Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — May 2013

What Punjab can do and what it has never done

by Ayaz Amir in The News, May 31

Mystics and divines, poets and singers, men of enterprise and of daring, of quality and base instinct, the best dancing girls in the entire sub-continent, Punjab has given birth to them all. What, through some quirk of geography or history, it has never been able to produce is the able ruler.

Except of course for a single exception: for over 2000 years, from Alexander’s invasion to the Partition of British India in 1947, only one ruler of ability and distinction in its turbulent history, the great Maharajah Ranjit Singh. Apart from him, governors and vassals in plenty but no independent ruler, principally because Punjab was never an independent kingdom except when Ranjit Singh raised it to that status.

Afghan kings, kings of Turkish origin, Mughal emperors but only one Punjabi king. So while Punjab had other strong traditions, in agriculture, music, poetry, dancing, and, I daresay, the sycophantic arts which come so readily to subjugated people, the one tradition its superior classes lacked was that of leadership.

They knew best how to scrape and bow before authority. They were good at carrying out orders. But in 1947 history placed upon their shoulders the task of creating a nation and giving that nation a sense of direction. And they were not up to it, because nothing in their past had prepared them for this. True, Punjab’s elite classes, in alliance with the Urdu-speaking elites who had crossed over from India, managed to create order out of the chaos of Partition, a remarkable feat in itself. A country was thus born but something else as important proved elusive: the quest for nationhood.

Small wonder, misgiving arose from the very start, not everyone feeling that they were equal citizens of the new state, certainly not the people of East Pakistan who despite being in a majority felt excluded from decision-making. Baloch nationalists were unhappy, Pakhtun nationalists aggrieved, they who had been in the forefront of the struggle against the British. And winds of religiosity beat down upon the land, making what were still called minorities uneasy.

Jinnah had said that religion had no place in politics, the gist of his famous address to the Constituent Assembly just a few days before independence. But here something else was happening, religious rhetoric becoming more powerful even as political and economic performance lagged far behind.

Paranoia as regards India, an insecurity which sought relief in military alliances with the United States, an obsession with religious chest-thumping, truly bizarre in a Muslim majority country where Islam should have been the last thing in danger, or the least in need of artificial props – of such humours was concocted the doctrine that came to be hailed, and indeed flaunted, as the ideology of Pakistan.

The Baloch had no fear of India. For them Kashmir was a distant proposition. In Sindh where there was a large Hindu population, the people had no problem with India or Hinduism. Neither did the Pakhtuns have any mental problems with India, despite being very religious in their everyday outlook. In the tribal areas and in places like Swat there were Sikh and Hindu communities which felt safe and co-existed happily with their Muslim neighbours.

But it was altogether different with the official Punjabi mind and that of the Urdu-speaking elites where flourished the demons of fear and insecurity, more as a political tactic than a psychological necessity because it was a good way to keep the rest of the population in line. And because these classes dominated the upper echelons of the armed forces, the ethos of the services came also to be imbued by the same fears and compulsions.

Paradoxically, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who should have been the most enlightened man of his generation fanned the flames of this anti-Indianism more than anyone else, perhaps calculating (although there can be other theories on this score) that beating the anti-India drum would best appeal to the Punjab masses. But when the wheel came full circle the movement against him in 1977 received its most powerful impetus in Punjab, and it was the Punjab bazaar and trading classes which bayed the loudest for his blood.

When Gen Zia went looking for allies against Bhutto he found the fiercest in Punjab. When President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the ISI sought to contain Benazir Bhutto in her first prime ministership they groomed a champion in the form of one Mian Nawaz Sharif, a scion of Punjab. The fateful enterprises promoted in the name of ‘jihad’ found some of their first votaries and loudest advocates in Punjab.

Land of the five rivers – what hast thou not wrought? From thy bosom arising Guru Nanak and Bulleh Shah, Shah Hussain and Waris Shah, Iqbal and Faiz and Munir Niazi, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Kundan Lal Saigal, Rafi and Noor Jahan, not to forget the great Sir Ganga Ram who had no equal when it came to giving, and Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his companions who had no equals when it came to laying down their lives in the cause of freedom. At the same time, land of our fathers, home to so much nonsense at the altar of faith and righteousness.

Pakistan today is largely what Punjab, for good or ill, has made it. Indian Punjab is a small part of India. Pakistani Punjab encompasses the best and worst of Pakistan. The social conservatism on display in our midst, the mental backwardness, the narrowness of outlook, the triumph of hypocrisy, the destruction of national education, the muddling up of national priorities, the temples erected to the false gods of national security – so much of this, alas, can be traced to the incapacities of Punjab.

Perhaps Ranjit Singh was an aberration, a historic anomaly – out of the mould and thus one of a kind.

Our Punjab certainly has nothing in common with his kingdom. In his army found service men of all races and religions. There were Mussalman battalions in his army and his head of artillery was Mian Ghausa, just as his principal wazir was from the Faqirkhana family of Lahore. And his favourite wife was a Muslim, Bibi Gulbahar Begam.

The PML-N has been in power in Islamabad twice before but in different circumstances, Nawaz Sharif not quite his own man in his first incarnation and, despite his huge majority, an unsure man in his second. He now comes as someone who has seen and experienced a great deal. So can he make a difference? Disavowing his past, does he have it in him to write a fresh history of Punjab?

