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Posts from — October 2014

Ministries: a review: by Dr Sania Nishtar  in The News, October 31, 2014

The writer is the president of the think tank Heartfile.

A special cabinet meeting has been scheduled for today (October 31) to conduct a performance review of all ministries, divisions and departments. In this context, I am offering some reflections from my tenure as federal minister in the interim government last year.

 

These reflections relate to the systemic constraints, which in my opinion, stand in the way of effective governance and hence hamper the government’s performance. The frame of reference is government ministries and the issues highlighted are of a long-standing systemic nature.

 

First, an objective assessment of performance is possible only when goals, time-bound outcome-based targets, and performance metrics have been pre-defined. None of these is the norm in ministries. Government functionaries usually do not have a clear sense of delivery with no clear terms of reference and measurable operational targets in the context of overall goals for a sector. Hence as a starting point, these need to be framed.

 

My second observation relates to expectations regarding the government’s performance, which matters deeply since it determines the context in which all societal actors operate. Paradoxically, I noted that governments here were simply not set up to perform. In setting up and running the government, the focus is on all attributes – elections, installing leadership, cabinet selection, and key appointments – except those that matter for its performance.

 

As a result, the government’s wide-ranging strategic functions, which could provide a scaffold for national progress and development, are compromised. In this regard, I found two key features missing from the performance equation – incentives and accountability.

 

Lack of appropriate incentives leads to underperformance. Rigidity of compensation is one aspect but perverse incentives, illustrated for example in the tendency to reward bureaucrats for furthering political allegiances, are more damaging. Additionally, there are serious gaps in performance and decision-making accountability. Functionaries are simply not answerable for performance. As a result, policies have limited grounding in evidence, priorities are determined by political expediency, the policy-action disconnects remain unaccounted and unnecessary policy vacillations, detrimental for reform, go unchecked.

 

Many upright government functionaries of integrity navigate this space with great difficulty. The system just does not empower them to take control fully. On the other hand, corruption, collusion and arbitrage have become deeply entrenched. In many cases these have become the system itself. Many government departments extract rents and distribute them according to well-established shadow ‘rules’, which now govern the de facto functioning of departments.

 

These performance distortions get compounded by human resource competency and capacity constraints. A ministry is meant to formulate policy, set strategic direction, establish enabling frameworks, exercise impartial oversight, evenly regulate, and provide a level-playing field for private actors. Where policymaking is concerned, governments are not fungible. Policymaking and public interest are their core roles, but they must have capacity to take stock of the full range of responsibilities inherent to their mandate. Competency is crucial at the leadership level to comprehend this mandate.

 

How is it then that the system often places a leader in a public agency without appropriate understanding of these stewardship roles? Imagine a company with a CEO who doesn’t know the job, one who doesn’t have goals to deliver on and one who is also not accountable. What simply never happens in the private sector is the norm in the public system. With policymakers unable to understand their mandate, functionaries tangled in tactical decision-making, information systems underutilised and pervasive perverse incentives, we set government up perfectly to fail.

 

Compounding these performance distortions is another unrecognised factor. A popular misconception is that the government is one entity, which is not the case. The government (even at one level – federal or provincial) is an archipelago of many ministries, agencies and departments, with overlapping jurisdictions and/or competing interests. There is little incentive to work together, share resources and exploit synergy. Ironically, solutions to most public sector problems lie in intersectoral action. This creates a twofold imperative.

 

On the one hand governments need new competencies to tap the potential within intersectoral collaboration – such as intermediary agencies. On the other hand, new instruments and incentives are needed which can enable asset allocation mapping and foster collaborative division of labour. It is within this frame that metrics for whole of government performance assessment should also be developed with clarity on the manner in which sectors contribute to overall performance.

 

Unfortunately, the deepest governance reform to date, the 18th Amendment to the constitution was unable to address most of the causes of government’s underperformance despite the broad-based changes it introduced in the entire state system. Some urgently needed next steps are an imperative to enhance government performance. These should focus on institutionalising rule-based control on government functioning and rooting out politicisation and arbitrariness.

 

Attention to merit and conflict of interest, greater transparency through electronic filing and documentation within government ministries, electronic public expenditure tracking and procurement, better oversight of discretionary powers and effective use of existing audit tools are critical entry points to reform in that regard. These initial steps standalone have inherent promise and can pave the way for tapping the country’s inherent strengths and unlocking the potential of its people.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-281514-Ministries-a-review

 

October 31, 2014   No Comments

Waiting for the other shoe: by M A Niazi  in The Nation, October 31, 2014

The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as executive editor of The Nation.

