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Posts from — November 2014

Loans and ‘dirty’ politics: by Huzaima Bukhari & Dr Ikramul Haq in The News, November 28, 2014

The writers, tax lawyers, are visitingprofessors at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

The allegations by Minister for Privatisation Muhammad Zubair, during a press conference on November 25, that Jahangir Khan Tareen of the PTI got loans worth Rs240.7 million written off and that Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain “also indulged in a similar practice” were not only refuted by the accused strongly but counter allegations against the Sharif brothers were also made.

These statements have again opened up the debate on corruption, tax evasion and the plunder of national wealth by politicians. Such allegations and counter allegations weaken the democracy and provide fodder to those who oppose this ‘western system’. Who is to be blamed for this? Obviously our political elite that has ditched the nation during democratic rules by conveniently shifting the blame on military rulers – ‘we were never allowed to rule.’ Is the present tug of war generated by their enemies? Or are they their own worst enemies?

In the wake of the 2008 elections, the people of Pakistan thought that the rulers would respect their mandate by moving towards accountability and establishing an egalitarian society – the essence of people’s rule. What happened in the five years of the coalition government of the PPP under Zardari is now history. The same legacy continues under Nawaz Sharif since June 2013.

While there is no serious effort to reform the system and check wastage, the main emphasis is upon levelling allegations and counter allegations in the media ‘exposing the corruption, tax evasion’ etc of adversaries. And when matters come to punishing the culprits there is talk of ‘national interest’ and ‘democracy’.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, in suo motu case no. 26 of 2007 and human rights cases 2698/06, 133, 778-P, 13933 and 14072-P of 2009, while questioning the authority and jurisdiction of the State Bank of Pakistan to waive off loans, on June 3, 2011, constituted a three member commission headed by Justice Syed Jamshed Ali, a former judge of the apex court, to prepare a report in respect of recovery of written off loans from 1971 onwards.

The commission submitted its report in the Supreme Court and a hearing was conducted on February 20, 2013. The court ordered “the report of the commission to be made public, which is available for inspection according to the rules to all and sundry. However, the procedure for allowing inspection of the report shall be regularised by the office. The locked iron boxes are ordered to be kept in safe custody along with their keys.” Notice was also issued to all the learned counsel appearing in the case and all concerned for March 15, 2013.

The commission revealed that loans worth Rs2.38 billion were waived off between 1971 and 1991 whereas loans worth Rs84.62 billion were waived off between 1992 and 2009. The commission, while holding bankers responsible for extending short-term or long-term loan facility to borrowers on inadequate securities, had recommended action against wilful defaulters who took benefit of the SBP’s Circular BPD No. 29, which expired on April 14, 2003 although banks continued writing off loans till 2011.

The commission has also named companies and directors who were beneficiaries of waivers of loans but no action has been taken till today. The commission could only probe 740 cases and proposed that 222 more cases should also be probed as Rs35 billion were waived off in those cases. The report found serious irregularities in loans given to politicians, and the civil and military bureaucracy, but could not get evidence about waivers on political basis, as bank officials allegedly “concealed the facts because they were afraid of influential persons.”

The bankers, the report says, “have given only business reasons for writing off the loans.” The report consists of three volumes and the supplementary paper book (containing different correspondence).

The commission suggested four steps: (i) the principal amount should be recovered less payment already made, if any; (ii) tribunals comprising on-duty or retired judges of high courts should be set up for the recovery of the amounts; (iii) laws for the recovery of written off loans should be drafted; and (iv) action should also be taken against the credit committees. As expected, powerful interests resisted all the steps proposed by the commission. Till today, not a single rupee has been recovered from any big fish.

For the last 20 years, the National Accountability Bureau has been trying to recover a one billion rupees loan from a large business empire. The other day, the apex court gave permission to NAB to recover it from the guarantor, an employee of the House since 1966. His name was used for all kinds of phoney paperwork. This has been the modus operandi of many who managed to get their loans waived off.

The politics of loan waivers in Pakistan unveils many ‘big names’ that control the entire state apparatus through the power of money. The country lost billions of rupees in revenue because of non-taxation of bad debts written off by banks on the directions of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Successive governments, the SBP and the Federal Board of Revenue never considered the report of the auditor general of Pakistan issued in 1992 showing Rs120 billion loss to the national exchequer. It is a matter of record that the FBR, in the presence of this audit report, issued on February 4, 1993 another letter No. 13(26)/IT-1/79 giving further concessions to banks (‘Politics of loan write offs’, The News, February 23, 2008). The unscrupulous landed aristocrats and businessmen (most of whom are elected parliament members), state functionaries and corrupt bankers joined hands to deprive this nation of billions of rupees and colossal public revenues as pointed out by Justice (r) Syed Jamshed Ali in his report.

The inquiry into loan write-offs by the commission has revealed the modus operandi used for looting public money by powerful segments of society. It is time plunderers of public funds were punished and money squandered by them recovered as suggested by the commission without any further delay. That is essential for establishing true democracy and for transparency in public and private institutions. http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=286937&Cat=9&dt=11/27/2014

 

November 28, 2014   No Comments

Last man standing: by M A Niazi in The Nation, N0v 28, 2014.

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

PTI chief Imran Khan’s announcement of a renewal of his sit-in on November 30 has caused tremors in the government, but has not caused the same degree of fear as last time, when the sit-in started on August 14. The last time, the government was under the threat of falling. By that measure, Imran has failed. The government is still there, and has shown that its will for power is greater than his.

