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Posts from — October 2013

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

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

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

Since independence in 1947 minority numbers have fallen from about a quarter of Pakistan population to 3.7%. Most Hindus and Sikhs moved to India following ethnic riots at the time of partition. Many still do. The separation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, where Hindus formed one-fifth of the population reduced minority numbers further. Christians, who now constitute 1.6% of the population, live in a state of fear and are left to do most menial jobs.

Weakened minorities look towards the government to restore and protect their places of worship and other properties, which the land mafia continues to expropriate, abetted by state functionaries, for commercial purposes.

Forcible conversion of teenage Hindu girls and their marriage to Muslim boys is reportedly common in Sindh, where Hindus are mostly concentrated. Despite Supreme Court suo moto intervention last year, none of the girls could go back for the fear of retribution, community leaders have claimed.

Christians are routinely accused of blasphemy over minor personal disputes. Aasia Bibi’s case grabbed world headlines in 2011 following the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, by his own guard, for publicly stating that the law had been abused in Aasia Bibi’s case. His murderer was sentenced to death and is a hero to a substantial number of Pakistanis.

Pakistan witnessed heart-wrenching scenes when the Hazaras, a Shi’ite sect sat in sub-zero temperatures in Quetta for four days refusing to bury 100 of their dead. Shi’ites blame the killing of nearly 400 from among them during the past two years on the banned Sunni militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The Ahmediya community, excommunicated in 1974 from the pale of Islam, is the target of some of the worst attacks. Even Ahmediya graves were desecrated in Lahore last year.

While law provides for equality and protection, state machinery stands by passively as hate crimes increase against the minorities.

Minorities now expect little protection from the state. The mystery for them is not the identity of their attackers. It is answering why the Pakistani state cannot – or will not – protect them? “Pakistani Christians have to constantly look over our shoulder,” laments a Christian digital communicator who is based in Dubai.

Societal intolerance apart, the minorities face several kinds of discrimination and a worrying level of state inaction about it. School and college curricula are not tolerant towards diversity. Minorities face severely limited prospects for jobs, especially at the senior levels, and the Pakistani passport identifies a person through his/her religion.

Pakistan was created on the basis of minority rights, yet 66 years after independence minorities await the fulfillment of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s words that, “[religion] has nothing to do with the business of the state”. The liberals blame Jinnah’s successors for turning Pakistan into a religiously bigoted, narrow-minded state. Religion, no doubt is used to maintain hold over a largely illiterate society, thus radicalizing further.

The military, especially since General Zia ul Haq, invokes Islam instead of nationalism. No wonder the soldier is now conditioned for jihad against infidels rather than defending the state.

Pakistan’s minorities have played an exemplary role in several sectors since independence. Education, law and healthcare stand out. Several war heroes are among them.

The new (Christian) minister of ports and shipping advises his community to escape the “minority syndrome”. Deeper introspection and a little sense of history suggest that states based upon perceived religious discrimination inevitably suffer paranoia and insularity. They become polarized, turning to the extreme right. In creating this exclusivity for the majority such states exclude minorities, from the mainstream nation building efforts.

The treatment meted to minorities and smaller sects of Islam raises wider questions about Pakistan’s societal culture of intolerance and its consequences.

Paradoxically, much of Pakistan appears oblivious or has given in to the cancerous extremism that is consuming a society that seemed tolerant until the 1970s. Faith now determines identity in Pakistan.

In order to roll intolerance back Pakistani leadership seriously needs to take stock and begin anew by looking at the curriculum, its inciteful media and societal discourse that is promoting extremism, much of it against the teachings of Islam. Pakistan needs to adopt fair economic policies that provide opportunities to the youth. The state must establish rule of law without fear or favor, value human life, and provide essential services to the less privileged. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-02-151013.html

October 16, 2013   No Comments

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

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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

Casting a glance on the past mistakes, he urged the military leadership to support and strengthen democracy in the country and also impliedly advised them to owe allegiance to the elected leadership and follow their decisions. His backing of the proposed dialogue with the Taliban has removed apprehensions in certain quarters regarding any rift between the civil and military leadership will regards to dealing with the menace of terrorism in the country. Brushing aside the notion that recourse to dialogue with TTP was a sequel to failure of the military operation, by quoting successes of military operation in Swat and other tribal areas, he made it abundantly clear that the army was ready to meet any challenge and be at the beck and call of the elected leadership in case the dialogue option failed to materialize. He made it clear that future of the country was linked to democracy and constitutional rule and there could be no compromise on that. That is exactly the position taken by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding how to deal with TTP related terrorism. He wants to give dialogue a chance as first priority and remains committed to using force as a last resort.