Now that PAT chief Tahirul Qadri has called his sit-in off, the government, like the man who hears the lodger in the room above him drop one shoe and then the other before going to bed, has heard one shoe drop: he waits now, for the other shoe, i.e., PTI chief Imran Khan to make a similar announcement. He is adamant at the moment, but the government is hopeful. With PAT gone, the PTI may find itself swept away by state force. Before that inglorious end, it would be best if the PTI chief himself ends the sit-in.

However, the conditions of the sit-in so far show that the strategists of both sit-ins like to take matters to their ultimate conclusion. This reminds one of Imran Khan in his cricketing days, when he preferred a result to a draw. But did he prefer a loss? That is the distinction of cricket; that matches end in draws, though one-day cricket leads to results, even in matches shortened by rain, easily the main cause of drawn cricket matches. Rain should be a factor in Imran’s calculations, because they will bring cold weather, which is particularly taxing in Islamabad. No leader should put his followers to the test of a winter night under the open sky in Islamabad. Imran, it should be noticed, will suffer no such risk, spending his nights at worst in his container. While not luxurious, it will at least be kept warm and dry.

However, if the assumptions about agency involvement are correct, despite the denials, the sit-in will not end before desired ends are achieved. That assumption leads to the conclusion that those ends have not been achieved. That end, a military takeover, may well not be happening. The overt end, the resignations of the Sharif brothers, is probably not going to happen either. Imran has held rallies in other cities, a ploy in which he was followed by Dr Qadri, but he seems to feel that he can still use those rallies to boost the sit-in.

This may well ignore the logistical issue. Apart from the increase in illness with winter, PTI supporters at the sit-in need to be fed. The norm for protests is that they are an event lasting for a given period of time, not an event contingent upon an action, in this case the resignations. If there is an action, its occurrence will be guaranteed in advance. Otherwise, as the PAT rally showed, and as the PTI rally is on the verge of showing, one runs out of financial support. The PTI sit-in is not just suffering because of various logistical or weather problems, but because PAT withdrawal has given the government a sense of victory. Also, as Imran might have seen, the absence of government crowing has helped Dr Qadri retain most of the gains he has obtained from the sit-in.

Resignations have not been obtained. However, the rationale for those resignations has been presented repeatedly for the last two and a half months on national television. One result has been that the sit-ins have brought the elections closer. If that is the case, then the rallies in other cities become campaign events. Even if general elections are not held, local body elections are due to be held. Both the sit-in parties have announced their intention of participating, and the PTI is already taking some of the flak for not conducting them, being in power in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It is trying to deflect that flak by saying that the Election Commission of Pakistan is to blame, but that merely seems more of what appears to have become a PTI habit, of loudly blaming all others, who are also accused of corruption, for its faults. If the PTI does not have its own way, it is because of the corruption in the system. The Parliament is unacceptable because it has not yielded a PTI majority, which explains why Imran is so willing to resign. It seems as though, for him, Parliament is not so much an institution, as a means to executive office.

However, the local body election results seem pre-ordained. The ruling party will win, as usual, which will yield different results in the three provinces that are going to the polls. While accepting the results in KP, the PTI will claim again that the elections were rigged in the other two provinces. The PTI does not face just the PML(N) in the Punjab, but also the PAT. A complicating factor is that the polls are not being held in accordance with the wishes of the provincial governments, but the Supreme Court. Even the PTI, which used them as a campaign plank, has not held them in KP, and in fact the only province to have held them, Balochistan, is ruled by a government of which the ruling PML(N) is a coalition partner. Even here the local councils have not been notified, and thus have not begun any work.

However, the PTI, or rather Imran Khan, does not have an exit strategy. The Sharifs, who fought an election only last year, have not come to office merely to fight another election. It should not be forgotten that Mian Nawaz has come to office after 14 years out of power, including both jail and exile. Now that the sit-ins seem to have run out of steam, there is no incentive to hold elections. There is also the danger that Imran will not accept any result except a PTI victory, his argument being that this election is rigged.

The local body elections have lost importance because of the sit-ins, even though one party has replaced them with rallies. The other party, the PTI, is trying to carry on with both activities, with the party chief making regular forays away from his party’s sit-in to address rallies elsewhere. However, the government hopes that the two activities cannot go together, and that the PTI will end the sit-in so it can concentrate on the local body elections.