 

One positive that Imran Khan has taken from the previous attempt is the attention he has enjoyed. That has enabled him to project his message on the media; that the system is corrupt, and that the two main parties, the PML(N) and the PPP, must make way for him. The exact methodology by which this desirable result is to be brought about is not defined. However, the result is supposed to be clear: the ascension of Imran Khan to the Prime Ministership. The present incumbent, on the other hand, has shown that he is not willing to comply, to the extent that Imran is going to Islamabad despite a warrant out against him for the attack on PTV

 

However, his co-accused, Dr Tahirul Qadri, the PAT chief, will be joining him. Dr Qadri called off the PAT component of his sit-in and went back abroad, but has returned in time to rejoin the sit-in. However, this time, if he does not use his illness as an excuse to stay away, he will return more as a sympathizing politician like Sheikh Rashid rather than as an independent party chief. If the PTI is indeed a replacement for the PPP, then PAT is probably the replacement for the PML(N).

 

If the PTI is supposed to attract all the liberals, PAT is then supposed to attract the conservatives. The PAT is thus supposed to attract all those who presently support the PML (N). It should be noted that both the heads of the ‘old’ parties, started out as protégés of the military; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Ayub Khan, Mian Nawaz Sharif of Ziaul Haq. The same can be said of Imran Khan and Dr Qadri, but they were never members of a Musharraf Cabinet, just of the National Assembly. They can be seen as back-ups for the real product of the Musharraf era, his Local Government Minister, Umar Asghar Khan, who committed suicide or was murdered after he had left Musharraf’s Cabinet. He had not met much success in producing a political vehicle, which would have furthered the agenda of the Musharraf martial law, which included the breaking of the PPP. This was evidenced in the formation of the Patriots, and the post-2013 formation of the Watan Party under Aftab Sherpao. The initial inclusion of the Watan Party in the PTI –led coalition in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is consistent with both parties being agency products.

 

That does leave the question of what exactly happened to Bhutto and Nawaz. The simple answer is that they realised their own power, and as support coalesced around them, not the agencies, they felt that the agencies needed them more than they needed the agencies. There is at present no guarantee that Imran and Dr Qadri will not go the same way as Bhutto and Mian Nawaz, and that is very much a future problem. It should be noted that while Bhutto rallied the left, Nawaz rallied the right. As the PPP has shown, once a vibrant party comes into existence, it assumes a dynamic of its own, and replacing it is extremely difficult. More than Imran Khan, Umar Asghar showed that difficulty. However, while Imran was supposed to replace the PPP, the problem of who is to replace the PML(N) remains. That would be Dr Qadri.

 

The Jamaat has also got its hat in the ring, but is seen as too much of a minority, and too closely linked with the Zia regime, which was all very well in the Reagan years when the ascendancy of religion in Islamabad resonated in Washington; but does not sit well now during the War on Terror. If a religion-based conservative party must be there as an option, the PAT fits the War on Terror better than the Jamaat. It should not be thought that the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan mark the end of the War on Terror, not even in the region. The Jamaat does not figure in the future the US sees for the region, though the PAT does. The Jamaat does not see eye to eye on the centrality of India to the region with the US, while the PAT does not seem to object. Dr Qadri is settled in Canada after all, and Canada is merely an adjunct of the US.

 

Imran has also used the departure of Dr Qadri to engage in a tour of the Punjab, where he brought the sit-in to the mofussil, with Islamabad actually being a sort of culmination of what had become a campaign tour in all but name. Both Imran and Dr Qadri have their eyes on coming local government polls. That they are being held at all is more to the credit of the Supreme Court rather than the political parties, and Imran’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has given up the much-vaunted biometric system, and will hold polls in April, two years after the last election. At the same time, the tour will prove useful if there was an election.

 

Imran’s ‘renewal of commitment’ to the sit-in indicates a satisfaction with its achievements: he has not quite backed down from his demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation, but he has acknowledged that his resignation could come after the proposed judicial commission found the 2013 elections defective. Thus the nation will focus on the crux of his demand, and ask the obvious question: what if the commission finds that rigging did not take place on the scale he says it did?

 

There is no evidence that Imran will accept the result. If Imran was democrat enough to accept results, he would have left Mian Nawaz Sharif to rule long before. For all his speechifying about the merits of democracy, he has not addressed two questions. The first is how one person, as he alleges, is able to corrupt all the checks on the system, and second, how to handle unfair elections. In the cradle of democracy, the UK, wildly unfair elections were held for centuries before the concept of fair elections came in. Indeed, before 1872, the ballot was not even secret! In cricket, the umpire’s decision is final, even if it is wrong. In elections, who is the umpire? To claim that they have all been bought by an individual merely begs the question of how this is to be stopped. Imran is not helping in naming a Chief Election Commissioner, which indicates he wants the option of claiming any future election as rigged. That might satisfy his supporters, but it does not advance democracy. http://nation.com.pk/columns/28-Nov-2014/last-man-standing

November 28, 2014   No Comments

The PPP and Punjab: by Syed Kamran Hashmi in daily times, nov 28

The writer is a US-based freelance columnist.

Had Zulfikar Ali Bhutto brought off the verdict in his favour and had he looked at the dead body of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in Punjab today, I am certain he would have wished to opt for martyrdom as his destiny in 1979 over political irrelevance in 2014. The PPP did not come to this point overnight. Rather, it was left to bleed slowly. When Bhutto was executed, a wave of despondency swept through the party’s ranks. However, the PPP, a party with deep roots that penetrate into the souls of the people, pulled through the crisis. And as demoralised as the party supporters had been, they still did not lose faith altogether. They found Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfikar Bhutto, to fit the role of their new messiah. Though Benazir did not boast the magnetism of her father and the stories about financial corruption also damaged her reputation, she still had enough charisma to keep the party together and fend off any major dissent. With her assassination, however, the spark of Zulfikar Bhutto, which once illuminated the whole country, has been snuffed out.

 

To grasp the gravity of the situation, let us first go over the election results of 2013 and then compare them with those of 2008. In May 2013, the PPP won eight seats — yes, only eight — in the Punjab Assembly out of 371, a number so low that many political scientists reckon the PPP should now be considered a pressure group instead of a formidable political opponent, more or less like the Jamaat-e-Islami, which can pull a few thousand votes but can never win elections on its own. With 2.15 percent of the total number of seats, compared to 28.5 percent in 2008, I agree with their harsh assessment about the party that once claimed Punjab to be its stronghold.