Referring to the transition of power through ballot for the first time in the country’s history— of course made possible by a responsible conduct of the political leaders and the support of military leadership, General Kayani emphasized the need for continuation of the process of confidence-building between the state institutions which had been set into motion by this development. These words coming from the COAS are testimony to the fact that the military is all set to retreat from the civilian territory that it had encroached upon as well as to abandon its disdainful posture towards the elected representatives. This radical change in the mind-set of the military commanders and consequent harmony of thought between the civil and military leadership on challenges confronting the country, is a propitious omen for the future of democracy and constitutional rule in the country.

Now that the field has been left open for the political leadership to prove their democratic credentials and being worthy of the legacy bequeathed to them by the founding father of the nation, they must atone for their past follies and lead the nation to a truly democratic destination. There are no two opinions about the fact that our salvation lies in following the vision of the Quaid and any further deviation from this chartered course will be a recipe for disaster.

Pakistan is at the cross-roads because of the bad governance inbuilt in the colonial system that we have followed during the past more than six decades. The feudal character of our political system which breeds a culture of graft and entitlement needs to be replaced by a truly democratic and representative system. Democracy is not merely about holding elections. The prevalent system is inherently anti-people and protects the interests of the elite. This injudicious system is responsible for the unrest that we see in different parts of the country and the fissiparous tendencies that pose an existentialist threat to it. Our present system of elections on single constituency basis is injudicious and non-representative and guarantees concentration of political power in the hands of feudal lords and affluent classes. In this numbers game the parties get the secondary position and its leadership is blackmailed by the vested interests on the basis of their group strength within the party and their ability to destabilize the non-conforming governments. This culture also gives birth to detestable practices like horse trading and changing loyalties for material favours, forcing the leadership of the ruling parties to care more for saving their government than changing the political system and making the people real masters of their destiny. We have witnessed this kind of crass politics in the nineties.

People who have voted Nawaz Sharif into power and the civil society are well within their right to expect game changing measures from him, especially making a departure from the way we elect our leaders and make the system truly representative. In the May 2013 elections fought on single constituency basis, with unprecedented turnout of 55.02% the winning and ruling party obtained 32.77 % of the vote cast and only 17.41% of the total registered votes. If we look at constituency wise turnout the figure fluctuates between 84% to 11.50% and the winning candidates in certain constituencies have obtained even less than 10% of the vote cast. How can such a system be called democratic and truly representative?.

The remedy lies in switching over to the proportional representation wherein people vote for parties and not individuals, to have a really representative parliament and government. The voting should also be made compulsory. This changeover will help bring regional and nationalist parties into the political mainstream.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/16-Oct-2013/doing-things-by-halves

October 16, 2013   No Comments

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

The writer is a poet and author based in Islamabad.

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

Things are never in black and white. No nation-state is natural, for that matter. If Bengalis, Keralites, Haryanvis, Tamils and Maharashtrians can all be Indians, then Punjabis, Baloch, Pakhtuns, Seraikis and Sindhis are far less different from each other in ethnic, linguistic and cultural terms. Every state is a project in human organisation for people sharing a certain territory. Hence, every state identity is a project identity – a political construct. Some states are aided by an uninterrupted historic process for long, some are not.

Nevertheless, state and society are posed with a challenge to create their own narrative, an ideology (whether they use the term as liberally as we use it in Pakistan or not) and agreed principles of running the affairs of both state and society. While history and tradition may well be interpreted differently by different schools of political thought, a broad ownership and a shared understanding on how to deal with the present and move forward forms the basis of success for any state and society.

