Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — July 2014

. Rampant extortion: by Mohammad Ali Babakhel in Dawn, July 28, 2014

The writer is a police officer.

INCREASING incidents of extortion are an added challenge law enforcers are confronting. It’s an organised crime and a parallel taxation mechanism administered either by non-state actors or organised criminals.

Extortion provides funds to militant organisations. Whenever other funding sources dry up terrorists turn to extortion and kidnapping for ransom. Criminals are also indulging in the extortion racket. Resultantly, the growing menace of extortion erodes the public’s confidence in the police.

It is an erroneous perception that extortion is a by-product of the ongoing wave of militancy. The incorporation of extortion in Article 383 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) of 1860 indicates that the menace is not a modern-day problem. However, technology today has facilitated extortionists in accomplishing their objectives in an organised manner.

In an extortion bid, the first step is the identification of a potential target; information is often gathered through a confidant of the family. To achieve this objective, militant organisations also establish research wings.  The second step is communication. The extortion demand is communicated through a handwritten letter or mobile phone call. In exceptional cases demands are also communicated via SMS or email.

If the target opts not to pay up then the extortionists go for low-level coercive methods, such as setting off an improvised explosive device in front of his residence or lobbing a hand grenade inside it.

Due to fear and mistrust of the police, complainants initially do not report such matters to the law enforcers. Victims are reluctant to share the facts regarding extortion demands. Such avoidance of contact with the police on part of the victim further complicates the situation. Initially, extortionists play on the fears of the target but afterwards they actually harm him. In such cases witnesses are usually from the same family and therefore afraid to share the facts.

Migration to other cities also does not resolve the issue, as the criminals’ agents follow the victims in other cities too.

Extortionists are taking full advantage of technology and loopholes in the business of illegal and unverified Afghan and Pakistani SIMs. Extortionists also take full advantage of administrative limitations faced by the KP police. For example, in the majority of cases when the location is traced, it happens to be beyond the police jurisdiction.

Mobile service providers are merely interested in profit; they are least concerned about the consequences of illegal SIMs. The existing gap between the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, police and mobile telephone companies needs to be bridged; it will help the police nab the extortionists.

In Pakistan, this menace has travelled from the south to the northwest. During 2013, Karachi police registered 545 cases and KP police 40 cases of extortion respectively. During the current year KP police registered 164 cases and arrested 156 accused. However, the conviction rate remained zero.

The nature of extortion in Karachi is different from that in Peshawar. The majority of cases in Peshawar have links with terrorist outfits concentrated in Afghanistan and Fata.

In 2013, owing to the increasing trend of extortion in Honduras, a National Anti-Extortion Force was raised. Within 10 months, the force arrested 370 extortionists and prevented the collection of $1.8 million in payments.

The creation of a new force motivated the victims to register complaints. All those arrested in nine months were convicted; 100pc conviction rate was a strong message from the criminal justice system.

Article 222 of the Honduran penal code instituted a sentence of 15 to 20 years and a fine of minimum $12,000. The Hon­duran model encouraged reporting and helped the authorities understand the gravity of the situation.

Likewise, El Salva­dor’s penal code establishes a 15-year prison term for extortionists. To nab them, the anti-extortion sub-directorate has allocated more officers and resources. This unit also increased public engagement and introduced a toll-free hotline.

Article 384 of the PPC incorporates maximum imprisonment of three years or a fine, or both. Keeping in view the reluctance of witnesses, the poor capacity of investigators and lack of technological support to the police, it is imperative to amend the PPC and enhance the punishment. Pakistan Rangers also introduced online registration of complaints against extortionists while the KP police has an anti-extortion unit.

Since it is also a trans-border crime, cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is imperative. To nip the evil in the bud, cellular companies should revise their business protocols, particularly the roaming service extended to Afghan mobile companies.

Technological barriers confronted by the police facilitate criminals. To nab extortionists the police need instant access to call data, availability of GSM locators and capacity-building of investigators.http://www.dawn.com/news/1122030/rampant-extortion

July 28, 2014   No Comments

Failed bureaucracy; by Adnan Falak in the Nation, July 28, 2014

The writer is a freelance columnist and has worked as a broadcast journalist

Pakistan has one of the most ineffective and corrupt bureaucracies in the world. It doesn’t produce anything, other than lots of paper work, seldom carries out effective regulatory functions and is reactive (a characteristic of our overall political system). Be it law enforcement, tax collection, the provision of social services or utilities, today our bureaucracy is the biggest impediment in the way of our national development.

The public sector is plagued with corruption, absenteeism and red tapeism. Most of the procedures and rules of business are archaic, records are still manual and great emphasis is placed on procedures and methods rather than on delivery with limited and no accountability. These structural problems have rendered the state paralytic; unable to respond to present and future challenges.

Pakistan is a country where absolutely anything can be accomplished, or absolutely nothing can be done, depending upon the association and status of the concerned person. The entire state machinery is ensnared by red tape, only to be lubricated by bribery, which has become so endemic and legitimized, that public servants consider it an entitlement. Corruption will open every opportune door.

In contrast, let us witness how the private sector is shaping our lives. Before the privatization of PTCL, it required enormous effort to get a phone connection, which is now only a telephone call away. Similarly, the privatization of the financial sector has revolutionized banking in Pakistan, spreading ATM machines nationwide, making money transfers and other financial services easier and cheaper. The private sector’s involvement in broadcasting has increased information flow to the public. News which might take hours to reach the audience, now takes a few minutes before screens are flashing with news alerts. While the officials of agricultural departments procrastinate at their offices, the field officers of Agro firms are reaching farmers far and wide, offering advice and solutions.

