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Posts from — January 2012

Why Imran Khan… :op-ed by Mehr Tarar in the daily Times, Jan 7

Politics. A strange game. It manages to bring out the worst in people. And unfortunately, at times, simply the worst people. In a year, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) administration would either strut out of office just to return a little later arrogantly, or may exit stamping its feet reluctantly opening the doors to the next in line — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The country would be left in roughly the same condition a toddler leaves a diaper. The party in power in Islamabad would have a report card highlighted in a series of bold red ‘Fs’. Our economy and reputation globally in shreds — F. State-controlled institutions like the PIA, Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Steel Mills are on the verge of collapse — F. An almost non-existent taxation system that blesses the rich and curses the poor — F. A record increase in unemployment, inflation, electricity and gas load shedding, and an overall breakdown of infrastructure — F. The all-time lows in ‘are we headed in the right direction?’ polls — F. Pakistan is in urgent need of a complete overhaul and that too in the guise of a new leadership.

The country is increasingly disillusioned of its leadership. It is disillusioned of its leadership’s ineffectual treatment of its problems, the inappropriate structuring of policies, the lackadaisical attention to issues that have crippled the lives of the majority of the population. People are suffering, people are sick to death, and people have started to speak up. And they have started to chant a name which is not Bhutto, Zardari, Gilani, Sharif, Hussain; it is Khan. People are hopelessly in despair about the old names and their only hope seems to be the one name that has not served them so far and hence not failed them: Imran Khan. What Khan promises and what Khan delivers is something that cannot be commented on right now, but at the moment his promise seems to be the only one that holds any kind of promise for the suffering majority. And how that would turn out — only time would tell.

By way of contrast to the constant failures of the federal and the provincial governments, and of course, our diminished expectations, Khan’s recent thrust to the forefront of mainstream politics appears like a snapshot of what the common man seems hell-bent on rejecting and seems all set to embrace. Out with the old, in with the new. The country has to be saved first and foremost from itself. Khan’s political campaign seems to be running on a platform of hope. Hope that he would bring an end to the problems. Hope that he would close the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Hope that he would rebuild the collapsing structure. Hope that he would strive to abort the ills gnawing on the flesh of the system. There is freshness to his speeches and there is a charismatic aura to his campaign; it is open and micro-managed. What happens when the time comes for the hope to be translated into a reality would decide whether Khan deserves a loud cheer or a huge boo. Only time would tell.

The theory that politics should be treated like a utility is something the wise subscribe to. You should be aware that it is there, and it must be monitored, but you should not have to keep an eye on it every minute, as we have been forced to, to our dismay, for the last four years. If the present scenario is the representation of the Dark Ages never seen before in Pakistan with a democratically elected government, it would be the next person in power who must begin the Renaissance (though let’s not expect, or hope too much now!). Great leaders are in short supply these days, and by this measure we could do a lot worse. At times it is not even the candidates who are the real problem; it is the unholy way most of them behave to get to the house on the hill in Islamabad that is so disturbingly unsettling. Politics for the highest post demand such levels of unmanly, unsportsmanlike and unbecoming behaviour that if your own offspring acted like this you would damn well take them by the ear and give them a piece of your mind. Candidates in order to race ahead of one another give up all that which made them special in order to win the support of the voter. They misstate their credentials and then issue further misstatements to cover up their faux pas. Eventually, after endless bickering, finger-pointing and nitpicking one of them gets the honorary job of telling us how to live our lives. People today are wary of such candidates; they seem ready to elect the one who is not part of the tried, tested and failed hierarchy — Imran Khan. For the last 15 years, the man stayed on the sidelines stressing his agenda again and again. The fact that he did not lose his identity in the multitude of conflicting ideologies make him an ideal choice for the ones who are ready to wrest free of the ones who did not change a thing. How substantial his ideology and his proposed reforms would be if and when he becomes the man in power — only time would tell.

