood term that has been overused in the discourse surrounding the ongoing political drama in Islamabad.

There have been repeated references to democracy and human rights by the dharna leaders and legislators in parliament, which have only increased myths about these political concepts. No one speaks about the empowerment of the people which should be the aim of democracy — to enable citizens to help themselves and win their rights. This idea appears alien to Pakistan. People’s empowerment is possible without actually bringing about a revolution.

Thousands of miles away from home, I find business to be as usual in Glasgow, a city at present in the grip of Scotland’s independence referendum debate. For me this was an opportunity to observe the Scottish way of life. Last Saturday, courtesy Irene, to whom I had been introduced earlier, I spent some time at the ‘Open Day’ of the Berridale Allotments and Gardens which is a project that can be emulated by us with due indigeni\sation to empower urban women.

Glasgow, a city of nearly 600,000 with an area of 175 square kilometers, has translated into practice the concept of public ownership of the commons. The city council has earmarked on state land 26 ‘allotments’ — areas leased to people for gardening purposes — half of which are managed by private associations. The council describes the benefits of an allotment as providing opportunities of socialising, relaxation, exercise, and economical food production, especially organic food.

Berridale is one of these. With 51 members, it covers an area of one and three-quarter acres. The members pay an annual fee of £67 to provide for the overheads and other facilities. They gathered last week to compete for prizes for the best products ranging from exotic sunflowers to giant-sized carrots.

Why can’t we have such Berridales in our cities if the amenity plots that have not already been grabbed by land-hungry builders are marked for a similar purpose and allotted to poor women living in the vicinity to cultivate food for their families? Going by the claims of experts, this should not require too much space. Najma Sadeque of Shirkat Gah’s Green Economics had organised a workshop some years ago to demonstrate how a kitchen garden can be feasibly grown in the balcony of an apartment.

We have been crying for land reforms for decades now. The resistance by political parties led by the feudals and the Supreme Court’s foot-dragging on the petition of the Awami Workers Party to have the Sharia court’s 1990 ruling that declares land reforms un-Islamic annulled makes it unlikely that massive land holdings will ever be redistributed. The struggle for land reforms has to continue.

Meanwhile, the allotments idea should be considered seriously. If small plots of urban land are leased out to underprivileged women and stringent conditions attached to their use, there is no reason why they would not obtain some relief from poverty and why their children should not be better fed.

Of course, the scheme must be properly regulated. The holdings should be given to women only — they have proved more trustworthy in many microcredit projects — and the land should not be transferable under any condition. There should be no question of commercialisation. The maximum sale transactions permissible should be to fellow members who cannot meet their own and their families’ needs.

Given their track record, the KMC/local bodies cannot be expected to execute the scheme in its true spirit. They can at least be asked to lease small plots of land specifically meant for growing vegetables to philanthropists and community-based organisations. The idea should be to create facilities for growing food crops to promote food security.

This may require the managers to donate and raise funds for providing some basic infrastructure such as a reservoir for water storage, seeds, manure and agricultural implements. The place should be run as a cooperative with female tenants being encouraged to contribute a modest monthly amount to sustain the management subsidised by donations. The more enterprising members could always be motivated to benefit from classes on gardening and agriculture.

These Berridales would help make our cities green. For instance, Karachi already plays host to many plant nurseries located on traffic islands or roadside land. I do not grudge them. After all, they brighten up the environment. The planters run their tiny gardens primarily as commercial concerns.

The land strips for women should not be commercialised. They should be food-growing factories to feed the children of the women who cultivate them. Since the land involved would not be of a massive size it should not tempt greedy builders into grabbing it to construct multistoreyed apartment complexes or shopping malls.

For the Good Samaritans in our midst this should be an opportunity to help women help themselves while giving them self-esteem.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Russia and the West

Mahir Ali

LAST week’s Nato summit in the Welsh city of Newport was hyped up as a momentous occasion that would reinforce the relevance of the Western military alliance, which has struggled to identify a raison d’être since the collapse of European communism.

LAST week’s Nato summit in the Welsh city of Newport was hyped up as a momentous occasion that would reinforce the relevance of the Western military alliance, which has struggled to identify a raison d’être since the collapse of European communism.

Its role in the post-9/11 occupation of Afghanistan has turned out to have been less than a resounding success. Likewise its incredibly misguided intervention in Libya three years ago.

The consequences of whatever actions Nato undertakes in Iraq may well turn out to be equally uncongenial, but the forays of the so-called Islamic State (IS) have offered it some kind of goal to strive for. Inevitably, that provided a significant agenda item for Newport — the first Nato summit on British territory since 1990.

The host, David Cameron, signposted an even more key concern, meanwhile, when he told a European Union summit in Brussels the previous week: “We run the risks of repeating the mistakes made in Munich in ’38… This time we cannot meet [Vladimir] Putin’s demands. He has already taken Crimea and we cannot allow him to take the whole country.”

Although Ukraine is not a Nato member state, the problems in its east have provided the alliance with a European crisis to tackle. Even before the Western leaders congregated in Newport, there were indications that a rapid response force would be proposed as a means of challenging Russian aggression.

Such a force did indeed turn out to be one of the more cogent outcomes of the summit, although its deployment in Ukraine is out of the question. Beyond that, however, Putin deftly blunted Nato’s potential sting by proposing a ceasefire plan for eastern Ukraine and persuading his counterpart in Kiev, Petro Poroshenko, to accept it.

Poroshenko was a lionised guest in Newport, and undermining his declared aims would have put Nato in an absurd position. Thus outmanoeuvred by Putin, it could do little else but to lamely endorse the truce.

Back in Kiev, meanwhile, Ukraine’s prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk dismissed Putin’s peace proposal as a trap. He has frequently referred to Russia as a terrorist state and appears to believe that Putin’s ultimate aim is to resurrect the Soviet Union.

The post-Maidan prime minister has ensconced himself so far up the rear tract of the Western digestive system that it is impossible to imagine him emerging intact from any extraction procedure. It is just as well that Ukraine’s legislative elections next month will in all likelihood lead to his replacement by a more sensible head of government. And for the moment it is fortunate that the recently elected Poroshenko appears to have the final say.

The Ukrainian president communicates frequently with his Russian counterpart, which is crucial in maintaining the ceasefire declared last Friday following talks in Minsk between government and rebel representatives.

The possibly temporary calm is undoubtedly a blessing for the civilians in Donetsk and its surrounds who were bearing the brunt of the shelling. But it is also something of a reprieve for government forces, which have been on the retreat — ostensibly because the ranks of the separatist rebels have been swelled by Russian army regulars.

That at least is the Western and official Ukrainian narrative, although there seems to be plenty of circumstantial evidence suggesting this is not a complete fantasy. That possibility squares with the fact that Kiev’s forces suffered crushing defeats in the fortnight or so preceding the truce.

In the days before the Soviet Union conclusively imploded, the US administration endorsed Mikhail Gorbachev’s view that Moscow’s military withdrawal from Eastern Europe must not presage Nato’s expansion. That spoken agreement has been violated with impunity.

Cameron’s reference to 1938 was intended as a reference to Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” pact with Adolf Hitler. When Russia looks back to that period, it sees the absence of buffer states that exposed it to a lightning Nazi invasion.

Josef Stalin’s appeal to nationalism was crucial in the Soviet defeat of the Nazi menace. The significance of the fact that the authorities in Kiev enjoy neo-Nazi support is not lost either on Moscow or on Russian-speaking Ukrainians who dominate the country’s east. Many of them are determined to secure independence, but autonomy within a Ukrainian context should suffice.

Putin is in many respects a nasty character, who last week warned the president of the European Commission his forces could take Kiev within a fortnight. That would, obviously, be incredibly stupid, and there are no indications that Putin intends to take it. But it certainly wouldn’t pay to provoke him, thereby feeding into a frenzy that could unleash a third world war.