What makes the private sector excel is its primary focus on performance. Private firms, competing in a market, are structured to achieve organizational goals with the least use of resources. This is attained by offering performance based incentives. Those who perform get promotions and increments, while the rest stay where they are or are gradually replaced.

On the other hand, our public sector is not structured to deliver or redress. Whether a bureaucrat achieves departmental targets or not, what is expected of him is to just follow the rules, without shaking the system. Rules and regulations are important but what’s the use of all the red tape, if it renders the whole game ineffective?

For bureaucrats, there is little effective accountability or differentiation on the basis of performance. Everyone gets a similar performance evaluation, and in nearly every budget, all public sector officials get a raise, and after specific periods of service, a whole batch gets promoted. Officials who manage to get out of turn promotions or obtain good postings, are those who dance to the tune of the rulers.

As long as the public sector is not reformed thoroughly, we will find it difficult to achieve sustainable growth. Every department should be assigned policy goals and departmental staff should be evaluated against those targets. Incentives should be offered on the basis of performance. For instance, since FBR came into existence, nearly every year it fails on its tax collection targets, but its officials still get promoted, their incentive packages and privileges still remain the same. Similarly, police officials are seldom held responsible for the increasing crime rate.

No nation can succeed without sound policies determining the course of national growth. And no policy can work unless it is translated into action by a competent and honest bureaucracy. Canadian educationist Laurence J. Peter said, “The bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” Unfortunately, our public sector is still defending the status quo left by the British Raj, embodied not only in our public edifices, but in our laws and in our mindsets. Unless we change that, absolutely nothing can truly change. www.nation.com.pk/columns/28-Jul-2014/failed-bureaucracy

July 28, 2014   No Comments

A helpless feeling: By Kamal Siddiqi in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2014

The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune
As we celebrate Eid-ul Fitr this week, there is a feeling of helplessness. We are not sure where we stand and how we can move forward. Events in our country and abroad have left us shaken.
In Pakistan, the military offensive in Northern Waziristan has been followed by an exodus of under a million people, possibly the largest such internal migration in the country. Arrangements for them have been poor at best and our agencies that have been set up to help facilitate them have failed miserably.
There is also donor fatigue. Despite hopes that collections for the IDPs will pick up in Ramazan, this did not happen. The largest flow of IDPs, the lowest collections ever made.
The money that the government is spending on the IDPs, most of which is not even reaching the people it is meant for, will be recovered from tax payers – both corporate and individual.
The people who make all the loud noises will not be sharing in the costs. It is sad to see how little out PM pays in taxes and how much of our public money is spent on his palaces – both in Islamabad and Lahore. The same is true of other public officials. They will never sacrifice their perks.
Then there is the depressing state of politics in the country. We continue to rely on outsiders to settle internal squabbles. Our PM has made yet another trip to Saudi Arabia. One can only wonder what solution the Saudis will offer this time round. Not to be outdone, our former president has gone to the US, where he has extended his stay for deliberations with American officials.
Politicians continue to fight at a time when we should stand united against the common enemy of terrorism. The government wants to involve the army in its tussle against the PTI and PAT. They want troops on the streets of Islamabad.
This is the same government that resisted calling in the army in Karachi on grounds that it would weaken the democratic set-up there. Businessmen in the Quaid’s city have begged for some sort of law and order intervention to save them from criminals and mafias.
Aviation is a sore point for us all. The recent attack on the Karachi Airport and the aerial firing that hit a plane landing in Peshawar has had a very negative impact on our country. By all means it was a successful terrorist attack given the damage it has done to our international standing.
Hundreds of people who otherwise would come to the country for business or professional reasons have refused to do so, thus increasing our international isolation.
Our helplessness does not end there. The death of hundreds in plane crashes around the world has left us shaken. What if we were on one of them? What about the innocent people that were. We were heart broken to hear of the plane crash of Haris Suleiman, the young man who was flying across the world with his father to collect money for The Citizens Foundation.
The events in Gaza and the violence we are seeing in Iraq and Syria where historic places are being blown up has also left us shattered.
In Gaza we see unarmed innocent Palestinian men, women, elderly and children being butchered. Their mosques, schools, refugee camps and hospitals bombed, while the rest of Islamic world and their leaders chose to remain either silent.
Other than Qatar, which displayed some character and spine, there was nobody willing to embark on a diplomatic offensive. Among the countries that recognize Israel, the only country to recall its ambassador is Brazil. We marked solidarity with the people of Gaza on Jummat-ul-Wida but in practical terms did nothing else.
What I see in all this is a bigger issue. Are we giving up? As Pakistanis have we decided its not worth it to move on. As my friend Roland deSouza tells me, he is tired of fighting wrong all the time.
Fortunately the answer is no. We haven’t. There are pockets of resistance. Those who continue to work to make this a better place. Those who collect funds for IDPs. They challenge the status quo. Their number is once again increasing. I am hopeful.http://tribune.com.pk/story/741798/a-helpless-feeling/

