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A dank departure, a cold welcome : edit in The News, Jan 1

We ended 2013 in dank darkness. Only a scouring of the meteorological records will tell us how high the current cold wave ranks but it certainly feels like the harshest winter in our history – perhaps because we lack the gas to heat our homes. If there was one thing that united a nation as deeply divided as Pakistan over the past year it was the collective punishment we were handed on a daily basis thanks to the power crisis. In the summer there was no electricity to give us a respite from the heat; during the winter no heating to shield us from the cold. For many in the north of the country, the last days of 2013 have meant cooking on wood fires by candlelight. Yet we had/have a government wanting to charge us even more for electricity and gas that we do not receive even as it stuttered in every attempt to increase supply. The Iranian gas pipeline shuddered to a halt and any talk of importing electricity from India was blown up along the Line of Control. If measured purely by the mi....... Read more

January 1, 2014   No Comments

Stepping forward : edit in The News, Jan 1

From the screens, behind which we have heard vague whispers of government-level contacts with the Taliban, something more definite is beginning to emerge, taking forward the hope that it may yet be possible to carve out the peace we so desperately need; the peace that could damp the constant threat of bombs and bloodshed and bring to the lives of people the stability they so desperately need to get on with lives. Our country needs that stability too so that it can move ahead in economic and developmental terms. As had been forecast for some time, Maulana Samiul Haq, the chief of his own faction of the Jamiaat-e-Ulema Islam and the head of major seminaries, has emerged as the man on whom attention will now focus in this respect.

At a one-on-one meeting with the prime minister in Islamabad on Tuesday, Maulana Sami was assigned the task of moving ahead with the talks process with the Taliban. He told the media after the meeting that the PM agreed that talks offered the best hope of....... Read more

January 1, 2014   No Comments

Fatal sense of entitlement : edit The Nation, Jan 1

A candidate in Sheikhupura, named Naveed Aslam, gunned a villager down for refusing to cast a vote in his favor in the slot of UC 77. An altercation took place between Aslam and Maqbool after the latter refused to vote for Aslam along with holding his family’s votes back. Of course, it doesn’t surprise anyone in Pakistan; intimidating and pressurizing unarmed citizens for votes is frequent – if not the conventional way to ‘win hearts and minds’ politically. However, this act of violence is emblematic of a larger problem in the country. In addition to the slew of promises we are flooded with, day in and day out, by aspiring candidates and established politicians, we are met with those with a special chip on their shoulder that allows them to attack civilians for their own gains.

Maqbool is one of the many Maqbools of this country who are pressurized by candidates like Naveed. And it isn’t just a dilemma indigenous to Pakistan; our neighbors on both sides of the border....... Read more

January 1, 2014   No Comments

LG poll mess: edit in Dawn, Jan 1

IT would be a pity if local government elections in Sindh were to fall victim to a legal tangle. The provincial government is in a quandary. On Monday, the Sindh High Court declared the amendments it made to the relevant law unconstitutional but decreed that the elections be held on time — Jan 18. Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said the ruling would be challenged in the Supreme Court and for that reason the elections would have to be postponed. Evidently, the three parties that went to court have won politically and legally. The MQM, PML-N and the PML-F had petitioned the Sindh High Court against the Sindh Local Government (Third Amendment) Ordinance because it was in conflict with several articles of the Constitution. At the same time, they pleaded that the polls be held on Jan 18. The court agreed with the three parties and declared the amendments ultra vires of the Constitution. The MQM’s plea was that the clauses added to Section 18 of the bill had created disparity in the....... Read more

January 1, 2014   No Comments

Bilawal House security: edit in Dawn, Jan 1

UGLY scenes were witnessed near Bilawal House, Asif Zardari’s Karachi residence, on Sunday as PPP and PTI workers traded blows after Imran Khan’s supporters showed up to protest against the barricades surrounding the premises. The clash was predictable as tension between both parties had been brewing after Bilawal Bhutto Zardari made uncharitable remarks about Imran Khan during his speech at Garhi Khuda Baksh on Dec 27. It was after this speech that the PTI suddenly felt the urge to protest against the encroachment on public roads for Bilawal House’s security. The violence could have been avoided had senior party leaders on both sides reined in their respective supporters during the protest.