Almost four years of Mr Gilani and Mr Zardari’s government, which seems like a scorched eternity, and Pakistani voters are longing for the day it would end. They pine for a new change of pace. The return of the real glory that is the hallmark of a real government. A true democratic government. Sometime next year the present rulers would pack their Louis Vuitton suitcases, and head back to their newly-erected mansions, falsely secure in the knowledge of having wrecked pretty much everything there was to wreck. It would be the perfect vaudeville symbol of the wanton disconnect of this administration from the consequences of its actions. It shrivelled everything it touched. It is up to the next man in power to try to undo a bit of the enormous damage done by the present ones. People want Imran Khan to be that man. Well a lot of people! How he brings back the dignity of the most coveted chair in the country would be the true test of his governing capabilities, and how he would hold the ones responsible for the destruction of everything accountable to the nation would be a true judge of how much his promise meant. Only time would tell.

The rancour seeped in extravagant invective, a fervour worthy of ancestral foes, years-old grievances seething and erupting as if they had been bubbling for decades in a pool of putrid blood: the oratorical spewing of the PPP and the PML-N leaders. Such fratricidal skirmishing may sound silly like a feud between high school cliques where the two sides seated on opposite ends of the bleachers text each other inappropriate messages full of misspellings and non-performing grammar, but people have had enough. And people are kind of disgusted. These are the leaders in charge of their destinies and they have made a mockery of their hallowed positions. It must end. On the most egoistic level, it seems like a clash of entitlements. And people seem ready to reject it. They want someone who exudes the confidence that he can bring a change — a real one. Imran Khan is that politician to a lot of people today, who embodies a new, better tomorrow. His followers describe themselves as the seed bearers of new energies and new modalities too long smothered under the thick haunches of the old, entrenched way of doing things. They feel his time has come; he has paid his dues, has been thoroughly vetted, and did not let a little thing like being a political pariah for 15 years bog him down. His recent popularity seems like a feat of levitation, and he vows to make things better. Emerging as the hero of those who are not fearful to dream, Imran is the new poster boy/middle-aged man for a better, a nicer, a calmer, a healthier, and a wealthier Pakistan. Here it is not a debate on his ideology, his policies, his manifesto, and his proposed reforms. This is just an observation on how he is perceived by people who like him and a comment on how he appears to people who follow him. How these perceptions and comments seem tomorrow if and when he assumes power, well, Imran and his supporters and his opponents — only time will tell.  www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\01\07\story_7-1-2012_pg3_6

January 7, 2012   No Comments

Theatre of the absurd—how long; op-ed by Inayatullah in the Nation, Jan 7

The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and  political and international relations analyst.

Pakistan today is sizzling in the crucible of crises of all sorts. At the centre of it all is the federal government which is fast reaching the tether’s end because of its incompetence and corruption.

It is not merely a question of lethargy or willful neglect reflected in mind-boggling acts of on omission but also of consistently poor governance. There is much rhetoric and little by way of constructive action. Policy and programmes about literacy and failure to meet even one of the six internationally committed Education For All goals, for instance. Yes, there is the Right to Education article, now, in the amended Constitution but even after the lapse of a whole year, the law required to enforce this right has yet to be promulgated.

The Balochistan question remains unresolved in spite of continuing “disappearances” and wonton killings. Nawaz Sharifs’ initiative to meet Sardar Mangal reveals the extent of alienation of the people with the government. Government’s Aghaz-e-Haqquq-e-Balochistan has proved to be a damp squib as the will to resolve the root issues, is sorely lacking. Can Pakistan afford any more negligence in taking effective steps to win back the unhappy, angry and estranged Balochi brothers?

A glaring case of poor planning is the way the matter relating to the supply   of gas has been allowed to escalate into a traumatic crisis. Was the delay in using the coal deposits to produce gas deliberate? Why was the agreement with Iran delayed for years for the supply of gas? When finally the deal was signed in May 2009 why has there been so much dithering about the work to be done to lay the pipes within Pakistan which Iran has already done on its side? If we don’t do our part of the job by 2014 under the agreement, we shall have to pay S2 million per day as the stipulated penalty. UN’s resolution NO. 1929 passed in 2010 could possibly prohibit Pakistan from having financial transactions with Iran which may result in support to its nuclear programme. Thus the crucial delay on the part of the government has landed Pakistan into serious difficulties. On this count alone possibly a wide-awake opposition in a democratic country could have forced the government to resign. Again by not foreseeing the coming crisis in gas supply, the government has struck fatally at the industry and the transport sector, further damaging the already battered economy and making still more miserable the life of the common men and women. Add to it the power outages resulting in loadshedding and spiraling prices of daily use commodities.

