Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — August 2013

We can’t strike a middle course: by Hussain H Zaidi in The News, Aug 26

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Soon after winning the May election, Nawaz Sharif had announced that his government would initiate a dialogue with the militants. As for our ‘man of destiny’ Imran Khan, while he goes all out against the drone strikes, he seldom raises his voice against the militants. Little wonder then that his government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has turned a blind eye on the militants’ ascendency just as the MMA government (2002-2007) had done in its time.

One should not pin high hopes on dialogue with the militants. Such an exercise has been undertaken in the past for a good number of times. But on each occasion it ended up in smoke. The capital reason for the failure of the peace initiatives is that the Taliban are not interested in peace per se. They look upon peace overtures from the authorities as a sign of weakness and use the space accorded by ceasefires to regroup and consolidate their position.

They don’t want a share in political power either, for that would mean that they accept the political system in place. They dismiss the constitution and parliament as being ‘un-Islamic’. They’ve no taste for multi-party democracy and what it stands for: consent and dissent, freedom of expression and profession.

A plurilateral, progressive polity is anathema to them. Instead, they want to put in place a monolithic, retrogressive political order, based on their anachronistic interpretation of Islam. Their ideology is the very antithesis of the norms and institutions that hold our society and polity together. The militants’ essential outlook portrays the world as characterised by a perpetual conflict between Islam and kufr in which the other side should either be converted or exterminated. Hence, either it’s their government or no government at all. Though a permanent truce with the militants is possible, the same can only come through by accepting their demands.

The advocates of making peace with the militants point out that the US, whose war we’re allegedly fighting on our soil, has also resorted to negotiations with the Taliban. If, they ask, talks with the militants are bound to end up in failure, why on earth would the Americans attempt such futile things? The answer is simple. The Americans don’t feel threatened by the Taliban. Their war is essentially against Al-Qaeda. Though the two organisations are closely connected, they are different. Whereas Al-Qaeda is a global organisation, the Taliban are a local outfit. The 9/11 attacks were masterminded by Al-Qaeda and not by the Taliban. Even today hitting the land called the USA is beyond the competence of the Taliban.

The Americans want to quit Afghanistan safely and on a positive note and think they should come to terms with the militants. They’re eager to let the world know they’re not leaving an irreconcilably divided Afghanistan. Besides, the Americans never wanted to finish the Taliban off. Their purpose was to make their country safe and they’ve done so successfully. One wonders whether Washington had offered an olive branch to the Taliban if they were carrying out their clandestine activities on its soil or were seeking to undo the fundamental fabric of American society.

Our enemy, on the other hand, is the Taliban. It’s they who are targeting our national assets, religious places, and academic institutions. It’s they who are carrying out suicide attacks in the markets and bazaars, in the plains and on the mountains, at police and military headquarters, making children orphans, women widows and parents childless.

The pro-Taliban narrative also maintains that since force hasn’t broken the will of the militants over the last one decade, there is little logic in going on with the war on terror. One may point out that we shouldn’t look for miracles in the war on terror. The campaign is a drawn-out exercise. It may be years before it reaches its logical conclusion. The Taliban have given us a clear choice: either we go on fighting the militancy or we hand over the country to the extremists to govern it as they deem fit. We can’t strike a middle course.

It’s also averred that through the elections the people have put their weight behind the efforts for a negotiated settlement to the militancy problem. Without the slightest of intentions to cast aspersions on the government’s intentions, it may be pointed out that what the people are desperate for is not a dialogue with the militants per se but an end to the militancy.

If negotiations can serve that purpose, they’re welcome. But if the dialogue turns out to be a failure, which it most probably will unless the authorities accede to the militants’ demands in full, the government must wholeheartedly go after the militants. Dialogue may be looked upon as one of the options; it should, in no way, be regarded as the only option.http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-198034-We-cant-strike-a-middle-course

August 26, 2013   No Comments

Visions of ‘Imranabad’: by ZAHRAH NASIR in The Nation, Aug 26

The writer has authored a book titled The Gun Tree:  One Woman’s War

Verbalising grandiose ego trips is all par for the political course in this rapidly imploding country of ours. And as everyone is aware, the announcement of inspired ‘visions’ is best taken with the proverbial pinch of salt or, as in this case, greeted with gales of laughter such blatant ‘hogwash’ deserves.

According to the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pervez Khattak, the KP government intends establishing not just one, but two ‘mega-cities’ in the province: one close to Colonel Sher Khan Interchange on the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway, the M-1, and the second adjacent to Abbottabad; these ‘mega-cities’ are aimed at providing modern, affordable, residential facilities for the people of KP in line with the ‘vision’ of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

In addressing a recent meeting of the Provincial Housing Department, CM Khattak revealed that the M-1 mega-city is earmarked for construction on 45,000 kanals of land, will have an educational complex, medical complex, commercial zone, apartments, police station, mosques, petrol/CNG stations, electricity, sui gas, playgrounds, greenbelts and, among other provisions, a five-star hotel and a golf course, although who will benefit from the latter two in a province torn apart by terrorism and bloodshed on an almost daily basis was not – given the ‘visionary’ circumstances surrounding it – explained. The source of the currently estimated cost – Rs 45.8 billion – for this first mega-city, let’s call it ‘Imranabad 1’, is also a mystery as is the source of the requisite cash with which to acquire necessary land in Abbottabad for a repeat performance ultimately leading to the emergence of ‘Imranabad 2’.