While some may argue that there is an absence of a robust narrative for the Pakistani state and society, at best what we have is a completely confused narrative devoid of any sense of history – let alone having different interpretations of it – and any inkling of where to find a respectable niche for ourselves in the comity of nations, grow intellectually as a people and become prosperous as a country. Lagging far behind in every human development indicator, we somehow think we are special and the world has ganged up against us.

The nature of the Pakistani state and the public messages it conveyed over decades, particularly through curriculum and the media, has ended up creating a unique middleclass – the affluent and not-so-affluent included. Middle classes in any country are considered to be the custodians of the narrative of their state and society, progressive or otherwise. Ours is perhaps one of the most confused, schooled but illiterate. This includes all – politicians, public officials, military officers, media personnel, academics, accountants, engineers, bankers, doctors, teachers, office workers, traders, businessmen.

There is a complete theoretical clarity, even if there is limited possibility of long-term success, among those who challenge the existence of the Pakistani state and the principles upon which it was founded. Therefore, whether it is the Taliban or other extremist outfits, they can’t be blamed for changing their stance at the drop of a hat or harbouring confusion about how they view the world. They offer a narrative, a clear set of goals, an ideology on what state should look like and how society must behave, irrespective of how it will lead to the annihilation of state and society or whether we like it or not. But let us take a few examples from the present and recent past and see how our middle class and the political and social institutions it dominates stand confused and divided.

Malala Yousafzai, the brave girl from Swat who was campaigning for girls’ education at a time when hundreds of girls’ schools were being blown up in her region, survived a Taliban bullet and became their nemesis. The Taliban are clear; they want her eliminated. Malala is clear; she wants education for all children especially girls, an end to war and peace in her homeland. But while some Pakistanis think that she is a western stooge, others desperately wanted her to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Commander of his own faction of the confused brigade, the PTI chief wished Malala to win the Nobel Peace Prize on the one hand and holds the west responsible for the TTP’s war on innocent Pakistani civilians on the other. Fighting combatant soldiers who take you on and killing worshippers in a mosque or women shopping in a bazaar cannot be equated. You have to be utterly confused yourself not to find any contradiction in thinking here. Likewise, the less confused but more expedient prime minister of the country wished Malala well while both his political and media supporters questioned her and her family’s integrity. A PML-N friend argued with me that Gordon Brown, who is complicit in the war imposed on Iraq, has become an advocate of Malala’s cause and therefore her struggle is undermined.

I find this logic a little flawed coming from a PML-N enthusiast. If the chief minister of Punjab sings Habib Jalib, the revolutionary poet whose work stands for everything opposite to what the PML-N’s economic and religious ideology is about, that should have no reflection on Jalib’s poetry, thoughts and deeds. Malala is a brave but fragile young girl; her words, acts and deeds cannot be taken away from her if an international politician decides to support her. Also, just massage your memory a little bit and you would recall that it was the army itself that rescued Malala when she was in a critical condition by flying her out of Swat and initially treating her before sending her off to a UK hospital.

Going further back into memory will take us to the Lal Masjid episode. When the two brothers running the mosque and the seminary started using force and imposing regulations in the city, raided homes, shops and businesses, and occupied a children’s library, the media, affected businesses and the utterly confused civil society clamoured for action against them as they were taking the law into their own hands. The government tried to hold a dialogue with the clerics through politicians and public officials. Some self in the media took it upon themselves to help arbiter a solution and a tedious process of negotiations began.

The process failed. A military operation was undertaken. Why was a military action needed? The reason is simple. The people in the mosque and the seminary were armed and ready to put up a fight against the army. As a result of the gun battles, the army lost the commander of the operation, Lt-Col Haroon Islam. Maulana Rasheed Ghazi was killed in the crossfire after the army had stormed the mosque. Between the two, who is the martyr for Pakistanis today, Islam or Ghazi? Who represents us?

If Gen (r) Musharraf has to be tried for Ghazi’s murder, who will be tried for Lt-Col Islam’s death? How many are they and what are the names of the women and men who were killed as a result of the Lal Masjid operation? Where did they get all the weapons from? Why did they not surrender to the state? The Lal Masjid clerics were clear then and are clear now after the mosque has been restored and handed back to Maulana Aziz. There is utter confusion on the other side, though.