Leaving aside the above-mentioned disastrous mismanagement there are crises of other kinds which hit the core our vital national interests and concerns. Because of its inept handling of affairs, the coalition government led by the PPP finds itself facing serious problems and dilemmas of its own making. First there is the growing confrontation with the military demonstrated in the form of the memogate affair. While there is little doubt that the memo exists, the question of those who conceived, had it drafted and sent to Admiral Mullen in USA has yet to be determined. Ambassador Haqqani’s resignation has added to the general impression that he was involved in the matter. Statements from the highest government functionaries have further muddied the waters. The issue of the relative roles of the parliament and the judiciary has been raised. How the mystery will unfold now depends on the findings of the Commission of senior judges appointed by the Supreme Court.

Memogate, in a sense, has brought up not only the government and military confrontation but also the government’s defiance of the Supreme Court. Defiance and ridiculing of the court’s verdicts and directives have finally resulted in issuing of notices to PPP ministers and some of the officeholders, government having been already driven to a corner after the final rejection of the NRO as a valid piece of legislation. The Supreme Court has shown enormous patience in putting up with the government functionaries’ highly objectionable and provocative behaviour.

Overarching the civil-military and government-judiciary face-off, is the question of increasingly complicated US-Pakistan relations especially after the Salalah attack resulting in the killing of more than two dozen Pakistani military personnel. The inquiry report prepared by a senior officer of the Special Operations group about the incident, as expected, lacks credibility and has been rightly ignored by Pakistan. An element of distrust has entered the relationship between the two countries and there are no appreciable signs of improvement of relations. In fact, the latest unkind cut has come with the passing of the US aid legislation which has practically frozen dollars 700 million meant for Pakistan. Stoppage of containers’ supply to Afghanistan has continued much against US expectations that the supplies would be resumed after sometime. Pakistan has also stuck to its stand, not to start military operation in North Waziristan. US-Pakistan relationship has another crucial dimension. In the end-game there, US has been following a complex approach. While on the one hand, Nato forces are escalating operations in East Afghanistan against the Taliban, on the other, steps have already been taken to start talks with them. The latest development is the setting up of an office for such negotiations in Qatar. This move has been welcomed by Kabul while Pakistan has not been formally associated with it.

To compound the problematic and troublesome situation, there is the dreadful prospect of the economy taking a nosedive. With the energy crisis deepening, law and order conditions worsening and governance going down, by the day, the economic crunch is bound to further weaken the government. With all its resources of imagination and trickery the present rulers in Islamabad, will sooner or later have to call it a day and go for the rising demand for fresh elections. The theatre of the absurd just can’t continue till next year.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/07-Jan-2012/theatre-of-the-absurd%E2%80%94how-long

January 7, 2012   No Comments

‘Them’ and ‘us’- op-ed by Ajmal Kamal in the Express Tribune, Jan 7

The division of Pakistani citizens between ‘them’ and ‘us’ that we saw in the aftermath of the 1970 constituent assembly elections actually aimed at dividing the population of the then East Pakistan on patriotic lines. This is what quickly turned into a deadly civil war. The meanings of patriotism were opposite to each other for the warring factions of the population. After a year-long election campaign leading to the Awami League’s unquestionable victory, passions on both sides were running high. What was stoking the fires of civil war was a brutal determination on the part of one side and a bitter realisation on the part of the other that the results of the first-ever elections in Pakistan were not going to be respected and that the power was not going to be transferred to the Awami League.

The powers that had been running the affairs of the country almost from its inception showed as little respect to the democratic mandate in 1971 as they have been displaying since. As the primary function of any government — elected or otherwise — is control of the country’s resources and their allocation to various sections of the national economy according to its own preferences, respecting the people’s mandate would mean transfer of the control to their elected representatives. It would also mean a basic change in the national goal from security to economic progress. And this was one thing that the powers that be were not willing to do — nor are they any more willing to do so even today. Therefore, they found it in their interest to let the people’s aspirations degenerate into a situation of two nationalisms warring with each other. The section of the population of East Pakistan — including ethnic Bengalis and the Urdu-speaking Biharis — that had voted for the defeated pro-centre and religious political parties was thus co-opted and aligned against the other section which had voted for the Awami League. The break up of the two wings of the country from each other — and the blood that was to flow in the process — was a price the powers had cynically agreed to impose on the people of Pakistan.