It is true that Mr Zardari and his family face significant threats, especially considering the former president’s and his son’s outspoken criticism of militants. And after having already lost Benazir Bhutto to an act of terrorism, the lesson is that the threat must be taken serious....... Read more

January 1, 2014   No Comments

Fighting terrorism: Editorial in The Express Tribune, Jan 1

The government is planning to place before parliament new legislation which it hopes would help it combat terrorism more effectively. The prime minister is reported to have been considering the various proposals for the new laws drafted, we assume, by experts in the relevant departments.

The question, however, is whether we just need new legislation, or something a little beyond this. Whereas loopholes in existing laws may need to be filled in, the fact also is that we would appear to have sufficient laws on the books to tackle terrorism. Where there are gaps, these can, of course, be filled. What is far more important is the implementation of these laws and measures that can make sure they are followed through with. This happens too infrequently under the present circumstances.

Beyond this, we also need to look at the way our security agencies are structured and the training available to them. Upgrading their skills could take us a long way forward. Better use of forensi....... Read more

January 1, 2014   No Comments

Inertia abounds: Editorial in Daily Times, Jan 1

Two policemen have been killed while guarding an Imambargah in Rawalpindi on Monday. Four terrorists riding motorcycles shot the officers on duty with ease since the officers neither had any weapons to defend themselves nor were they alert to face an ambush. So much for the security of a place of worship that had already been attacked in November last year, killing 15 people. It seems that the sensitivity of Imambargahs has failed to sink in to the administration. Rawalpindi has witnessed some of the worst episodes of sectarian crimes since the start of Muharram yet complacency refuses to leave the policy makers, so far living in a world of their own. It is indeed unfortunate that terrorism has badly hit the law enforcement agencies of the country. We are losing our officers and men from the army, paramilitaries and police like sacrificial lambs. The police is perhaps the worst hit because of multiple issues, the major one being the incapability of the government to build the force int....... Read more

January 1, 2014   No Comments

Pakistan: a culture of intolerance: By Sajjad Ashraf in Asia Times Online

The writer, a former Pak diplomat, is an adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy,   Singapore.

Pakistan’s impoverished and peaceful Christian community has endured mob rampages, blasphemy charges, and was largely spared the ravages of suicide bombings, till last month. Suicide bombings on September 22 at Peshawar’s All-Saints Church, which is designed like a mosque to reflect inter-faith harmony, killed 83 worshippers and injured more than 125, bringing to focus how the danger minorities face in the militancy raging across Pakistan. With almost a bomb a day since Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government took over in June, the church was indeed a soft target.

Since independence in 1947 minority numbers have fallen from about a quarter of Pakistan population to 3.7%. Most Hindus and Sikhs moved to India following ethnic riots at the time of partition. Many still do. The separation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, where Hindus form....... Read more

October 16, 2013   No Comments

Doing things by halves: by Malik Muhammad Ashraf in the Nation, Oct 16

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Had the military adventurers heeded Quaid’s words about democracy and allegiance to the constitution quoted by General Ashfaq Parvaiz Kayani while addressing the 128th passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy, the country would not have been where it stands now.

Casting a glance on the past mistakes, he urged the military leadership to support and strengthen democracy in the country and also impliedly advised them to owe allegiance to the elected leadership and follow their decisions. His backing of the proposed dialogue with the Taliban has removed apprehensions in certain quarters regarding any rift between the civil and military leadership will regards to dealing with the menace of terrorism in the country. Brushing aside the notion that recourse to dialogue with TTP was a sequel to failure of the military operation, by quoting successes of military operation in Swat and other tribal areas, he made it abundantly clear t....... Read more

October 16, 2013   No Comments

The state of our confusion : op-ed by Harris Khalique in The News, Oct 16

The writer is a poet and author based in Islamabad.

The state of our confusionStates are as viable or unviable as their institutions hold them to be, regarded as artificial or as natural as their citizens view them to, and as successful or unsuccessful as their public servants and entrepreneurs make them. Pakistan, in its present form and shape, is viable if our civilian and military leadership sets its domestic and international priorities right. It will be seen as a natural country if it functions for all and services its citizens without prejudice. It will be successful if it offers well-being, decent living, law and order and social stability.

Things are never in black and white. No nation-state is natural, for that matter. If Bengalis, Keralites, Haryanvis, Tamils and Maharashtrians can all be Indians, then Punjabis, Baloch, Pakhtuns, Seraikis and Sindhis are far less different from each other in ethnic, linguistic and cultural terms. Every state is a project in huma....... Read more

October 16, 2013   No Comments