‘Visions’ are all very well in their place, of course, and Imran Khan is just as entitled to have them as anyone else, but it would surely make more sense, something ‘Im-the-Dim’ appears to be inordinately short of, to give priority to issues such as bringing peace and tranquillity to the unfortunate province that has fallen into his egotistical hands?

It is also pertinent to wonder exactly what plans – or should that be ‘visions’? – Mr Khan has in mind for the thousands of displaced tribal people, driven from their ancestral lands and their livelihoods destroyed by the Taliban and army actions, who are currently enduring severe hardship in ‘temporary’ camps one of which is, unless the writer is mistaken, on the outskirts of the proposed ‘Imranabad 1’ – or, perhaps, these internal refugees are to be re-homed in the envisaged five-star hotel and taught how to play golf until their brand spanking new apartments are ready for occupation and then what?

True to say that there is a need for additional housing units in KP: units to replace those destroyed in the aforementioned Taliban-army actions, those destroyed by earthquake and by flooding and, this must not be overlooked, to house the ever-expanding population. That, by the way, also needs, on a desperately urgent basis, the reconstruction of hundreds of schools blown up by terrorist/Taliban bombs in recent years and without which – education being the only sustainable way towards peace and prosperity and the means to being able to earn a living – all else becomes, in the long-term, meaningless. Oh! But, of course, apologies for overlooking this fact, there is an absence of funding in the KP government kitty for essentials such as education and, whilst on the subject, for the provision of clean drinking water to all and so on ad infinitum.

The KP government would not – it certainly cannot – be the only ‘purse’ to pump money into the twin ‘Imranabads’ as, egos and visions aside, that highly questionable breed known collectively as ‘contractors’ must already be lined up at the starting gate, having invisibly ‘palmed’ money to that ever-present ‘someone’ for the privilege of – maybe, nod-nod, wink-wink – being in with a chance to rake off vast amounts of ‘profit’ for the inferior construction work they inevitably pass-off until it cracks or falls down and this is earthquake belt remember, as being absolutely pucca!

Surely, everything being given due consideration, it would make far more economic sense – and certainly be more feasible – to, after having returned the province to at least a semblance of peace as so repeatedly promised in conveniently discarded election manifestos, set about the task of improving the standard of life for each and every scattered village throughout KP, thus stemming the currently ceaseless rural-to-urban flow that is adversely impacting the agricultural backbone of the nation, is leading to a mushrooming of urban slums with their associated lawlessness and that, if unchecked, threatens to leave vast tracts of land devoid of human presence. Or – could that be the plan – entice rural people to take up residence in one or other of the ‘Imranabads’, thus creating a territorial ‘vacuum’ for the Taliban and other assorted terrorists to run riot in and maybe – just maybe remember – in which to construct ‘Imranabad 3’, ‘Imranabad 4’ and so on.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/26-Aug-2013/visions-of-imranabad

August 26, 2013   No Comments

Alarming state of education in Pakistan: by Murtaza Talpur in Daily Times, Aug 26

The writer is the project supervisor of the organization, Right To Play

Education is a global human right and every country has a moral obligation to afford its citizens access to at least a basic one. Sadly, Pakistan’s education system is on the verge of collapse. According to a survey, approximately seven million children are not in primary school and half of the children aged 6-16 are unable to read even a single sentence. In rural areas, only one in three women have ever attended school.

According to the Pakistan census of 1951, the total population (of what is now Pakistan) was 33 million, out of which the overall rate of educated people was only 15 percent. Now, with the estimated population of the country at around 170 million, 48 percent of which are women, only half of the population is literate. According to a 2009 UNESCO report, Pakistan has the largest out of school population in the world after Nigeria and India, accounting for seven percent of global absentees.

Furthermore, planning commission estimates of the overall dropout rate from 2009 suggest that only 30 percent of students continue beyond the primary level. Pakistan still enrolls 83 girls for every 103 boys in primary schools. The primary completion rate for girls is only 58 percent as opposed to 70 percent for boys. Of the 6.8 million currently estimated to be out of school in Pakistan, at least 4.2 million are girls (World Bank, 2008). Only 35 percent of rural women above the age of 10 have completed primary education (PLSM, 2008). According to another report, the literacy rate in FATA is in very deplorable condition, with 29.5 percent males and three percent females being literate.

Pakistan is placed 119th out of 127 countries in EDI ranking by the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011, even lower than Bangladesh (112th). Furthermore, the Human Development Report places Pakistan at 136th for having just 49.9 percent of the population educated. According to the 2011 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme, approximately twice as many males as females receive a secondary education in Pakistan, and public expenditures on education amount to only 2.7 percent of the GDP of the country. These statistical facts and figures show that since the inception of Pakistan, the education system has remained in a pathetic state of affairs. In fact, it is worse than before.