 

No, they cannot point to the low voter turnout this time (as they have always done in the past) after losing in the polls. With 58.5 percent of the people casting their votes, it is recorded as the highest turnout in recent history. In the 2008 elections, when the PPP won 106 seats, the turnout stood at 48 percent. The total number of PPP votes has shrunk, bringing another major disappointment to the party. Dropping by more than 60 percent, the PPP captured only 11 percent of the votes in these elections. What this means is that none of the new voters supported the party of Zulfikar Bhutto while a significant number of old comrades, the jiyalas (loyalists), wound up endorsing other parties too, a trend that, if carried over to the next polls, will result in the complete extinction of the PPP from its current endangered status.

 

How did this all happen? Is it the poor performance of the party? Or is it the emergence of a strong and attractive counter-narrative from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI)? Unlike before, this time the PPP’s supporters do not hold the establishment responsible for contriving a conspiracy against it, nor do they point fingers at traditional political rivals like the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) or Mian Nawaz Sharif for plotting against the party. Rather, if you listen to them in their private conversations, their anger and disapproval are directed at their own leadership, the petty intra-party power struggle and corruption scandals.

 

In my opinion, the party, despite being a victim of it, has presented an incoherent stance on the war against terrorism, which has disappointed the masses more than anything else. Being liberal, the PPP claims to stand against religious extremism and fundamentalism. If the party had stood by its claim, it could have carved out support from every sector of society, the rich, the poor, the educated, the less educated, the professionals, the businessmen and the minorities. After Benazir’s assassination, the many losses inflicted on the party allowed it to hold its ground against the wishy-washy narrative of both the PML-N and the PTI.

 

However, the PPP almost backed out of its commitment. It dragged initiative on the Swat operation for as long as it could, watched the growing threat in Karachi under its nose without any strategy to ward it off, balked at launching a grand scale military operation in North Waziristan and, on top of all that, it did not take a stand when its own governor, Salmaan Taseer, who was wrongfully accused of blasphemy, was assassinated by his security guard. The PML-N administration, infamous for its connections with banned outfits, could have been leaned on to take action against the jihadi organisations. Nonetheless, the party of Bhutto, now drenched in the fear of a religious backlash, did not support the changes that the blasphemy law needs and kept quiet instead of fighting back, allowing the whole province to slip out of its hand.

 

The second major reason for the election setback sprang from the poor governance at the Centre and the involvement of its leadership in financial scandals. Let us be honest; the PTI has waged a war against financial dishonesty, claiming it to be the biggest evil in society, the source of our inability to succeed as a nation. From 2008 to 2013, however, when the Punjab government under the PML-N kept its hands clean, the PPP leadership, it seemed, was busy plundering each and every penny. This may not be true but perception sometimes is stronger than reality and when it comes to the PPP and corruption, it is not only stronger than reality, it is a divine axiom.

 

Will the PPP ever play a defining role in the politics of Punjab again? With the party’s current leadership, its lack of interest on issues like the energy crisis and the economy, its poor choices in picking local representatives and its inability to reconnect with the people, my simple answer is no. With the rise of Imran Khan and the ability of the PML-N to maintain its popularity, the only loser in this Game of Thrones is the PPP. May it rest in peace.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/28-Nov-2014/the-ppp-and-punjab

 

November 28, 2014   No Comments

Geo-political location of Pakistan, its unfortunate people: By Dr Ikhlaq Hassain  in The Nation, N0v 28, 2014.

Pakistan is located on the world map amidst three great continents, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. It is surrounding by three big powers, China, India and Russia and located at a crossing amongst important countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian states. Interestingly the doors of all these countries open into the backyard of Pakistan.

 

Pakistan’s geo-political location is strategically unique and extremely valuable. Six wars have so far been fought from and over the soil of Pakistan and the present continuing War on terror is not yet over.

 

In addition, Pakistan has always been an important and attractive necessity for global-powers, target of international conspiracies and persistent battle field for regional and global-powers.

 

History reveals that the rulers of Soviet-Union in the past had a long dream of an access to warm-water oceans for which the shortest route was through Afghanistan, Balochistan and right into the Indian ocean. However this aim could not be achieved due to British global colonial Umpire and their sole supremacy over the ocean. Following the end of British rule over India and independence of India and Pakistan, the objective of gaining an access to the Indian-ocean could be achieved by diplomacy with the concerned Government of Afghanistan and Pakistan, instead the nuclear power Soviet-Union made a historical blunder and chose to use force and thus invaded Afghanistan. In reply to this. US, Afghanistan and Pakistan all-together joined hands, defeated Soviet-Union and forced its disintegration.

Pak-China relations have always been excellent and time tested.

 

Chinese too had a desire for an access to warm-water Ocean through Pakistan. Unlike Soviet-Union, Chinese Government adopted diplomatic channels for the same purpose and with persuasion of Pakistan Government developed most difficult and valuable project of “SHRAH-E-RESHAM” and the deep sea port of :Gawadar” and at the same time the road and rail links are in progress. In this way China’s long-term trade economy, energy requirements and above all its future geo-political gains like its presence in the Indian Ocean and at the exit of Persian Gulf which are understandable concerns for regional and Global-Power.

 

The Indian political pundits know very well that the key to India’s progress and prosperity lies in Pakistan. They are hungry to boost their trade, fulfil their energy requirements to and from Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asian energy rich states and China through Pakistan but this cannot be achieved without resolving the major issues between Pakistan and India.

 

Relating to the events in Afghanistan “War on Terror” still continues, the economically exhausted and militarily defeated US Nato force are preparing to “QUIT” Afghanistan and thus like in the past, leaving behind the burning battle field for their most favourite old allies Pakistan and Afghanistan alone to face terrorism as well as the past-war consequences.