Another thing to remember about the Lion of Punjab (the only lion, others all fake and imitations) is that he knew how to handle his Afghan problem. He defeated the Afghans and took Peshawar from them. Peshawar was part of the Sikh dominions annexed by the British. So if Peshawar and its environs are a part of Pakistan today it is because of that earlier Sikh conquest, half-forgotten in the mists of time. As Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan go prattling about talking to the Taliban they could do worse than study the Maharajah’s approach to the Afghans.

So can we get our historical compasses right? For over 2000 years on the soil of what is Pakistan today no independent realm or kingdom existed except two: the kingdom of Lahore and the state of Pakistan. The first was a success, a well-run entity, at least as long as the Maharajah was alive; the second is the shambles that we have made over the last 65 years.

Now there comes an opportunity to redeem our past. Question is, can the new rulers of Pakistan be half as good as their most illustrious predecessor, the one and only King of Punjab?http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-181004-What-Punjab-can-do-and-what-it-has-never-don

May 31, 2013   No Comments

Move for forward bloc in Senate: by Amir Wasim in Dawn, May 31

ISLAMABAD: In a significant move, some dissident senators from the PPP met at a hotel here on Thursday to discuss the formation of a forward bloc in the upper house of parliament to extend its support to the PML-N government, sources told Dawn.

A number of independent senators from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas also attended the meeting.

The sources said the meeting had taken place at the initiative of some PPP senators from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the participants decided to meet again in a couple of days to finalise their strategy.

When contacted, Senator Adnan Khan confirmed the meeting but said it was an `informal get-together’ at lunch. He, however, admitted that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future course of action after a change in the country’s political scenario after the elections.

He said the meeting basically wanted to know the viewpoint of independent senators from Fata whether they would extend support to the future PML-N government.

“We have not decided anything yet. We are holding consultations on the nature of future relationship with the next government,” Mr Adnan said.

Answering a question, he said so far they had not been approached or contacted by the PML-N.

Despite having its government at the centre, the PML-N may face difficulties in carrying out its legislative agenda since it lacks majority in the Senate. The PPP is the largest party in the 104-member house with 39 senators.

Those who attended the meeting, according to the sources, included Abbas Afridi, Humayun Mandokhel, Waqar Ahmed Khan and Saifullah Bangash.

The sources claimed that the forward bloc could comprise about a dozen members. http://dawn.com/2013/05/31/move-for-forward-bloc-in-senate/

May 31, 2013   No Comments

Fahim likely to be PPP’s candidate for PM

LAHORE, May 30: The Pakistan People’s Party is reported to have almost reached a consensus to field its own candidate for the post of prime minister and not to give Imran Khan a chance to shine as the main force of opposition.

Most of the senior PPP leaders are learnt to have told President Asif Ali Zardari that it would be ‘disastrous’ for the party’s future if it voted for PML-N president Nawaz Sharif in the election for the post of prime minister.

In view of their opinion, President Zardari is likely to inform Mr Sharif about the party’s desire to field its own candidate just before the election. PPP Parliamentarians President Makhdoom Amin Fahim is being tipped as the party’s candidate.

“The PPP is likely to field its own candidate for the slot of the prime minister as it does not want to leave the field open for the candidates of other parties. However, a final decision will be taken by President Zardari,” PPP secretary general Latif Khosa told Dawn on Thursday.

The party, he said, had discussed whether to field its own candidate or to vote for Nawaz Sharif. There is almost a consensus that the PPP should field its own candidate because it is the second largest party in parliament and it should not appear to be subservient to any other party.

Mr Khosa said the PPP would play a constructive role in the opposition and would not allow anyone to thrive on its politics.

When asked whether the PML-N had ‘formally requested’ the PPP to vote for Mr Sharif, Mr Khosa said: “Yes, but the Charter of Democracy is no more there between us.”

Khurshid Shah is a PPP candidate for the post of leader of opposition.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has already fielded Makhdoom Javed Hashmi as its candidate for the post of prime minister.

The PPP has 38 and the PTI 33 members in the National Assembly.

Senior party stalwarts believe that voting for Nawaz Sharif will get them the label of ‘friendly opposition’. “I have told President Zardari in a recent meeting that we would harm ourselves if we vote for Mr Sharif,” a senior PPP leader from central Punjab told Dawn.

“Other leaders and I also told the president that the grassroots tier of the party also wants us to engage in aggressive opposition politics because of Imran Khan’s threat.

We will not be considered to be in the opposition despite having our own opposition leader if we go soft on the PML-N,” he said.

On the other hand, the PML-Q which has two seats in the National Assembly has decided in principle to abstain during voting. “Both the PPP and PTI have contacted us but we have decided to abstain,” a PML-Q leader told Dawn.


May 31, 2013   No Comments

MQM not invited by PML-N for power sharing

by Ahmad Hassan in The News, May 31

ISLAMABAD: The decision of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to sit in the opposition is out of compulsion and not out of a choice as the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has not invited it for power sharing in Islamabad.

A PML-N leader confided to The News on Thursday that the party has decided not to bring any of the former coalition parties in the coalition’s folds but it would welcome if anyone of them extends out of the box support to it in implementation of its agenda.