Seeing from the point of view of Mohammad Siddiq Bilwani, the dynamics of the civil war show a resemblance with the murderous events of 1947. He narrates an interesting incident involving what could in today’s parlance be called a non-state actor, a participant in the communal riots that occurred on both sides of the border that divides Pakistani and Indian Punjab. Bilwani says that his family had started two cloth shops at Anarkali and Kashmiri Bazar in Lahore. By 1949 there was no passport between the two newborn states and traders could deal with each other without any restrictions. At the Wagah border, which was 17 miles away from one of his shops, Pakistani and Indian businessmen would exchange their wares and make payments in their country’s respective currency. Once a parcel of cloth got stolen from a shop where Bilwani had left it for safekeeping. The next day, he saw his cloth being sold at another shop. He registered a complaint with the Naulakha police station which raided the shop selling stolen cloth and found that they had bought it from a character called Chitta — the fair-skinned one. Chitta was arrested but quickly set free without any action against him. Bilwani was told that since Chitta was in fact a ‘ghazi-mard’ who had protected some Muslim families during the mayhem accompanying the Partition, he could not be touched.

Bilwani also mentions Younus Matka, who actively participated in the 1971 civil war. He led the Pakistani forces to many places where, according to him, warriors of the other side were hiding. This kind of help was most needed by the members of the forces who did not know the situation on the ground but had the means to kill and maim the ‘enemy’ once he had been pointed out to them. The razakars belonging to Al-Badr and Ash-Shams did more than just that as they had been armed and were able to do some of the killing and maiming themselves. There were the same kind of warriors on the other side as well, who took charge of the situation and treated their enemies in the same way. Once the situation flares up into a civil war, the unarmed people on both sides of the divide are required to provide the necessary moral support to their armed saviours – whether they are called ghazi-mards, mukti-joddhas, razakars or whatever. They are also required to suffer the consequences. The wedge driven between two sections of a human community in such traumatic times survives the war and leaves a stubborn, lasting enmity. The reverence shown to the warriors of the winning side — the victory may be defined in various ways to create different kinds of nationalisms — and the bitter treatment meted out to those of the defeated side is the price to be paid by the people in the long-term.

In order to see the 1971 tragedy on human scale, first-hand personal accounts are indispensible, because it is one person’s narrative — on whichever side that person may be on — that reveals the cracks in the seemingly seamless ‘national’ narratives that are constructed during and after the traumatic events. I came across on such atypical narrative in a diary of a Dhaka University student belonging to Lahore that records his personal experiences from March to June 1971. Anwer Shahid, who went on to become a journalist, wrote and managed to smuggle his diary to West Pakistan when he returned to Lahore in July 1971. I was surprised to learn that his diary, titled Padma Surkh Hai, was published as a series – under a pseudonym “Shaakh” – in the Lahore daily Musawat in November 1971; a journalist decided to translate and publish its installments in Karachi’s Gujarati daily Dawn.http://tribune.com.pk/story/317609/them-and-us/?print=true

January 7, 2012   No Comments

More equal than others in death: by Tazeen Javed in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2012.

In the wake of the cross-border Nato attack in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Salala, the whole country was up in arms against the aggression of the allied forces. From the political parties to lawyers associations, from banned militant outfits to student organisations, from the head of the armed forces to the aunties in drawing room; everyone thought it fitting to lambast the US — especially since most people cannot really distinguish between the US and Nato — for attacking Pakistan’s sovereignty, its land and its people.

A few weeks later, 15 Frontier Constabulary personnel who were captured in Tank on December 23 were taken to Waziristan by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and killed after some time. Unlike the deaths in Salala, no one is mourning the loss of lives of these 15 men because we do not cry at the atrocities committed by our so-called ‘strategic assets’, who not only claim these deaths with impunity, but justify it as an act of revenge. We only lament, or maybe we are pushed into lamenting for those who are killed by foreigners, be it individuals (victims of Raymond Davis) or troops (victims of the Salala raid in November) to get maximum political and material leverage out of it. It’s a slur on our national integrity if soldiers die in cross-border skirmishes, but if our strategic assets — or more likely strategic liabilities — murder a group of soldiers in cold blood, it only merits a brief press release with no mention of the names of those who died.