It’s a delicate situation in Ukraine. But it can be handled relatively peacefully, provided the idiotic likes of Cameron and Yatsenyuk can be dissuaded from provoking a catastrophe.

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2014

Democracy and transformation

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

IT is uncertain whether the wretched show in Islamabad is drawing to a close or entering a new phase. Maybe the floods are a divine warning to our so-called leaders to stop fiddling while Pakistan drowns. There is desperate hope that some good may yet come out of the ridiculous shenanigans of almost a month. But do any of our leaders look as if they will learn anything from this tragicomedy that is pure tragedy for the people? As for the media, it is orgasmic over ‘script writers’, ‘connecting the dots’, ‘Kayani doctrines’, ‘Plans A, B and C’, division of national policymaking between elected civilians and the permanent ‘deep state’, etc.

IT is uncertain whether the wretched show in Islamabad is drawing to a close or entering a new phase. Maybe the floods are a divine warning to our so-called leaders to stop fiddling while Pakistan drowns. There is desperate hope that some good may yet come out of the ridiculous shenanigans of almost a month. But do any of our leaders look as if they will learn anything from this tragicomedy that is pure tragedy for the people? As for the media, it is orgasmic over ‘script writers’, ‘connecting the dots’, ‘Kayani doctrines’, ‘Plans A, B and C’, division of national policymaking between elected civilians and the permanent ‘deep state’, etc.

None of the main cast inside and outside parliament, with honourable exceptions, has emerged with any credit. It is pure fantasy to think this soft state spectacle can translate into movement towards better governance and more inclusive and institutional democracy. The political system is simply proof against any serious commitment to addressing the fundamental needs and entitlements of our people. Not even the indefinite ‘postponement’ of the visit of the president of China, our most important friend and neighbour, can shame the shameless. The attempt to drag his visit into our political wrangling is unforgiveable.

Can the prime minister now take responsibility and rise to the occasion by enabling fresh, free and fair and non-controversial elections under a genuinely independent caretaker government and a credible election commission, even if he is understandably and justifiably convinced that neither law nor established fact compel him to do so? Can this, including essential minimum electoral reform, be done in 90 days? Or will all the change we can look forward to amount to what the French say: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change the more they are the same.) That would be the confirmation of a failing state. Anybody concerned?

Democracy has become a mantra. It generally means the rule of the people. Plato despised it as the rule of the mob that inevitably led to dictatorship and tyranny. The authors of the US constitution were slave-owners and ardent advocates of Enlightenment democracy minus the unenlightened masses. The US has by and large adhered to this rule of the one per cent. Churchill regarded democracy as the worst form of governance except for all the others. Lee Kuan Yew observed democracy was like a Rolls Royce. It is the best car on the road. Buy it if you can afford it. If not, it will be the worst investment you can make. He said for democracy not to be a mockery of itself, the people would first need to have an economic stake in it. Otherwise, they would simply ask for the moon. We have democracy without governance and electricity!

Real change takes time. But what should be possible is to get onto the right path and make progress towards it. This will require scale and quality of effort, the progressive emergence of an appropriate political culture and the development of essential institutions of governance. This will entail a colossal investment in the full range of human resource development. Does our power structure, as reflected in our budget allocations and revenue collection, permit this? Our politically astute ‘leaders’ have other priorities, ranging from nursing their bank accounts to nursing their egos.

A social and political transformation can never be promoted by ‘long marches’ and political theatre including passionate and rehearsed declamations. It means achieving what today may be considered ‘impossible’ by releasing the people’s pent-up moral, social and intellectual energies on an unprecedented scale. It comprises focused and continuous activity, analysis, consultation, discussion, mobilization and organization at every level of society. Only such a participatory process can maximize ownership of political agendas, policies and goals. Does any such vision even occur to our essentially uneducated and uninterested ego-stricken political peacocks?

The greatest barrier to national transformation is said to be the intolerance of religious orthodoxy that permeates our entire society. This is true. But the message of Islam is clearly inclusive, indeed universal, tolerant, mindful of exploitation and oppression, and congenial to rational inquiry. It was centuries after the Prophet (PBUH) when the school of tradition and consensus politically prevailed over the school of informed opinion and reasoned reception. The doors of ijtehad were closed. This was a political development within a religious tradition which provided the basis for orthodoxy for the next 1,000 years.

It enabled the community of believers to survive two calamitous encounters: the destruction wrought by the Mongols and the humiliations inflicted by the West. But it also circumscribed the nature and effectiveness of the responses of Muslim societies to the challenges of modernity and globalisation by inhibiting the internalising of the scientific temper, including the spirit of rational enquiry which had once been the pride of a confident Islamic civilisation.

Many of Islam’s greatest thinkers, including Allama Iqbal, have sought to ‘reopen the doors of ijtehad’ to allow the reception of Islam’s eternal truths in a manner compatible with a successful engagement with contemporary challenges.

However, intellectual, moral and political passivity — in the face of an intolerant, ignorant and violent conservatism that sets a narrow interpretation of divine injunctions against the liberation and welfare of the Muslim masses — has largely frustrated efforts at reforming religious thought. As a result, Muslim societies have generally been denied progress in scientific knowledge, technological development, political freedom and well-being. Our opportunistic leaders are irredeemably irrelevant.

A transition to modernity has to be achieved, or be under way, for concepts such as democracy, the constitution and the rule of law to be effective and meaningful for our people and society. Otherwise, they will tend to reflect, even legitimise, the control of prevailing power structures and practices inimical to social and political progress. Without massive investments in education, health, socio-economic security and institutional capacity, the conventional checklists of democracy and good governance will never amount to progress towards transformation.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

The Lucknow qawwal and ‘love jihad’

Jawed Naqvi

A POPULAR qawwal from Lucknow was invited to perform in Lahore, or so goes the apocryphal story I heard from a wit in Mumbai.

A POPULAR qawwal from Lucknow was invited to perform in Lahore, or so goes the apocryphal story I heard from a wit in Mumbai.

On his first day at the farshi soirée, right in the first row, replete with enormous sausage pillows and glistening white sheets, sat the leading Lahori connoisseurs of music. The genial qawwal was clad in Lucknow’s trademark flower-patterned sherwani and a matching cap. As he cleared his throat to align the singing voice with the third black key of the harmonium, a music enthusiast spotted the possibility that the evening was going to start with an overdone religious composition.

“Can we start with Heer instead?” The request from the front row befuddled the qawwal. “What is Heer, please? I’ve never sung it before,” the visitor pleaded.

They told him the story of Heer-Ranjha, how it was similar to Romeo-Juliet, Laila-Majnu, Abla-Antaar. It was about the tragedy of two doomed lovers — but chiefly about the girl, Heer, who dared to love Ranjha, a handsome lad from a rival village. In the end they both died, targeted by hatred spawned by their rival communities. The story moved the qawwal to tears and he could not sing that evening.

The next day he was to perform at Kasur where he pre-empted the hosts by confessing to his ignorance about Heer. Why not Sohni-Mahiwal then, came the collective request. It was, after all, yet another story of a local girl eloping with a boy from a banished community and how they both died in the end in each other’s arms. Requests followed elsewhere for the visitor to try singing the poems to Sassi-Punnu, Mirza-Sahiban and so forth.

The gentleman from Lucknow was deeply affected by what he heard and returned home sooner than his family had thought he would. Upon being quizzed by his two young daughters about the hasty retreat, the qawwal was all praise for his Lahori hosts. They were a lovely people, very generous with their hospitality. “Lekin mujhey laga ke waha’n ke har ghar se koi larka ya larki bhaagey huey hai’n.” (I got a distinct feeling that a boy or a girl had eloped from every home I visited.)

To many of India’s cultural simpletons itching to join Hindutva’s battle against Quixotic windmills called ‘love jihad’ the story of Rani Rupmati and Baz Bahadur of Malwa would perhaps be even more complicated.