The MQM, which has met with a chaotic situation following the May 11 polls, is now in a damage control mode and hence its decision not to go along with its former ally Pakistan People’s Party’s half-hearted invitation in Sindh is also its political compulsion.

The problem with the MQM is multiplied by the British government’s reaction to Altaf Hussain’s outbursts which he latter though attempted to clarify and even backed out from. The whole party leadership is engaged in advancing justifications and clarifications with reference to his post-May 11 speeches mainly targeting the PTI leadership.

In such a situation, no mainstream party would like to ally with the MQM unless it was completely cleared by the concerned authorities of the allegations of fomenting violence and separatist feelings among its workers.

Political observers say that the MQM was left with no political alternative but to sit on the opposition benches in Islamabad, while it opted to oppose the PPP in the Sindh Assembly to remove the impression among its voters that it cannot do without being part of every government.

However, a PPP stalwart when quizzed said the party wanted to run the provincial government without the support of any party so as it could create vital political space for it in urban Sindh as well. It appears from the decisions and pending actions by the PML-N so far that it is determined not to make its government a multi-party coalition though it has so far entered into an accord with the PML-F and is about to strike an agreement with the JUI-F to strengthen its numerical base in the National Assembly and Senate. But it has so far not invited the PPP, MQM, PML-Q, JI, Qaumi Jamhoori Party or any other splinter group for power sharing. Among these parties, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the lower house Syed Khursheed Shah has hinted at extending cooperation to the PML-N if the latter so asked in election of the prime minister.

A PML-N leader said that PM-designate Nawaz Sharif had showed enough magnanimity in allowing the PTI to form its government in the KP despite that fact that his party could easily have maneuvered numbers in a situation of 35 versus 89 MPAs. It is now turn of Imran Khan, he said, to show a big heart in election of PM if other parties agree to make it a unanimous one.

PML-N has already entered into an alliance with Mehmud Khan Achakzai’s Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Dr Abdul Malik’s National Party on provincial levels in order to form a representative government in the province and a power sharing formula for central government may also be reached in coming days. A senior leaguer said the purpose of swearing in of a small size cabinet in the first batch was to leave few portfolios for the allies with whom no understanding has reached so far and they will be accommodated in the next stage.http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-180950-MQM-not-invited-by-PML-N-for-power-sharing

May 31, 2013   No Comments

Making security sector reforms work in Pakistan

By Dr. Maqsudul Hasan Nuri in the Frontier Post, May 29

(The writer works as Adviser at Centre for Policy Studies COMSATS Institute for Information and Technology Islamabad)

Security Sector Reforms (SSRs) are needed in all developing and post-conflict societies. Since the 1990s when the concept came into vogue it has been thought that societal development cannot proceed unless security sector reforms are also simultaneously carried out. In order to make SSRs operative and effective it is important to move across a wide spectrum.

There is e.g. a need to recognize Pakistan’s legitimate needs and interests by its leaders as well as donor countries; the necessity for global assistance; the need to secure commitment of local leadership and ownership; confidence-building between military and civil sectors; and necessity of long-range commitment. At the domestic level, policy makers have to set priorities in view of available resources for pursuing security or economic development. No doubt, security sector is important and a powerful factor in its own way but it does not mean that military security alone will necessarily lead to economic development. Rather, it has been the reverse in many cases, including Pakistan. In fact, these have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Where the militaries are engaged in curbing civil unrest or fighting terrorism, it becomes difficult to initiate the SSRs process. Also, in certain situations of weak developing countries, riddled with internal conflicts, corrupt and fragile political systems there is sometimes last-minute need of military intervention to clean the Augean stables and set things right. But this is only a last resort measure before things are handed over to political governments.

However as a general rule, regular military forces must come under the purview of the SSR umbrella. Ideally, without lowering the security guard the human security dimension has to be promoted fast. In countries like Pakistan, a healthy balance of military as well as non-military security should set in motion a reinforcing process of healthy change and reform. Meaningful reforms are due in this domain. Especially intelligence agencies are always a tough nut to crack. Their function is to provide for state security by keeping a vigil on anti-state elements and nefarious activities of hostile powers. Given the opaque nature of functions, they have to be transparent and avoid things which impinge on any civilized democratic society. These are unexplained killings, disappearances, detentions and kidnappings of opposition leaders and groups. Likewise, police, rangers and paramilitary forces have to abstain from unwarranted detentions and extra-legal killings or letting off criminals for lack of evidence or under political pressures.

It is also important that lower judiciary be reformed where evidence collection is still unscientific, non-professional and investigation techniques are shoddy. Besides, corruption, intimidation of judges, lack of witness protection, shortage and poor training of judges make the legal process time consuming and frustrating for ordinary citizens. Prison reforms are needed as there is a dire shortage of prisons, overcrowding, prevalence of crime, unsanitary and inhuman conditions and lingering of cases due to shortage of magistrates, corruption and violence. Good governance and human rights should be preconditioned by donor nations before extending aid for initiating meaningful reforms.