The victims of Waziristan will also not be grieved because there were no officers and gentlemen amongst them. They were ordinary soldiers, and we do not mourn the deaths of mere soldiers who are killed in the line of duty by their compatriots.

Did any political party call for a protest against this act of barbarism? No.

Has footage of the flag-covered coffins been shown on television channels to invoke public anger and resentment against the TTP? No.

Have our religious parties offered funeral prayers for the soldiers who were kidnapped and killed by the TTP? No.

Did people hold rallies vowing to avenge the deaths of these soldiers at the hand of the Taliban? No.

Did our lawyers boycott their activities and call for action against the TTP? No. In fact, for them, it was business as usual.

Were distressed family members, wailing mothers and fathers with slumped shoulders interviewed to fan public outrage against this barbaric act? No.

Did anyone ask the TTP to pay qisas to the families of the 15 victims? No.

Were there any TV anchors frothing at the mouth, dishing out sermons dripping with moral outrage calling people to stand up against the effrontery of the TTP? No. The debate on television was about memogate and the several contempt of court notices issued by the superior judiciary to members of the PPP leadership.

Why bother, when there is no financial compensation to be had, where no effigy-burning rallies can be organised, and no foreign nation is to be blame. It is known that some animals are more equal than others in the animal farm called Pakistan, but what is now being learned is that some animals are more equal in death as well. http://tribune.com.pk/story/317614/more-equal-than-others-in-death/?print=true

January 7, 2012   No Comments

People at peril; Editorial in the Express Tribune, Jan 7

The kidnapping of a doctor working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Quetta simply places more helpless people at peril. This has been the case each time an aid worker is kidnapped, the office of a humanitarian agency attacked or foreign teams working to deliver food, health care and other basic needs to people who have nothing at all targeted. Dr Khalil Diale was conducting aid work in Balochistan, delivering vital services to some of the most deprived persons in our land. He was abducted by unknown persons from a high-security neighbourhood when returning from his office. Like all ICRC workers, there was no security to protect him and he carried no weapons. The ICRC considers itself protected by its symbol, which carries a universal message of humanity at work. Clearly, there is no respect for this in the Pakistan of today.

Immediately after the incident, the ICRC has announced the closure of six field offices, including three based in the more remote areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Although it states this decision is not directly linked to Dr Diale’s kidnapping, there can be no doubt that such incidents make foreign aid agencies feel less secure and less able to operate in Pakistan. This is a tragedy, given how badly our country and people need the services expert aid workers are able to offer. Others have been targeted before in Quetta and in many other places. The result is more and more agencies have either shut down operations in the country or drastically reduced the scale of their work. There is, as yet, no clue as to whose hands the unfortunate Dr Diale, a British national, had fallen into. The ICRC spokesperson has said no claims for ransom have been made or other demands put forward. It is also clear that our security set-up is something of a disaster. Two years ago, the local UNHCR chief was abducted from precisely the same residential area. The lack of safety for aid workers will make lives of those people that they help, i.e. the impoverished and poor, even more miserable.http://tribune.com.pk/story/317603/people-at-peril/?print=true

January 7, 2012   No Comments

FC killings:Editorial in Dawn, Jan 7

FRIDAY`S report that 15 Frontier Constabulary personnel have been brutally murdered by the Taliban is a reminder that we are not out of the woods yet. The decline in terrorist attacks in 2011 had led to some hope that Pakistan`s Islamist militancy problem is increasingly being brought under control. But this ruthless act demonstrates that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan is still unwilling to accept the state`s authority in certain areas. The TTP declared that the step was taken in response for action by security forces in Khyber Agency, making it clear that it is quite willing and able to retaliate when the state tries to exert this authority.