 

Finally about Pakistan economically near bankruptcy, destroyed by terrorism and politically a failed-State, there is chaos, disappointment and sense of instability amongst the people. Our politicians are criminally negligent about the political turmoil in the country, worsening conditions at its borders and horrible developments in Middle East where beginning of Third World War is imminent.

 

It looks as if, our politicians have gone bankrupt politically and are busy in fighting with each other their personal political feuds and rivalries.

Had there ever been a shrewd type of national leader of the people of Pakistan, possessing deep-vision and farsightedness he would have exploited the valuable location of Pakistan, extracted its real price and benefits and converted this country into an international “TRADE HUB” and “energy-corridor”.

 

Today the entire nation sick of their professional politicians and old colonial electoral, political, judicial and administrative systems, is looking forward to revolutionary changes in the country and determined to get-rid of the corrupt politicians.http://nation.com.pk/lahore/28-Nov-2014/geo-political-location-of-pakistan-its-unfortunate-people

November 28, 2014   No Comments

What comes after November?: by Sikandar Ali Hullio  in The News, November 28, 2014

The writer is an anthropologist and freelance analyst based in Islamabad

With November coming to an end, the weather of Islamabad is becoming colder. However, the political temperature in the capital is getting warmer. All eyes are on November 30.

The PTI plans to inflict the final blow to the Sharif government, with their demand of ‘Go Nawaz Go’. On the same day, the PPP is going to Lahore – to reconcile with the Punjab workers on its 47th birth anniversary. The fiery Qadri is talking of ailements – to avoid any head-on collision at the same D-Chowk where he stood as a frontline force along with cousin PTI.

To counter the political heat of the 30th, the Nawaz-led government is filling Islamabad’s red zone with containers and adding more surveillance at key entries of the capital, which has been under partial siege since the Khan-and-Qadri marchers moved in.

The government has been successful in neutralising the protesters that sought to dethrone Sharifs. It also managed to isolate Khan politically and create a distance between Khan and Qadri, leaving the Khan stranded politically. Publicly, Khan is gaining more support due his brand of politics as well as live coverage.

Khan’s strategy is very clear and hard-hitting. With the same tone, he aggressively attacks both the PPP and the PML-N, while avoiding commenting on the MQM. Moreover, he prefers to keep hitting Maulana Fazlur Rahman and the ANP in the context of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to keep his voters and supporters in a charged and aggressive mode, when the PTI government is not creating any miracles there. Personal egos take the lead and political ethos is ignored at both ends.

Symbolising dynastic politics, the Sharif brothers keep calling the shots from the provincial to the federal governments. This, and other preferences given to family loyalty, creates a sense of the Sharifs having an empire.

Their party, though, is in disarray in their home province. Dissenting voices like Khosa’s are being isolated more. A top-down model of administration is in full function through the baboos of the bureaucracy.

In Lahore, the younger Sharif is reportedly working very hard – but it’s all a solo flight rather than teamwork. This is where his strength lies and this is also where his fault begins. The PTI is getting more popular due to this mindset of politics in Punjab.

In Islamabad, the federal government seems to be in a fix on several accounts. Several ministries and national enterprises are without heads. The government has not even managed to finalise the chief election commissioner. The Supreme Court has now withdrawn its temporary supervisory support provided to the Election Commission of Pakistan through a sitting judge.

The appointment of any neutral and credible CEC has become the most difficult, rather controversial issue. Looking at the controversies attached, no retired and reputable judge wishes to take on this position. Some names are suggested, liked by certain parties, and then equally disliked by others the very next day.

Maryam Nawaz has resigned after her heading the Youth Loan Programme became an issue. The head of BISP, Enver Baig, also resigned due to the reasons better known to him. The legal eagle of the government – Zahid Hamid – has also resigned after being inducted in the Musharraf trial.

Nawaz has always been very aggressive to pursue the treason trial against Musharraf – in the process adding to the distance between himself and the military. He now stands weakened due to the unending sit-ins in Islamabad.

On the other hand, the PPP currently faces political extermination in Punjab. Having been born in Lahore, the party had emerged as a very popular force and always prided itself on that. Lahore and Larkana remained twin capitals of people-centred politics during the Bhutto days.

However, all that started eroding during the Zia regime, as another popular face from Punjab was nurtured and then launched in the shape of Nawaz Sharif to counter the PPP and Benazir Bhutto. Both later reconciled politically, while in exile, through the Charter of Democracy in early 2004.

This created a political vacuum in Punjab, which couldn’t be capitalised even by the ‘King’s party’, the PML-Q. Lately, this space has been occupied by the PTI. That disturbs both the Zardaris and the Sharifs much.

Before the last general elections, the PPP thought that the PTI would take away from the PML-N’s vote bank. However, the opposite happened – as the PTI took away the voting share by denting both parties politically and emerging as the second largest party in terms of votes. This also makes the PPP uneasy since now alternative another political force is in play in Punjab – making the PPP either a third-positioned player or a cracking, crumbling competitor.

The deadline of November 30 may come and pass us by. What is more relevant than what happens that day is the fact that the PML-N is ageing, ailing and failing to impress the masses in Punjab. The PPP is also faltering and getting irrelevant by repositioning itself in Punjab.

As a counter effect, the more popular force of the PTI is trying to get both wickets with a single ball. For the PTI, this is also a moment to reflect and reset. Mere blame-games and agitations won’t work. They need to go back to parliament and relearn the art of honouring the mandate, besides pursuing their cases pertaining to election rigging within relevant courts. They also need to sit, settle and finalise a plan of election audit with electoral reforms under the supervision of parliament and make it a custodian – instead of looking at hidden hands, which were badly exposed, at least this time.

If done, this would provide the PTI a renewed life to prepare for the next elections and keep the political temperature up and exit from the sit-in trap in Islamabad.http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=286938&Cat=9&dt=11/27/2014

 

November 28, 2014   No Comments

Politics of uncertainty : by Naheed Khan   in The News, November 28, 2014

Two weeks back a devastating suicide bomb blast on innocent people including women and children near Wagah border reflects the back lash of this operation. Three different extremists groups took responsibility of killing 55 people and injuring more than 200 some very seriously. Who should be held responsible for this serious security lapse whereas, intelligence agencies had warned the authorities in advance.