Belonging to the period of Emperor Akbar, the popular tragedy has a Muslim hero and a Muslim villain. One falls in love with a Hindu singer and marries her (according to Hindu and Muslim rites) while the other covets her as a bad guy would in a Hindi film, and in so doing defeats her husband Baz Bahadur in a battle. Tragically, the villain thereby forces the singer-queen to kill herself with poison.

There have been reports out of Tokyo about the percussion prowess of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a recent visit to Japan. The reports were sketchy, and it was not clear if and how the prime minister showed up as a trained player of drums, and of what kind — tabla, dholak, pakhavaj, mridangam, bongo. Or was he flaunting his skills with ancient Japan’s taiko drums?

What we can say with some degree of certainty, with the hindsight of his self-limiting politics of identity, is that, much like the qawwal from Lucknow, the prime minister needs to open up his cultural (and musical) apertures. He too must get to know more about true love and its many celebrations across the sprawling mosaic he sees as a monolithic Hindu nation, between boys and girls, men and women of different beliefs and languages.

After all, Mr Modi is only a manifestation of his patriarchal Hindutva flock, the leader of a party that is quietly acquiescing in, when it is not actively canvassing for, a cultural and physical segregation of simple folk — Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs that make up the beautifully complex Indian milieu.

The idea of ‘love jihad’ — a derogatory name coined for those Muslim boys who marry or befriend a Hindu girl to convert her to their religion — is an insult, among others, to the memory of the legendary Aruna Asaf Ali. Hindutva votaries would see the Gandhian revolutionary as a Hindu woman who betrayed her religion by taking a Muslim husband who became India’s first ambassador to the United States.

It would be demeaning to discuss in this context the lumpenised Hindutva perception of love and marriage outside hidebound religious and caste barriers, the narrow ideology it shores up. Acharya Giriraj Kishore, an ageing leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad told my journalist niece (who took a Hindu husband) a bizarre secret. Muslim men get surgery done “to give pleasure to our women”.

The Hindutva mobilisation in western Uttar Pradesh has spawned politically useful but overwhelmingly fictitious claims of Muslim men raping Hindu women or converting them by force. Crucial by-elections are due shortly for the Uttar Pradesh assembly where Mr Modi’s party did exceedingly well in May but could be struggling this time. While it is never too difficult to find the odd incident that matches the accusation of religiously inspired ‘marriages’ the claims mostly have an electorally handy purpose.

Mr Modi had similarly eliminated the joyous participation of Muslim girls and boys in the predominantly Hindu, but culturally mixed, dandiya dance celebrations in Gujarat. Did that deter Hansal Mehta though, the Gujarati filmmaker of opposite view to come up with an amazing rebuttal of Hindutva in his award-winning movie Shahid? Or did it stop him from marrying Safina Husain, a robustly professional Muslim woman who runs an educational NGO for disadvantaged girls of different religions?

Mr Modi has sought comfort in religious motifs. The legend of Heer-Ranjha would disturb him just as it troubled the qawwal from Lucknow.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

Changing goalposts

Basil Nabi Malik

THE Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has recently submitted a set of proposals to the PML-N for resolving the ongoing political impasse. Although it has been contended that the proposals make contradictory claims, another aspect requires attention.

THE Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has recently submitted a set of proposals to the PML-N for resolving the ongoing political impasse. Although it has been contended that the proposals make contradictory claims, another aspect requires attention.

Under the Representation of the People Act (Ropa), 1976, an election can be declared void if the tribunal is satisfied that the results have been materially affected by a violation of the provisions of Ropa or the prevalence of extensive corrupt or illegal practices. Loosely put, a result would be seen to be ‘materially affected’ if the acts of rigging were to change the outcome of the election. The wisdom behind such a requirement is to avoid re-election in situations where, although rigging took place, the actual number of rigged votes was not sufficient to change the overall result.

Claims of poll manipulations are to be adjudged by election tribunals that in doing so allow detailed evidence to be examined and cross-examined so as to determine whether the alleged rigging was of a nature that required the annulment of polls.

However, if the PTI proposal is accepted, the above-mentioned safeguards may no longer remain in place. In the proposal, the PTI would choose 30, or less, constituencies of the National Assembly for investigation by a judicial commission. If the selected constituencies show ‘rigging’, as defined by the PTI, the election process in over 270 constituencies of the National Assembly would be declared void.

Needless to say, action on the proposal would have serious consequences for the country, with issues arising with regard to the objectivity of the sample chosen, and the question of whether it could be considered representative of the happenings in various constituencies.

Other than that, the PTI also seeks to define the manner in which the judicial commission will investigate such constituencies and the standard of evidence that will be acceptable.

It proposes that the judicial commission will carry out summary proceedings, without thorough and detailed evaluation of evidence, and that circumstantial evidence, which may not be considered otherwise, would also be factored in when it comes to its decision.

Shockingly, the PTI’s allegations shall be ‘deemed’ to be ipso facto proven, without substantiating actual fraud, if complainants are simply able to show, on the face of it, that there has been an effect on the transparency, integrity, and credibility of the polls, amongst other things, in the constituencies investigated.

Allegations of massive rigging would also be deemed to have been proved by simply pointing to votes unverified due to substandard magnetic ink; constituencies where a high number of votes were rejected as invalid; and by pointing to constituencies where irregularities occurred but could not be shown to have been intentionally undertaken against the PTI or in favour of any returning candidate.

The test of the election being ‘materially affected’ has seemingly also been done away with, or at the very least, diluted. On the face of it, the ‘rigging’ test, as per the PTI, does not take into account that elections in a constituency remain valid even if irregularities have been insignificant. The position seems to be in line with party policy that has long considered even an iota of rigging in one constituency as conclusive proof of rigging throughout the country.

However, the more worrying aspect of the proposal is the attempt to judge the 2013 elections on the basis of laws which have yet to be enacted. In effect, the PTI seeks to scrutinise the elections on the basis of a yardstick not in existence in the year 2013, and in stark contrast to the existing standards and legal framework agreed upon by all parties that participated in the polls. In a nutshell, if the new yardstick for free and fair elections is applied retrospectively, an election could now be undone for things which may be illegal in terms of the new laws, but legal by virtue of the law that was in existence in 2013.

In conclusion, the proposals appear to be an indictment of the PTI’s claims that it has sufficient evidence to prove rigging. In perhaps realising that it may not be able to show rigging in the presence of the existing electoral laws, the PTI now appears to be trying to create a supra election structure that would investigate constituencies of its choosing, consider evidence of its liking, and render decisions of its making.

If such a judicial commission is set up, the allegedly rigged 2013 elections shall be investigated by a body which in and of itself would be severely compromised, restricted, and ironically, ‘rigged’.

The writer is an attorney-at-law.

basil.nabi

Twitter: @basilnabi

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

Choice before us

Mohammad Zubair Khan

A PIVOTAL argument of Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah is the need for a powerful, just authority that protects citizens of a civilised state from the excesses of more powerful citizens, who by the nature of mankind are prone to aggression and greed. The 14th-century scholar’s argument cannot be more apt than in present-day Pakistan.

A PIVOTAL argument of Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah is the need for a powerful, just authority that protects citizens of a civilised state from the excesses of more powerful citizens, who by the nature of mankind are prone to aggression and greed. The 14th-century scholar’s argument cannot be more apt than in present-day Pakistan.

In theory, Pakistan’s institutions through their collective roles are the ‘powerful and just’ authority, for protection of citizens. Unfortunately, we are increasingly witnessing the failure of institutions and government in providing justice to citizens in all aspects of life — whether fundamental rights or justice on economic, social, criminal and civil issues. They repeatedly fail when dealing with the powerful, who have escaped the rule of law by colluding together and corrupting the very institutions which would hold them accountable. They have placed undeserving people in positions of responsibility and authority who can be easily swayed. There’s little justice for the weak. They have silently suffered injustices and turned to prayer. But no more it seems.

