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Posts from — May 2014

Farzana Parveen and the death of the state: By Raza Rumi in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2014.

The writer works as a consulting editor at The Friday Times

It has become a useless routine to condemn the most ghastly acts of violence and injustice in Pakistan. For many, these are daily occurrences and thus the levels of desensitisation have grown. So has the brutalisation of society, when it adapts to some bare facts and upholds and sometimes celebrates the worst of what constitutes custom, tradition or ‘culture’. What else would explain the fact that there were dozens of passerby near the Lahore High Court — known for its imposing architecture and not the delivery of justice now — who silently witnessed the death of a woman scorned for choosing her partner? Worse, the police did not intervene either. This has become the norm with what we know as the ‘state’ in Pakistan. It chooses to remain indolent, indifferent and even complicit at times. This has left the citizen vulnerable. The weaker you are, the more chance there is of your life meaning absolutely nothing.

A few weeks ago, I underwent the worst of nightmares. Seeking help on a roadside with two wounded men: one almost dead and the other struggling to stay conscious. My romanticism for my own country was shattered on that fateful night of March 28. I am privileged and lucky that I escaped a brutal, unsung death but a life was lost. A large crowd had gathered to ogle at the blood sport but none of them was willing to help in taking a near-dead body out of the car. On a busy street, no car was willing to stop to take my injured driver to the hospital. Farzana’s death and her calls for help have only reopened my wounds — far from healed and as painful as before. This state of our society, drunk on honour, pride, ghairat and other medieval notions of self-worth, has crossed all tolerable levels of dysfunction. Yes, two girls were also hanged, allegedly gang-raped in India, and crimes against women are prevalent in other societies as well. But, at least, there is collective uproar, pressure on the governments and results.

In our case, it took the prime minister 48 hours after the event to take ‘notice’ and to date, the head of the Punjab government, otherwise celebrated for his style of governance, to even condemn the barbarity in a city that he intends to turn into Paris. With all the Metro Buses and fast rails, twisted highways and expensive underpasses, there seems to be a breakdown of the social fabric. Wanton violence and a high-level tolerance of lethal outfits, their affiliates and dozens of ‘sleeper cells’, make a mockery of the shining Punjab story.

Farzana’s case represents all that is wrong with us: from the misuse of a faith-based legal system that ‘forgives’ the murderer, to embedded misogyny and the stark absence of a ‘state’ that is supposedly there to arbiter citizen protection and welfare. Farzana’s husband had murdered his first wife to marry her. Her sister also became reportedly a victim of honour killing and nearly 1,000 women reportedly are killed in the name of custom and tradition that is founded on a spectator sport where women, minorities and the marginalised are killed with impunity.

Take the case of Dr Mehdi Ali, an American-Pakistani doctor volunteering in Pakistan. He was shot dead in front of his family (a child included) with more than 10 bullets. And the high and mighty of this land cannot even acknowledge that he was gunned down since he was an adherent of a faith that Pakistan’s political and religious elite shunned through a constitutional edict. Exactly 40 years ago, Pakistan’s state officialised discrimination on the basis of faith by declaring the Ahmadiyya community non-Muslim. Sadly this happened under a civilian government backed by a political consensus. Dr Mehdi Ali’s murder and the brazen killing of nearly 90 Ahmadis in 2010 are but a continuum of what was decided by our elected leaders, the religious guides and of course, sections of the press. To say that killers don’t get apprehended or punished in these cases is to in fact miss the larger picture. They cannot be in a society that has been engineered by the state since the 1970s. This is why condemning an Ahmadi’s murder is somehow viewed as approving of their faith by the hardliners. Hate speech is no longer recognised as such. It is the norm, the correct worldview in a collective quest for mythical ‘purity’.

There is cleansing underway now except that it has engulfed everyone in it. Shia genocide, attacks on Christians and Hindus, targeting of Sufi shrines, almost everyone is a target of the rival armed advocate of a puritanical ideology. Have we even debated on the increased use of mob justice from cases of alleged blasphemy cases to the lynching of young men declared guilty without trial in Sialkot in 2010, and to instances of petty theft on streets. Injustice and inequities fuel this fire and those at the helm remain busy in pursuing the most trivial power games, played time and again in the sordid political history of Pakistan.