It should be noted that these will be the PTI’s first local body elections, as Imran Khan did not contest the local body polls in the Musharraf era. The PML(N) is used to local body polls, having used them initially as a sort of ancillary party organization. With the PTI now looking to take part, it is likely that it will see another tide of ‘electables’ enter its fold, as they seek to find a platform to fight against other electables who have won official patronage. PAT and PTI both face the same challenge of translating the gains of the sit-in into votes in an election devoted to local issues.http://nation.com.pk/columns/31-Oct-2014/waiting-for-the-other-shoe

 

October 31, 2014   No Comments

Deal or strategic change?: op-ed by Farooq Hameed Khan  in The Nation, October 31, 2014

The writer is a retired brigadier and a political/defence analyst and columnist.

From the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahir ul Qadri’s changed tone and lack of aggression during the last few weeks or so of the inqilabi dharna, it was apparent that something unusual was cooking up. As his charged followers prepared for their 68th day in D- square, their leader gave sudden orders to pack up and go home.

The level to which Dr Qadri had raised his followers’ expectations was visible from the emotions of the shocked supporters as they left D square. While men seemed visibly upset and dejected, many women cried and gave solace to their companions. Those were certainly not victory hugs.

Shocked Pakistanis continue to ask why Dr Qadri called off the D square dharna. Did he strike a secret deal with the government? What was the quid pro quo for lifting the dangling sword from the Sharifs? Has the Model Town cause been compromised? Will the inqilabis’ sacrifices go in vain?

It is true that PAT’s sit in had reached a stalemate during the second half of its marathon dharna. Except for its partial success in forcing the Punjab Government to register the FIR, there was little progress towards achieving other immediate objectives related to the Model Town massacre.

The Punjab Chief Minister resisted calls for his resignation not only on moral grounds but also defied the findings of the Judicial Commission report that reportedly held Punjab’s top leadership responsible for the Model Town tragedy. Although leaked by a TV channel, the Punjab Government ensured that the report was not made public.

Even after almost four months of the Model Town massacre, the Punjab Government did not constitute a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for fair and transparent investigations under a neutral and well reputed senior police officer as demanded by PAT to meet the ends of justice.

It is also a fact that PAT’s full time dharna, though much better organized/ disciplined vis a vis PTI’s part time sit in, was plagued by severe sanitation/ hygiene and waste/garbage disposal issues that led to health problems. Even Dr. Qadri suffered from bouts of sickness while confined to his container. There were reports of financial constraints too, in providing free meals to the thousands of dharna participants.

A change of strategy was required to infuse new life into the inqilabi movement and generate renewed pressure on the government to accept PAT’s demands as far as possible. But the anti climax of the sit-in not only provided much required relief to both the federal and Punjab governments, but also raised valid suspicions and doubts.

Dr. Qadri should have sent back the thousands of old men, women and children who braved extreme weather and the inhospitable environment for weeks. Had he emulated Imran Khan’s strategy of reinforcing the dharna with a countrywide campaign, he would have been in a strong negotiating position to press for the acceptance of his demands.

By doing so, Dr. Qadri would not have faced intense ridicule and taunts from the civil society as well as friendly media channels which sincerely supported the Model Town cause and the ten point inqilabi reforms agenda.

We must believe Dr Qadri when he vehemently dismissed rumors of any financial deal with the government with respect to families of the Model Town shuhada. The nation, which to date remains emotionally involved in supporting the Model Town cause, would feel betrayed if Dr Qadri gave up on his repeated vows of ‘Qisas’ for the victims of this tragedy.

Regardless, some behind the scenes understanding with the government cannot be ruled out. That some kind of compromise was achieved for ending PAT’s dharna is evident from the suddenly friendly PML-N statements, including Punjab’s former law minister, who was sacked from his post and remains a key accused in the Model Town FIR.

And here lies the catch. If the Punjab government goes slow and lets the forty odd FIRs against the PAT leadership die their natural death, will PAT reciprocate the same in the case of Model Town FIR, particularly against the top PML-N leaders nominated therein?

One also cannot rule out the back channel international factor in the whole affair. Remember Dr Qadri is also a Canadian citizen. Did the Punjab Governor also play his part in this new London plan?

I will quote an excerpt from the October 2nd remarks on Facebook by a leading, credible and well informed Pakistani journalist based, for the last few months, in London.