A helpless feeling: By Kamal Siddiqi  in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2014The writer is Editor of The Express TribuneAs we celebrate Eid-ul Fitr this week, there is a feeling of helplessness. We are not sure where we stand and how we can move forward. Events in our country and abroad have left us shaken.
In Pakistan, the military offensive in Northern Waziristan has been followed by an exodus of under a million people, possibly the largest such internal migration in the country. Arrangements for them have been poor at best and our agencies that have been set up to help facilitate them have failed miserably.
There is also donor fatigue. Despite hopes that collections for the IDPs will pick up in Ramazan, this did not happen. The largest flow of IDPs, the lowest collections ever made.
The money that the government is spending on the IDPs, most of which is not even reaching the people it is meant for, will be recovered from tax payers – both corporate and individual.
The people who make all the loud noises will not be sharing in the costs. It is sad to see how little out PM pays in taxes and how much of our public money is spent on his palaces – both in Islamabad and Lahore. The same is true of other public officials. They will never sacrifice their perks.
Then there is the depressing state of politics in the country. We continue to rely on outsiders to settle internal squabbles. Our PM has made yet another trip to Saudi Arabia. One can only wonder what solution the Saudis will offer this time round. Not to be outdone, our former president has gone to the US, where he has extended his stay for deliberations with American officials.
Politicians continue to fight at a time when we should stand united against the common enemy of terrorism. The government wants to involve the army in its tussle against the PTI and PAT. They want troops on the streets of Islamabad.
This is the same government that resisted calling in the army in Karachi on grounds that it would weaken the democratic set-up there. Businessmen in the Quaid’s city have begged for some sort of law and order intervention to save them from criminals and mafias.
Aviation is a sore point for us all. The recent attack on the Karachi Airport and the aerial firing that hit a plane landing in Peshawar has had a very negative impact on our country. By all means it was a successful terrorist attack given the damage it has done to our international standing.
Hundreds of people who otherwise would come to the country for business or professional reasons have refused to do so, thus increasing our international isolation.
Our helplessness does not end there. The death of hundreds in plane crashes around the world has left us shaken. What if we were on one of them? What about the innocent people that were. We were heart broken to hear of the plane crash of Haris Suleiman, the young man who was flying across the world with his father to collect money for The Citizens Foundation.
The events in Gaza and the violence we are seeing in Iraq and Syria where historic places are being blown up has also left us shattered.
In Gaza we see unarmed innocent Palestinian men, women, elderly and children being butchered. Their mosques, schools, refugee camps and hospitals bombed, while the rest of Islamic world and their leaders chose to remain either silent.
Other than Qatar, which displayed some character and spine, there was nobody willing to embark on a diplomatic offensive. Among the countries that recognize Israel, the only country to recall its ambassador is Brazil. We marked solidarity with the people of Gaza on Jummat-ul-Wida but in practical terms did nothing else.
What I see in all this is a bigger issue. Are we giving up? As Pakistanis have we decided its not worth it to move on. As my friend Roland deSouza tells me, he is tired of fighting wrong all the time.
Fortunately the answer is no. We haven’t. There are pockets of resistance. Those who continue to work to make this a better place. Those who collect funds for IDPs. They challenge the status quo. Their number is once again increasing. I am hopeful.http://tribune.com.pk/story/741798/a-helpless-feeling/

July 28, 2014   No Comments

Identity in diversity; by Hafsa Khawaja in the Nation, July 28, 2014

The writer is a student based in Lahore.

On 16th July, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice rejected with a majority vote, a bill presented by PML-N MNA Marvi Memon that sought the status of national language for regional languages.

The regional languages included Balochi, Balti, Brahvi, Punjabi, Pushto, Shina, Sindhi, Seraiki, Hindko, Urdu and others that the National Language Commission of Pakistan had to establish through clear criteria, as being national languages of the people in Pakistan.

A report in Dawn stated that the Special Secretary of the law ministry said that there should be just one national language. According to him, the country had already suffered the East Pakistan tragedy in 1971 as a result of the decision to declare both Urdu and Bengali as national languages.

His opinion is highly disputable.

Pakistan does not possess a homogenous people with a single ethnicity, language and religion. It is a multi-ethnic country with a multicultural, multilingual population, made up of various segments, histories and heritage.

Writer Sean Singh Chauhan made a strong point when commenting on the rejection of the bill:

“There is no logic to the systematic alienation of minority groups to promote a national identity. I guess regional languages are only cool when they’re on a Coke Studio album.”

Culture is a phenomenon with multiple components, in which language features prominently. In Pakistan today, it is no secret that many peoples belonging to dissimilar ethnicities of different provinces and regions feel that they are culturally marginalized, and a single culture reigns dominant at the expense of their own. Whether that is true or not, it is true that this breeds cultural animosities, grievances and a sense of resentment. In such a condition, it is unreasonable to assume national solidarity to spring forth when groups that make up the nation feel a single culture exclusively defines the national culture. How then, in such an atmosphere, can national unity be forged? Let alone, an identity subscribed to by the whole nation.

This sense of marginalization, which can be political, economic, social, religious and cultural, has immense potential to be a dangerous force that can crystallise into various manifestations of reassertion by alienated groups; violence, nationalism, conflict and discord. And which the state, then ignorant or arrogant enough to not realize what has fuelled these, often does not brook.

In this lies the core of the example the Special Secretary has presented rather skewed. To shift all the debris of the catastrophe of 1971 on the acceptance of Bengali as a national language is both facile and ignorant to all the complexities and contrivances that led to it, and which, as the late Eqbal Ahmad said, “to honour our past and for the sake of our future”, must be properly understood.