Many have asked for arrests, others have demanded suo-motu notice to push Farzana’s case. The few dozen ‘civil society’ activists are busy chanting the decades-old slogans. All of this has been tried with no results. Mukhtaran Mai could not get ‘complete justice’ despite the suo motu, the highest level of judicial intervention. And in the presence of discriminatory laws, how will victims of honour crimes even think of justice?

There is something even more troubling at work. And it has to with the abdication of state responsibility. It is simply a breakdown of the fragile postcolonial citizen-state relationship. Whether Pakistan’s moth-eaten political parties and its truncated democratic process have the capacity to re-craft that relationship is unclear. Thus far, the signs are not encouraging.http://tribune.com.pk/story/715415/farzana-parveen-and-the-death-of-the-state/

May 31, 2014   No Comments

Burden of honour: by Asna Ali in The News, May 31, 2014

The writer is a businessstudies graduate from southern Punjab.

“If you research all these crimes against women that are written about in newspapers, you will find that in most cases the woman brought it on herself. If all women started wearing Afghan burqas, the crimes against them would stop.”

So spoke a university professor and I am reminded of his words whenever a heinous crime against a woman is reported, like the very public murder of Farzana Parveen who was attacked and killed in Lahore. She was probably not wearing an Afghan style burqa.

‘Honour’ as understood in Pakistan is a strange and malleable concept. It is pliant enough to endure if the sons of a house decide to indulge in drunken revelry surrounded by prostitutes. But it is tarnished if a woman of the same family decides to move away, live alone and pursue a career of her own choice.

Farzana had broken a fundamental rule of survival by choosing her husband herself and not agreeing to marry the man picked by her family. Doubtless there is more to the story than this but it ended with the lynching of a pregnant woman in broad daylight, in front of a court, witnessed by the police and public.

There are many other women like Farzana who are killed by their family for not toeing the line. There are many more who are not, because they shy away from taking any step which could result in such an extreme instance of violence. They look at Farzana and others like her as cautionary tales of a patriarchy that metes out swift and deadly justice.

The prerogative of family members to punish ‘their’ women however they see fit is upheld by society. The law is absolutely powerless in this regard because no one is willing to enforce laws that would diminish the power of patriarchy. What if you decide to punish the killers of a lynched woman or to speak out in her favour and ‘your’ women see that as a sign that being independent is acceptable.

Public murder is the last stop on a very long road that provides an average misogynist with various ways to exert control. Simple gestures like unashamedly staring at any woman who happens to be in the line of sight is one of the most common forms of this behaviour. Cat calls, rude comments and stalking often follow. Ask any woman who has ever stepped out of her house and she will relate a multitude of instances where she was made to feel objectified and unsafe.

So to avoid external threats, women must rely on the magnanimity of their family – and that too comes at a price. There is an unwritten rule that for the protection your male family members provide by ferrying you to and from various places, by scaring off harassers and generally by their very presence, you must uphold their honour, whatever that actually means, at all times and as best as you can.

It entails obedience in matters small and large. If you fail to abide by these rules, protection is no longer available and you are left to fend for yourself in the big bad world.

That fear, of being abandoned by family and what the consequences of such banishment could be, is what makes many women abide by these rules. This, and the knowledge that if they decide to stand up for themselves they will stand completely alone. No parent, sibling, friend or bystander will step forward to support them.

So smile and nod ladies. Put on those Afghan burqas. You want to live, don’t you?http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-253268-Burden-of-honour

May 31, 2014   No Comments

Power bills: edit in The News, May 31, 2014

There is no scenario as scary for the PML-N – and as damaging to its future electoral prospects – as the re-emergence of the vicious circle of debt in the energy sector. The government had paid off the Rs480 billion in circular debt that had accumulated during the tenures of previous governments and is desperate to avoid a repeat of a situation that not only bankrupts the government but also leads to greater loadshedding. While there are delinquent creditors at every point on the circle, the refusal of some of the biggest users to pay their bills could be pinpointed as the weak link that causes the burgeoning debt. To deal with this problem, the Council of Common Interests has decided that it will deduct 25 percent of the arrears from the provinces’ share of the NFC Award at source every month. The decision, though approved by the chief ministers present in the CCI meeting, will undoubtedly lead to resistance from the provinces in implementing it in full. They will argue, as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government already has, that collecting bills is the responsibility of the centre. The federal government had called the KP government’s bluff by saying it would hand over control of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company to the province but this proposal went nowhere.