The events of the last three weeks were unprecedented in Pakistan’s recent political history. Two groups of people marched into the capital to demand justice peacefully but loudly, when the normal routes for redress were denied to them. One of them has been aggrieved by a powerful political party in government, the other by the system itself. Naturally they had been denied justice. How else could they make their case, and to whom?

The groups articulated their case before the people of Pakistan and vowed not to leave unless justice was done. Unfortunately, their pleas fell on deaf ears. Many people are prisoners of their political affiliations and oblivious to the voice of their conscience. These people were shocked at the ‘rude’ manner of speech but unmoved by the horrendous acts of injustice. Pakistanis have learnt to look the other way when they see injustice; some lack compassion, others benefit from the status quo.

Many commentators chose to denounce the cries for justice as ‘undemocratic’. Outside parliament, it is absurdly argued, the people have no right to express their opinion and seek justice.

To divert attention from the issues at hand and acts of injustice against which people had gathered, the debate descended to the level of the choice of location where such demonstrations should be rightly held, if at all. Unrepentant of its earlier brutality, the government used overwhelming force, killing people and seriously injuring scores. The scale and severity of police brutality on our citizens appears unprecedented in our history and for what crime? Its broadcast on television intimidated many who may have dreamt of seeking justice against powerful politicians. It demonstrated the lack of value of citizens’ lives in the minds of the elected government. Yet state institutions which are the custodians of justice kept silent.

Next the debate descended into the darkness that envelops the minds of the powerful and their mouthpieces in strategic places. How many people were there in the demonstrations or dharna? It doesn’t matter. It never dawned on our blind leaders that even if there was one old woman in rags seeking justice against a powerful government, it was a voice powerful enough that could sweep away anyone standing in its way, if justice existed in this sad country.

Debate shifted to parliament. No speech on the central role of justice in a democracy. Members denounced those asking for justice outside parliament to protect democracy and parliament. They rallied together against those who might take away their power. No one was. The only threat to members was from the administration of justice if it ever was meted out in this country. An election audit threatens particular members, not parliament. The dignity of parliament is unquestionable but individual members are responsible for their own dignity.

Are they ready for an audit of the votes they polled, or for examination of their pre-poll affidavits submitted to returning officers which ‘could not be verified’ conveniently due to shortage of time? To be worthy of our parliament, each member must submit to audits on both counts since serious questions have been raised. Their refusal to do so appears an admission of guilt.

Demands for justice remain unheeded. Parliamentarians favour status quo over justice. Pakistan awaits Ibn Khaldun’s powerful and just authority to protect its aggrieved citizens against the brutality of the powerful. The Constitution has clearly assigned institutional responsibilities, but will the persons in those institutions rise above their prejudices and affiliations to fulfil their responsibilities? Time will tell if we are a civilised just society or if a great upheaval forces us to protect the weak, wretched and downtrodden of our society. The choice is ours, may Allah guide us.

The writer is a former minister.

Published in Dawn, September 9th , 2014

A new regime change model?

Babar Sattar

The unfortunate reality is that no one seems willing to learn anything from the mess our power elite has landed us in. We are unable to get out of the vicious cycle because we don’t want to.

The unfortunate reality is that no one seems willing to learn anything from the mess our power elite has landed us in. We are unable to get out of the vicious cycle because we don’t want to.

Despite its failure multiple times, every 10 years or so we rehash the same khaki-backed saviour programme to address our multifarious challenges.

As Raza Rabbani candidly acknowledged in parliament, what we are witnessing is another manifestation of the perennial conflict for ascendancy within our power elite.

Cynics speculated that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) marches must be khaki-inspired (even before Javed Hashmi spoke) because khaki intervention was the only means available for overthrowing the PML-N regime and bringing in the ‘revolution’.

During the ’90s, multiple factors allowed khakis the top slot within the power pyramid: 58(2b) and a president who could sack a government for corruption or breakdown of constitutional machinery; a judiciary that would sign on the dotted line; and easy to manufacture forward blocs.

Much has changed since the ’90s: 58(2b) is gone and the prime minister dissolving the National Assembly is the only constitutional route to mid-term polls; with Article 63-A (that disqualifies a parliamentarian who defects during a vote of confidence etc) and a national consensus against turncoats, manufacturing forward blocs isn’t as easy or useful; the judiciary survived a coup (or emergency-plus, if you like) in 2007 and since then ‘PCO judge’ has come to be recognised as a four-letter word; and the vibrant 24/7 electronic media shaping opinion is hard to control.

Our mainstream parties essentially concluded in the Charter of Democracy that even while playing dirty they would stop short of sleeping with the khakis to overthrow a government. The PPP imposed governor’s rule in Punjab in 2009 and the PML-N ignited the ‘memogate’ affair, but the khakis were kept at bay.

The joint parliamentary session is also meant to reaffirm allegiance to the same ‘code’. What has created a window for the khakis is that PTI, a party that didn’t partake in the ’90s politics, probably finds this code an undue restraint on its ambition.

For simplicity, let’s distinguish the three stages of influence or control by the khakis: Stage 1 where the khakis retain monopoly over key areas of state policies from behind the curtain; Stage 2 where regime change can be effected without direct intervention; and Stage 3 where the khakis assume direct control of the state.

Under Gen Kayani, the khakis seemed content with Stage 1 presence: absolute control over national security and foreign policy, while allowing civilians to make hay within their limited domestic political domain.

Let us recall that the PPP regime also had ideas about fixing the civil-military imbalance at first. Post-Mumbai we saw the scuffle over ISI’s control and then the skies caving in over Kerry-Lugar’s content.

Things stabilised once the areas of control, influence and interest of the khakis and civilian government became relatively well-defined and respected.

Even later in the day, Hussain Haqqani had to be sacrificed during memogate when the khakis felt he had strayed past the ring-fenced civilian domain.

With the Musharraf trial, independent ideas about Pakistan’s foreign policy towards India, Afghanistan and Middle East and the attempt to rein in the ISI using Geo, Nawaz Sharif not only threatened to disturb the Stage 1 equilibrium but also committed the unforgivable sin of creating an impression that khaki leadership is no longer ‘untouchable’.

This generated anger and probably also cultivated the sense that securing Stage 1 equilibrium with the Nawaz regime might not be possible without acquiring Stage 2 capability.

But how do you effect regime change without enabling constitutional provisions or an obliging judiciary ready to endorse a Bangladesh Model? Fellow columnist Abbas Nasir wonders if dharnas are the new 58(2b). They probably are, with two provisos.

One, agitators must have such overwhelming numbers that it can be claimed with some credibility that citizens have spoken against the regime and repressing them through use of force might ignite civil war. And two, the general in charge must be willing to move to Stage 3 if the threat of use of force doesn’t work.

Had PTI and PAT been able to bring even half a million people to parade on Constitution Avenue and attack buildings at will, Nawaz Sharif might have been history.

Had Javed Hashmi not added to the speculation that PTI/PAT are fomenting an ‘on-demand revolution’, Nawaz Sharif might have been history.

Had there been a general at the helm with the inclination, ambition and nerve to overthrow the government, suspend the Constitution, dismiss the judges, shut down the media and repress civil society, Nawaz Sharif might have been history.

Five to ten thousand baton-wielding revolutionaries pose no existential threat to a government, unless the arm of the government meant to enforce the government’s writ assigns to itself the task of creating a level playing field between the government and the street protesters challenging it.

Post the corps commanders’ conference, ISPR seemed to be saying that if the government didn’t heed the protesters’ demands and used force against them, the military might need to intervene to satisfy ‘national aspirations’.

The real problem posed by a new mob-led and khaki-backed regime change model is not just that it contravenes black letter law, but also that it regurgitates a tried, tested and failed idea. This is no grand conspiracy theory.