He states, “Rumour has it that Mian Nawaz Sharif has met a leading British politician during his latest trip to the UK, and agreed to dramatic political changes in Pakistan provided he and his family are assured of continued participation in Pakistani politics, all murder cases currently instituted against him and his family are taken care off while he is still in power and the relations of those killed in the Model Town tragedy are compensated according to the Islamic tenets of Diyat.”

If at any later stage, details of such an agreement surface as happened in the case of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (who repeatedly denied any secret deal with General Musharraf in ten years of exile in Saudi Arabia), Dr Qadri’s credibility and image would stand tarnished. He would also lose the media’s trust and support in any future political campaign.

Will Imran Khan provide a replay of Dr Qadri’s unceremonious exit from D square? Those who thought that Qadri’s departure would pull the rug from beneath his political cousin Imran Khan, are taken aback with the ever increasing response and participation in Khan’s daily evening protest gatherings. With his dharna having crossed the 75 day milestone, all eyes are set on Khan’s November 30th mega event in D square. http://nation.com.pk/columns/31-Oct-2014/deal-or-strategic-change

 

October 31, 2014   No Comments

High drama: Editorial  in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2014

The theatrics that have been on since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced the resignation of its representatives from the National Assembly and three provincial assemblies nearly two months ago continue. The 25 PTI MNAs who visited the speaker’s lounge on October 29 declined to meet Speaker Ayaz Sadiq individually, as he had sought. They asked instead that the speaker meet them collectively to verify their resignations. Since Mr Sadiq declined to do this, the strange state of impasse then continues. The speaker has now written to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking its help in the matter. While this falls within the rules governing the National Assembly, which allow the speaker to seek assistance from any source, the ECP has made it clear that it will, realistically, not be able to offer much help.

 

This matter has lingered on for far too long. It needs to be resolved. The PTI itself, too, must be aware of this, with conjecture doing the rounds that some of its MNAs may not be willing to quit. This is doing little for its image. The matter could easily be brought to an end with the MNAs announcing their resignations on the floor of the House, as Javed Hashmi did. This would help settle things instantly. But we hope matters will not come to this and that PTI MNAs will retain the seats they acquired as a consequence of votes from the people they represent. Some compromise acceptable to all must be worked out. The resignation of PTI MNAs would have a damaging influence, as a parliament that does not consist of arguably the second-largest party (in terms of the popular vote in the last election) in the country will find it difficult to function smoothly. Conjecture around mid-term polls is already being heard too often and we badly require stability. All those involved must demonstrate maturity and find a way to sort out the matter. We need to see a more determined effort to move towards a solution so that this matter can be sorted out quickly and the prolonged crisis ended. http://tribune.com.pk/story/783613/high-drama/

October 31, 2014   No Comments

Lesson for the PTI: edit in daily times, October 31, 2014

The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed all the three petitions seeking the annulment of the 2013 general elections on the grounds of rigging. According to the SC, it cannot entertain a petition based on mere allegations, unless there is proof that the 2013 general elections were rigged. The court opined that it is not the job of the SC to investigate allegations of rigging. On the issue of maintainability, the court stressed the importance of the election tribunals as the right forum to file such petitions. The petitioners, according to the court, also lacked locus standi to file the petitions, and unless the parliamentarians were made a party to the petition, since they would be the direct affectees of any decision given in the case, the petition could not be taken up.

According to legal experts, the SC should not have been involved in political matters and it was a wrong step by the petitioners to knock at the doors of the SC. However, by dismissing the petitions the court has closed the door to the elements trying to gain concessions from the court. After the ending of the sit-in by Dr Tahirul Qadri, all eyes were set on Imran’s expected decision to call it a day. Imran’s persistence to the contrary is now being seen as a tactic to wait for the SC’s decision on the petitions filed to render the 2013 elections null and void. There were speculations that any hint about rigging in the general election by the court could be used as another launching pad by Imran to intensify his protest and agitation against the government. The SC has done the right thing by refusing to be dragged into political matters for which other forums for redress of grievances exist. For the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), the lesson is that it should agree to the proposal floated by the government of appointing a judicial commission to probe into the allegations of rigging. This straightforward and simple formula could have ended the animosity between the PTI and the government right in the initial days of the dharnas (sit-ins) but the PTI has irrationally stuck to its demand for the resignation of the prime minister. Such petulance is not a sign of mature minds. Imran Khan should revisit his maximalist demand before he loses totally loses credibility on the touchstone of being a responsible politician.  http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/31-Oct-2014/lesson-for-the-pti