Lastly, Pakistanis queuing up outside the embassies and high commissions of western countries or desperately waiting in their living rooms for visas to arrive grow in size by each passing day. Why do the pious and the faithful among the middle class choose to immigrate to countries run by the profane, impious and sinful?http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-

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October 16, 2013   No Comments

Need to rethink policing: by TARIQ KHOSA in Dawn, Oct 16

The writer is a retired police officer.

THE public is beginning to realise that the police force cannot deliver what it promises.

In Police for the Future, David Bayley asserts that dependence on law enforcement for crime-control exposes the police, as well as the criminal justice system, to being scapegoated. Inflated expectations lead to the loss of trust and credibility. Crime cannot be prevented exclusively through law enforcement; the police force constitutes a band-aid on cancer.

What should societies do to prevent crime? What should the police do? We cannot rely solely upon the police force to save society from crime. No single institution can do that. At the same time, we must charge the police with taking the lead in exploring what must be done. In institutional terms, that is the essence of policing.

Can this be done? I think so. Established in 1861 on the Irish Constabulary model, the police force in Pakistan has been a coercive instrument of the state, structured on a military-style force and lacking community-service qualities. Consequently, it has always been used and misused by governments both civilian and military to perpetuate their misrule and pursue ill-conceived policies that were not reflective of the societal will. Lack of public trust was the natural outcome.

Policing needs to be demilitarised. It must no longer be viewed as a war dominated by the use of force that has been devised by the senior ranks and carried out by ‘troops’ whose primary duty is obedience. It needs to be stood on its head.

In conventional policing, the assessment of needs and the development of strategies is achieved at the top, by senior command; lower echelons carry out the plans that headquarters formulate. In order for crime to be prevented effectively, the responsibility for diagnosing needs and formulating action plans must be given to frontline personnel.

Higher echelons should have a supporting role and should either deliver the necessary resources or manage the organisation in a facilitating manner. The roles of staff and line personnel must be reversed.

Four areas of policing require immediate reforms: restructure the urban police; adopt community policing; initiate problem-oriented policing; and fix the fractured police command.

Since the adoption of the Police Rules of 1934, no serious attention has been given to organisational restructuring. Policing large urban centres is based on the archaic rural- and town-policing formulae based on population and the number of cases, while 80pc of the force is constabulary performing mechanical functions.

Cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad require a metropolitan policing model in which the basic unit of the police has to be raised from the present-day inadequate police station to a self-contained sub-division with a responsible supervisory officer providing the following essential services under one roof: registration of first-information reports or FIRs, investigation, dealing with public complaints, supervising beat patrolling, collecting criminal intelligence and addressing community concerns.

The supervisory officer of the rank of deputy or assistant superintendent of police, well-equipped and resourced, should become the hub of policing a large city which may then be divided into four or five territorial divisions headed by superintendents or senior superintendants of the police who deal with management and resource allocation to basic units.

They should have teams of professional police officers supporting them in intelligence-based investigations and the provision of a dedicated rapid response force for raids and arrests. The divisional police commanders should then report to a senior police chief of the city. The current 80-20 junior rank to supervisory rank ratio should be 60-40.

The next area of reforms deals with community policing. Not a single police department in our country has a community policing or crime-prevention branch at the police headquarters. No strategic thinking is taking place at the command level in terms of the prevention of crime. There is no exploration of cause and effect. Fire-fighting approaches have failed.

Let us rethink the whole philosophy of community policing. The frontline of policing should be comprised of experienced and carefully selected neighbourhood or community police officers (CPOs) who assess all the security needs of areas assigned to them and determine corrective action. The CPO must be known as ‘our police officer’.

CPOs cannot reform society, but they can at least be expected to address local circumstances that lead to crime and disorder. They would be the general practitioners of policing, concentrating on consultations with people who have incipient problems and the care of victims of crime. The creation of frontline CPO officers would institutionalise preventive diagnosis and problem-solving; they must be the best and the brightest of them all.