The East Pakistan tragedy was already in the making for years due to the systematic marginalization from the political, economic and cultural sphere of the people there; a result of engineered disparity between both wings. And a situation created and exacerbated by the callous attitude and the disastrous decisions taken by the leaders of that era and the military establishment; which their response to the deadly Bhola Cyclone of 1970 encapsulated. The separation of East Pakistan was only the culmination of this condition.

It is also pertinent to mention that the Bengali Language Movement of 1952 developed right out of the demand for the recognition of Bengali as a national language of the then-dominion of Pakistan, and as history remains witness, this assertion of denied linguistic identity later contributed to the impetus for the force of nationalism, and eventually, separation.

It is the disregard of cultural components which language forms a part of, which causes problems; something that Prime Minister Ergodan of Turkey recognized with his Kurdish reforms of September 2013, which eased the use of Kurdish.

A state that respects and accepts, promotes and preserves the distinct cultural components of all the nation’s groups is what is considered to be a state for all by all; belonging to which is inevitably seen by the people in their best interest.

The bill may have been rejected, but the light thrown upon it in the occurrence emphasises the significance of the fear in Pakistan’s state and society of opening up their notions of a single all-Pakistani culture and identity. It also accentuates the need for safeguarding and recognizing nationally, the distinct cultures of peoples in Pakistan, among which the linguistic subcultures number.

In March this year, Shahid Siddiqui, a linguistics scholar, revealed that 27 out of 67 languages currently being spoken in Pakistan, were endangered.

Some, including Federal Urdu University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Zafar Iqbal, believe the bill and such an elevation of regional languages threatens to undermine Urdu. However it must be stated that it is not mutually exclusive to promote and preserve Urdu and the regional languages. Unfortunately, this is contingent on a coherent policy for language and culture, which doesn’t seem to be seen in Pakistan.

At the end of the day, it is the political system that must infuse solidarity and unity between the different peoples of the country; by fostering their greater and equal participation in the affairs of the state, economy, society and culture – which has been missing in FATA and Balochistan for years – and granting them the political, economic, social, cultural, linguistic and civil freedoms and recognition while developing and improving them.

National promotion of the distinct ethnic and linguistic cultures in Pakistan should not be feared. It is the suppression of this diversity which ushers in conflict and opens chasms within the nation and country; not its embrace which is likely to propel the nation to greater creativity, to cultural preservation and pluralism, and prosperity. For diversity is indigenous to Pakistan, and in diversity lies Pakistan’s identity.

http://www.nation.com.pk/columns/28-Jul-2014/identity-in-diversity

July 28, 2014   No Comments

Let language unite: by Asif Ezdi in The News, July 28, 2014

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

About two weeks ago, on July 16, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights rejected a private member’s bill for an amendment in the constitution to declare nine of the country’s regional languages as national languages in addition to Urdu. The bill had been proposed by Marvi Memon of the PML-N. A similar bill moved by her was also rejected by the committee in May 2011.

When introducing the present bill in the National Assembly last February, she said that it was part of the PML-N’s election manifesto. Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid, who is the de facto law minister, told the house on behalf of the government that he did not oppose it and he proposed that it should be sent to the law committee.

But when the committee took up consideration of the bill, the special secretary of the law ministry opposed it strongly. According to the National Assembly’s press release on the meeting, he “informed [the committee] that the bill will not serve any purpose” in view of an existing provision in the constitution (Article 28) which guarantees the preservation of the language, script and culture of all sections of citizens.

By opposing the bill, the special secretary not only went against the PML-N manifesto, he also clearly misunderstood the purpose of the bill, which is not to preserve the main regional languages of the country but to elevate them to the status of national languages. The secretary also made the sweeping generalisation that a nation should have only one national language and asserted that East Pakistan had separated in 1971 as a result of the decision to declare Bengali as a national language together with Urdu.

A common language is no doubt an important positive element in creating a national identity but it is not an essential condition if there is a common national will among people with different mother tongues to live together as one country. In Europe, Switzerland is a successful example of a state with four national languages co-existing in harmony. On the other hand, Belgium is a country with linguistic fault-lines which has been on the brink of a split for decades.

Seen in the correct perspective, the foremost reason for the breakaway of East Pakistan was geographic separation and the resulting divergence of political and economic interests and different historical experience. Differences of language also played a large part, compounded by the fact that Bengali was written in a style common to north Indian languages rather than the modified Persian-Arabic script used in the then West Pakistan, a difference emblematic also of the varying cultural orientation of the two “wings”.

The split certainly did not come about because Bengali was declared to be a national language. In fact, the decision to make it a national language was a step that was intended to bridge the gap but it did not prove enough, given the other, more powerful, divisive factors.

As the example of Yugoslavia’s break-up shows, a threat to national unity arises not when the state recognises or formalises linguistic diversity but when one ethnic or linguistic group – the dominant one – tries to impose its hegemony on the others. Yugoslavia remained a united country as long as its leaders had the good sense to respect the rights and political autonomy of the different component nationalities and linguistic groups. The county split apart when after Tito’s death the Serbian-speaking Orthodox majority sought to impose its supremacy over the Catholic Slovenes and Croats and the Muslim Bosniaks.

It is typical of the lack of interest or seriousness of our lawmakers in the task for which they have been sent to parliament that only eight of the 19 members of the Law Committee attended the meeting to deliberate on the bill on national languages. Following “detailed deliberation”, the committee rejected it by a vote of four to one. The only vote cast in favour was that of a PML-N member. The PPP man demanded that Sindhi be declared a national language but nevertheless voted against. PTI and JUI-F members reportedly termed it as unnecessary and also voted against, while the MQM member abstained.