 

October 31, 2014   No Comments

Politics of resignation:  Editorial  in Dawn, October 31st, 2014

ON Wednesday, as most — though, tellingly, not all — PTI MNAs went to parliament to confirm their resignations, Asad Umar joked on Twitter that it was more difficult to resign than to get elected. While there are some obvious punchlines in the cat-and-mouse game between the PTI MNAs and Speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq, the issue of PTI resignations remains a serious and complex matter.To be sure, there are no real legal or constitutional impediments to resigning from parliament — anyone who wants to resign can and should be able to do so. The matter is purely political: for several reasons, the PML-N, and possibly the speaker in particular, would rather the PTI not resign from parliament.For one, a National Assembly without the party that garnered the second highest votes in the May 2013 general election would lose some of its claim to completeness and representativeness. For another, a spate of by-elections nationally would allow the PTI, even if it only backs so-called independent candidates, to keep in the spotlight the issue of alleged rigging in 2013 and would act as a mini-referendum on the PML-N government.Perhaps most importantly, the PML-N and Mr Sadiq are hoping that the PTI will reconsider —– knowing full well that the push for resignations has come not from the MNAs themselves but from PTI chief Imran Khan.

 

Yet, the PML-N seems singularly unwilling to do the very thing that could possibly get the PTI to reconsider on the issue of resignations: pushing ahead aggressively with electoral reforms. Having seen off the immediate threat from the anti-government protests led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, the PML-N leadership seems to have slipped back into complacent mode, determined to work on an agenda of its own choosing. But electoral reforms are very much a political and governance necessity and for the PML-N to pretend they are not — or that the issue can be tackled leisurely at a time of the PML-N’s choosing — is to set up further problems for the party.Even on the nomination of a permanent chief election commissioner, the PML-N seems content to work in tandem with the PPP to delay an appointment, ostensibly because electoral reforms should be finalised first, even though there is no urgency on the electoral reforms front to begin with.Yet, for everything the PML-N does wrong, the PTI more than matches it in terms of stubbornness and bloody-mindedness. Having spent much of the year focusing on electoral reforms, the PTI seems least interested in the latter now, for what else could justify its wanting to resign from parliament and taking itself out of the electoral reforms process altogether?Even the Supreme Court, in throwing out challenges to the 2013 election, has indicated that the correct path to all things election-related is to follow laid-down procedure.http://www.dawn.com/news/1141437/politics-of-resignation

 

 

October 31, 2014   No Comments

Beyond rational analysis?: edit in daily times, October 31, 2014

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) continues showing signs of fracturing as legislators prevaricate in the process of resigning from the National Assembly (NA). On Wednesday, 25 PTI Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) appeared in parliament to confirm their resignations in person to Speaker Ayaz Sadiq but were refused to meet him individually as required by the NA rules of procedure. Instead they demanded he meet them collectively in the NA lounge. The PTI said that it was not allowing its legislators to meet the Speaker individually lest some of them decided to “change their loyalty”. One PTI MNA told journalists: “The number of MNAs opposing resignation from the NA is increasing.” A group of PTI MNAs has said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly must be dissolved in line with the party’s stated policy if they are expected to hand in their resignations, while three have simply refused to resign. Around 20 provincial PTI legislators are reportedly reluctant to hand in their resignations as well. On Tuesday a delegation from the Jamaat-e-Islaami (JI) met PM Nawaz Sharif and advised him not to accept the PTI’s resignations as it could destabilise the country, especially with security problems in KP. The JI, which is in coalition with the PTI in KP, said that if the PTI wants to resign from the Assembly, it is within its rights to do so, but that does not necessitate the JI’s resignations as well. The other way for the PTI to surrender its NA position is for individual members to not attend more than 40 consecutive NA days of business after which their seats may be vacated. However, some PTI representatives continue to appear in parliament and at standing committee meetings where they have disrupted regular proceedings with slogans against the Prime Minister (PM). Responding to the Speaker’s concerns, PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: “We are not students of a school that we should go one by one.”