This may be sometime seen as impinging on national sovereignty or dictation but it is essential for robust reforms’ process to be set in motion. The donor’s support to parliament, judiciary, media, capacity-building and training will help strengthen the SSR reforms’ dynamics in many developing countries. It is asserted that recipient countries must harmonize, prioritize and sequence their policies and avoid any turf wars. Likewise, donor nations have to harmonize their aid policies and set benchmarks for effective implementation. The above strategy is needed while imbibing experiences from some Western nations together with East Asian countries such as Japan. While the SSRs may not achieve most of the results without a broad transformation of the security sector, the reverse is also true as political reforms process could get easily stalled without necessary SSRs. In other words, an evolutionary approach is better than an ambitious programme or piecemeal or spasmodic efforts. In societies, regime changes or end of protracted wars sometimes act as triggers for initiating reforms process. However, relatively stable societies are slow to accept and implement these reforms. Any fundamental change only occurs after a paradigm shift takes place. So, the window of opportunity must not be allowed to be wasted away. How far and how much foreign assistance helps to initiate and foster SSR reforms? Foreign assistance can flow from international finance institutions, individual governments, NGOs, or a consortium of states like G-8. Transfer of finances, knowledge, experience and expertise are all helpful but these measures, unless backed by internal motivation, cannot prove effective. Military, judiciary, human rights bodies, police and paramilitary outfits, parliament and non-governmental organizations—where weak and non-functional— cannot help much to strengthen the reforms process. In countries like Pakistan, foreign assistance can influence both military and civil government by:

A. encouraging debate and building consensus on national security issues; B: involving both civil and military sectors in defining security and building CBMs and ushering consultation process without being too intrusive; C: providing ethical input on how to restructure security forces; D: Allocating and monitoring public expenditure; E: Redefining lines of authorities of military and parliament; and F: legislating for sustainability and tying up reforms with aid, and g. helping in establishing pro-reform constituencies. This is somewhat difficult as changing the ingrained attitudes, skills; habits and vested interests take time and effort. Overall, in South Asia, including Pakistan, women comprise almost half of the total population. Their potential in development remains woefully underutilized due to illiteracy, social taboos and marginalized status. They can play a positive role in SSRs e.g., during normal times, peace-building, pre-conflict and post-conflict situations. In fact, very little attention has been devoted about their involvement in SSRs despite the UNSCR 1325 which mandates women’s inclusion in reformation of security sector, peace processes and post-conflict reconstruction. They can play a positive role in e.g., networking with mainstream civil society groups and think tanks, which are specializing in security issues in exchange of knowledge and capacity-building; educating men and women on mechanisms/ frameworks on particular needs of women; raising consciousness through public meetings; utilizing media by publishing and disseminating findings; identifying with key governmental and military actors on civil society concerns; pressuring all parties for inclusion of women in reform decisions; urging government and parliament to consider community needs; monitoring governmental and international discussions; overseeing budgets, expenditures, procurement practices in parliament and defense departments and; lobbying anti-discrimination/affirmative action, and; espousing gender-awareness in military organizations, parliament and civil society. The practice needs to be avoided as under the rubric of SSRs, it could lead to undifferentiated strategies under the guise of different programs. Interestingly, different countries’ experiences with the SSRs hold some object lessons for South Asia, especially Pakistan. Despite unique configuration of circumstances in many developing countries, a significant proportion of these reforms were mostly externally-driven. That the SSRs’ implementation is going to prove a formidable task needs no emphasis. In order to be realistic, one should not overlook the macro-economic picture facing Pakistan. As an example, the Human Development 2013 lists Pakistan in the Low Human Development (LHD) category— ranking it 146 out of 186 countries. Pakistan’s development indicators as compared to other South Asian neighbours in e.g., in infant mortality, GDP growth, education, health are very low. SSRs have been applied by different states in varied contexts, diverse forms and under special circumstances and compulsions. Moreover, they are not regime-dependent and democratization process is no guarantee that these reforms will always take place or shall be successful. As part-security and part-development concept, SAARC could be a useful platform in South Asia to forge greater levels of cooperation. One hopes that after the May 2013 General Elections in Pakistan, external and domestic societal forces could motivate the Pakistani state to initiate and implement the much- needed SSRs, ushering in desired societal development, resulting in people’s welfare and happiness..http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/15857/

May 29, 2013   No Comments

Nawaz likely to keep defence, foreign ministries with himself

by Mayed Ali in the News, May 29

LAHORE: The PML-N has almost carved out the shape of its cabinet in the federal government with some grey areas, where the aspirants are still engaged in a fierce battle for winning the heart of the leadership, The News has learnt. Some faces have already surfaced on the horizon with Senator Ishaq Dar certain to getting the money matters of the country in his hands for the next five years.

As for two other important ministries — foreign affairs and defence — that the PM-in-waiting, Mian Nawaz Sharif, will keep these with him for the time being. It has been learnt he will get these portfolios supplemented by inducting advisers with strong credentials in both areas. Sartaj Aziz is expected to assist him in designing his foreign priorities. No name has been finalised yet for equipping the PM on the defence related matters.

For managing the predominantly PML-N bulge in parliament, Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s name has already been tossed. However, there are concerns among the important circles within the party about the consequences if the dice is rolled in this Pashtun-origin Baloch’s favour. The office of the Speaker has assumed great significance after the recent constitutional amendments, and the PML-N government doesn’t want any ‘inhouse’ trouble.

A unique tug-of-war is on between Sumera Malik and Dr Tariq Fazal for the office of the Deputy Speaker. Both the giants are not ready to lose an inch before the guillotine finally falls. Both are really strong contenders, yet, the sources say, odds are in favour of Sumera Malik for giving the party a progressive façade for having a woman run the house when the head is away.