Our generals (past and present) who have contributed to our prevalent notion of national interest must have believed that they were/are pursuing the best interest of Pakistan and its citizens.

But they have been proven wrong by our own history and the experience of other comparable states.

A country run on the basis of transient emotion can go nowhere. Our deeply entrenched civil-military conflict continues to polarise and consume us.

If over a span of 60 years our khaki-run political incubator couldn’t produce decent leadership, how will the next time be any different?

Our problems of governance, justice, tolerance and integrity can’t be sorted overnight and will keep throwing up opportunities for ‘saviours’.

Is there a way to convince the saviours that we don’t deserve to be saved?

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Meanwhile, in Balochistan…

Zohra Yusuf

If ever proof was needed that Punjab, Islamabad and the army are all that really matter in Pakistan, it is evident in the attention the two dharnas are getting, not only from the media but from politicians, the superior judiciary and those euphemistically referred to as the powers that be.

If ever proof was needed that Punjab, Islamabad and the army are all that really matter in Pakistan, it is evident in the attention the two dharnas are getting, not only from the media but from politicians, the superior judiciary and those euphemistically referred to as the powers that be.

Contrast the non-stop interest in the two groups of protesters and their demands to the neglect that Balochistan is facing from each of the actors identified above.

It appears that neither the media nor the federal government nor the judiciary have a moment to spare for certain serious developments taking place in Balochistan.

If ever proof was needed that some lives in Pakistan matter more than others, it has been demonstrated by the outrage at the killing of 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers in Lahore.

The chorus calling for registration of FIRs against the highest authority in the land and application of anti-terrorist laws is not something one has heard at the death of hundreds of Baloch who have been systematically picked up, tortured and dumped after being killed.

In fact, even getting an FIR registered against unknown persons is an uphill task for Baloch families. The case of Zahid Baloch, the head of the banned Baloch Students Organisation (Azad) is a case in point.

Picked up in March this year, his disappearance led to a 46-day hunger strike by Lateef Johar of BSO outside the Karachi Press Club.

The chief minister of Balochistan had to personally assure that an FIR against Zahid Baloch’s disappearance would be filed (although it’s unclear whether it was actually done).

There has been a great deal written in praise of the women who have camped for weeks at the call of Tahirul Qadri or attended sit-ins at the bidding of Imran Khan.

Yet little attention has been paid to the women of Balochistan who, without the juggernaut of organisational power and resources that PAT and PTI possess, have simply followed their hearts, walked miles and sat in protest camps to draw attention to the enforced disappearance of their loved ones.

The objective of pointing out the dichotomy in the response to two sets of crises (the one in Islamabad and the other in Balochistan) is not to belittle the loss of human lives in Model Town, Lahore.

Perhaps, the fact that the shooting by the Punjab police happened before television cameras left a deeper impact on our psyche.

The hundreds of Baloch, on the other hand, have been tortured and killed in privacy in unknown places and their deaths only confirmed when the dumped bodies are discovered — sometimes carrying some identification paper, often not.

However, visible or not, the muted response to these killings betrays a certain callousness.

On the eve of the international day for enforced disappearances, three bodies of Baloch youth were found in Karachi. Qadeer Baloch, leading the campaign to locate the victims of enforced disappearances claimed that the three were on their list of the missing.

In fact, the surfacing in parts of Karachi of bodies of those picked up in Balochistan is a trend that has been recorded over the past two years.

Last year, there were 17 cases of bodies found in different parts of Karachi. Perhaps the perpetrators believe that in the city’s mayhem such incidents will barely be noticed.

While the attention of political leaders and the media is riveted by the spectacle in Islamabad, many worrisome developments in Balochistan are going practically unnoticed.

In recent years, we have seen the rise of religious extremism in Balochistan. Whether this is exclusively the result of inroads made by banned organisations, such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, or as alleged by some a deliberate attempt to counter the Baloch nationalist struggle, the repercussions have been serious for the people of the province.

The Hazaras were the first to become victims of this menace. With the rise in targeted killings, they have desperately tried to seek protection elsewhere — their latest destination being Sri Lanka from where sadly, among other asylum seekers, they are being deported.

The threat to education is a more recent phenomenon. Some months back, schools in Panjgur began to be attacked for offering English medium education and had to remain closed for a long period.

The attackers were from an earlier unknown group called Tanzeem Furqanul Islam. More recently, a school in Turbat has been attacked for similar reasons by a group calling itself Al Jihad.

If one can discern shades of Boko Haram here, the likes of IS (Islamic State) also seem to be getting a foothold in the province.

Wall chalkings in Dasht, Turbat, openly call for the killing of Zikris and Hindus with the words “Zikrion ka anjam — maut ya Islam” and “Na Hindu, na Zikri — sirf Sunni, sirf Sunni”.

These messages inciting murder are signed by Lashkar-i-Khorasan. Shortly after this graffiti appeared, seven members of the Zikri sect were killed in Mashkay, Awaran, when their place of worship was attacked.

The struggle of the people of Balochistan for their rights had always remained secular. Is there a deliberate attempt to create a new force to counter their movement? Apart from minorities, other sections of society have also been targeted.

There has been a sudden spurt of acid attacks on women in Quetta and journalists continue to die in the line of fire.

More than 30 journalists have been killed in Balochistan in the past five years, mostly in Khuzdar but lately in Quetta as well.

The situation in Balochistan is precarious, but the chances of these issues grabbing headlines or television prime time are minimal.

The strident ones in Islamabad will continue to rule the airwaves. And for the rest there will be silence.

The writer is chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Electoral truths

Fahim Zaman

PAKISTAN Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders have repeatedly claimed there was “massive rigging” in the 2013 elections. Let’s examine the veracity of that claim.

PAKISTAN Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders have repeatedly claimed there was “massive rigging” in the 2013 elections. Let’s examine the veracity of that claim.

Imran Khan’s allegations have maligned then Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) chief, retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, and the caretaker set-up at the time, because he maintains that they, together with Nawaz Sharif, snatched the last election from him.

According to the ‘principles of electoral swing’, only a small per­centage of voters, ie 3-5pc, that traditionally vote for Party A, vote for Party B which gives the latter a lead of 6-10 percentage points, while the remaining disillusioned voters tend to abstain from voting altogether.

The poll outcome was in fact in consonance with statistical models projecting final results. Although the PTI manifesto appealed to urban youth, it was folly to believe it could sweep urban Punjab — the PML-N’s heartland where the party has won an overwhelming number of votes during earlier elections.

In rural Punjab, the PPP’s poor performance during the last five years and PML-N’s incumbency combined to help the latter at the hustings.

Article 218 of the Constitution devolves the responsibility of holding free and fair elections on the ECP, which “shall consist of Commissioner who shall be the Chairman of the Commission; and four members, each of whom has been a Judge of a High Court from each Province”.

In July 2012, parliament unanimously approved Mr Ebrahim as chief election commissioner (CEC). Under his leadership, the electoral body took several important measures to ensure electoral transparency.

The National Judicial Policy Forum headed by Pakistan’s then chief justice, in response to appeals from the CEC and political parties, placed 900 judicial officers, including sessions, additional sessions and civil judges at the ECP’s disposal to perform their duties as returning officers (RO).

This was done reluctantly because the Judicial Policy 2009, in order to reinforce its separation from the executive, had laid down that the judiciary was to play no role in the electoral process.

The ECP’s efforts resulted in the deve­lop­ment of an elaborate Computerised Electoral Rolls System; electoral rolls were printed with voters’ photographs and CNIC numbers; magnetised ink — recommended by Nadra — was produced by the Pakistan Council of Sci­entific and Industrial Research to affix voters’ thumb impressions on the rolls. (The special ink was developed to better identify voters through magnetic as well as optical readers.)

Polling stations were assigned on the basis of 2011 population census blocks. An SMS 8300 service was set up to help voters confirm their registration and the location of polling stations.