There is also another pending private member’s bill on declaring some regional languages as national languages. This one was introduced in the Senate, also last February, by Adeel, an ANP member. Contrary to some press reports that this bill too was rejected by the National Assembly, the fact is that it has not yet been referred to that house or even considered by the Senate. A meeting of the Senate Law Committee which was called last month to deliberate on it was postponed because the mover was on an overseas trip.

The basic thrust of the two bills, which is to give the status of national language to the major languages of the country, is right. Pakistan is a mosaic of several sub-national linguistic and ethnic groups. The mother tongues spoken by them are a very important expression of their respective collective identity. Any perceived attempt to deny or suppress it would be counter-productive. Far from encouraging separatism, as the special secretary suggested, giving due recognition to regional languages would promote national integration by assuring the sub-national groups that they can assert and take pride in their separate identities within the wider national framework.

Establishing criteria for determining whether a regional language qualifies to be given national status will not be easy. Adeel’s bill proposes five additional national languages, two from Punjab and one each from the other provinces. Marvi’s list is longer. It suggests nine, including two from Gilgit-Baltistan (Shina and Balti), while inexplicably leaving out Kashmiri, the main language of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also not clear why she excludes Khowar, which has more speakers than Shina and Balti. Also, Hindko which Marvi lists is very similar to northern Punjabi and is not considered by most experts to be a distinct language.

The fear expressed in some circles – that giving the status of national language to regional languages would be at the expense of the position of Urdu – can be easily addressed. Urdu has a unique position as the language that serves as the medium of communication between people of the country speaking different mother tongues. That position is irreplaceable.

The role of Urdu as lingua franca is a very valuable asset. It is something that other multi-lingual countries like Switzerland, Belgium and Canada do not have. It is to a great extent because of Urdu that, despite its linguistic diversity, Pakistan has today become a more united country than it was in 1947 and it would be sheer stupidity if we fail to make full use of its potential. While the regional languages are given national status, Urdu must therefore retain a special position and become the country’s official and business language as early as possible.

Urdu derives its strength largely from the fact that it is not in competition with the regional languages. In fact, Urdu and the regional languages are necessary allies against the hegemony of English imposed by a class mainly descended from the toadies created by British colonialists to give sustenance to their rule. This class has been the main obstacle in the adoption of Urdu as the official language and in its development as a language of business, commerce, learning, science and technology.

The pressure for the recognition of regional languages as national languages will not of course go away with the negative vote of the National Assembly’s Law Committee. The National Language Commission, whose establishment was recommended last March by the National Assembly’s Committee on National Heritage and which the government has now decided to set up, will be unable to avoid addressing this demand.

Marvi has hinted that the government itself might introduce legislation on our regional languages. It is to be hoped that the Nawaz government will formulate a coherent policy on this subject that treats the country’s linguistic diversity as an asset and harnesses it to strengthen national unity.http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-264346-Let-language-unite

July 28, 2014   No Comments

The piety of politicians: S Iftikhar Murshed in the News, July 27

The writer is the publisher of Criterion Quarterly.

Pakistan is at war but its all-powerful prime minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, is nowhere around. Last Sunday he flew off to Saudi Arabia where he and his family will spend the last days of Ramazan in prayer, contemplation and long vigils at Islam’s holiest places. Such piety, though undoubtedly soul-enriching, is nevertheless supererogatory and not a religious obligation. One hopes that the prime minister has travelled to the holy land at his own cost and the expenditure will not be defrayed from the national exchequer.

This brings to mind events in the country last year. Nawaz Sharif was sworn in for an unprecedented third prime ministerial term on June 5, 2013 amid hopes that this would be the curtain raiser for enduring peace, stability and self-sustaining economic growth. But it took him less than five weeks to spark a political crisis.

On a petition submitted by the PML-N leadership, the Supreme Court advanced the presidential election from August 6 to July 30. The ruling party had pleaded that the original date coincided with the 27th of Ramazan, and furthermore many parliamentarians would have gone into religious retreat in the final ten days of the holy month.

The reaction of the political opposition was stern. The PPP announced it would boycott the election since it had not been given a hearing in violation of the principle of audi alteram partem. It also had reservations about the admissibility of the petition on the ground that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was confined under Article 184(3) to the enforcement of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.

Senator Raza Rabbani declared angrily: “When we do not accept the election process, it means we will not accept the president.” He then advanced the harebrained explanation that this would “save the federation” and strengthen democracy by ensuring electoral propriety.

A variation of this theme has been adopted by the PTI leader, Imran Khan, who is determined to lead a million-man march to Islamabad on August 14. In the process he has accused all and sundry, including former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, of being complicit in rigging the May 2013 elections.

But at the time of last year’s constitutional crisis triggered by the revised presidential election date, Imran Khan was relatively subdued. He was frantically running hither and thither to save himself from possible imprisonment and a five-year ban from politics on contempt charges for bad-mouthing the judiciary.

When hauled before a three-member Supreme Court bench on August 28, 2013 he vehemently denied that he had ever accused the judiciary of involvement in election fraud and pleaded: “I only referred to the returning officers and never named the Supreme Court or the superior judiciary.” Despite this, ten months later at a mass rally in Bahawalpur he demanded information on ex-chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s role in manipulating the election results.

Imran Khan could never have imagined that he would become the victim of the same ‘tsunami’ that he keeps threatening to unleash on the country. On Thursday the former chief justice served him a Rs20 billion defamation notice which stated: “I may withdraw my claim if you willingly tender an unconditional apology” within 14 days.