The complaints of the provinces will ring hollow since their government departments have been consuming electricity without paying for it. Sympathy will be in short supply for defaulters. Certainly a case for hypocrisy could be made since the federal government is equally blasé about paying its own electricity bills and the symbolic cutting of power at the prime minister’s office was little more than a PR exercise. The situation is further complicated by the intemperate statements of State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali who has been particularly harsh on Balochistan and threatened to withdraw its power subsidy. Given the alienation the province already feels from the rest of the country, he has not helped smooth matters over at all. Ultimately, though, preventing circular debt from rearing its ugly head again is enough of a priority that this novel solution may be the only option left. Our government departments need to know that their free ride is over and that bills will be collected even if they have to be coerced. To smooth things over and mute accusations of unfair treatment, the federal government should immediately pay off its power dues too otherwise the provinces will not stand for the arrangement proposed by the CCI. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-8-253261-Power-bills

May 31, 2014   No Comments

Development funds: Editorial in Dawn, May 31st, 2014

BUDGET projections and development outlays for the financial year ahead have lost much of their meaning in recent years because no government has taken them very seriously or considered them binding in any meaningful sense. The outgoing financial year is a case in point, with the actual funds released for development purposes lagging far behind the budget figures. Now, with the country inside yet another IMF programme and the PML-N showing some seriousness when it comes to bringing back a modicum of discipline to the budgeting process, the infrastructure and development budget approved in a meeting of the National Economic Council on Thursday should be taken as a relatively more significant indicator of the government’s intentions on the development front. If nothing else, the headline figure of Rs1.3tr appears impressive.

Yet, a closer examination of the numbers reveals little effort to try and do what is really needed to boost the country’s economy: meaningful and serious structural reforms, both of the economy and of how the state spends the funds it has. Take the example of the government’s new boast: Rs36bn to be shared between Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir to, as reported in this newspaper yesterday, remove “disparities in development between the developed and underdeveloped parts of the country”. It sounds good on paper, but what exactly will it mean in practice? Essentially, after doing away with parliamentarians’ development funds and curtailing the prime minister’s discretionary funds, the government has channelled much of that money into this new scheme.

Which means the spending can go one of two ways: either it will be used to disburse patronage and announce pointless development schemes when the prime minister or a senior government official visits one of the eligible parts of the country or the money could be used by the federal government to meet the genuine needs of sections of the population hit by a crisis or an emergency, as happened in Thar recently. But for this new fund to be used in a meaningful way, as opposed to purely for political purposes, much will depend on who in effect oversees it, what their motivations are and what rules are set for identification of projects and follow-through on disbursements. Anything less than that and it will end up much like the billions wasted in the funds given to parliamentarians over the years ostensibly for development purposes. There is though a broader problem with the development framework itself that the government wants to pour Rs1.3tr into: as ever, it is project-oriented and not structural- or reform-oriented. Infrastructure needs to be built, development spending must take place, but for it to be effective, it needs to take place within a holistic and coherent framework. That is not visible in the new spending plan. http://www.dawn.com/news/1109637/development-funds

May 31, 2014   No Comments

Development funds: Editorial in Dawn, May 31st, 2014

BUDGET projections and development outlays for the financial year ahead have lost much of their meaning in recent years because no government has taken them very seriously or considered them binding in any meaningful sense. The outgoing financial year is a case in point, with the actual funds released for development purposes lagging far behind the budget figures. Now, with the country inside yet another IMF programme and the PML-N showing some seriousness when it comes to bringing back a modicum of discipline to the budgeting process, the infrastructure and development budget approved in a meeting of the National Economic Council on Thursday should be taken as a relatively more significant indicator of the government’s intentions on the development front. If nothing else, the headline figure of Rs1.3tr appears impressive.

Yet, a closer examination of the numbers reveals little effort to try and do what is really needed to boost the country’s economy: meaningful and serious structural reforms, both of the economy and of how the state spends the funds it has. Take the example of the government’s new boast: Rs36bn to be shared between Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir to, as reported in this newspaper yesterday, remove “disparities in development between the developed and underdeveloped parts of the country”. It sounds good on paper, but what exactly will it mean in practice? Essentially, after doing away with parliamentarians’ development funds and curtailing the prime minister’s discretionary funds, the government has channelled much of that money into this new scheme.