Electors were provided the oppor­tu­nity to get themselves enrolled in consti­tuencies of their residence, while CNIC data was used to ensure one vote per individual.

Higher grammage paper, not available in the market, was used to print ballot papers at the Pakistan Printing Corporation facilities in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi and the Security Printing Press, Karachi. To ensure that electoral materials were not tampered with, strict military cordons were maintained around the printing sites.

During printing, employees stayed at the facilities without access to visitors, mobile phones or electronic devices.

Materials were transported to district ROs’ camp offices under stringent security provided by the army and Rangers.

CNICs were checked, thumb impressions placed on electoral rolls, votes examined and counted, and results announced by the ROs in the presence of candidates’ election agents, and copies of the results were supp­lied to them.

The Represen­ta­tion of Peoples Act, 1976 provides can­didates the right to approach ECP for re­dress of their grieva­n­ces and recount of votes. Under Section 52 of the Act, after 60 days, candidates can only file appeals with election tribunals.

The 15 tribunals constituted by the CEC have the authority to open, recount, recheck votes and results. Against 849 assembly seats, a total of 402 appeals were filed before the election tribunals, out of which 312 have been decided.

Out of 241 PTI candidates who contested National Assembly seats, 27 returned as winners, 76 as runners-up and 138 at third position or lower. Only 29 PTI candidates filed petitions with election tribunals — 17 in Punjab, six each in Sindh and KP.

While 18 appeals have been decided, 11 remain pending along with those by 79 other candidates. Even assuming that all 29 appeals were settled in PTI’s favour, how would that have changed the final outcome?

This is not to suggest that individual can­didates did not or could not have tried to rig their contests. Nor it is in any way suggested that substantial electoral reforms are not needed.

However, if Mr Ebrahim or the ECP wanted to rig the elections, why would they undertake such elaborate and unprecedented efforts to prevent electoral fraud?

The writer heads the Dawn Elections Cell.

fahim

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

Jumping the shark

Zarrar Khuhro

IN Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Earth is a supercomputer of such incredible complexity that life itself is only a part of its programme.

IN Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Earth is a supercomputer of such incredible complexity that life itself is only a part of its programme.

The purpose of this programme is to learn the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate Answer of the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Interestingly, the architects of this scheme were in fact the little white lab mice that humans thought they were experimenting on. In fact, it turned out that the mice were actually conducting the experiment.

Sadly, the Earth is then destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass, five minutes before the 10 million-year-long programme came up with results.

Now, did the humans living on Earth, for even a brief moment, realise that they were in fact part of a grand experiment? That they were extras in someone’s movie?

That’s a feeling some of us here in Pakistan may have had from time to time. We may be aware that we’ve been subjected to various kinds of social and political experiments.

Take a dollop of capitalism with a heavy sprinkling of military dictatorship. No that’s not right, let’s add socialism with a touch of pan-Islamism and turn up the civilian autocracy. Boiling over? Put the lid on it and, oh never mind just throw it out and start over.

Meanwhile, go find a South Asian mule and dress him up like a Tiger. The Asian kind.

It’s like a movie the writers make up as they go along, changing directors and actors on a whim. They can’t decide if they want a love story, a tragedy, a comedy or just out and out horror.

Then they wonder why it doesn’t make it big on the international circuit, even when they shoot it in English.

But there’s a new script we should try. We may as well.

Instead of elections, we should have an annual ‘storm the parliament’ event. In this, those who can muster up the requisite numbers have a week to get to Islamabad and capture the National Assembly and Senate.

Once there they must give continuous speeches with great bombast and vitriol while holding off rival assaults.

This will be a nationally televised event, with TV channels openly sporting team colours.

It will be politics as a spectator sport, a reality show that will shame even the Kardashians.

Far from being destructive for the economy, it will in fact open up hitherto unimagined sponsorship opportunities; imagine beauty cream manufacturers advertising a ‘New fairness for a New Pakistan’.

During the event, factions (single parties or alliances) will get bonuses depending on their ratings, ranging from better sound systems for speeches and rally music to catering and toilets for supporters and perhaps even a trained danda-bardar squad for when things get hairy.

If you’re thinking that this sounds a lot like the Hunger Games books and movie then you’re right.

But there’s no shame in borrowing when all our previous nationwide cinematic releases have been mishmash potboilers in the worst of the Lollywood tradition, and box-office bombs at that.

The movie references just keep piling up.

Take the current starring lead, Imran Khan.

Is he playing according to script, and if so is it revealed scene by scene or even just made up on the spot like in one of those Gujjar 420 movies?

Or is he, like Jim Carrey in the Truman Show, unaware that the world around him is in fact a massive set, directed by forces unknown to him?

Fans of actor Bill Murray may well have had quite a few Groundhog Day moments as well. In this movie he is fated to repeat the same day over and over again.

Those of us listening to the speeches will identify with being stuck in a never-ending time loop, as will fans of science fiction movies.

Then there’s Bol­ly­­wood, from the 1980s’ Thakur ki haveli from which the prime minister seemingly derives his interior decoration inspiration, and Mughal-i-Azam, which apparently serves as a governance guide.

And of course, there’s the infamous plot device where brothers separated at birth find they both have two halves of the same locket and learn of their blood ties, while swearing vengeance on the villain.

We saw that too, when Qadri and Imran finally shared a container roof and a firm handshake.

Finally, let’s end with explaining the title of this piece.

There once used to be a show called Happy Days, and in one episode (in an attempt to retain viewer attention) the most popular character, the Fonz, jumped over a shark while waterskiing.

The term has now come to mean an event that marks a serious creative decline after which the popularity of a show, person or product begins to ebb.

We’ve all pretty much jumped the shark here; let’s just hope this doesn’t turn into a Jaws sequel.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014

New formations

Muhammad Amir Rana

AL QAEDA chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s declaration that the global terrorist group has established its subcontinental branch is the realisation of the Islamist militants’ long-standing dream. On the other hand, the formation of Al Qaeda in South Asia is also reflective of other developments taking place among militant circles, particularly with regard to ongoing internal rifts and confrontations.

AL QAEDA chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s declaration that the global terrorist group has established its subcontinental branch is the realisation of the Islamist militants’ long-standing dream. On the other hand, the formation of Al Qaeda in South Asia is also reflective of other developments taking place among militant circles, particularly with regard to ongoing internal rifts and confrontations.

Islamist militant organisations across the world are undergoing a transformation, which can cause changes in their chemistry and lead to the emergence of a new militant character. Militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan are also passing through a similar phase, leading to new formations among them.

At present, Al Qaeda faces some critical challenges to its survival. The Islamic State (IS), previously the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), has exposed Al Qaeda’s political and operational vulnerabilities which may hurt the latter’s ideological appeal to its affiliates. The IS has come up with a new approach and model for building an Islamic state. The central and other chapters of Al Qaeda have not been able thus far to capture and hold a territory for the same purpose.

Their previous attempts at gaining territorial control only achieved partial and short-lived success as in 2011 and 2012 when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a coalition of North African militants succeeded in capturing some territories for a short time.

The Al Qaeda strategy to support local militant organisations for bringing about change has failed and in some cases proved counterproductive. Al Qaeda-affiliated local militant groups are only able to create some turmoil in their respective regions. Even if a local group succeeds in capturing territory it finds it difficult to hold on to it. Also, it is relatively easy for counterinsurgents to challenge a local, isolated group both operationally and ideologically.

However, the IS is inviting Al Qaeda affiliates to become part of a central command which can help them consolidate their gains in their respective regions.

Of course, this will make it more difficult for counterinsurgents to tackle terrorists using conventional frameworks. For instance, if terrorists launch a massive campaign on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, it will become very difficult for the security forces of the two countries to counter them without evolving joint operational strategies. The emergence of the IS in the Syrian and Iraqi border regions can provide some insights.