Article 37 of the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates that education is a fundamental right of every citizen, but gender discrepancies still exist in the educational sector. Moreover, in Article 37 (b) and (c), it is mentioned that the state shall remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within the minimum possible period, make technical and professional education generally available, and higher education equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. Section nine of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010 inserted a new Article 25A, which says of the right to education that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law.

Following the above facts and figures, a few reasons have been dug out for the deplorable state of the education system in the country. There are many reasons why children, particularly girls, are absent from school or drop out early. Distraught infrastructure is the cause of dropout in the rural areas of public schools. Gender disparity is also the major cause of the failure of the education system in Pakistan. Poverty and hunger act as obstacles for rural girls to be educated. In some rural areas, the existing feudal system and conventional thought are also the main reason why girls’ education is resisted. Moreover, government attention to education is on the verge of vanishing. It has now practically become the norm that the share of the budget allocated to education is at its minimum level. Having a sufficient number of schools for both boys and girls is also a prerequisite for access to quality education. According to the Ministry of Education (2010), the total primary schools in Pakistan number 146,691. Of these, 43.8 percent schools are for boys, 31.5 percent for girls and the remaining 24.7 percent schools provide mixed enrolment for both boys and girls. Thus, Pakistan has fewer schools for girls than for boys. At the provincial or country level, there are also more boys’ schools than girls’ schools. This situation is leading towards the destruction of girls’ education in Pakistan. The promotion of girls’ education is the guarantee for having a developed society and an economic boom in the country. The new government is faced with the challenge of devising new strategies for the development of the education system in the country.

For the promotion of girl’s education, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, the government and even the common public has to play their role with the strength of integrity. Besides, more schools should be constructed; teachers’ regular attendance must be made mandatory and a monitoring and evaluation mechanism must be established to eliminate the corrupt elements that disrupt the education system. Teacher training also needs to be organised so that the teachers are in a position to play a motivational role for their students. http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\08\26\story_26-8-2013_pg3_4

August 26, 2013   No Comments

A lethal nexus; by TARIQ KHOSA in Dawn, Aug 26

The writer is a retired police officer.

IT is time to note the voice of anguish and desperation of senior police commanders.

“The more serious problem in Pakistan is that the terrorists and insurgents are getting aligned with all kinds of criminals. We are heading for a situation like Mexico where drug lords and street criminals are operating like a corporate firm,” a senior officer told a Senate Committee on the Interior.

Police officers of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan said in one voice that criminal gangs were working in tandem with the terrorists and unless the state security apparatus is revamped, the situation would get worse.

A senator from Karachi alleged that militants’ groups like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Baloch Liberation Army operated with the help of local criminals in Lyari and other parts of Karachi.

“If you catch a small fish involved in crime, his backing comes from the TTP whose field operations in Karachi are run by criminals belonging to Waziristan and other tribal areas,” the senator charged.

An inspector general of police conceded before the Senate body that statistics of kidnapping for ransom cases did not reflect the true picture as victims and complainants do not generally come forward out of fear and lack of trust in the police.

The consensus that is emerging is that police arrests and investigations are confined to low-level killers or operators and that the planners, facilitators and masterminds remain out of reach because of official incompetence and the lack of will or capacity to handle complex cases of terrorism with professionalism and integrity.

Such a situation sometimes results in desperate remedies.

Stopping just short of recommending that the police should take decisions to “crush the known criminals” on their own, the Senate committee’s chairman suggested that law enforcement personnel should use strong-arm techniques to curb crime rather than wait for the outcome of court cases against the criminals.

Those subscribing to this school of thought believe in eliminating the criminals rather than the crime. Staged encounters and killing the killers are billed as a battle between ‘evil’ (the criminal) and ‘good’ (the cop).

This mindless and violent course of action is resorted to and encouraged in an environment that actually shows contempt for the rule of law and due process.

In fact, what is needed is an attempt at a deeper understanding of organised crime and its developing nexus with terrorism and militancy. Our policymakers and police officers should not ignore this any further.

State failure correlates with the presence of organised crime groups. Vulnerability may be at its zenith where the shared interests of terrorists and organised criminals generate a cumulative impact.

Over time, the weakening of intelligence and investigative processes, shoddy collection of evidence, poor follow-up and prosecution during the trial stage and the tendency to muzzle the voices of truth have greatly harmed the efficacy of the criminal justice system.

The intersection of organised crime and terrorism has taken different forms: we have seen alliances between criminal and terrorist groups or direct management by criminals in terrorist activities and involvement by militants in criminal activities.

One of the main reasons why crimes are committed is to tap funds needed for carrying out terrorist activities — this is arguably one of the stronger links in the organised crime and terrorism nexus.

Examples include kidnappings for ransom and bank robberies by the sectarian terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and by the TTP. Similarly, ethnic and sub-nationalist militant groups are known to indulge in kidnappings, extortion, robberies and to even provide hired assassins.

Combating organised crime is futile if income opportunities in the documented economy do not exist and critical ‘enabler’ elements such as corruption are not addressed. Those resorting to organised crime probably have more ties to high-ranking politicians or state functionaries.