Given the current state of lawlessness, adopting a problem-oriented approach to policing is crucial. When Rudy Giuliani, then New York mayor, took this approach, it brought down the annual murder rate from 2,000 to 600 in two years in the 1990s.

The idea is to identify a problem, create a task force comprised of police and representatives of relevant departments, and then go all out to address the issue within a time frame. Zero tolerance for even minor deviance leads to the prevention of major crimes. The certainty of punishment is more effective than the selective severity of punishment. Knee-jerk responses to crime situations always flop and reduce the credibility of the state.

A case in point is the Sindh government’s recent, failed de-weaponisation campaign. We did not examine the causes of the failure of two earlier national campaigns in the 1990s and in 2003-4. Criminals do not cough up illegal weapons as a result of media warnings. Such campaigns are part of a sustained policy, not requiring publicity and fanfare but intelligence-based vigilance and the cooperation of the community. Hence, the need for community policing based on public trust.

Finally, the current fractured command of the police has resulted in a politicised, criminalised and brutalised force that has lost the trust of the citizens. The politicians, policymakers and police commanders are equally responsible. The posting of independent, honest, brave and law-abiding police chiefs will stem the rot. Such officers need to be sought in this rudderless state.http://dawn.com/news/1049982/need-to-rethink-policing

October 16, 2013   No Comments

Opposition leader: PTI mulls coup against PPP’s Khursheed Shah

By Zahid Gishkori  in The Express Tribune, Oct 16

ISLAMABAD:  Whether they like it or not, the destiny of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) seems perpetually linked to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Sindh’s leading urban party spent the last five years being the difference between the PPP-led government and a lost majority. And now, the PPP would need MQM’s support once again – this time to hold on to the office of the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly in the face of a new contender: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Imran Khan’s party may have fallen well short of forming the government, finishing third in terms of seats, but the party now has its sights set on spearheading the opposition – a position currently held by the second largest party in the National Assembly, PPP.

Chairman Imran Khan is vying for the office of Leader of the Opposition, according to PTI sources – a desire that has apparently gained momentum after the PPP failed to convince opposition parties of the new National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief’s nomination.

PTI leaders told The Express Tribune on Wednesday that the party finally decided to part ways with the incumbent Leader of Opposition Khursheed Shah of the PPP, who gave the go-ahead to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to appoint Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman as the new NAB chief.

As always, it’s all a matter of numbers in the National Assembly – can the PTI pull off the coup? The numbers are all inside.http://tribune.com.pk/story/618882/opposition-leader-pti-mulls-coup-against-ppps-khursheed-shah/

October 16, 2013   No Comments

PML-N internal discord keeping NA committees dormant

By Tanveer Ahmed in daily times, Oct 16

ISLAMABAD: The internal strife in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has blocked functioning of the standing committees of the National Assembly, despite the passage of over four months since the new House was sworn in.

The standing committees of the House were constituted around one and half months back. However, the simple formality of electing their chairman has not been completed so far despite the presentation of the names by the opposition parties. According to parliamentary sources, the lists of the government members of the House were finalised some time back by State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed.

However, some powerful ministers in the cabinet want their blue-eyed candidates to head some important committees and remove some of the names proposed by Sheikh Aftab Ahmed. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had particularly intervened when he proposed names of his own people to head these committees against those who have been finalised earlier. Though the final approval is to be given by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, however, this internal infighting has delayed the process.

The standing committees are key part of parliament, especially by virtue of their input in legislation as well as their role in oversight of different government miniseries and departments. Above all, the role of parliament to check corruption in the country through its Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has also come to standstill because of the delay in election of chairperson of the committees. As per the strength of the political parties in National Assembly, the PML-N will head seventeen standing committees followed by largest opposition party Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that will chair four committees, with the key PAC chairpersonship with it.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will head three committees, and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) will chair two. It may be recalled the government first missed the July 5 deadline for making the standing committees functional and was only able to constitute the committees at the fag end of the month of August contrary to assembly rules. The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has to constitute standing committees within 30 days after the election of the prime minister. The parliamentary sources told Daily Times that the National Assembly Secretariat has nothing to do with the election of chairpersonship of the committees and is only waiting for the approval of the government to convene the committees’ meeting and hold their election.http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\10\16\story_16-10-2013_pg7_1

October 16, 2013   No Comments

Aitzaz likely to replace Khosa as PPP general secy

By Kashif Hussain in Daily Times, Oct 16

LAHORE: The veteran Pakistan People’s Party leader, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, is likely to take charge of PPP secretary general in a couple of months, replacing the incumbent Sardar Latif Khoosa.

Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, a seasoned democrat and famous lawyer with an appreciative political candidature have been deemed as the most suitable candidate for the office. An aide to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (late) as well as a proactive leader of Judges Restoration Movement, Aitzaz held the fertility to be the secretary general of PPP.

Sources told Daily Times that party’s high command has decided in principle to replace incumbent Sardar Latif Khosa with Aitzaz as the former had failed to reactivate the party and reunite the angry leaders and workers and ‘Jiyalas’ of the party. The party is expecting Aitzaz to heal the damage incurred especially during general elections on May 11 by reuniting the disgruntled groups in PPP.

Party sources informed that Latif Khosa had gained applauds as law advisor among PPP sections but his failure to address political split, particularly in his own Punjab province was proving a hurdle in prolonging his charge as general secretary.

They mentioned that during the tenure, Khosa had not achieved a single significant target hence the party’s think-tank had slipped to change the incumbent secretary general.

Responding to queries about the former secretary general Jahangir Badar, who was also given consideration for the office again, they stated that he had been given significant importance but the idea could not succeed owing to his son’s allegedly business relations with Touqeer Sadiq who is under trail these days.

Sources underscored that the party leadership had redefined the ways to regain its lost status at NA level and at the provinces as well. Therefore, the leadership is determined to engage more public and go into masses again by maneuvering changes in main party offices, where more public faces are likely to be given space.

Aitzaz had been given priority over Latif khosa after being non-controversial among party workers and general public support he enjoys. They added the real political show would be staged in Lahore, hence a Punjabi face required to deal political affairs.

Aitzaz had numerous edges over other candidates, they said, adding on one hand, he had gained much appreciation for his role amid Judges’ Restoration Movement, in which he reshaped his image and became applauded political and popular social figure.

Similarly, being a democrat and having strong connections with the rest of political parties, he could be the most appropriate secretary general in coming days wherein, according to the PPP workers, the political contest had to be sharpened.

They opined the situation in the country no longer similar to 90’s as a third political party namely Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had marked its success in KPK besides winning the second largest vote during general elections 2013. So any further lethargy in order to revisit and reshape the political strategy may rebound on PPP, sources said. They added that in any case the party must reconstruct its lost stature, otherwise the nation might forget the sacrifices and great contributions rendered by PPP founding leader Zulifqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir for democracy.

http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\10\16\story_16-10-2013_pg7_5

October 16, 2013   No Comments

Zardari to formally launch political activities tomorrow

by AMIR WASIM  in Dawn, Oct 16

ISLAMABAD: Five weeks after completion of his five-year term in the Presidency, Asif Ali Zardari is formally starting his political activities from Larkana with a meeting of the PPP leaders belonging to Sindh on Thursday (tomorrow), Dawn has learnt.

When contacted, spokesman for the former president Farhatullah Khan Babar confirmed that Mr Zardari had invited the office-bearers of the party’s chapters from various divisions in Sindh at a dinner in Larkana on Thursday evening.

Mr Babar said that Mr Zardari had invited the party members from Sindh only as it would have been difficult for the leaders from other provinces to reach Larkana on the second day of Eidul Azha.

He disclosed that Mr Zardari planned to either stay in Karachi or Lahore for a longer period after Eid to carry on his political activities.

Interestingly, Mr Zardari does not hold any elected office of the party at the moment as he had to quit his role as the PPP co-chairman when his position was challenged in the Lahore High Court after his election as the president of the country.