It is clear that the IS call for allegiance is addressed to all Muslims and holds attraction and appeal for Islamist militants and radical individuals and groups. It appears as if Al Qaeda is trying to respond by using its contacts and links with its affiliates and with groups inspired by its ideology. At the same time, it is trying to reach out to those regions and conflict zones where it can extend its influence by appealing to the ‘oppressed’ Muslim communities. South Asia, a region that is inhabited by 40pc of the global Muslim population, has attraction for both Al Qaeda and the IS.

Al Qaeda sees an opportunity in India-held Kashmir, where a separatist, religio-nationalist movement has been crushed and the religio-nationalist jihadist appeal of militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammad has lost its lustre. Al Qaeda is calling radical elements towards ‘pure’ jihad, which it believes cannot be confined within the boundaries of nationalism or of a state.

The IS, too, is emerging as an inspirational force for radical Muslim populations in India and India-held Kashmir. Though it remains to be seen what impact these two global jihadist groups have there, they will certainly add to the troubles of Muslim communities.

Interestingly, Zawahiri has renewed his pledge of allegiance to Mullah Omar which indicates that Al Qaeda has challenged the caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It indicates that Al Qaeda will firmly stand beside its old allies, which will not only increase the operational strength of the Afghan Taliban but also prevent the latter’s erosion due to the IS effect.

The Jamaatul Ahrar, newly established by some breakaway factions of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, is ideologically and politically more ambitious than the TTP and largely inspired by the successes of the IS. Even if it completely breaks its links with the TTP and Al Qaeda, the JA will remain ideologically and politically strong. As far as operational capabilities are concerned, the new group has a strong nexus with sectarian terrorist networks and factions of the Punjabi Taliban and the various Jundallah groups in mainland Pakistan.

The phenomenon of Jundallah is important in this perspective. Many groups are operating with the name of Jundallah in Pakistan, similar to Punjabi Taliban groups. While the Punjabi Taliban emerged from the Deobandi and Salafi militant groups, Jundallah groups are breakaway factions of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and its subsidiary student and militant wings.

With the exception of the Jundallah in Iranian Balochistan, the remaining identically named groups, active in Karachi and Peshawar valley, are of a similar nature. With their Islamist background, they are naturally inclined towards the IS, and like a few commanders of the Hizb-i-Islami — a JI affiliate in Afghanistan — apparently intend to announce their allegiance to the IS.

Seen from this perspective, the JA is likely to have a close operational alliance with Jundallah groups inside Pakistan. Conversely, the TTP’s operational concentration will increase inside Afghanistan. It appears as if a new formation or alliance of Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, TTP, the local Taliban led by Gul Bahadur and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan will emerge which will be challenged by an alliance of JA and its Pakistani affiliates, and breakaway factions of the Afghan Taliban and Hizb-i-Islami.

The Haqqanis have not yet indicated which side they will join. Maybe they believe they can play with and manoeuvre both pro- and anti-Pakistan groups. But it will not be possible for them to continue this approach for long because ideological alignments among militants are becoming clearer and eventually they will have to decide which way to go.

The writer is a security analyst.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Crisis rumbles on

Cyril Almeida

THE crisis is over. No, it isn’t. The crisis is winding down. No, it’s heating up. Imran and Qadri are going home empty-handed. No, they’re going home with Nawaz or parliament’s scalp.

THE crisis is over. No, it isn’t. The crisis is winding down. No, it’s heating up. Imran and Qadri are going home empty-handed. No, they’re going home with Nawaz or parliament’s scalp.

Blame it on Nawaz. Blame it on Raheel. Blame Imran. Blame the gods. Blame no one. All that’s known is that the agitators aren’t going home and a deal is more elusive than had seemed possible.

Part of the reason is apparent to all: the PML-N is as arrogant and stubborn as ever.

After Hashmi happened and the joint session produced a bit of fire and brimstone — in favour of democracy — the PML-N had yet another opportunity: make the big concessions, get the PTI and Qadri to sign on, pick up the pieces.

Instead, the PML-N did what the PML-N does best: took a good situation and turned it bad. Magnanimity — that’s what the party lacks.

The PML-N is like the quintessential school-ground bully. Goes around knocking over little kids, stealing lunch money, having a good time of it all — until a bigger bully knocks him over.

Beaten but not chastened, the bully then returns to business ie goes around knocking over little kids, stealing lunch money, having a good time — as though nothing happened.

What should the PML-N have done? Given the self-interest in the PTI, something substantive, something they believe they can get Khan to stand down for in return.

The PML-N isn’t going to convince Khan on anything, but the PTI might — at least those in the PTI who have a self-interest in seeing its May 2013 gains protected and the party salvaged.

The PTI negotiators have already showed their hand — they want a time-bound super-commission that can investigate individual results as well as the overall election and that can issue binding judgements.

Give it to them. Let the negotiators have their super-commission so that they have something they can use to prevail on their boss to back down.

Ah, but what if Nawaz believes that Khan really means what he says — that his goal is Nawaz’s ouster and everything else is ancillary? Why make concessions to someone you don’t believe is looking to negotiate?

Because Imran and Qadri have more options than Nawaz.

The government cracks down on the agitators, it will be accused of violence. The agitators turn to violence again, the government will be blamed for failing to resolve the stand-off through negotiations.

Show magnanimity when you don’t need to — when the advantage is with you and not your opponent — and it increases your options.

Imagine a super-commission is conceded and nothing happens. The agitators refuse to accept it as a fair settlement. Or the agitators turn to violence again. Who gets blamed then?

But the PML-N is trapped. Trapped by its own insecurities and fears and self-regard. And by its reliance on the few instead of the several.

Twice now, the PML-N has missed a big chance — because the PML-N is trapped by itself.

Shahbaz should have been sacked after Model Town. Whether the elder Sharif authorised Model Town or not, whether the younger Sharif coordinated it or not, when that episode blew up in the PML-N’s face, a massive gesture had to be made.

Instead, a second-tier politician and a third-rate bureaucrat were offered up. The man to go had to be Shahbaz. But Shahbaz is family.

This week, Nisar should have been sacked. He wasn’t. Because Nawaz may have calculated that sacking him would also unleash him, and better to keep Nisar on a leash and nearby.

Ah, but surely Nawaz will know the rumours? Why keep on a man who perception has it is closer to the enemy than the party he represents?

Because Trojan horses are an accepted part of the game for politicians. Someone close to you will always belong to the other side. And better the frenemy you know well than one you don’t.

Sometimes though you need friends who tell you like it is and loyalists who serve a cause greater than an individual. And the brave — you need a few of those. PML-N has none of that.

Azadi and inquilab are in several ways a repeat of ‘memogate’. The actors are different, but the plot is the same: decapitation via power-hungry outsiders.

In memogate, it was Mansoor Ijaz used to get Zardari and his guy in DC. In azadi and inquilab, it’s Qadri and Imran being used to get Nawaz.

But look what happened in memogate — Yousuf Raza Gilani. Unexpectedly, he threw himself in the line of fire and roared. State within a state, he thundered. Who gave Osama a visa, he demanded to know.

And suddenly memogate was in disarray because no one had seen it coming. Memogate was supposed to be a fight between the boys and Zardari/Haqqani, not a prime minister who didn’t really get along with his boss and had forged a reputation more for padding the nest than doing his job.

Where is the PML-N’s Yousuf Raza Gilani?

It has Shahbaz, who threw a loyal aide under the bus. And it has Nisar, who stabbed his PM in the back in public. There is no YRG.

There are no friends in the PML-N who can say it like it is to Nawaz. There are no loyalists in the PML-N who serve a cause greater than Nawaz. There are no brave men in the PML-N.