Meanwhile, the absence of good governance further strengthens the nexus between militants and criminals. Lack of capacity of the state to provide social services and dispute resolution mechanisms is exploited to the hilt by militants such as the Taliban.

The nexus between crime and militancy can be broken by strengthening state institutions that enforce the law and deliver justice without fear or favour. The writ of the state in the safe havens, usually in the country’s periphery, needs to be established through the creation of a benign and benevolent state machinery.

Instead of using the military or civil armed forces as a routine measure of establishing the state’s writ, a combination of effective policing and judicial institutions needs to be nurtured along with the establishment of local government systems.

The certainty of punishment is more important than the severity of the sentence. Zero tolerance against criminal activities and violence will lead to an environment in which organised crime will find it hard to form a nexus with militancy or exploit the governance machinery.

An effective community policing model produces the community police officer who acts as a bridge between citizens and the state and keeps an eye on unusual and suspicious activities in his jurisdiction. Similarly, residents’ associations are encouraged to nominate motivated citizens to work with the police in identifying issues of concern.

This model leads to problem-oriented policing through which a cross-section of professional police and allied government machinery get together to address a certain type of lawlessness or a grave problem relating to organised crime and complete the task at hand to the entire satisfaction of the community.

Only committed, professional and honest police officers can earn and win the trust of the community.

Instead of giving in and losing hope, the police need to show leadership qualities and boost the sagging morale of the law enforcement services by standing up to the criminal mafia and its patrons in the corridors of power. They will soon find public support to be their true strength in serving the community.http://dawn.com/news/1038444/a-lethal-nexus

August 26, 2013   No Comments

No cloistered virtue by BABAR SATTAR in Dawn, Aug 26

The writer is a lawyer

CHIEF Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s long-drawn-out term is winding down and in a few months we will have a new chief. While we have had one chief justice for the last eight-and-a-half years, we might see up to seven in the next eight-and-a-half.

Now that we have an independent and fiercely assertive Supreme Court, it might be a propitious time to evaluate the independence of the individual judge in view of the administrative functions of the office of chief justice that gravely impact the administration of justice by the apex court and the judiciary as a whole.

It is now settled that an essential component of judicial independence is the ability of a judge to rule without being influenced by peers, including the chief justice. Critics assert that lack of independence of the individual judge is evident in the near absence of dissent in our judicial verdicts. Can our national propensity to flatter the powerful explain this trend? Sociological inclinations notwithstanding, the prime reasons for entrenchment of the misconceived concept of chief justice being pater familias (owner of the family estate) are structural.

Lord Acton asserted that, “liberty consists in the division of power; absolutism, in concentration of power”. The civilised world through a process of trial and error has now learnt that the best defence against abuse of power is distributing it widely and making its exercise transparent and accountable by subjecting it to an institutional system of checks and balances. We have unfortunately not applied this wisdom when it comes to the chief justice’s office.

The framework of rules, procedures and traditions that enables a chief justice to establish dominion over judicial offices across Pakistan is neither in sync with our constitutional structure nor with best institutional practices. The judiciary is no army for which unity of command is a functional necessity. The chief justice ought to be the first among equals and no more. But concentration of administrative functions in the office of chief justice is such that it can transform any incumbent into an autarch with significant ability to influence judicial outcomes.

We have a federal constitutional structure that endows each high court with the power to superintend and control courts subordinate to it. The Supreme Court is vested with no supervisory jurisdiction over high courts or district courts. Other than its extraordinary Article 184(3) powers, it is only meant to exercise appellate jurisdiction in matters decided by high courts. Unfortunately, over the last two decades we have seen judicial power getting bloated at the top and ineffectual at the district level where ordinary folk interact with courts.

The authority of the chief justice as chairman of the Judicial Commission, chairman of the Law Commission and chairman of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee, and the manner of its exercise, seems to be transforming our federal judicial structure into a unitary one. Is excessive use of Article 184(3) jurisdiction by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Chaudhry’s watch doing to the relevance of High Courts what liberal exercise of writ jurisdiction in the 1990s by the high courts did to the potency of district courts?

Exercise of authority under Article 184(3), especially on suo motu basis, exemplifies the lack of transparency in exercise of administrative functions by the office of the chief justice. While the Constitution vests Article 184(3) powers in the Supreme Court, the administrative procedure employed for its exercise has converted it into the chief justice’s power. There are no objective criteria to determine which of the innumerable matters of public importance involving fundamental rights ought to be taken up by the Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction, especially of its own volition.

There are no objective criteria to determine how benches are to be constituted, how many judges will comprise a bench, what will their composition be, and which cases are to be fixed before each bench. During the last months of chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah the size of the bench headed by him that heard all consequential matters began to shrink. The tradition of dispatching judges out of favour with a chief justice away from the principal seat to hear decades-old appeals as sanction is well known, as is the practice of reconstituting benches midweek should a chief justice so desire.

The 18th Amendment introduced a detailed procedure to make the judicial appointment process deliberative, transparent and vigorous, while giving the Judicial Commission the power to regulate its own procedure. And what did the commission do? It made a rule stating that only the chief justice can nominate candidates for the consideration of the commission.