The incident once again disproves the rhetoric of some political parties that it is foreign forces, not Pakistanis and Muslims, that are fighting the state. The conflict is clearly an indigenous one driven by citizens of this country who wish to establish fiefdoms where they can operate outside the bounds of the law. As such, this latest development points to a couple of realities that should no longer be ignored. One, the Frontier Constabulary is essentially a police force. Unlike the better-trained and better-equipped army and the Frontier Corps, it does not have the wherewithal to carry out the kind of security duties required in some of the border regions between the tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This incident should be used as an opportunity to either step up their resources and training or to revis it their deployment in these areas. Second, the incident was a reminder that at least parts of North Waziristan remain a lawless hub for militant activities, including criminal activities carried out by militant groups. By now a clear pattern has also been established of kidnapping victims, whether state employees or private citizens, being held there while negotiations are conducted or until they are killed. This brazen killing of over a dozen security personnel should be a moment for the army and the civilian government to rethink their approach to North Waziristan and consider whether some action there, if only targeted strikes, is finally warranted. http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/07/fc-killings.html

January 7, 2012   No Comments

Double standards: edit in the daily Times, Jan 7

The mutilated bodies — with 40 bullet holes each — of the 15 kidnapped Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel recovered from North Waziristan are a message from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) demonstrating their nonexistent value of human life and blatant disregard of any norms or principles of warfare. The TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan has claimed responsibility for the killings, saying that they were carried out as vengeance for the death of Qari Kamran and his 11 accomplices in the January 1 military operation in Khyber Agency. However, the situation remains ambiguous as on the one hand, the TTP has released 17 hostages — that too at a time when the government was trying to strike a peace deal with them — and on the other they have killed 15 personnel of the security forces, whilst avowing further such acts of violence as penalty for non-compliance with their demands.

It is interesting to note that this incident has not sparked as much of a reaction as that provoked by the deaths of the 24 Pakistani troops that were killed in the November 26 NATO attack on the Salala checkpost, reflecting the double standards of all those that reacted angrily to the NATO attack. The lives of the FC personnel are as precious as those of the 24 military troops, and so they deserve the same respect and recognition. The martyrdom of these soldiers warrants an equal condemnation from everyone, especially the military establishment. Alas, the military’s good sense seems to have been displaced by their dual policy, according to which the good Taliban — in Afghanistan — are worth saving to serve the purpose of fighting proxy wars there.

It is about time that our military establishment understood that the good Taliban and bad Taliban are two sides of the same coin. Time and again they have shown their true colours and how they are absolutely devoid of any emotion or humanity. Their barbarism has transcended the point where any reason or logic could be used as a means of negotiating peace deals with them. They are answerable to no one and they will stop at nothing to impose their extremist version of the shariah on the state, as was evident from their public denunciation of the constitution. Bearing in mind the past and continuing record of the Taliban’s brutality and tendency to use peace talks as opportunities to regroup and strengthen their ranks, those who believe that peace can be made with such people must snap out of this illusion and accept the Taliban for what they really are — the enemy of our country. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\01\07\story_7-1-2012_pg3_1

January 7, 2012   No Comments

Rs45 bn capacity building projects slashed: by Mehtab Haider in the News, Jan 7

ISLAMABAD: In an effort to rationalise development budget, the government on Friday decided to exclude 80 capacity building projects, worth Rs45 billion, of different ministries/divisions from the list of Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

At a time of severe financial crisis in the country, the minutes of high-level meeting disclosed that Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Dr NadeemuI Haq severely criticised bureaucracy for undertaking projects such as “Holiday Rooms” at Murree in the name of capacity building projects. The monitoring units of ministries/divisions will be abolished while projects on the pattern of “Strengthening of Ministries” have also been abandoned.

In future, there will be no capacity building projects undertaken through PSDP allocations and any ministry undertaking any such project would have to allocate resources from envelop of current budget. “The government has so far spent Rs18.5 billion on these ongoing 80 capacity building projects while remaining throw forward stood at over Rs25 billion,” sources told The News.

The government, he said had allocated Rs6 billion for capacity building projects in the ongoing fiscal year out of which it utilised around Rs3 billion in first six months (July-Dec) period of 2011-12.

The DCPC also constituted a committee to review all projects undertaken by Planning Commission itself and there were indications that some changes in the administration of projects would take place in the coming weeks. Presently, the PSDP list comprises 1,271 development projects with an estimated cost of over Rs3,000 billion. The critics were of the opinion that there are several projects which cannot be completed even during the next 50 to 100 years keeping in view the pace of allocations on per annum basis so rationalisation of PSDP was necessary.