Similarly, Senator Pervez Rasheed and Senator Mushahidullah have their horns locked for the slot of Minister of State for Information. Ahsan Iqbal is being tipped to get the information ministry. However, he is also trying his luck for getting the prestigious portfolio of education.

The three-way dispute has a simple solution. That is, Pervez Rasheed could be made the full-fledged minister for handling the media with Mushahidullah Khan working as the minister of state for information.

Another such royal battle is on between Abdul Qadir Baloch and Ch Nisar Ali Khan with both staking a claim on the so important interior ministry. The big gun from Rawalpindi was hoping for getting a chance of using his clout by managing the defence portfolio as well. At the moment, the leader himself is interested in keeping this important slot with himself. The decision, though, is not final.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq is expected to be rewarded generously for downing the PTI Chief, Imran Khan, in NA-122 (Lahore). He might get the grand envelope of important portfolios under the name of communications. With his experience as a proactive chairman of the standing committee on Railways, who else could be better suited!

Another stalwart, Kh Asif is set to work on the water and power sector which, the PML-N believes, is the most vital portfolio for materialising the party’s agenda on rolling the economy in motion.

Khurram Dastagir Khan from Gujranwala is anticipated to bag the Ministry of Commerce. He has offered services for the same. He had also served as Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce. The party wants him to be the minister of state for the same portfolio, while he is insisting to take it all as the federal minister.

Another knight from Lahore, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, will also have his share in this stupendous success of the party with chances of managing the industries of the country.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the one-time PML-N isotope during the last few years, someone who had to be given political helpings frequently by the top two men of the party for the fear of his strong inclination towards the PTI, is expected to be obliged by the Ministry for Defence Production so as to balance his ‘mass number’ once and for all.

Old hand, Kamran Michael, will watch his own community as well as other minorities. Another important induction will be of Abdul Haleem Baloch, the party’s lone ranger from Karachi. He might be awarded the Ministry of Ports and Shipping.

Former Senator Tariq Azeem will become the PM’s adviser. However, his domain is yet to be decided. He will surely be fielded as the party’s candidate for the Senate.

Interestingly, Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa, the once party top leader and the man who has rendered great sacrifices during the Musharraf period, is expected to work in the same payscale for the moment. He has vacated the provincial seat already after the Legharis’ successful invasion in the Khosas’ territory within and without party. Despite all their flirtation, Awais Leghari has not yet got any clue from the PML-N as to what the party intends to offer him for the pre and post-polls job well done.

The PML-N will surely dish-out something to each of its allies. The party is working on that. Apart from allies, the party is also having long brainstorming sessions for accommodating the newly-inducted independents and other pressure groups. The final contours of the new cabinet, nevertheless, will emerge a day or so before the swearing in of the new premier. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-23159-Nawaz-likely-to-keep-defence-foreign-ministries-with-himself

May 29, 2013   No Comments

Will the real Nawaz please step up: op-ed by Mohammad Malick in The News, May 25

The writer is editor The News, Islamabad.

It’s a bit of a quandary. How does one attempt an assessment of the politics of the once selected, twice elected, twice exiled, and repeatedly duped prime minister? After all, the man must surely know his power politics. You don’t become the country’s prime minister just like that, and that too twice over. But Nawaz did. And he sent two army chiefs and two presidents packing. He got on the wrong side of the world by taking the nuclear arsenal out of the closet – and survived. He almost ordained himself the Ameer-ul-Momineen through a spate of constitutional amendments. He politically outlived a five-year exile and a treason case to see the back of his nemesis, Gen Musharraf, only to turn the treason table and seek Mush’s trial on the same charges. He’s defied the US on more than one occasion and yet managed to get Washington to secure his return to Pakistan, along with Benazir Bhutto.

Let’s admit it, you have to be deft at both people politics and private intrigues to manage all this.

So here’s my dilemma. Why does a gentleman with such a ‘distinguished’ history suddenly appear lost in the political labyrinth? Instead of cruising along on a thoughtfully charted political course, Nawaz’s progression is becoming more about jolts and stops dictated by circumstances rather than by design. Proactive politics appears to have been replaced by reactive realpolitik. Instead of spelling out the terms of engagement for the ruling dispensation, he seems to be forever fielding the ball thrown his way by the street-smart president. Since 2008, he has repeatedly ended up walking back his talk. What is happening here?

A number of factors are in play. Critics accuse Nawaz of only talking about changing the power status quo but not actually wanting to upset the apple cart since he is lord of over 60% of the country and also optimistic of reoccupying the prime minister’s sprawling residence.

The critique has its logic. Without the state exchequer at his party’s beck and call, who could have imagined financially disastrous but politically rewarding schemes like sasti roti, expensive laptops and good old yellow cabs in cities without roads. Billions of rupees were blown away on these fanciful projects, but hey, who’s counting?

At one level, the ruling dispensation in Punjab should feel beholden to the centre for being so shamefully incompetent and criminally corrupt and by sheer comparison and default, making the Punjab administration look good. But in essence, Punjab too is a litany of failures. When the PML-N government took over, Punjab’s finances were in the black – not anymore. So, it does make sense for Nawaz and Co to ensure status quo because they will need the financial and administrative advantages of incumbency to cover the shortcomings of that very incumbency.