In other words through this procedural rule the chief justice has been given an absolute veto over all superior judiciary appointments across high courts as well as to the Supreme Court. His overarching authority within the Judicial Commission also gives him considerable ability to determine whether to elevate a high court judge to the Supreme Court or retain him as a high court chief justice and for how long.

The obligation to act in a fair and transparent manner imposed by law on all public office holders and enforced by the judiciary, applies with equal vigour, if not more, to the office of the chief justice. We need to introduce efficient and transparent case and court management systems in the Supreme Court and high courts to replace the existing system of unaccountable discretion of the chief justices.

“Justice is not a cloistered virtue,” Lord Atkin had observed back in 1936. As we approach a change of guard at the Supreme Court we must seek wider distribution of the administrative powers of chief justices amongst senior-most judges of the court to oust arbitrariness in the administration of justice and strengthen the independence of the individual judge. It is not the fame and power of a chief justice, but the integrity, efficiency and effectiveness of the ordinary magistrate that is the gauge of a functional justice system.


August 26, 2013   No Comments

Mistaken priorities: by Asif Ezdi in The News, Aug 26

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.

Nawaz Sharif’s long-promised address to the nation last Monday, his first after being elected prime minister, had been in the works for more than two months. No one had thought that it would provide immediate answers to the internal and external challenges the country faces or even that it would lay out a road map for the next five years that he expects to stay in power.

What the country had been hoping for was only that Nawaz’s speech would signal a departure from the failed policies of his two previous stints as prime minister and a willingness to introduce at least some of the basic reforms that the country needs to come out of its current problems. But it fell short even of these low expectations.

The speech was long in bewailing the failures of past governments but short on outlining the policy steps that the government intends to take. Even two months into his tenure, Nawaz did not spell out his socio-economic policies. Not only was the speech lacking in substance, it was also uninspiring and pedestrian.

To the extent that Nawaz did touch on policy, he indicated how much he would like to turn the clock back to 1999. The building of motorways, naturally, figured among his top priorities. But he did not say from where the resources for this and other large infrastructure projects would come without taking action to stop large-scale tax theft by members of the country’s ruling classes who dominate our governments and legislatures.

There was not a word in Nawaz’s speech on this issue or on ending the tax exemption for agricultural income. The big fish among tax cheats are important members of Nawaz’s political constituency and he clearly has no intention of alienating them. Instead, as the increase in the rate of sales tax in the last budget shows, the government will keep squeezing the common man to raise revenue, much of which ends up in the pockets of our corrupt politicians. Similarly, while bemoaning rampant corruption, Nawaz did not announce any new steps the government intends to take to bring the corrupt to account.

Nawaz also had nothing to say on the lamentable state of the county’s education system or on the explosive population growth – two of the most serious challenges the country is facing. But he is not the only Pakistani prime minister who is oblivious to the gravity of these issues. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now UN special envoy on global education, has certainly spoken with more conviction than Nawaz or his two predecessors on the importance of education for Pakistan.

On foreign policy, Nawaz promised a “bold review” with a view to devoting our resources for the welfare and prosperity of the people, as he put it. His main emphasis was on India. “I have made better relations with India my priority,” Nawaz said, claiming also that this approach had been endorsed by the voters in the recent elections.

Nawaz’s assertion that national resources have in the past been wasted in pursuing an arms race with India is not new. But this is the first time that a serving prime minister of the country has embraced this view.

The prime minister should know better. It is true that Pakistan has had to spend a very big portion of the national budget on defence. But that is due to necessity, not by choice. It is also indispensable, given India’s permanent hostility and its relentless effort to win Afghanistan’s support in its designs against Pakistan.

Nawaz should also know that our defence expenditure makes up a large proportion of the national budget mainly because our privileged classes, to whom he himself belongs and who make up his constituency, refuse to pay their fair share of the taxes. As a result, the tax-to-GDP ratio for Pakistan is only nine percent, compared to about 16 percent for India. If the government had the political will, we could easily achieve the same ratio as India and practically halve the burden of defence expenditure on the common man. But that is not the course Nawaz is prepared to consider.

Kashmir figured in Nawaz’s speech only as a bilateral “problem” with India. He made no reference to the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination or to Pakistan’s support for their struggle to achieve this right.

Nawaz has recently appointed a new special envoy for India, mainly in order to exclude the foreign ministry and the military from the proposed talks with India. The Indians are simply thrilled because they see it as an opportunity to revive Musharraf’s four-point formula, which would effectively have legitimised India’s occupation of Kashmir.

We do not know precisely what kind of ‘solution’ Nawaz is seeking on Kashmir. But he has given us three clues. First, while the Indian government has given its army a free hand to take “strong cross-border counter-measures” against Pakistan, Nawaz has directed the Pakistan Army to observe “restraint” in the face of provocations by India.

Second, Nawaz has been talking repeatedly of Pakistan’s willingness to move away from Pakistan’s “stated position” on Kashmir, which is based on the UN Security Council resolutions. This is also what Musharraf did in 2003 before he made his infamous ‘four-point proposal’ on Kashmir.