Which means the spending can go one of two ways: either it will be used to disburse patronage and announce pointless development schemes when the prime minister or a senior government official visits one of the eligible parts of the country or the money could be used by the federal government to meet the genuine needs of sections of the population hit by a crisis or an emergency, as happened in Thar recently. But for this new fund to be used in a meaningful way, as opposed to purely for political purposes, much will depend on who in effect oversees it, what their motivations are and what rules are set for identification of projects and follow-through on disbursements. Anything less than that and it will end up much like the billions wasted in the funds given to parliamentarians over the years ostensibly for development purposes. There is though a broader problem with the development framework itself that the government wants to pour Rs1.3tr into: as ever, it is project-oriented and not structural- or reform-oriented. Infrastructure needs to be built, development spending must take place, but for it to be effective, it needs to take place within a holistic and coherent framework. That is not visible in the new spending plan. http://www.dawn.com/news/1109637/development-funds

May 31, 2014   No Comments

Outsourcing security: Editorial in Dawn, May 31st, 2014

RAMPANT lawlessness has fuelled the demand for private security across Pakistan, as the police have been unable to provide protection to the people. It is indeed alarming that in Karachi, the number of private security guards is double that of police officers. According to a report in this paper, while there are just under 27,000 police officers in the megacity, the number of private security personnel is nearly 55,000. Take away the number of police personnel assigned to the security detail of individuals and investigation purposes, and the number of officers on the street plummets even further. As per the report, there is one policeman for over 1,500 citizens in Karachi. Of course, given the rise in crime and lawlessness individuals and institutions are investing in private security, signalling a lack of trust in the police. In some cases, the police themselves have urged citizens to hire private security. But while there is at least some sort of government oversight of private security firms, there is absolutely no watch over the private guards some tribal chiefs, feudals and other individuals maintain for their personal ‘security’. It is a common sight in Karachi to see small militias of personal guards in civilian dress, guns ready, piled in the back of a 4×4 to protect their masters, or milling about menacingly outside residences. In fact, the culture of private security and armed guards has also caught on in Lahore and Islamabad. But the question is: do these private guards and armies reduce insecurity, or do they add to it?

In this regard, the Rangers in Karachi recently announced they would be launching a ‘crackdown’ against guards travelling in ‘double-cabin vehicles’. We believe such a short-term move will be of little significance. Two things are needed to address the situation: firstly, the state cannot outsource the security of citizens. It is the police’s job to safeguard the lives and property of people. Unless more personnel are inducted into the force and trained properly, the dependence on private security will continue. Secondly, there needs to be a stricter check on the growth of personal militias. Gun-toting men roaming around on city streets should have no place in civilised society.http://www.dawn.com/news/1109635/outsourcing-security

May 31, 2014   No Comments

Outsourcing security: Editorial in Dawn, May 31st, 2014

RAMPANT lawlessness has fuelled the demand for private security across Pakistan, as the police have been unable to provide protection to the people. It is indeed alarming that in Karachi, the number of private security guards is double that of police officers. According to a report in this paper, while there are just under 27,000 police officers in the megacity, the number of private security personnel is nearly 55,000. Take away the number of police personnel assigned to the security detail of individuals and investigation purposes, and the number of officers on the street plummets even further. As per the report, there is one policeman for over 1,500 citizens in Karachi. Of course, given the rise in crime and lawlessness individuals and institutions are investing in private security, signalling a lack of trust in the police. In some cases, the police themselves have urged citizens to hire private security. But while there is at least some sort of government oversight of private security firms, there is absolutely no watch over the private guards some tribal chiefs, feudals and other individuals maintain for their personal ‘security’. It is a common sight in Karachi to see small militias of personal guards in civilian dress, guns ready, piled in the back of a 4×4 to protect their masters, or milling about menacingly outside residences. In fact, the culture of private security and armed guards has also caught on in Lahore and Islamabad. But the question is: do these private guards and armies reduce insecurity, or do they add to it?