Mr Zardari had been chosen as the co-chairman of the PPP on December 30, 2007 at a meeting of the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) held soon after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Although, he has never resigned from the post of the co-chairman, he had to keep himself away from the recently-held internal party elections which were held when he was still the country’s president. In his last year in the office of the president, Mr Zardari did not preside over any formal meeting of the party in Presidency.

However, now the party leadership claims that after quitting the president’s office, his position as the party head has been restored in line with the CEC’s decision of December 2007.

Mr Babar said though Mr Zardari did not participate in the elections of the PPP or the PPP-Parliamentarians and his name was not there in the list of the elected office-bearers, his role to oversee the party affairs that had been assigned to him by late Benazir Bhutto through her will and acknowledged by the party’s CEC was still intact.http://dawn.com/news/1049964/zardari-to-formally-launch-political-activities-tomorrow

October 16, 2013   No Comments

Despite its shrewdness, JUI-F is left high and dry ; by Tariq Butt in The News, Oct 16

ISLAMABAD: Despite his shrewd politics Jamiat Ulemae Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is prominent as the ruling coalition in Balochistan cleverly missed out his party when it expanded the cabinet with a considerable delay.

However, a smart politician like Mehmood Khan Achakzai of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) is having the best of time, first ever in his long political career with impressive democratic credentials.

His elder brother, Mohammad Khan Achakzai, is the governor Balochistan. His younger brother, Dr Hamid Khan Achakzai, has now been inducted in the provincial cabinet. He himself is the member of the National Assembly.

After Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to assign the gubernatorial position to Mohammad Khan Achakzai a few months back, an exceedingly thrilled Mehmood Khan Achakzai declared that Balochistan would remain with Pakistan till the Day of Judgment.

Although Fazlur Rehman supports the federal ruling coalition, he is still living on promises made by the prime minister to accommodate his representatives in the central cabinet. It was mentioned some time back that the premier decided to take one JUI-F nominee, Akram Durrani, in the cabinet but it continued to remain a mere announcement to keep Fazlur Rehman somewhat cheerful. The JUI has not got what it had aspired to be, but it has not wavered in its backing to the federal government. It has twelve seats in the 342-member National Assembly and eight seats in the 65-member Balochistan Assembly.

Senator Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party (NP) to which Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch belongs is also a very delighted and relaxed man. He has got one of his close relatives, Aslam Bizenjo, included in the provincial cabinet apart from the office of the chief minister that his party has.

Instead of being irate and vowing to proceed against Jafar Khan Mandokhel on the defection charge for joining the Balochistan cabinet, the central leadership of his PML-Q has congratulated him on becoming minister in the provincial cabinet. What else it can do when it has no control and grip over its Balochistan chapter. From day one, the PML-Q Balochistan chose its own parliamentary course when it became part of the ruling coalition.

The PML-N is the largest party in the provincial legislature with 19 seats followed by the PkMAP with 14 seats, NP with 10 seats, and PML-Q with six seats. Keeping this numerical strength in view, the PML-N clinched the major share with six ministries including that of the PML-Q as well. The PkMAP and NP secured four portfolios each.

The cabinet now comprises 14 members including the chief minister. PML-N Balochistan President Sanaullah Zehri, NP leader Nawab Muhammad Khan Shahwani and PkMAP’s Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal were sworn in as ministers along with Dr Malik in June this year.

But still it is the smallest cabinet in the history of Balochistan, which has earned a name for having huge battalions of ministers. In the outgoing government, all the sixty-five members of the provincial assembly were ministers, advisers or special assistants, which played havoc with the concept of good governance. Wastage of public resources remained order of the day.

The basic idea behind having the cabinet manageable and small is to put a halt to frittering away of national resources at a time when the country is faced with unheard of economic crisis. This prudent decision was unanimously taken during hectic and long drawn out consultations joined by the top central and provincial leaders of the PML-N, NP and PkMAP. It was envisaged that a difference has to be created that should be felt by the people at large.

Although it happened for the first time that a commoner like Dr Malik became chief minister of Balochistan, which has always been ruled by sardars, tribal chieftains and feudal lords, only because of the conscious decision of the PML-N leadership, yet Maris, Domkis, Khosas, Bugtis, Mandokhels and Jogezais succeeded in making it to the cabinet. Mengals got nothing as they came out with a poor showing in the May general elections.