Fata was a buffer state between Pakistan and Afghanistan and has its strategic importance. People of Fata were taking care of the safety of both sides of 2650 km long border and there was no armyman on both sides till Mujahideen/Taliban were created by Ziaul Haq to fight the Soviet forces but for his creation, Pakistan is paying a very heavy price till today.

An attempt was made by the civilian authorities in the beginning of 2014 to open dialogue with certain factions of Taliban but since military was not involved, it failed to give any dividend.

Recently new development has taken place in Afghanistan where after 5 months of serious election dispute both the rival candidates on intervention of US Secretary of State John Kerry reached an agreement. Afghan government with Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as President and Abdullah Abdullah Country’s Chief Executive will be on much stronger footing if they continue with this cooperation and are able to form a government of national unity which will also help in reducing Pashtun and non-Pashtun divide in Afghanistan. This is the time for Pakistan civil & military establishment to open dialogue with the Afghan govt and draw the boundary line to stop terrorism on both sides of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This will bring peace in both the countries and terrorists will have no place to hide.

The recent visit of the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to Afghanistan and President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai to Pakistan and his visit to GHQ (unheard in the recent history of the country) shows that Afghan establishment now directly wants to deal with the GHQ on the security issues. This could also be looked upon positively. It may lead to opening of new avenues of cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Also, General Raheel Sharif’s high profile visit to the United States also indicates that the international world is looking towards the GHQ for far reaching decisions in dealing with the issues of terrorism and regional realignment.

When Britishers failed to conquer Afghanistan an agreement was made in 1893 between Amir Abdul Rehman of Afghanistan and Sir Durand of British India for drawing an international border between the two countries which was named as the Durand line. This agreement was slightly modified in 1919 and Pakistan had to adopt the same after its independence in 1947.

Durand line does exist between Pakistan and Afghanistan but was never recognized as an international boundary. Sardar Daoud had gone to the extent of naming Pakhtunistan for the people living on both sides of Pakistan (KP) and Afghanistan but after a dialogue between Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and President Sardar Daoud some headway was made on the issue but could not materialise due to overthrow of PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by a military dictator. Probably this was one of the reasons behind an international conspiracy to remove a visionary leader from the scene and later on President Daoud also met the same fate and was killed in the socialist revolution. Dialogue to recognise Durand line as an international border can be initiated on the same lines.

Outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai in his farewell speech was very harsh on Pakistan and warned Pakistan and US to stop dictating the foreign policy of Afghanistan. Otherwise, peace cannot come to Afghanistan and also refused to recognise Durand line. Interestingly, President Karzai himself was a nominee of US and after thirteen years of his rule he pretends to reflect the sentiments of Afghan People. Dr Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah made balanced speeches but none of them mentioned about more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan who are a great burden on Pakistan’s economy as to what is their future in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is an important Islamic country with nuclear capability and can play a central role in the formation of Islamic block. US and Western world do realise this and have serious concerns over it and always look for an opportunity to malign Pakistan of harbouring terrorists. After 9/11 US forces made an excuse to enter into Pakistan’s neighbouring country Afghanistan and since then US forces are a potential threat to Pakistan’s national security. Time to time we see drone attacks by US on the border areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and no one knows how long this will continue in the name of joint operation against terrorists. After the departure of US forces in 2015 from Afghanistan 10,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan for security purpose and out of 800 Nato bases 37 will continue operating in Afghanistan and some of them operate near Chinese border. US main interest is to keep an eye on Pakistan and its nuclear assets so that Pakistan is under sustained pressure. Role of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China and India is important for Central Asians States vis a vis US interest in the region.

US presence in the region basically is to control huge oil & gas reserves of Central Asian countries. Afghanistan is rich in having oil & gas reserves along with minerals including gold, copper, iron and lithium which are yet to be explored. Hindu Kush mountains have so much reserves that Afghanistan can become the most important hub of minerals in the world. So is the case in Fata where oil & gas and other minerals reserves can change not only the destiny of the people of Fata but the people of Pakistan too.

There is a need that Federation and the provinces develop a better understanding and the ethnic and sectarian divide must be discouraged. Minorities should enjoy equal rights being Pakistanis. Women should be given respect in the society and given rights according to laws.

Pakistanis have capacity to rebuild their future in a much better way but it is only possible through political and economic stability. However, the continuing political turmoil based on challenging the veracity of the election result of 2013 elections has led to a stalemate which is creating political uncertainty leading to economic instability hurting the poor and working classes. The government has to resolve this political stalemate if it wants to function smoothly. Postponing the resolution of the crisis will further damage the system itself.

Armed forces should review their policies and have a better perspective of their successes and their failures. We have fought proxy wars in Afghanistan but at the cost of our children’s future. There is nothing more Pakistanis can sacrifice. Economically we are a weak country and have already drained all of our resources available in fighting these wars. Time has also come for Pakistan military and civil establishment to put their heads together and decide once for all that what would be the mode of relationship between these two institutions to strengthen democracy and how are they going to meet the serious challenges being faced by Pakistan. Moreover, what will be the political and economic future of Pakistan or the country will keep limping from one crisis to another because stability in the country is only possible if both work within the parameters defined in the Constitution and give space to each other.

Reality is bitter but we should learn lessons from past mistakes and this is the only way to save Pakistan. Time has come when we should surface as a mature, liberal and a resilient nation in the world which is trying to solve its deep rooted Socio-economic problems, including health, education and energy, trying to build up institutions free of corruption, sacrificing to eradicate terrorism, trying to bring poverty rate down so that every child has access to education, trying to protect the rights of women and minorities and trying to meet the challenges of unemployment.