Third, following the avalanche tragedy in the Giari sector in April 2012, Nawaz called for the unilateral withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Siachen. “If we withdraw the army from Siachen,” Nawaz declared at the time, “India would definitely withdraw too.”

The judgement of a political leader who is capable of holding such bizarre notions about India’s policies on Kashmir and towards Pakistan simply cannot be trusted. His plans for backchannel dialogue on Kashmir become even more suspect because he seems unwilling to accept institutional inputs from the foreign ministry and the military.

The simple truth is that this is no time for backchannel talks on a Kashmir settlement. It is enough to keep the issue on the agenda of the composite dialogue. Pakistan has its hands full with a formidable array of other domestic and foreign challenges and should wait for a more opportune time to push for a Kashmir settlement based on the right to self-determination.

In the meantime, we must maintain our principled position based on UN Security Council resolutions – not abandon it as Nawaz would like – and strive for international pressure on India to end, or at least ease, its repression in Kashmir. It will create the necessary space for the Kashmiris to continue their freedom struggle peacefully. This demand was also the thrust of the memorandum sent by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to the UN Secretary General two weeks ago.

Like Nawaz’s Kashmir policy, his eagerness to open up the Pakistani market to economic penetration by India is very ill-advised. Besides trade, he is rushing into other areas like import of electricity and gas from India, without having first carried out a proper study of the pros and cons of this policy. In his TV speech, he spoke of connecting the proposed Karachi-Peshawar motorway with “Saarc countries”. He also expressed the confidence that the Kashgar-Gwadar economic corridor will be beneficial to the “whole region”. Though he did not name any country, his was referring in both cases mainly to India.

India is even keener on expanded economic ties with Pakistan, but mainly for strategic reasons. Despite its own energy shortage, Delhi would love to sell electricity to Pakistan. Similarly, it wants to export gas to Pakistan that it itself imports from Qatar. The aim is make Pakistan economically dependent for vital inputs so as to gain leverage that could be used to influence Pakistan’s policies on such issues as Kashmir and Afghanistan.

While the Indian leadership is planning on strategic lines, Nawaz’s thinking is that of a businessman. It is time he started thinking, behaving and acting like a statesman entrusted with the future of 180 million Pakistanis.http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-198030-Mistaken-priorities

August 26, 2013   No Comments

The NSC bounces back: By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi in The Express Tribune, Aug 26

The writer is an independent political and defence analyst. He is also the author of several books, monographs and articles on Pakistan and South Asian Affairs

The first meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) held on August 22, 2013 under the new federal government, led by Nawaz Sharif, decided to establish the Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS). It is a reincarnation of the controversial National Security Council (NSC), established in 2004, by the Musharraf government under an act of parliament.

The federal government will have to issue an executive order or pass a new law to replace the old NSC with the CCNS. However, the federal government has attempted to control the political fallout of reviving the NSC under a new name and described it as the reconstituted cabinet committee. If it was simply a reconstitution of the DCC, there was no need to rename it because the DCC used to invite all those who have now been made members of the CCNS. The DCC could continue because this concept was more in line with the democratic process.

It seems that the federal government has proposed the use of the words ‘cabinet committee’ in the title of the new body to argue that it is simply an updating of the DCC. There appear to be three major reasons that the PML-N government wants to hang on to using the words ‘cabinet committee’.

First, the PML-N, like the PPP, was opposed to setting up the NSC going back to the time when the civilianised military government of former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf wanted to establish a NSC in 2003-2004. Despite the opposition of these political parties, parliament passed a law in April 2004. The opposition parties, including the PML-N and the PPP, protested and staged a walkout in both, the National Assembly and the senate, when the NSC bill was passed by the PML-Q and its allies. The PPP government kept the NSC dormant during 2008-2013, although the law was done away with.

The PML-N is expected to argue that the proposed CCNS is different from the one established during the Musharraf era and that it is more democratic and in line with current needs.

Second, the military top command was not keen about the DCC as the highest policy review and policymaking body on defence and security affairs because the top brass of the military could not be its regular members, as it was not part of the federal cabinet. Its participation in the DCC was described as being in ‘attendance’, along with the top-most intelligence officers and senior bureaucrats who participated on ‘invitation’. Musharraf’s NSC and the proposed CCNS give the top brass a status equal to the civilian members.

Third, the structure of the NSC set up during the Musharraf rule had unwieldy membership that excluded key cabinet members. Although the key cabinet members attended the NSC meetings, they were not formal members. The proposed CCNS includes those cabinet members and excludes others who were included for the first time in 2004.

Traditionally, the military top brass has been keen to establish the NSC in the post-military rule phase, which provides a legal and constitutional cover to the role of the military in national security affairs — in expanded mode, this includes issues of related civilian policy domains.

If we examine NSC-type institutions in other countries, one fact appears reasonably conspicuous: the role of the top brass of the military is somewhat restrained when it comes to the final level. However, in ex-military ruled states, their presence at the highest level is integral to the system.

Perhaps, one can argue that in Pakistan, the defence and security affairs, including the key foreign policy areas, were the preserve of the military and the ISI during the years of direct and civilianised military rule. The Foreign Office used to contribute to this process but it was mainly doing the implementation task.