In this regard, the Rangers in Karachi recently announced they would be launching a ‘crackdown’ against guards travelling in ‘double-cabin vehicles’. We believe such a short-term move will be of little significance. Two things are needed to address the situation: firstly, the state cannot outsource the security of citizens. It is the police’s job to safeguard the lives and property of people. Unless more personnel are inducted into the force and trained properly, the dependence on private security will continue. Secondly, there needs to be a stricter check on the growth of personal militias. Gun-toting men roaming around on city streets should have no place in civilised society.http://www.dawn.com/news/1109635/outsourcing-security

May 31, 2014   No Comments

The business of thinking: By Ayesha Siddiqa in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2014

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

The other day a friend sent me an electronic copy of a job advertisement published in one of the leading English dailies. It was a call for applications for the position of manager projects for a newly established think tank aiming to conduct research and advocacy on public policy. I was quite tempted to apply until I saw that their search for a master’s degree holder might put me in the category of being overqualified. Otherwise I was quite confident to have fulfilled the main criterion announced in the advert of the applicant being “a firm patriot and Sharia compliant”. Some might tend to disagree since an active criticism of holy cows in this country can lead to you getting labelled as unpatriotic and sometimes even land you on a hospital bed or a morgue. So, people might argue that patriotism is defined only by a certain brand. The same may also apply to Sharia, which may appear very objective but assessing what is Sharia compliant is fundamentally very subjective. Any way, what is more important is that my hopes were dashed when my friend informed me that the said advertisement referred to a male applicant only which immediately put me out of the race.

However, the advertisement drew my attention towards another equally serious matter of mushrooming of think tanks in the country, especially Islamabad. While we complain about mushrooming of television channels that add to our depression rather than increase our knowledge, no one has looked into the think tank industry that seems to have added no real value to policymaking or our understanding of Pakistan or the world at large. In fact, most think tanks in Islamabad cannot be accused of what their title claims to do — thinking. I would also like to add that having a view and expressing it in seminars and conferences is not the same as serious thinking or research and analysis that a think tank is supposed to accomplish.

The business started to grow gradually in the end of the 1990s when the Islamabad Policy Research Institute was set up to enhance quality of research in the public sector. While the Institute of Regional Studies contributed at a snail’s pace with its database on regional issues, the Institute of Strategic Studies was known for bureaucratic control and, hence, redundant analysis. This was the period when there were only two or three key private think tanks in town known for their particular ideological perspective.

The real expansion of think tanks as an industry took place during the mid- and late-2000s. A lot of people seemed to have joined the bandwagon since then — from retired diplomats and generals and intelligence agency plants, to political party members and even influential journalists. But something common amongst most think tanks in town is the poor quality of research which is supposedly their key product. In fact, even those think tanks that were known for better quality research seem to have moved away and focused mainly on networking, advocacy and attracting funds. The amount of money that a particular organisation has depends on the head and whom can he or she can talk into investing in the venture.

The international community was also keen on investing in structures with the help of which it could communicate and interact with Pakistan’s state and society. Thus, it is not surprising to find foreign governments and other donors providing resources for new think tanks or financing Track-II junkets, some of which are well financed and provide first class hospitality to the participants. Unfortunately, such opportunities seem to have been squandered and turned into an exercise of financial gratification of a handful of people. The stories of embezzled research funds or conflict of interest are heart wrenching. The level of accountability in this sector is abysmal. More important, there is no sign of improvement in research standards or products that would make people think.

The poor quality is directly linked with the larger issue of authoritarian control of certain critical sectors of society, especially those that produce information or add to it in any shape or form. When you have intelligence agency plants running think tanks without any proper qualification, their natural focus becomes the cosmetics rather than the main task they claim to do. I am also reminded of one particular think tank where women employees are forced to wear Western clothes and shake hands with men because the task is to groom and produce a product that can interact with the Western world and capture attention rather than engage in a serious conversation.

But foreign governments are not the only contributors as the Pakistani state and the ‘deep state’ have great interest in controlling the thinking process. The process of setting up new think tanks in Islamabad and even other cities like Lahore after the mid-2000s makes sense because the business was considered a vital tool to engage with both, the inside and the outside world. The ‘deep state’ ambitiously wants to create people with good networking skills who can interact with the international community, influence the thinking process at home and also penetrate international think tanks where possible. They have been partially successful in these three above-cited objectives. In fact, they have even managed to find partners in think tanks in Western countries, in particular, to push the ‘deep state’s’ agenda. Today, the think tank business will not be conducted without providing some help to the ‘deep state’. Nevertheless, the more critical problem is the way such attitude goes counter to efforts to build the capacity of the nation to think, which is already crushed under the weight of an environment where thinking is sin and people will be shot dead for their faith or providing access to justice to people.