Kashmir issue is yet to be settled amidst the ongoing confrontation between India and Pakistan. Serious efforts should be made to resolve this according to UN resolutions.Political and religious leaders should try to build confidence in the public that Pakistan is their priority and they will not compromise country’s interest over their personal interest.Pakistan is our identity and we should save our heritage. This is the only way to achieve our destiny. Otherwise , history will never forgive us.http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=286899&Cat=2&dt=11/28/2014

 

November 28, 2014   No Comments

Containing ISIS — I: by Humayun Shafi in daily times, nov 28

Efforts to contain the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are an inadequate response to a serious challenge. ISIS is known in Arabic as Daulat-i-Islamiyah fil Iraq wal Sham (Daish). It is an ideologically motivated organisation and has committed cadres. The plans of the US-led coalition of 60 countries to defeat ISIS, mainly through military means, have slim chances of success. ISIS now occupies territories in Iraq and Syria, and is growing both in terms of territory and influence. Over the past few months it has assumed the shape of a quasi-state with territory, a governance system that includes a defined central hierarchy, and a command structure in areas under occupation. It has managed to impose fines and even collects taxes.

 

Starting from June this year, ISIS fighters successfully organised and launched themselves from Fallujah in Iraq, rapidly moved and occupied some important towns in Iraq. Two divisions of the Iraqi army, equipped and trained by the US, surrendered and were decimated in the face of just 1,200 ISIS fighters. Armaments and vehicles provided by the US to these two divisions were captured by ISIS militants. These fighters rapidly advanced from Fallujah towards the northwest of Iraq. At one time, Baghdad was only a few kilometres away. On June 10, 2014, Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and capital of Nineveh province, fell. The Mosul Central bank was attacked during which ISIS managed to take away $ 425 million in currency and an unaccounted quantity of gold. Baiji city and Baiji oil refinery and Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, all rapidly fell.

 

Even now, as the attention of the world is focused on Kobane, the main Syrian Kurdish town on the Syria-Turkey border, ISIS is making progress in capturing territory and influence. Robert Fisk, reporting from Syria, in a recent article for The Independent, ‘Islamists ready for Mediterranean battle’, states that “ISIS-inspired rebels” and the group (ISIS) itself intend to strike from Lattakia, Syria, westward towards the Mediterranean, which is hardly 15 kilometres away. Once on the shores of the Mediterranean, ISIS will start having a significant role in regulating shipping lanes.

 

Just 130 kilometres from Baghdad, Ramadi, the main city of Anbar province, is within striking distance of ISIS. Ramadi is a major urban centre of resistance to ISIS. On September 15, ISIS managed to lay siege for over a week to Saqlawiyah military camp near Baghdad. On September 21, fighters disguised as Iraqi soldiers and using captured US vehicles stormed Saqlawiyah camp. Reinforcements for the Iraqi army were late and inadequately prepared to meet resistance from ISIS fighters and suicide bombers. Nearly 200 security personnel in Saqlawiyah were killed and 70 captives were later paraded in Fallujah. At the end of October, members of the Albu Nimr tribe in Anbar province, again near Baghdad, surrendered to ISIS. Calls by the tribe for reinforcements and munitions from the government did not receive any response.

 

Besides historical factors, the immediate cause behind the major defeat of the Iraqi army in June was the manner of governance of former Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Nouri al-Maliki, which was plagued with mismanagement, corruption and a sectarian bias. While ISIS was busy in grouping and occupying territory, PM Maliki was trying to wrestle for himself a third term. Maliki had been the PM since 2006. His election at that time was trumpeted as a vindication of the ill-devised plan of Bush and Blair to invade Iraq in 2003. It was portrayed that Iraq had returned to democracy and historical undercurrents would be taken care of by the elected government. At the time of his swearing in as PM, Maliki had support from around the world; there were hopes that the days of Saddam Hussein were well past. These hopes were to be short lived as the sectarian bias perpetrated by Maliki would soon unfold.

 

Tragically, during Maliki’s days, Sunnis were persecuted and denied government jobs and promotions. Being an elected PM, Maliki’s attitude towards the Sunnis was quite incomprehensible. As a result, there were violent clashes in Fallujah between Sunni activists and the government. This situation was exploited by ISIS to its advantage. ISIS grew in strength and challenged the Iraqi government in January this year. Later on, in June, Fallujah became the launching ground of ISIS with help from the Sunnis in its march to capture large areas in Iraq. Sunni tribes persecuted by the Maliki government initially sided with ISIS; this helped ISIS organise an intelligence network in these tribes. The slightest deviation now from ISIS loyalties seldom goes unnoticed. The possibility of Iraqi Sunni tribes changing loyalties and supporting the US-led coalition in opposition to ISIS is now remote. On June 29, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, declared himself the caliph of Muslims “everywhere”. That was when the name of ISIS was changed to Islamic State (IS).

 

On September 10, President Obama announced a plan to counter the growing influence of IS. The plan intends to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS. It also envisages dislodging President Bashar al-Assad. Obama avoided using the word war and instead called the plan a campaign. A US-led international coalition of 60 countries was formed to carry out these objectives. In the initial stage, the main reliance is on using air power against IS and airdropping military equipment and supplies to tribes and militias fighting the militants. The impression is that the coalition partners do not seem to show the strong will needed to contain IS. Turkey, an important ally, has only promised to allow humanitarian aid and logistic material flowing through its NATO airbases. Only recently it allowed 250 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters from Iraq to use Turkish territory to cross over to Kobane. The UAE has committed to carrying out airstrikes against the militants. The UK plans to deploy its air force. Germany intends to supply arms to the Kurds. No coalition partner has committed sending its troops into Iraq. Iran, a major influence in the region, refused to join the coalition. (To be continued)  http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/28-Nov-2014/containing-isis-i

November 28, 2014   No Comments

Politics of uncertainty: by Naheed Khan in The News, November 27, 2014

Rumours of the change of present set-up keep cropping up which indicates that things are not moving in the right direction and there is an immediate need to normalise the situation and take the country in the right direction.