The PTI chief is not the lone warrior who has vowed to demolish the ramparts of corruption and build a reformed society from its rubble. The same deafening cacophony saturated in phrases of absurd rhetoric, is also the hallmark of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader, Tahirul Qadri. Presumably his promised revolution against corruption has been put on hold till he responds to the notices for tax evasion of Rs770 million that were sent to him by the Federal Bureau of Revenue on July 11.

However Khan and Qadri, much as they savour power and glory, have never held positions of authority, and, to this extent they can be forgiven for their puerile outbursts. But no such excuse is available to Nawaz Sharif. He has learnt nothing from the past.

When he eventually emerges from his spiritual retreat his foremost priority will be the massive celebrations that have been chalked up for Independence Day in order to neutralise Imran Khan’s million-man march. Utterly remote from his mind is the war raging in North Waziristan where our soldiers are fighting in the sweltering heat of a summer Ramazan for the survival of the country.

What the prime minister does not realise is that the actual war against terrorism will not be fought in the tribal regions but on the streets of the major cities. The last few weeks should have been spent in sprucing up and streamlining coordination among the 33 national security organisations whose cumulative strength exceeds 600,000 and is more than that of the Pakistan Army.

This is the time for rapid intelligence-based pre-emptive strikes against scores of terrorist sleeper cells entrenched in the country’s urban centres. The ongoing military offensive in North Waziristan has severely degraded the TTP/Al-Qaeda command and control structure as a result of which the terrorist groups are particularly vulnerable. But unfortunately the prime minister is more concerned with the salvation of his soul than with the security of the country.

The Independence Day rallies and demonstrations that have been lined up are hugely expensive. None of the political leaders have thought it worth their while to spend the funds instead on the internally displaced persons, who, through no fault of their own, have become refugees in their own country.

They would have stood tall and earned the respect of ordinary people had they dedicated this year’s August 14 celebrations to the IDPs. But this is asking for the moon. Only a few of these self-centred men (there are no women at the helm) have ever bothered to visit the refugees in their camps.

The decision to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorist-infested North Waziristan was not taken on the spur of the moment. It must have been brainstormed and planned in advance especially if the ISPR statement that the military offensive was launched “on the directions of the government” is to be believed. The tragedy of Pakistan is that thinking is alien to the mental makeup of its leaders.

Had this not been a fact, the massive influx if IDPs would have been anticipated and adequate arrangements put in place. A PML-N insider told me that the government had expected about 100,000 refugees, but the actual number had soared beyond the one-million mark.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, the States and Frontier Regions minister admitted that the government had failed to galvanise public support for the refugees. He then warned that the number of IDPs could increase to 2.2 million with the intensification of the conflict.

But a majority of the displaced persons are not from North Waziristan and this was explained in a recent article by former World Bank vice-president, Shahid Javed Burki. He recalled that the 1998 census showed the population of North Waziristan to be 361,246. Even if the growth rate had been three percent per annum, the population of the agency in 2014 should be no more than 560,000. He then concluded somewhat callously: “This additional influx must be from other tribal agencies… They are getting free food and rudimentary healthcare. Even the quality of shelter may not be worse than what they have left behind.”

The PML-N government has effortlessly generated bitterness and hatred against itself among the refugees. The central information secretary of the PTI, Shireen Mazari has been at pains to point out that a few days back an IDP jirga refused to meet the prime minister and instead called on Imran Khan.

But the anger against the ruling party is not confined to the refugees and has spread to all segments of society. The latest countrywide opinion survey indicates that the approval rating of Nawaz Sharif and his party has plummeted to an all time low. Only 17 percent of the respondents still support the PML-N compared to 33 percent who prefer the PTI, and, amazingly 19 percent favoured the PPP. It is impossible to foretell what the coming days and weeks will bring. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-264215-The-piety-of-politicians

July 27, 2014   No Comments

Key questions someone must answer before Aug 14

By Shaheen Sehbai  in the News, July 27

DUBAI: The unfortunate decision of the PML-N government to invoke Article 245 of the Constitution for Islamabad has put all national institutions on test and could lead to unforeseen and possibly disastrous consequences.

So many questions remain unanswered that, between now and Aug 14 when the PTI long march reaches Islamabad, someone has to clearly explain what will happen.

Who will be in charge? How will things be controlled? What and where would the red lines be drawn? What orders would be given if these red lines were crossed? What if one or more Model Town episode is repeated?

A person who should know, Lt Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, said on TV that in any given situation where there is confrontation between anyone trying to violate the law under Article 245, a civilian magistrate present on the spot will order the army to take whatever action is needed.

If that were the case then is this a situation when the army has been brought under effective civilian control? And if so, has the army been actually given any powers or is it that its image is being used? It seems the army’s fear is being politically exploited.

It has to be kept in mind that the army does not fire tear gas shells or use water cannons or lathi charge. The soldiers are trained and they shoot to kill. So are many more Model Towns waiting to happen?

If General Hameed Gul is wrong and the army has to take the decision itself, then who will decide what is the red line and when it will be deemed to have been crossed so that action should begin? Again remember, the army can only shoot to kill.

Suppose the army under Article 245 says no one can enter the territory of Islamabad with a party flag or Pakistan flag in his hand.

Then should we expect that all entry points will be choked by the million marchers of PTI and Islamabad will come under siege, with thousands blocking roads at Bani Gala, Faizabad Chowk, Motorway exit etc?