The situation changed somewhat during 2008-2013, when the decision-making in the above-mentioned domains was done through a civilian-military consultative process. This also includes the meetings between the service chiefs, especially the army chief, and the prime minister and the president. The role of the Foreign Office has also improved. Much depends on the intellectual and professional calibre of the foreign minister and his/her capacity to maintain a relationship of confidence with the military and intelligence top command.

The proposed CCNS institutionalises the ground realities of policymaking in Pakistan. It can strengthen and deepen the consultative process, provided the CCNS functions regularly and the civilians take up security and defence affairs in a more professional manner.

The CCNS should meet on a regular basis rather than in an emergency situation only. It needs to meet once a month, or more, if required. An office of a ‘civilian’ National Security Adviser (NSA) should be established on a regular basis that should also look after the CCNS secretariat, directly under the prime minister. There must be a regular research support system under the NSA that provides insights into defence along with internal and external security. The NSA should maintain a link with the research centres/think tanks, the academia and others who work on these affairs.

The top civilian leaders and the military high command need to develop a shared view on terrorism, its sources and how to tackle it, by military and non-military means.

The dual track policies on these issues pursued both by civilian leaders and the military are the major obstacles to tackling religious extremism and terrorism. The civilian leaders are often handicapped by their partisan political considerations of winning votes. The military cannot get over its straightjacketed tunnel view that continues to create space for selective militant groups.

The civilian and military authorities should demonstrate a unity of mind and determination to counter, non-discriminately, all those building weaponised enclaves for themselves at the expense of the Pakistani state and society.http://tribune.com.pk/story/595034/the-nsc-bounces-back/

August 26, 2013   No Comments

Govt likely to keep hangings hanged: by ABRAR SAEED in The Nation, Aug 26

ISLAMABAD – The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government is in a fix on the issue of capital punishment. There is tremendous pressure from civil society and the world community to abolish it, but rightwing hardliners insist that death plenty for heinous crimes is in line with the Islamic injunctions so it must be retained.

Lately, the execution of 800 convicts who are on death row, including around 150 hardened criminals and terrorists, was deferred by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the request of President Asif Ali Zardari who wanted to have a word with him on the matter.

Background interviews and information from informed sources reveal that government has decided to keep the matter on hold and formulate some policy in this regard after consultation with all the stakeholders.

Last week the PM and the president in a matter discussed this matter but, according to the sources, the only thing they agreed upon was that the executions would be kept withheld at least until President Zardari leaves the office on Sept 8.

Sources in Pakistan People’s Party said that President Zardari during the PPP rule too kept on dangling the matter in view of its sensitivity. Neither did he want to blemish his party’s liberal face nor offend the right-wingers so kept the ambiguity on the issue, they said.

Primarily, the PPP-led government wanted to appease the Western democracies, which were constantly exerting pressure on Pakistan to abolish capital punishment, while the civil society organisations within the country were also demanding to end this ‘uncivilised’ practice. But the then government did not formally abolish the capital punishment because they feared their fragile coalition won’t be able to withstand the expected fierce reaction from the Islamist hardliners and opposition parties.

The leadership of the present government is divided on the issue. One group wants immediate implementation on the pending execution cases saying that government must show strength and come out of this state of indecision. But the opposite camp is of the view that such a large number of executions would invite worldwide condemnation and the image of the government, which is already alleged of having relations with religious extremists, would be further tarnished.

The PML-N leaders who support keeping the capital punishment say that its abolishment would lead to increase in heinous crimes and terrorism, which has already caused much damage to the country. Its impact on case of family feuds would be particularly debilitating as people will be much less hesitant in killing their enemies in absence of capital punishment, the maintain. Moreover, abolishing of execution would be in complete conflict with the Islamic injunctions so it would invite a strong reaction from the religious elements and severely damage the popularity of the government, they add.

Sources in the government said that party leadership would keep the matter in limbo at least for sometime because the implementation on the pending cases of execution would leave negative impact on the government efforts for talks with Taliban because the death list also carries names of many members of this terrorist group.

They said apparently the civilian government and military establishment are on the same page regarding terrorism menace and country’s role in war on terror, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of the matters there are many grey areas and the matter of putting to gallows some of the high-profile terrorists falls in that territory. The PML-N right now is also not in a position to annoy certain ‘allies’ who too would be highly angry over hanging of some high-profile terrorists.

Therefore Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is most likely to keep the matter undecided till the time his government is able to tackle the matters of most urgent nature like revamping of the economy, management of the electricity crisis and the looming gas crisis in coming winter which is knocking at the doors.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/national/26-Aug-2013/govt-likely-to-keep-hangings-hanged

August 26, 2013   No Comments

PTI fails to fulfil its promised agenda: by Ahmad Hassan in The News, Aug 26

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) has lost much of its ground in the Thursday by-polls mainly for the reason that it failed to fulfill any of its election promises, most importantly the holding of local bodies polls within 90 days of its rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

This is a setback for the PTI government because the party had made tall claims of having done its homework on bringing a local bodies system to ensure that people’s problems were resolved at the local level, undertaking development and socio-economic work and had claimed to have finalised the basic structure of the local government by devolving powers to the village level.