Discussion on different media channels is preparing public mind for a change or to be prepared for mid-term polls. Political vacuum is growing. None of the political leaders are coming up to the expectations of the people. All this is unnerving an average Pakistani.

None of the political parties enjoy complete confidence of people over social and economic issues. Cancer of corruption and misgovernance is spreading all over Pakistan. Federal government has no control even over the capital of Pakistan Islamabad where foreign missions are under immense pressure. Thousands of workers of PTI gather everyday at D-Chowk and listen to the slogan “Go Nawaz Go” When and how? No one knows but obviously this sit-in of Imran Khan with growing miseries of people and bad economic conditions has weakened PML-N government. Parliament session went on and on but members did not show any interest to come out with a solution of the political impasse or to find out a way to satisfy the public which is demanding the PM’s ouster. It seems that State has lost its writ and individuals are becoming more powerful than the State which is a serious threat to the very existence of Pakistan.

Questions are being raised whether the Federation can survive in this manner? The 1973 Constitution envisages a Trichotomy of Powers, Caring Executive, Independent Judiciary and Sovereign Parliament. Are all the State pillars working according to Constitution? Answer is very simple ‘No.’ Initial euphoria created after the restoration of an independent judiciary has evaporated. Caring Executive doesn’t exist. Sovereignty of the Parliament has become a joke. Parliamentarians are least concerned about the sufferings of poor people. They are not prepared to speak in front of their leaders even on issues of public importance. Instead of looking for a solution for the poor economy, loadshedding, education, health and law & order problems being faced by the ordinary Pakistanis and how to strengthen the democratic system where people can get their rights they all are busy in mudslinging. Moreover, independent and vibrant media is being used to abuse politicians. What message are we giving to the world? A failed State with no values.

Karachi, a multiethnic city with population of around eighteen million which gives sixty percent of the total revenue is burning. For the last several years party in power is PPPP in rural Sind and MQM in urban Sind. Everyday more than one dozen innocent citizens are victims of target killers including doctors and professors. There are areas where there are states within State and powerful groups and mafias control these areas and police cannot dare or are not allowed to enter these areas. Thousands of Policemen and Rangers are deputed to control Law & Order in Karachi but proper results are yet to materialise. Intelligence agencies do get information by monitoring phones and they can easily track the location of terrorists even when phones are switched off but they are not doing for reasons best known to them. Federal and Sind governments have been unable to evolve any mechanism to bring peace in Karachi. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hardly visits Karachi; so he gathers information through the briefing he gets from bureaucrats who are responsible for most of the wrong policies of the past.

Local bodies were last held in 2005 and lasted for four years. Since then power is with the civil administration. There was a need for consistent approach to identify the public issues to find a permanent solution to these problems and this was possible through devolution of power to the lower tiers by holding local bodies elections but none of the provincial governments is interested in holding local bodies elections.

Pressure for creation of new provinces is mounting because State has failed to protect the fundamental and democratic rights of the citizens who feel neglected and are pushed by the circumstances to demand for the creation of new provinces. In 2012,Punjab Assembly passed a resolution for creation of two more provinces in Punjab Bahawalpur province and Siraiki province. After creation of Pakistan Bahawalpur was an independent state under Nawab of Bahawalpur but after formation of one unit by General Ayub Khan it was made part of West Pakistan but again on public pressure Gen Yahya Khan dissolved one unit. Bahawalpur state was made a division of Punjab. Since then Riaistais are not happy over this merger and are demanding for Bahawalpur Province. People of Southern Punjab are demanding a Seraiki province.

Movement for Hazara province is also very intense in KP. Seraiki and Hindko speaking people want their own identity and demanding Seraiki and Hazara province respectively.Demand for administrative division of Sind has recently come from MQM Chief Altaf Hussain which is unlikely to be accepted by the majority of the Sindhis. There is a constitutional mechanism for creation of new provinces in Pakistan and every one demanding for a new province should follow it. This issue is too sensitive to be decided on the streets of Pakistan.

This is a fact that with the passage of time population increases and geographical boundaries do change .New administrative units are created but at the same time State should also analyse the grievances of the people who are pushed by the circumstances for such demands. Either they are not getting their share from the resources they generate or they are being neglected or not being fairly treated.

In social sectors Pakistan is getting millions of dollars in the name of development funds from the donor countries. NGOs too get funds from different world organisations working for poverty alleviation, health, and education, yet education and health services have declined alarmingly. Leave apart the rural areas, clean drinking water is not available even in a city like Karachi. Population of Pakistan has increased to 200 million and more than sixty percent population is living below the poverty line. Educated youth is not getting employment who are being forced by circumstances to adopt criminal ways to meet their needs. There is a political uncertainty in the country. Where development money is going no one has any answer.

In 2013 general elections major political parties in the run were PPPP and PML-N. Tehreek-e Insaf, one of the contestants surprisingly secured number two position. PPPP met with a humiliating defeat in Punjab, KP and Balochistan and was confined to Sindh only which was expected after the poor performance of PPPP government from 2008 to 2013. Recently held elections on NA-149 Multan and PP-262 Sheikhupura are glaring example of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian downfall. It is very unfortunate that PPP the only liberal and a progressive party which had a long history of sacrifices including its two chairmen and workers’ Shahadat, lashes and long imprisonments and a party which represents the downtrodden of this country has reached this stage due to the wrong policies of few individuals.

In 1969 when PPP was formed Shaheed Bhutto had introduced a new face of politics in Pakistan” Politics of Awam,” which was followed by his daughter Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Both the leaders had an unmatched ability and Charisma to feel the pulse of the people.

PPP voters particularly in Punjab always had reservations regarding PML-N which was a creation of martial law dictator General Ziaul Haq who was responsible for hanging of their leader so they were left with no choice except to opt for a third option. The game plan encouraged by PPPP to defeat Mian Sahib in Punjab strangulated PPPP itself and the ‘GT road leader’ got majority of 115 seats of these districts. Moreover, there was no credible central leader of PPPP to run the election campaign and the blind faith workers had in the leadership of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was no more there.