So, another think tank that ensures Sharia and ‘deep state’ compliance will just be adding to what exists already. It will not enhance the capacity of policymakers and ordinary people to think but close their minds so they can’t think at all. http://tribune.com.pk/story/714484/the-business-of-thinking/

May 29, 2014   No Comments

Who will save the system?: By I.A. Rehman in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

THE attacks on the government are increasing day by day and the greatest cause of dismay in the speedily shrinking democratic lobby is the combatants’ lack of appreciation of the threat to the democratic polity.

Until recently, all attention was concentrated on the well-orchestrated manoeuvres against a media house and noisy agitation for electoral reforms. Nobody was talking of a possible challenge to the government. Now more and more people are referring to such a threat.

The leader of the PML-Q says the government’s days are numbered but his views about his mother party need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Then the PPP indicated a slight shift in its policy of standing by the Nawaz Sharif government when one of its leaders remarked that his party was committed to defending the system and not necessarily the existing government.

The most significant disclosure about the siege of the government came from a federal minister, Abdul Qadir Baloch, who not only confirmed the existence of a threat to his government but also identified Musharraf loyalists as the culprits.

The speed with which the Pakistani people forget, or are persuaded to forget, the bitter lessons of history is mind-boggling indeed.

For decades, politicians, students of politics and conscious citizens have been affirming the need for allowing elected governments to complete their term. Frequent disposal of representative governments has often been recognised as the greatest hindrance to the growth of democratic norms. Yet, barely a year after celebrating a democratic transition of authority from one elected government to another we see a revival of the mutual demolition game.

Another lesson the political parties had learnt related to their Himalayan blunder of treating one another as their worst enemies and in seeking the aid of non-political elements for doing in their rivals. The Charter of Democracy signed by the heads of the PPP and PML-N, and in the presence of many other leaders, was rightly hailed as proof of our political parties’ coming of age. Today, the pledge that no political party will be a tool in the hands of extra-democratic forces is all but forgotten.

This is not to deny the opposition’s right to critically scrutinise the work of any government and call for reference to the electorate if its continuance in power poses a threat to national interests. The opposition does not have the exclusive right to determine whether such a state has been reached. That right belongs to the people.

The main line of attack on the government at the moment is the alleged rigging of elections in certain constituencies last year. While there is considerable public support for electoral reform, the demand for regime change lacks justification because the present government was not in power in May 2013 and no proof of the state establishment’s involvement in poll irregularities has been forthcoming.

Besides, one can already see that the field is no longer occupied by democratic forces divided on issues of legitimacy or public interest. Nobody should be unaware of the history of anti-democratic elements’ efforts to demonise political parties by playing up incidents of electoral fraud. The people of Pakistan know better than any other contemporary society how agitation against electoral malpractices can be designed so as to rock the democratic system itself.

The Geo affair, the campaign against civil society and pressure on the judiciary have shown what kind of forces are spoiling to exploit the anti-government agitation. The consequences of ignoring Raza Rabbani’s warning that the country is drifting towards a 1977-like situation could be catastrophic. Those out to destroy the system are holding rallies that are looking like rehearsals for capturing the state through mob power.

What makes the situation extraordinarily grim is the realisation shared by a fairly large section of public opinion that the state has been weakened to an extent that it may not offer another chance for a movement for the restoration of democracy. Any disruption of the existing system is bound to weaken the foundations of the state and spell the end of the federation.

But who will save the system? This task cannot be accomplished by civil society alone, regardless of its capacity to read the situation correctly and the soundness of its advice. Nor are the state institutions strong enough to stem the tide of anarchy. Everything depends on the capacity of the politicians in authority to mobilise the people in support of the democratic system.

Unfortunately, the government is doing little to consolidate the democratic tradition. Indeed the pattern of personal rule the government is pursuing and its disinclination to take parliament into confidence on key issues — be it the military operation in the tribal areas or the trip to Delhi — are doing more harm to the system than the rant of militant adventurers. A government that cannot stop the vulgarisation of the country’s name on automobile number plates is unlikely to have the clarity of vision and the will to defend democracy. As noted by a perspicacious observer the people do not like their elected representatives to behave like kings.