A tacit debate over the limits of law or in this case procedure continues to dog the resignations issue. Democracy in the PTI’s view precludes any procedural limits. The PTI assertion of an absolute moral position was from the beginning an attempt to distinguish between ‘popular’ sovereignty and the sovereignty of parliament, which it claims is unrepresentative of the people. If it had proved these claims with undeniable evidence of systematic rigging, the absolute moral position would have been stronger. Instead the party has enunciated what legal expert J D Hodson in the Ethics of Legal Coercion terms “commonly held feelings of ‘intolerance indignation and disgust’”, which gained a response from sections of the public. Rationally this position is criticised because it fails to ask whether ‘feelings’ are merely prejudices when they are held without empirical substance. Empirically, Imran Khan’s speeches provide ample evidence of appeals to preconceived notions and prejudices. What is more disturbing is that in contradiction to its implicit position, the PTI continues to enforce limits on the behaviour of its members through the procedural requirements of party membership. Procedural limits apply to the PTI internally but not to the PTI in relation to the rest of the world, i.e. PTI members cannot visit the Speaker individually without breaching party discipline but the party takes exception to parliamentary discipline. Underlying the contradiction is the idea of ‘exceptionalism’ meaning that the PTI perceives itself as above political rules because of the loftiness of its goals and its ‘moment’ in history. If this were true there should be no concern about its members ‘changing their loyalty’. However, as their prevarication indicates, this is not the case. By its own admission the PTI is forcing some of its MNAs to resign, which makes the Speaker’s concerns valid. The dissonance between the party’s enunciation of democracy and its internal ‘repression’ is leading to increasing disillusionment as more legislators drift away from the party’s stance, which appears calculated more for melodramatic effect rather than political principle or integrity. PTI MNAs are certainly not school children. Hence the party should not treat them as such.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/31-Oct-2014/beyond-rational-analysis

 

 

October 31, 2014   No Comments

The PTI circus: edit  in the News,  October 31, 2014

The PTI may have a flair for drama but possesses precious little regard for democratic norms. Ever since Imran Khan announced that all his MNAs would resign from the National Assembly, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq has made clear that each MNA would have to confirm their intention to vacate their seats alone and in person. The thinking behind this is that the MNAs may have been pressurised to resign by Imran against their will. There is some reason to believe this may be the case since only 25 of the party’s 33 legislators showed up at the National Assembly, with one member being sick and Imran himself staying away. This means at least six PTI MNAs may not wish to resign and there are reports that a total of 15 want to retain their seats and had been assured by Shah Mehmood Qureshi that there would be no resignations handed in. Whether those reports are true or not, it is undeniable that the MNAs were there to provoke further controversy rather than follow the speaker’s rules. They showed up en masse and wanted to collectively confirm their resignations. The only reason they would do this is the worry that the MNAs would waver if the party leadership wasn’t around to pressure them. Now the PTI wants to clarify its stance by writing to the ECP, but this is likely another distraction since the power of the election body to involve itself in parliamentary matters is limited.

 

Opposition leader Khursheed Shah has now urged the MNAs to not be afraid of the party leadership and follow the procedures for resigning. One cannot help but remember how Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after giving his fiery speech at the joint session of parliament, was asked by the speaker to come to his office to confirm his resignation but chose to ignore that and flamboyantly walked out. The double game it seems the PTI has been playing all along is to press for the dismissal of the government but to retain its seats if that doesn’t work out. Had the PTI MNAs resigned and the government survived, the party would have lost seats in the next Senate elections. This mix of revolutionary fervour on the surface and calculating pragmatism underneath is an unappealing combination. The negotiating jirga team has urged the government not to accept the resignations with the rationale that it will box the PTI into a corner and possibly lead to midterm elections. But the system should be strong enough to survive this prolonged drama, no matter how it ends. http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-8-281510-The-PTI-circus

 

October 31, 2014   No Comments

Will we de-radicalise?: edit in daily times, October 31, 2014

The bloodthirsty Mumtaz Qadri appears to be on a lifelong mission to turn the country into a nation of pious murderers. An inquiry report has revealed shocking facts regarding the shooting in Adiala Jail earlier this month that left one blasphemy accused dead and another wounded. The prison guard who shot the blasphemy accused Muhammad Asghar, a mentally ill 70-year-old Briton, it turns out got his spiritual training from the murderer of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. The guard had spent two weeks deployed on duty to watch over Mumtaz Qadri in confinement, during which the latter corrupted his mind with his extremist indoctrination and incited him to kill Muhammad Asghar. The report also suggests that Qadri enjoys a venerable status within the prison in the eyes of the staff and other inmates. Moreover, he had two other guards lined up for carrying out similar assassinations. How much our security forces have been radicalised should be evident by now as almost every violent incursion into military bases and institutions involves radicalised insiders. The situation is alarming when a cowardly cold-blooded murderer who shot the very person in the back he was supposed to be guarding enjoys immunity and privileges even while he is in prison. The fact that the guard he influenced managed to smuggle weapons into the prison speaks volumes of our prison security regime.