If they do, they would not be violating Article 245 but Islamabad will come under siege.

How long will this kind of situation be permitted and by whom? Who will decide that enough is enough and outside Islamabad territory police will have to come into action with batons, lathis, tear gas, water cannons and guns to break the siege. Will the army jawans keep watching on the other side of the Islamabad border?

If any Model Town happens, will the Nawaz government not be responsible for it at all and will the entire burden fall on the GHQ?

More importantly, by giving Article 245 powers to the army, the civilian government has provided the GHQ with a constitutional and easy excuse to tell PM Nawaz Sharif that the situation is bad and either there have to be mass killings or he should resolve the matter, in whatever way, by conceding to the demands, whatever they may be.

Has this not provided Army Chief General Raheel Sharif with an absolutely legal and legitimate opportunity to act as General Waheed Kakar?

What if Gen Raheel is forced to intervene like Gen Kakar did?

What if the soldiers refuse to fire directly at the protestors as some did in 1977 and, according to Gen Hameed Gul, four brigadiers submitted their resignations because they could not reconcile with the way things had then taken shape?

Can we then see a repeat of the 1977 protest from within our army cadres?

These and many more questions need to be answered before a street situation actually forces the hand of the GHQ, the political parties or the government. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-31858-Key-questions-someone-must-answer-before-Aug-14

July 27, 2014   No Comments

A new Kayani moment?: By Cyril Almeida in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

The writer is a member of staff.

STOP the press. It’s official. The PML-N is committing political suicide. Nawaz and co are back — the original, unreconstructed Nawaz and co — and they’re dying to get kicked out.

You can even start cueing the jokes now.

Why is Nawaz already in Saudi? Because this time he didn’t want to be bundled out in a hurry.

Why did Nawaz fly commercial to Saudi? Because he only needed a one-way ticket.

The PML-N doesn’t need an opposition. It doesn’t need an opponent. It doesn’t even need an aspiring PM or a would-be uniformed saviour to pile on the pressure.

Obsessed with politics, clumsy with security, it’s a horror show of quite stunning proportions.

No, the PML-N will screw things up for itself all by itself, thank you very much.

Here’s the state of the play. The PTI is going for broke; it wants power. Imran wants to be PM and won’t rest until he is. Democracy be damned.

The boys are busy counter-insurgencying, but boys will be boys and they are licking their lips and eyeing the throne.

The PML-N — at least the few at the rarefied top — is convinced a plot is unfolding. It’s a vice of sorts, one side political pressure, the other side the boys’ security stuff.

And boy, is the PML-N screwing it up. Obsessed with politics, clumsy with security, it’s a horror show of quite stunning proportions that leaves you looking on in awe and mystification.

Right now, there is really just one question: is the PML-N lurching towards its own version of a Kayani moment, the March ’09 intervention as the PML-N-led long march inched towards Islamabad?

Remember that? Back when Zardari was gullible enough to believe he had a shot at taking over Punjab, so he had CJ Dogar disqualify Shahbaz and then tried via Salmaan Taseer and sundry opportunistic jiyalas to form a government with the Q-League, only to push the Sharifs into the arms of Iftikhar Chaudhry and trigger a long march to Isloo that ended with Kayani picking up the phone and suggesting the PPP back down?

Five years on, we could be heading for the next version of a Kayani moment. And if — when? — the story is told, it may just begin with this let’s-invoke-the Constitution, suspend-the-high-court’s-suo-motu-juris­­diction, call-in-the-army-and-save-Isloo nonsense.

Save Isloo from what? Depending on whom you ask, there are two stories — at least on the security side of the tale.

The first is that the boys are seriously concerned about the militant threat that has taken up residence in the rural areas/new settlements on the outskirts of Islamabad proper.

Having decided that the threat needs to be countered now and that the civilian law-enforcement and intel apparatus isn’t up to scratch, the boys want to act. But for them to act, they need another threat neutralised first: the courts.

The troubles with the courts on the missing persons’ front are now long-running. And that’s with missing persons picked up in the middle of nowhere and stuffed away for years also in the middle of nowhere.

Imagine an army-led operation on the outskirts of Islamabad, with a hyperactive judiciary ever ready to leap into the fray and residents having access to courts and cameras. Suddenly, the army is the bad guy again and in a world of legal trouble.

So, the constitutional protection offered by Art 245 — over and above that provided by regular law mandating troop deployments — is what the army wants.

Nawaz, according to this theory, resisted at first, but when the conversation is about security and the boys have their heart set on something, the boys usually get their way.

The other story is a bureaucratic one. In the telling of this tale, the PML-N leadership, dependent on and clueless without its ace bureaucrats, was convinced by the bureaucrats that a) the security threat to Isloo is serious and imminent and b) the army is needed, but that the army won’t come unless cloaked in Art 245.

Again, the PML-N leadership, in the telling of this tale, was reluctant to do what the super bureaucrats wanted, but then, as the threat level and urgency increased, eventually acquiesced.

So much for the security angle.

Now to the only thing that may really be on the mind of the PML-N: politics.

The PML-N is either in panic mode or being too clever by half. Either way both versions of why Islamabad needs the army under Art 245 right now suggest the N-League is heading towards its own version of a Kayani moment.

Assume story A is correct. That means the boys have bullied their way into Islamabad and turbocharged the national conversation about a mini martial law — all of this on the eve of Aug 14 and Khan’s arrival in the capital.