Tailpiece: An Indian friend known for learning and refined sensibility has recalled W.B. Yeats (Second Coming) to describe the situation in India. The lines are equally apt for Pakistan:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned/ The best lack all conviction and the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1109263/who-will-save-the-system

May 29, 2014   No Comments

Reactive Pakistan: By Sikander Ahmed Shah in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

The writer is a former legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an associate professor of public international law at LUMS.

ON April 24, the Republic of Marshall Islands instituted proceedings against Pakistan for breaching customary international law in failing to fulfil “the obligation of nuclear disarmament”, “the obligation of the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date”, and “the obligation to perform its obligations in good faith.” Similar proceedings are under way against the other eight nuclear-armed states.

Under Article 36(1) of the ICJ Statute, countries can invoke the jurisdiction of the court on matters especially provided for in special agreements entered into — treaties and conventions in force. This basis of jurisdiction is customarily limited to the interpretation and application of the treaty in question.

The basis of invoking the general jurisdiction of the ICJ against Pakistan, however, is its acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ under Article 36(2) of the ICJ Statute, which accords jurisdiction to the court among other things on “the existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a breach of an international obligation”. The 70 states that have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction have done so via declarations that define the scope of the jurisdiction by explicitly excluding certain kinds of disputes.

For instance, India has explicitly excluded disputes with the government of any state which is or has been a Commonwealth member. This exclusion led to the ICJ’s refusal to exercise jurisdiction in the aerial incident case brought by Pakistan against India when in 1999 India shot down a Pakistani naval plane in the Rann of Kutch.

Our compliance with international treaties has been poor.

India has 12 exclusions, which are specific and clear. In contrast, Pakistan’s declaration, made on Sept 12, 1960, lists only three exclusions, some of which are vague. Pakistan now finds itself in the midst of an inter-state lawsuit and the relevance of the text of this declaration cannot be discounted.

Such events make one question whether Pakistan binds itself to certain international obligations unnecessarily. A related query is whether Pakistan enters into international treaties exclusively for what it perceives as beneficial political and economic considerations without making the necessary legal assessments and without adequately deliberating on the state’s ability to implement the obligations that it is assuming.

Some argue that many states sense the rewards of assuming treaty obligations by ratification without any real intent of complying, since international law is hard to enforce absent the presence of a global supra-state police. This line of reasoning is counterproductive, as non-compliance exposes states to ridicule from all directions and legal challenges on multiple forums.

In the last decade, Pakistan has ratified a number of seminal international human rights instruments, the most recent being the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2010.

While Pakistan’s legal commitment to safeguard seminal human rights is an extremely welcome development, in practice the state has largely failed to both sufficiently amend its local laws as required under the ratified treaties or implement the conventions in any meaningful way. Such inaction is itself a violation of these treaties.

Pakistan’s compliance reporting as required under such treaty regimes has been non-existent or disappointing. Shadow reporting conducted by NGOs highlighting Pakistan’s non-compliance has portrayed the state as at worst, lacking the will or intent to conform to its international obligations, and at best, lacking the ability to implement international standards. The pivotal question to ask is whether and when a state should voluntarily assume international obligations, when it knows it cannot comply with them.

Coming back to the issue at hand, one can only speculate why Pakistan recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ in 1960 at all, and particularly without making any major exclusions in its declaration. Maybe little legal deliberation went into the decision at the time, or perhaps the absence of the hostility that Pakistan currently perceives had a part to play.

Today Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state that many countries find relevant to the global war on terror. This relevance makes Pakistan susceptible to a number of inter-state legal challenges.

The US withdrew its declaration from the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ in 1986 after the adverse judgement in the ICJ Nicaragua vs USA case. Pakistan might withdraw or replace its declaration as well in the near future, but this would be a reactive response.

Pakistan should prevent disputes from arising, or should legally protect its position in the community of nations by routinely complying with, reviewing and revising its international commitments a priori rather than defending its position after allegations of violations have already been made.http://www.dawn.com/news/1109254/reactive-pakistan

May 29, 2014   No Comments