The problem is bigger than it seems at first glance. It is not only about the facilities Qadri has been given during imprisonment. One should not forget that the lawyers community and other rightists garlanded and showered this person with flowers after he committed the murder. It is the fanatical mindset that has permeated into wide sections of our society. Ironically, our judiciary, considered to have attained independence after its restoration in 2009, has failed to provide justice by sitting on Qadri’s appeal against his death sentence. Such an atmosphere is obviously going to persist unless the state comes up with a powerful counter-narrative that will not only serve to reverse the increasing radicalism, which has even infected parts of our security forces, but will challenge the credibility of this existing zealot ideology. Right now, whoever speaks against the charade of justice present in our judicial system in blasphemy cases is threatened with death. First Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatii and then a lawyer, all of them spoke against the abuse of the blasphemy law and all of them got assassinated. Here is the corollary: those who stand with the fanatical extremism will get a safe haven and treatment like Qadri while those who try to challenge it will meet the fate of Taseer and Bhatti. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/31-Oct-2014/will-we-de-radicalise

October 31, 2014   No Comments

CEC appointment: Supreme Court rebuffs Khursheed Shah’s plea

By Hasnaat Malik in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2014.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday turned down opposition leader Khursheed Shah’s appeal for more time to finalise the appointment of a permanent chief election commissioner (CEC) – a post that has been vacant for over a year now.

 

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, also directed the prime minister to appoint the new poll chief by November 13 after completing the required consultations.

 

Issuing a stern warning earlier this month, the court gave the federal government two weeks to appoint a permanent head of the top poll supervisory body, or else it would withdraw its judge, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, who is currently serving as the acting election commission chief.

 

During the hearing on Thursday, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, who was representing the opposition leader, had sought another three months for the appointment of the new election commissioner.

 

Citing political crisis in the country, the lawyer contended that the situation inside and outside parliament had been uncertain for the past few months. He said the consultation process has been resumed to review election reforms.

 

Upon this, the chief justice said that consultation between the prime minister and the opposition leader regarding the appointment of CEC is a constitutional requirement, adding that the post has been vacant for more than a year.

 

The judge pointed out that the failure to appoint a permanent election commissioner was hampering not only the poll body’s functioning but also the apex court as one of its judges was serving as chief of the poll body.

 

He added that the poll body required a permanent head who could formulate policies. He questioned why the consultation process was not completed, despite the court’s direction to fill the position earlier this year.

 

Expressing his dismay, the judge said that despite the formation of the election reforms committee it may take years to introduce the poll reforms in the country.

 

The bench also quizzed the attorney general over the appointment of a permanent election commissioner. The AG informed the court that no instructions had been received to seek more time for holding consultations over the appointment.

 

After hearing the arguments, the court directed the federal government to appoint the head of the poll body by November 13.

 

Meanwhile, while talking to reporters outside parliament, the veteran Pakistan Peoples Party leader Khursheed Shah expressed disappointment over the ruling party’s stance, adding that he had filed the application with the consent of the federal government but it did not support his plea in the court.

 

Shah also stated that all the opposition parties within parliament would be consulted over the appointment, adding he would also consult PTI if it returns to parliament.

 

Earlier this week, Shah had approached the apex court, seeking a three-month extension for the completion of the process. The move came ahead of the court’s deadline regarding the election commissioner’s appointment.

 

Justice (retd) Fakharuddin G Ebrahim, who was appointed as the 13th CEC, had resigned on July 30, 2013 – a day after the presidential polls for which opposition parties accused the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of failing to ensure impartiality.

 

Progress over delimitation process:  During the hearing, the bench also rejected the ECP’s request seeking six to nine months’ time to carry out delimitation of constituencies.

 

The commission was directed to complete the delimitation process for Local Government (LG) elections within 45 days.

 

Declining the poll body’s request, the court directed the commission to submit reports about the steps, which require six to nine months. Subsequently, the court observed that it will take up the matter for hearing in December.http://tribune.com.pk/story/783982/cec-appointment-supreme-court-rebuffs-khursheed-shahs-plea/

 

October 31, 2014   No Comments