A high-level meeting of the party attended by the party chairman in Islamabad on Friday was asked to expedite the finalisation of the proposed local government law to be tabled in the provincial assembly next month. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is no different from the other three provinces in failing to implement the judgement of the Supreme Court which bound all the provinces and the cantonments, including the federal territory Islamabad, to complete the local bodies’ elections process by September.

Another reason for this delay is attributed to the dichotomy of powers. Though the incumbent chief minister is the constitutional chief executive, provincial affairs are also separately overseen by the party chairman himself through the Chief Secretary Shehzad Arbab whereas another party stalwart, Jahangir Tareen, is also said to be issuing instructions. Many meetings have so far been held at the KP house in which the party leaders, including Imran Khan and his close aides, have participated to ponder over various reforms in provincial governance and all these meetings were held without the presence of the KP CM. The PTI oversight committee set up under the head of Imran Khan has been working overtime to put the proposed reforms on track but the results are not visible yet.

A former PTI core member Akbar S Babar says the party has been hijacked by the ‘newcomers’ who have occupied all the main party offices to oust/sideline the old guard. As a result, Imran Khan’s grip on the party has been eroded. One example of the overall deviation is that the dual office holders have resisted the separation of the party offices from public offices. Talking to this correspondent, Babar stated that the party had prepared a comprehensive plan to devolve powers to the local level through the local bodies’ polls within 90 days but it seems the forces of the status quo have blocked it.

A party source confided to this correspondent that the main reason for the KP government’s sticking to the status quo and following the other provinces on many counts, including its failure to finalise the local bodies’ law, was that most of the people sitting at the helm come from the forces of the status quo. For that matter, the source said the PTI was the only political entity in the country which at present is occupied by office-bearers who joined it only days and months back sidelining those who had put in hard work to establish it for 15 to 16 years. Sans Imran Khan, the offices of senior vice chairman, president and information secretary etc. all come through nominations or the intra-party polls which were reportedly marred by massive manipulations.

However, when asked about the blame for the party’s takeover by the status quo forces, the deputy secretary information Dr Israr Shah said “I put it the other way as in my opinion the party was run as an NGO till October 22 when new blood came in to put the party on the right track as a political party of change”. He claimed that the new entrants who had left their parties seeing the better political approach of the PTI have made a real difference in their vote bank for the party.

Former party spokesman and MNA Shafqat Mehmood, however, brushed aside the claims that the PTI had lost ground in the by-polls by saying: “If we have lost two seats in Peshawar and Mianwali we have also won the seat of the JUI-F in Lakki Marwat”. Without responding to the view that the party was occupied by new entrants who come from the status quo forces and were a big hurdle in implementing the party’s agenda of change, he said the party has fared well in the general elections and in the by-elections.http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-25006-PTI-fails-to-fulfil-its-promised-agenda

August 26, 2013   No Comments

Maneka likely to quit ministry: by Babar Dogar in The News, Aug 26

LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Social Welfare and Bait-ul-Maal Mian Atta Maneka is likely to resign from his office as he is not pleased with the ministry.

Sources close to Atta Maneka said he was not pleased with his ministry of social welfare considering it just not worthy of him owing to his seniority and political experience. They claimed Atta Maneka was mulling to resign because he believed the ministry assigned to him did not match his seniority and political experience while many novices were given major departments. Atta Maneka remained an MPA for four times and won a National Assembly seat in 1988.

Atta Maneka was behind the making of the PML-Q forward bloc in 2008 and announced his support to the minority government of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, which afterwards rose to 48 members in the Punjab Assembly. It was the forward bloc that helped Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif complete his five-year term after getting rid of the PPP members. After winning the 2008 elections as member provincial assembly, the PML-N leadership in recognition of his services included Atta Maneka in the cabinet as minister for social welfare and Bait-ul-Maal. Nevertheless, Maneka, who has held the office of Punjab Education Minister in 1995, is not happy with his ministry.

He also expressed his feelings during the ongoing assembly session on Thursday when he made a statement on the floor of the House that he was not feeling comfortable with the present assignment. “There is nothing in the department. Under the rules and procedure of the Bait-ul-Maal department, I have not seen any role of the minister in it. An Ameen is the head of the provincial Bait-ul-Maal committee, who is responsible for its funds and distributes them among district Bait-ul-Maal Committees in accordance with their share. “The minister as per law has neither any responsibility nor any role in it. The minister is only to answer questions of the members during assembly proceedings pertaining to the department and nothing else. The provincial government is better to keep a parliamentary secretary for the task who can perform the job better than me,” a depressed Atta Maneka informed the Punjab Assembly Speaker.

He also told the speaker that the social welfare department was the smallest among all provincial departments, where he did not have any specific function to perform. His close aides told this scribe he had taken the decision to leave the ministry which had no attraction. They claimed Maneka did not want to continue as a powerless minister with no authority or work at his disposal just for the sake of an official car with a flag. “He can better serve the masses of his constituency being a simple MPA without keeping the burden of the ministry,” they added. Atta Maneka was not available for comment despite repeated efforts.


August 26, 2013   No Comments