The prime minister and the Balochistan ruling coalition often earned flak for being unable to put together a cabinet despite the passage a long period of four months. The critics charged that it was ironical that the troubled province has no team in place to rectify its state of affairs.http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-26124-Despite-its-shrewdness-JUI-F-is-left-high-and-dry

October 16, 2013   No Comments

Understanding the world through our (new) textbooks

By Madiha Afzal in The Express Tribune, Oct 3

The writer is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“Pakistan is playing a very effective role against terrorism and extremism in the world.” This is one of “Pakistan’s contributions towards peace-keeping in the world”, a direct quote from the new Punjab Class 10 Pakistan Studies textbook, in a chapter on Pakistan in world affairs. This statement would be greeted with incredulity in the rest of the world. It is just one example of a distorted sense of the world, and of our place in the world, that is conveyed in our textbooks.

Overall, the two Pakistan Studies textbooks for Classes 9 and 10 for 2013-14, which follow the new curriculum, present a marked improvement over the corresponding one for Sindh (which I reviewed in my op-ed on September 1). Each chapter has much more substance, detailing actual historical events rather than the repetitive, sometimes nonsensical, statements in the old Sindh textbook. That there is a full chapter on Pakistan’s place in the world is in itself an improvement.

But biases and errors remain. The view of history presented here remains one-sided, with India and Hindus consistently presented as conspiratorial and deceitful — both before the creation of Pakistan and after independence (resulting in, among other things, the break-up of Pakistan in 1971). The word ‘conspiracy’, overwhelmingly used with reference to India, is an all too frequent refrain. Pakistan and its leaders are, no surprise, always selfless, sincere and honest. As in the Sindh textbook, Bangladesh’s creation is stated to be the work of a “secret arrangement of big powers”. No wonder that Pakistanis are the world’s foremost conspiracy theorists.

Mentions of terrorism in this textbook are sparing. “Pakistan supported America in Afghan war but as a consequence Pakistan itself is facing terrorism”, and the sentence that began this op-ed, are the two mentions of terrorism. The book does not at all impart a sense of the depth of the terrorism problem Pakistan is facing today. That is a mistake. On Pakistan’s relationship with America, we hear of the “two-face” characters of America and the Europeans post-1965. Since September 11, the book states that “America has given loan of billions of dollars to Pakistan. However, it has never given aid for any big project of long-lasting economic and defence benefits to Pakistan.” No doubt USAID, and the US military and Congress would be aggrieved to hear this statement.

There is an effort to detail Pakistan’s relationship with a number of other countries, but as a series of facts — with dates of visits from one head of state to the other and regional conferences held in various capitals — which does not convey the true essence of these relationships. In a broader sense, much of the context is lost when students are not taught World History.

I recognise that it wouldn’t be realistic for textbooks (anywhere in the world) to be completely free of bias. These new Punjab textbooks use the word ‘enemy’ a lot less, and the word ‘evil’, not at all, relative to the old Sindh textbooks. But given where the country is today — when we are not sure ‘whose war’ it is that has seen 6,000 of our own citizens killed at the hands of other Pakistanis, when a Christian church massacre becomes a conspiracy to derail peace talks with a stakeholder who is a bloodthirsty animal showing no desire for peace — and given that the root of these very problems can be traced to what we have been taught, there is room for improvement.

The good news is that there is hope that such improvements can be made. In addition to the curriculum reform, the new competitive process for textbook writing by private publishers (based on the National Textbook and Learning Materials Policy of 2007) and the multi-step iterative process through which these submissions are reviewed, revised and the best of the best selected as the official textbook, are positive steps. Further iterations and suggestions for improving these new textbooks are welcomed by the new Punjab Curriculum Authority, as well as by the new publishers, who at the end of the textbooks, ask us to call in with suggestions and corrections. It is time that we — academics, parents, teachers and students — use these channels to voice our concerns. http://tribune.com.pk/story/612452/understanding-the-world-through-our-new-textbooks/

October 3, 2013   No Comments