On the other hand, there is also the question of whether Nawaz has met too daunting an opponent in the person of Asif Ali Zardari who outsmarted him by taking him on board to facilitate the ousting of Gen Musharraf and then forced him into jump ship in the middle of the sea. I can’t help recalling a conversation with President Zardari a long time ago wherein he said, rather condescendingly and light heartedly, that had he known that, “Nawaz was such a simpleton,” he would have “made him friends with BB a long time back.” It was a statement made without malice, or at least I didn’t detect any, but a clear indicator that Zardari hardly considers Nawaz an indomitable adversary. And the fact that Nawaz too has failed to present a single credible threat to the centre must have bolstered the president’s already bursting confidence.

Nawaz Sharif’s political career has come full circle indeed. Starting off as a handpicked chief minister of Gen. Jilani and the self-professed ideological heir to late Gen. Zia Ul Haq, he was then chastened by the Musharraf experience and has become the staunchest opponent of military’s role in the country. The bitter experience of his ouster from office in 1999 has made him immensely jittery at the thought of future army intervention and his anxiety has indeed assumed the proportions of an obsessive fear. And Zardari, the consummate politician, has clearly smelled the putrid odour of this fear of Nawaz. Thus, he dangles the khaki boogey in Nawaz’s face to force him to step back from the precipice every time he dares act like a genuine opposition force.

The mantra of not doing anything that could possibly “derail the system,” in his oft-repeated words, has started ringing hollow because the possibility of khaki adventurism could not be more remote at this point in time. The media and judicial landscape of the country stands transformed. The masses are no longer a silent flock. From domestic politics to foreign policy agendas, both the GHQ and the presidency are on the same page and have worked out the happy formula of mutual appeasement and coexistence. What third force is Nawaz so scared of then, the PTI?

The politics of blow-hot-blow-cold has run its course. Political opposition can no longer be stage-managed as has been the case in the past. Instead of guiding the public and providing them leadership in matters pertaining to the public interest – including the power crisis, inflation, official corruption etc. – the Nawaz-led PML-N has only hijacked the sporadic outpourings of public discontent. Judging the mood of extreme public annoyance with the centre and not wanting other political forces and primarily Imran Khan’s PTI to capitalise on the simmering rage, Nawaz has embarked on a nationwide campaign to whip up support for that “final push” against the government. But is this latest show of opposition for real? Hardly – because the rallies are so few and so far apart that they would never be able to build the requisite momentum. And apparently that is precisely the purpose. To huff in public, and cough in private.

Simply put, during the past four years, Nawaz has been rolling with the punches but he has never put up a real fight. At one point, the PML-N talked of resigning en-masse from assemblies to pressurise the government into holding early elections – but then very conveniently forgot about this option. Now the logic goes, we don’t want to leave the field open to the treasury and expose the system to the third force. But the truth of the matter is that Nawaz’s PML-N does not want to lose control over its own provincial purse strings and is therefore willing to allow the federal government to carry on with its plunder of the state exchequer. Simple.

People like Khawaja Asif and Khawaja Saad Rafique – advocating a categorical stance on the issue of the PML-N emerging as a genuine opposition with clearly defined strategic objectives and not as an element facilitating PPP’s perpetuation in power – are turning into lonely voices of dissent. The Nawaz-led PML-N may have been making all the right noises expected of a serious and challenging opposition but cannot boast of a single tangible action to embellish its opposition credentials.

Nawaz constantly talks about the need for change in the country, of causing a paradigm shift in national priorities and objectives. And yet, what has he really changed about himself and his party besides sticking to his avowed commitment to move away from khaki flirtation? Nothing really. The party remains a personality cult. His party’s government is not even a shadow of its former self. Meritocracy has given way to sycophant mediocrity. To quote one of PML-N’s own, “For every Babar Awan in the PPP, the PML-N has a Rana Sanaullah to match.”

What would a contemporary historian writing about the house of Sharif say about its legacy: A family with a brotherly duo of a two-term chief minister and a twice-elected prime minister; a party with make-do policies aimed at short term electoral gains; a vision bereft of any real desire to transform people’s life, and mindsets. After years of being in power, Nawaz had the chance of a lifetime to leave behind a legacy to be proud of. And perhaps he still can. The question is, will he step up and do so? http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-110392-Will-the-real-Nawaz-please-step-up

May 25, 2013   No Comments

Panacea gone wrong: op-ed by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar in Dawn, May 25

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

MUCH has been written and said in recent times about the middle class and its purported role in extricating Pakistan from the traps of underdevelopment, nepotism and political violence.

Many of the hypotheses in vogue are little more than tautologies: the middle class will be the saviour because that is what the middle class does. The argument has merit only if history simply reproduces itself, or more specifically if the story of western modernity is merely waiting to be played out again in the non-western world.

The fact is that the role of the middle class in other contexts cannot be neatly mapped onto ours. The middle class is not necessarily any more or less democratic or tolerant than any other class. It can be just as committed to exclusive, even fascistic, ideologies as to inclusive and progressive ones. That the middle class is identified with modernity does not mean that all of its inheritances and proclivities are good for society as a whole.