“We have given a deadline to ministries/divisions to accomplish all such projects till December 2012 and if there is requirement to continue any of these capacity building projects then it should be converted on the current budget of the concerned ministry instead of using allocation of development budget,” sources confirmed while talking to a select group of reporters after two-day deliberations held with DCPC Dr Nadeemul Haq to rationalise PSDP on Friday.

Dr Nadeemul Haq said the inefficiencies of ministries could not be allowed to be financed through development budgets. “We want to discourage projectised mode of government,” he added.

He said the ministries were directed to accomplish all such projects till December 2012 after which it would be converted on current budget. Around 80 percent capacity building projects, government functionaries insist, will be accomplished within the given deadline.

However, official sources said that the DCPC criticised the role of ministries and said that bureaucrats should equip themselves with latest knowledge and ministries should be restructured in such a way that helped them undertaking their assignment in an effective manner.

The Ministry of Industries and Commerce were directed to equip themselves with latest developments on World Trade Organisation (WTO) instead of hiring consultants and experts to undertake research on this subject. http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=11545&Cat=13

January 7, 2012   No Comments

CNG bus service PM`s promise goes up in smoke; By Imran Ali Teepu in Dawn, Jan 7

ISLAMABAD, Jan 6: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani`s promise to launch a bus service in Islamabad turned out to be a `political stunt` since the capital city`s main civic body has shelved the project, it has been learnt.

“The project of CNG bus service is shelved as it`s not feasible since there is no gas available and it`s an established fact,” the chairman of Capital Development Authority, Farkhand Iqbal, told Dawn on Friday.

Mr Gilani had in July last year directed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to launch the much-needed bus service within six months.

The civic agency had been working on the directive of the prime minister and companies were being short listed for tendering to purchase the buses, said an official requesting anonymity.

However, a source in the CDA added that the authority`s officials were reluctant to launch the rapid public bus service because it was likely to affect the local transport service besides having political implications.

The capital city has some 1,800 mini-vans and coasters plying on some 18 routes allocated by the transport authorities of the twin cities. However, the citizens have to face problems because local transporters never provide them quality service while during CNG strikes the citizens become the worst sufferers.

The civic agency, which has spent over Rs40 billion during the last one decade on several mega development projects, including flyovers, bridges, and new roads, has failed to launch a transit bus service to facilitate the citizens.

“The prime minister must have been given a wrong advice by someone since CNG bus service is not feasible at all and we have seen loss of millions of rupees in Lahore where the bus service is failing,” observed Mr Iqbal, who has previously served in the Planning Commission.

It is pertinent to mention that Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has launched a CNG bus service in Lahore and it is still plying without any interruption.

Mr Iqbal has come up with a new idea. “I am thinking of a new way to resolve the problems of the commuters and will give this idea to the board members: we should have a diesel or petrol not a CNG-based bus service.”

He said the diesel buses would not only have long engine life but would also run better than the Chinese CNG buses.

“We will offer subsidy to the commuters who will be using our bus service,” claimed the CDA chief.

It is quite strange that CDA`s media department had claimed on several occasions and also issued a number of press releases claiming that the promised bus service was being launched. www.dawn.com/2012/01/07/cng-bus-service-pms-promise-goes-up-in-smoke.html

January 7, 2012   No Comments

Minister’s car snatched

KARACHI, Jan 6: A private car of a federal minister belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was snatched from his driver and a police guard in a Gulshan-i-Iqbal locality on Friday, police said.

They said that the car of Ports and Shipping Minister Babar Ghauri was snatched in Gulshan-i-Iqbal’s Block 17 within the remit of the Aziz Bhatti police station, where his daughter had gone shopping.

The driver and police guard were waiting in the Toyota Corolla (AUR-852) when four armed men emerged, roughed up the driver and the guard and sped away in the snatched vehicle, they added.

The police said that they also snatched the official AK-47 assault rifle from the police guard.

Till late in the night, no FIR was lodged and a duty officer at the Aziz Bhatti police station said that the police were waiting for a complainant to register an FIR.—http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/07/ministers-car-snatched.html

January 7, 2012   No Comments