No, this crisis isn’t over yet. In part because the PML-N can’t unlearn being the PML-N.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Democracy matters

Amber Darr

ANYONE witnessing the events in Islamabad in recent weeks could be excused for believing either that democracy means the rallying together of large crowds and staging extended sit-ins or that by merely sporting an elected parliament a country may consider itself absolved of any further obligations towards building a democracy. Worse still, this person may altogether abandon his efforts to understand what democracy means and declare that Pakistan is neither ready for nor able to handle a democratic system of governance.

ANYONE witnessing the events in Islamabad in recent weeks could be excused for believing either that democracy means the rallying together of large crowds and staging extended sit-ins or that by merely sporting an elected parliament a country may consider itself absolved of any further obligations towards building a democracy. Worse still, this person may altogether abandon his efforts to understand what democracy means and declare that Pakistan is neither ready for nor able to handle a democratic system of governance.

It is this perception that is most damaging. It suggests that the person in question — the quintessential Pakistani — if he thinks about democracy at all, views it as an issue belonging to the political arena and not related to the priorities of his existence. The fact, however, is that democracy, or indeed its absence, has a direct and significant impact even on the most private sphere of an individual’s life and it is for this reason alone, that it is important not only to understand it but also to be actively engaged in its continuity.

An aspect of democracy that perhaps most directly impacts individual life is the manner in which it undertakes law reform. Countries adopt laws either by developing them internally or by borrowing them from other, more advanced countries. Developing countries tend to fall into the category of borrowers because they often lag behind in identifying areas that require law reform and lack the capacity to undertake the exercise. Borrowing itself, however, may also take one of several forms: it may either engage the public or keep it relatively in the dark.

It is democracy that makes the difference. A truly democratic country has several mechanisms in place for eliciting public opinion. Prior to polls, candidates garner support by engaging the electorate on issues of importance; once elected, they represent the views of their constituents in parliament. Parl­iament itself, when a proposal for law reform is tabled before it, does not merely rely on the ability of individual members to relay the opinion of the public, but actively solicits it.

Additionally, parliamentarians in a well-functioning democracy know they need the goodwill of their constituents for re-election. This factor helps ensure that the proposed law strikes a balance between governmental policy and the electorate’s needs. The entire exercise creates a win-win situation: the public has a law it understands and has helped formulate, the elected representatives have public support and the government has a greater chance of achieving meaningful enforcement.

However, this ideal is not attainable in a society such as ours that simply slaps a veneer of democracy on a people that otherwise remain entrenched in a culture of feudalism which continues to direct their actions. This stranglehold of feudal attitudes forces even the most democratic seeming institutions to often conduct their affairs in accordance with personal allegiances and to treat the public as fodder for a largely self-serving agenda rather than as the holder of independent opinion and a force unto itself.

It is the absence of feudalism that despite the commonalities that the two countries share, sets India apart from Pakistan. In the 67 years since independence, India has been able to establish, maintain and strengthen its democratic institutions and traditions. Hence, its process of law reform actively engages the public: first as members of indigenous committees that propose the reform, then as members of parliament who review it and finally as stakeholders who provide their input at each stage.

For the greater part of these same 67 years, Pakistan, even when it has sported an elected parliament, has preferred to outsource law reform to multilateral agencies such as the World Bank. These agencies, even though they have engaged Pak­istani experts, have not been able to meaningfully engage a broader section of the public. Perhaps, they had no real choice because years of absolute control of an overarching executive that did not hold itself in any way accountable to the public had in any event muffled public opinion and thereby destroyed any chances of constructive dialogue.

Whatever the reasons, it is the average Pakistani who has been the ultimate loser. Not only does he continue to live under laws he does not subscribe to, he also pays the price when these laws are flouted because they have failed to penetrate the society’s consciousness.

The present political impasse, despite all criticisms directed towards it, has the potential to break this cycle of repression and victimisation. Because by awakening people to their power it may bridge the gap between the form of democracy and its substance which continues to elude us.

The writer is a barrister.

amber.darr

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

Political instability

Ali Cheema

PAKISTAN has spent 34 out of its 68 years, or half its life, in internal political instability defined as regime instability, political emergencies and constitutional deadlocks. Long-term instability in Pakistan has been significantly higher than in East Asia and post-Partition India. The difference between Pakistan and India is large enough to make one wonder whether long-term instability may provide a significant part of the explanation for the recent divergence in growth.

PAKISTAN has spent 34 out of its 68 years, or half its life, in internal political instability defined as regime instability, political emergencies and constitutional deadlocks. Long-term instability in Pakistan has been significantly higher than in East Asia and post-Partition India. The difference between Pakistan and India is large enough to make one wonder whether long-term instability may provide a significant part of the explanation for the recent divergence in growth.

The politics of the high state has played out as a zero-sum game where the acquisition of power by one actor or a set of actors has not resulted in a ‘stable acquisition of power’. Contrary to resulting in revolutionary ‘change,’ episodes of instability have typified persistent institutional and elite conflicts. Evidence shows that the years of political instability have been marginally higher under authoritarian rule, suggesting that reversion to this form of rule is not a panacea. However, a significant portion of the life of democratic regimes has also been spent managing instability. The pressing question today is what are the elements of a political compact that can catalyse the transition to a ‘stable’ democratic state?

Analysing the pathology of instability may provide the beginnings of an answer. Analysis reveals that instability has been a defining feature of authoritarian rule, both at the point of takeover and after the induction of partisan civilian partners. The main cause has been the contestation over civilian supremacy. However, an unacknowledged cause has also been the inability of authoritarian rule to marginalise political parties, which have shown incredible resilience.

Contested civilian supremacy has also exacerbated instability during periods of civilian rule for two reasons. Parties that failed to gain power have had the political space to lobby for extra-constitutional measures in return for compromising on civilian supremacy. In turn, the threat of disruption has provided parties in power a strong incentive to centralise power in a ‘trustworthy’ cabal making the system exclusionary. These imperatives result in vicious cycles of mistrust and instability. Therefore, the first element of a democratic compact has to be an agreement between all major political parties and the military regarding the sphere of civilian supremacy.

However, the civil-military divide alone does not provide a complete explanation of instability. Another important factor is the widespread dispersion of political power within the civilian political elite. This can be gauged from the fact that no political party has been able to claim more than one-third of the registered vote in recent elections and that the two-party system has steadily given way to fragmented representation. His­tori­cally authoritarian and centralised executive-styled civilian regimes have exacerbated pola­­risation among dispersed power-holders factionalised along provincial lines. It is difficult to see how this polarisation can be reduced in the absence of an inclusive framework of power sharing. The federalism of the 18th Amendment is one response along these lines.

However, the failure to create elected party-based local governments in the larger provinces, a centre piece of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) and the PTI’s recent manifesto, continues to inhibit the deepening of an inclusive framework. The institutionalisation of sub-national federal and fiscal democratic arrangements has to be the second element of a democratic political compact.

The political structure has also deepened polarisation over the Election Commission, civil administration and the judiciary with accusations of partisanship being made by all political parties. In spite of this there have been few attempts at reforms that redress these claims of partisanship. Measures to create multi-partisan ownership with regard to judicial appointments and police oversight that are provided in the CoD and the Police Order, 2002 have not taken root. It is worrying that proposals to reform civil administration and the judiciary are not being meaningfully debated in any of the parties despite growing polarisation over these institutions, which is eroding their writ and sanctity. Institutional reforms that build multi-partisan ownership and strengthen accountability of these institutions have to be the third element of a democratic political compact.

Pakistani elites have to realise that exclusionary power grabs and centralised governance will not deliver stable acquisition of power when political power is this dispersed and polarised. This realisation has resulted in two major constitutional compacts, the 1973 Constitution and the 18th Amendment, between parliamentary political forces, which gives cause to remain optimistic about democratic state building. However, we must also realise that the inability to deepen the democratic compact along these lines will lead to persistent contestation that is likely to impose a heavy cost on Pakistan’s future.

The writer is senior research fellow, Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and associate professor of economics, LUMS.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014

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