Succumbing to pressure from the boys now would mean panic mode has set in in the PML-N leadership. For if caught in a vice, why help it along?

Or assume story B is correct. That would mean the PML-N knows there is a legitimate threat to Islamabad, but the timing of Art 245 is about the N-League brain trust being too clever by half — essentially, playing politics with security.

In this version, the PML-N thinking would be: Imran is coming, let’s wrap the army around ourselves as tightly as we can and then we’ll see what he — or they — can do to us.

Either way — whether 245 stays or not — or if its panic mode for the PML-N or too clever by half, the political ground has shifted already.

Imran is coming. The N-League is deeply anxious about the army. Mistakes, big ones, are being made.

Is a Kayani moment à la March ’09 around the corner? And if it is, what will Raheel do? http://www.dawn.com/news/1121784/a-new-kayani-moment

July 27, 2014   No Comments

Justice denied: edit in the Nation, July 27, 2014

Over a year has passed since 3000 people looted and torched Joseph Colony, a Christian community in Lahore, over suspicion of blasphemy allegedly committed by a single inhabitant, while the police stood by and watched. Sawan Masih, the man the mob was after, was sentenced to death in a Sessions Court on the basis of the blasphemy charge. The government condemned the incident, promised compensation of Rs. 500,000 per family, and moved on. 190 families lost everything but their lives in a single instant, and even after a year, 30 families have not been compensated.

The orchestration of blatant vandalism, and Sawan Masih’s “guilt” alongside it, were established on the basis of hearsay. Sawan Masih’s lawyer will appeal his case all the way to the Supreme Court, but it won’t make a difference. Even if the allegations are proved baseless, his life will be under constant threat from people like those in the mob who destroyed the lives of the inhabitants of Joseph Colony.

In a report released recently by the US government, Pakistan was found to use the blasphemy law more than any other country, with 14 people on death row for blasphemy charges. The government’s silence and inaction is perceived to be tacit approval, if not an active endorsement. And now, with so many victims of the Joseph Colony attack still left without compensation, there are questions that must be asked, and asked forcefully. Why has the then president’s word not been honoured as of yet? What conceivable delays could the government have run into? Officials have cited verification delays, but the verification of what exactly? How hard can it possibly be, how long can it possibly take, to verify the authenticity of victims’ claims; people who have lost all they had in barbaric acts of violence the state was helpless to stop? As the petition hearing filed by waiting victims is adjourned till mid- September, one is painfully aware that it is already far too late for a compensation that is fair.http://www.nation.com.pk/editorials/27-Jul-2014/justice-denied

July 27, 2014   No Comments

Stability hinges on good governance : edit in The Frontier Post July 27, 2014

The nation has been listening to the concerns of the politicians that hidden hands are at work to destabilize the government, or unconstitutional means could be employed to send the government packing home. The government appears to be nervous from the calls of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri for long march and revolution respectively. Some commentriat and politicos say that military establishment is behind them, but there is not even an iota of truth in such discourse. However, as a counter measure, the government has invoked Article 245 of the Constitution, and military would be posted in Islamabad from 1st August for three months. The problem is that the ruling party had made promises about improvement in load shedding, bringing relief to the masses but prices of essential items and electricity tariff have broken the back of the common man. In other words, the government has not been able to deliver, or show semblance of the direction that people’s problems would be addressed. It should be borne in mind, that stability hinges on good governance, which means addressing the issues of accountability, transparency, participation, openness, rule of law and socio-economic justice. If the government formulates sound economic policies and fruits of economic growth reach the masses, in particular the poor and vulnerable segments of the society, people would resist any effort to derail the system.

Thus good governance is seen as a key ingredient for sustainable development, alleviation of poverty and stability of the government. The ruling party should understand that military has no ambition to saddle into power, but it should avoid pushing it against the wall through uncalled for comments. And of course it should try to remove irritants that adversely impact civil-military relations. Some ministers and leaders of the ruling party did not act wisely after the episode of the Geo group when it tried to malign the ISI chief and insinuated against military in general. They had initially sided with the Geo group instead of standing with its own institution. Of course, good sense prevailed later. There were other irritants, and the government seems to have realized that its standoff with military is fraught. It has to be mentioned that from 2008, two elections have been held. After the PPP-led government completed its term, general elections were held in May 2013, and another democratic government is in place. And by all means Pakistan is a functional democracy. Of course, there were allegations of corruption and bad governance against the rulers from 2008 to 2013. Today, eyebrows are being raised on the way privatization of national assets is being planned, which according to some commentators and analysts is not transparent.

Of course, differences of views in various state institutions are normal phenomenon in almost all the countries of the world even in established functioning democracies. When some palmed off or irresponsible media men have been criticizing military, the government should have given them the shut up call. Anyhow, there has been much brouhaha over military’s inputs for formulating security policy and foreign policy in Pakistan. And politicos, analysts call it interference. It should be borne in mind that foreign policy is interlinked directly or indirectly with the security policy of the country. As regards difference in point of view, just recall when US President Barack Obama compelled by the circumstances and financial crunch decided to draw down from Afghanistan, his generals wanted him to go for a big surge, and in order to exert pressure on him were making pleas in public seminars and conferences at home and abroad. In the US, Britain and even in India – the largest democracy in the world – political leaderships take decisions on the basis of the information provided by intelligence agencies and advice of military leadership. Why it looks so odd to the Pakistan’s rulers.http://thefrontierpost.com/article/187228/Stability-hinges-on-good-governance/

July 27, 2014   No Comments