To begin with, the concept of the middle class is extremely nebulous. Is it to be defined in terms of income, ownership of the means of production, or simply self-perception?

In practice there are many ostensibly middle-class segments that share very little both in terms of their social locations and their politics; consider, for example, the almost diametrically opposed sensibilities of the English-speaking employee of a multinational company who has spent all of his/her life in one of the country’s big metropolitan centres with those of the Seraiki-speaking aarthi doing business in the grain market of D.G. Khan and maintaining a home in a nearby village.

There is arguably one conviction that most urban middle-class Pakistanis share (particularly those in the Punjabi heartland and big urban centres): that they have consistently suffered at the hands of a shameless ‘ruling elite’ that pillages the resources of the country mercilessly.

This elite is typically depicted as ‘feudal’, and lords over the tens of millions of hapless ‘poor people’ in the vast countryside.

In contrast, the middle class is small and ever-shrinking, in large part because of the unending plunder of the ‘elite’.

Some of our best-intentioned liberal middle-class folk don’t like the comparison but this narrative is championed most vociferously by none other than Altaf Hussain.

Ever since the Mohajir Qaumi Movement gave way to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, its leadership has regularly invoked the imperative of ending the rule of the ‘feudals’ and graciously bestowing upon the long-suffering Sindhi masses all the

benefits of modern statehood. Lest one forget, the MQM never ceases to remind us of its middle-class character.

The MQM’s politics over the years provides even more insight into the historic posture of the romanticised middle class. A product of the Zia dictatorship, the MQM has hardly been out of power for the best part of three decades. It has championed local government at the cost of power-sharing among all ethnic nationalities at the provincial level. It has redefined the meaning of both patronage and political violence. Last, but definitely not least, the MQM was, along with the PML-Q, the bastion of the Musharraf dictatorship.

Cue a brief note on Pakistan’s major political force, the military. It too perceives itself as a representative of a long-suffering middle class which seeks to make Pakistan into a meritocracy. Its wheeling and dealing with ‘feudals’ betrays great contempt for the latter.

Historically, the men in khaki evinced similar condescension for the religio-political forces with whom they arranged numerous marriages of convenience. The only change that has taken place on this front is that a healthy number of middle-class officers in today’s military espouse a distinctly non-secular worldview and look at religious militancy not only as a functional requirement but an end unto itself.

The rest of us middle-class folk have imbibed the anti-politics attitudes that our holy guardians and their loyalists have worked so hard to cultivate.

Notwithstanding exhortations to the contrary, we are all content to dismiss politicians as the very root of the problem, and are always on the lookout for a (middle-class) saviour who will somehow unearth a shortcut to ‘good governance’ and a robust state that cannot be dictated to by (anti-Muslim) foreign powers.

It matters little whether the saviour is in uniform, judicial robes, or, most absurdly, is himself a politician-bashing politician.

This (admittedly simplistic) analysis is not complete without mention of the middle classes on the peripheries who tend to be at the forefront of ethno-nationalist resistance.

Since soon after the inception of the state when it became clear that the two dominant institutions of the state — the civil bureaucracy and the military — were dominated by two ethnic groups, the educated middle classes from relatively underrepresented regions have been the face of an ethno-nationalist politics that has, depending on time, space and the history of the state’s relationship with the particular ethnic group, been conciliatory or confrontational and often a mixture of both.

Language has been the major symbol around which these middle classes have mobilised. They have also emphasised other aspects of culture. As a result, they have been pitted against the dominant middle-class narrative in the heartland that posits Urdu and Islam as the only legitimate symbols of Pakistani nationhood.

In recent years, the conflicts between and across middle-class fractions in Pakistan have grown increasingly acute, and not just along ethnic lines. The so-called ‘war on terror’ has confirmed the deep divisions that exist within the middle classes on matters of religion and state.

It is, therefore, simply untrue to argue that there is a monolithic middle class that exists in opposition to a predatory, omnipotent elite. In fact, competing middle-class segments have been regular occupants of the highest echelons of power, and even those that have not directly experienced state power remain highly influential shapers both of public opinion and state policy. This is not to suggest that there may not be middle-class elements that are committed to a genuine project of democratisation of state and society, across ethnic lines.

Indeed middle-class radicals (of the leftist variety) have played important roles at crucial junctures of Pakistani history.This is the tradition of ‘middle-class’ politics that might still get us to where we want to go. If we can all agree, that is.


May 25, 2013   No Comments

Was NA speaker’s decision inspired by her predecessor?

By Asim Yasin in The News, May 25

ISLAMABAD: It was Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain who in 2004 convinced then Speaker National Assembly (NA) Chaudhry Amir Hussain to allow Makhdoom Javed Hashmi to contest the election for the office of prime minister as the opposition candidate against Shaukat Aziz despite being convicted by a court of law.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who was prime minister at that time, rejected the objection of his party and asked Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain to allow Makhdoom Javed to contest the election against Shaukat Aziz despite the fact that President General Pervez Musharraf had vented severe anger on the decision.

Now in 2012, Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza has made the above ruling of Ch Amir Hussain the basis for her ruling that gives legality to Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. A source privy to the 2004 developments told The News that when the opposition nominated Makhdoom javed Hashmi as a candidate for the office of prime minister, members of the treasury benches objected to it and the issue was referred to Speaker Ch Amir Hussain.

Chaudhry Amir Hussain approached Ch Shujaat Hussain to talk to President Musharraf but Ch Shujaat asked him to allow Javed Hashmi to contest the election. However, Ch Amir Hussain told Ch Shujaat that President Musharraf would not be happy with the decision.

But the Chaudhry from Gujrat stuck to his stance and gave a go-ahead signal. The speaker rejected the objection of the treasury benches and allowed Makhdoom Javed Hashmi to contest the election for the post of prime minister.

The ruling of Ch Amir Hussain proved beneficial to Gilani as Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza has decided not to send his disqualification case to the chief election commissioner, ostensibly taking her cue from Chaudhry Amir Hussain.


May 25, 2013   No Comments

The five points deliberately ignored by speaker : By Ansar Abbasi in The News, May 25

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza’s ruling in favour of her party’s convicted prime minister is hilarious as she refused to admit the fundamental point of the Supreme Court’s judgment that Gilani was convicted for having ridiculed the judiciary.

Reflecting her clear bias, the speaker, who along with her husband and son, are entirely dependent on the PPP for their political careers and survival, focused her argument on the wording of the charge-sheet issued to Gilani in the contempt of court case, but conveniently ignored the clear-cut decision of the Supreme Court that the premier had ridiculed the judiciary.

Claiming to have gone through the short order as well as the detailed judgment of the Supreme Court on the matter, Mirza did not find Gilani to have ridiculed the judiciary whereas the Supreme Court’s judgment had clearly stated, more than once, that the premier had ridiculed the judiciary, the very aspect of his conviction that brings into play Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution for his disqualification.

In para 7 of her ruling, the speaker reproduced the charge sheet as was issued to the convicted premier to conclude in para 8: “It appears from above that no specific charge regarding the propagation of any opinion of acting in any manner against the independence of the judiciary or defaming or ridiculing the judiciary as contemplated under Article 63(1)(g) has been framed.”

While the speaker has given a clean chit to her party’s premier after one month of deliberations, she conveniently turned a blind eye to the SC, which repeatedly referred to the nature of Gilani’s conviction.The speaker, while acting as a judge on the SC’s judgment, showed her complete ignorance to the most pertinent five portions of the apex court’s judgment.

The speaker’s ignorance number 1: The SC ruled but the speaker ignored: “The accused Yusuf Raza Gilani, prime minister of Pakistan/chief executive of the federation, is found guilty of and convicted for contempt of court under Article 204(2) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance (Ordinance V of 2003) for wilful flouting, disregard and disobedience of this court’s direction contained in paragraph number 178 of the judgment delivered in the case of Dr Mobashir Hassan vs Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2010 SC 265) after our satisfaction that the contempt committed by him is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice and tends to bring this court and the judiciary of this country into ridicule”.

The speaker’s ignorance number 2: The Supreme Court, in its detailed judgment, while referring to Section 18 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance (V of 2003) said (while the speaker ignored), that the same require the following satisfactions to be recorded by the Court: “18. Substantial detriment.- (1) No person shall be found guilty of contempt of court, or punished accordingly, unless the court is satisfied that the contempt is one which is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice or scandalizes the court or otherwise tends to bring the court or judge of the court into hatred or ridicule”.

The speaker’s ignorance No3: Fehmida Mirza also could not read the SC’s observation: “It is important to note Crl.O.P.6/12 67 in this context that the satisfaction of the court mentioned in section 18(1) regarding gravity of the contempt is to be adverted to by it after commission of the contempt is duly established and such satisfaction of the court is neither an ingredient of the offence nor a fact to be proved through evidence. In our considered opinion such satisfaction is purely that of the court concerned keeping in view the nature of the contempt found to have been committed, its potential regarding detrimental effect upon administration of justice or scandalising the court and its tendency to bring the court or the judge into hatred or ridicule”.

The speaker’s ignorance number 4: Fehmida could not read this part of the SC order: “In the case in hand the accused is the highest executive functionary of the state of Pakistan and he has wilfully, deliberately and persistently defied a clear direction of the highest court of the country. We are, therefore, fully satisfied that such clear and persistent defiance at such a high level constitutes contempt which is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice and tends not only to bring this court but also brings the judiciary of this country into ridicule”.

The speaker’s ignorance number 5: She also could not read this from the SC judgment: “After all, if orders or directions of the highest court of the country are defied by the highest executive of the country then others in the country may also feel tempted to follow the example leading to a collapse or paralysis of administration of justice besides creating an atmosphere wherein judicial authority and verdicts are laughed at and ridiculed”.

Only after its satisfaction that Gilani had ridiculed the judiciary, the SC had said in its order: “As regards the sentence to be passed against the convict we note that the findings and the conviction for contempt of court recorded above are likely to entail some serious consequences in Crl.O.P.6/12 71 terms of Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution which may be treated as mitigating factors towards the sentence to be passed against him. He is, therefore, punished under section 5 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance (Ordinance V of 2003) with imprisonment till the rising of the court”.

However, despite all this clarity in the apex court’s decision, the NA speaker opted to overrule the Supreme Court and give this hilarious ruling to be written in ‘golden words’ in the annals of the country’s parliamentary history. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-14864-The-five-points-deliberately-ignored-by-speaker

May 25, 2013   No Comments