Time has come when political parties do need to build up political institutions and not individuals because their survival lies in empowering their grass root workers who struggle to win the hearts of the voters.

All the political parties of Pakistan make lot of promises to the people during the election campaign to muster their support to provide them good governance but these promises are never fulfilled.

Poor law and order situation and terrorism which is spreading like a wildfire is driving people crazy. People are too concerned about their safety. This is the reason frustration is growing day by day in the society and none of the political leaders are realising the gravity of the prevailing situation. In fact, we are victims of divide and rule policy of our civilian and military rulers who do not have a common policy on major policy issues which gives rise to such eventualities.

Economy is in a bad shape and is getting weaker day by day due to political instability. Major portion of the budget is being spent on the military equipment and operational requirements in tribal areas of KP and Balochistan to fight terrorism. Nation does respect military’s integrity and sacrifices for the country’s defence but challenges are much greater so it is important for both civilian and military establishment to be thinking alike as far as Pakistan’s foreign policy is concerned because regional and geographical changes are taking place everywhere in the world and it’s important for Pakistan to cope with it and should not be isolated. Also there is a need for armed forces to devise strategy to have permanent peace in Waziristan so that more than one million IDP’s can go back to their homes safely. Moreover, they should also make sure that these terrorists will not attempt to regain their strength in South and North Waziristan and other areas of KP after completion of Zarb-e-Azb Operation in North Waziristan.

Two weeks back a devastating suicide bomb blast on innocent people including women and children near Wagah border reflects the back lash of this operation. Three different extremists groups took responsibility of killing 55 people and injuring more than 200 some very seriously. Who should be held responsible for this serious security lapse whereas, intelligence agencies had warned the authorities in advance.

Fata was a buffer state between Pakistan and Afghanistan and has its strategic importance. People of Fata were taking care of the safety of both sides of 2650 km long border and there was no armyman on both sides till Mujahideen/Taliban were created by Ziaul Haq to fight the Soviet forces but for his creation, Pakistan is paying a very heavy price till today.

An attempt was made by the civilian authorities in the beginning of 2014 to open dialogue with certain factions of Taliban but since military was not involved, it failed to give any dividend.

Recently new development has taken place in Afghanistan where after 5 months of serious election dispute both the rival candidates on intervention of US Secretary of State John Kerry reached an agreement. Afghan government with Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as President and Abdullah Abdullah Country’s Chief Executive will be on much stronger footing if they continue with this cooperation and are able to form a government of national unity which will also help in reducing Pashtun and non-Pashtun divide in Afghanistan. This is the time for Pakistan civil & military establishment to open dialogue with the Afghan govt and draw the boundary line to stop terrorism on both sides of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This will bring peace in both the countries and terrorists will have no place to hide.

The recent visit of the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to Afghanistan and President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai to Pakistan and his visit to GHQ (unheard in the recent history of the country) shows that Afghan establishment now directly wants to deal with the GHQ on the security issues. This could also be looked upon positively. It may lead to opening of new avenues of cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Also, General Raheel Sharif’s high profile visit to the United States also indicates that the international world is looking towards the GHQ for far reaching decisions in dealing with the issues of terrorism and regional realignment.

When Britishers failed to conquer Afghanistan an agreement was made in 1893 between Amir Abdul Rehman of Afghanistan and Sir Durand of British India for drawing an international border between the two countries which was named as the Durand line. This agreement was slightly modified in 1919 and Pakistan had to adopt the same after its independence in 1947.

Durand line does exist between Pakistan and Afghanistan but was never recognized as an international boundary. Sardar Daoud had gone to the extent of naming Pakhtunistan for the people living on both sides of Pakistan (KP) and Afghanistan but after a dialogue between Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and President Sardar Daoud some headway was made on the issue but could not materialise due to overthrow of PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by a military dictator. Probably this was one of the reasons behind an international conspiracy to remove a visionary leader from the scene and later on President Daoud also met the same fate and was killed in the socialist revolution. Dialogue to recognise Durand line as an international border can be initiated on the same lines.

Outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai in his farewell speech was very harsh on Pakistan and warned Pakistan and US to stop dictating the foreign policy of Afghanistan. Otherwise, peace cannot come to Afghanistan and also refused to recognise Durand line. Interestingly, President Karzai himself was a nominee of US and after thirteen years of his rule he pretends to reflect the sentiments of Afghan People. Dr Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah made balanced speeches but none of them mentioned about more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan who are a great burden on Pakistan’s economy as to what is their future in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is an important Islamic country with nuclear capability and can play a central role in the formation of Islamic block. US and Western world do realise this and have serious concerns over it and always look for an opportunity to malign Pakistan of harbouring terrorists. After 9/11 US forces made an excuse to enter into Pakistan’s neighbouring country Afghanistan and since then US forces are a potential threat to Pakistan’s national security. Time to time we see drone attacks by US on the border areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and no one knows how long this will continue in the name of joint operation against terrorists. After the departure of US forces in 2015 from Afghanistan 10,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan for security purpose and out of 800 Nato bases 37 will continue operating in Afghanistan and some of them operate near Chinese border. US main interest is to keep an eye on Pakistan and its nuclear assets so that Pakistan is under sustained pressure. Role of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China and India is important for Central Asians States vis a vis US interest in the region.

US presence in the region basically is to control huge oil & gas reserves of Central Asian countries. Afghanistan is rich in having oil & gas reserves along with minerals including gold, copper, iron and lithium which are yet to be explored. Hindu Kush mountains have so much reserves that Afghanistan can become the most important hub of minerals in the world. So is the case in Fata where oil & gas and other minerals reserves can change not only the destiny of the people of Fata but the people of Pakistan too.

There is a need that Federation and the provinces develop a better understanding and the ethnic and sectarian divide must be discouraged. Minorities should enjoy equal rights being Pakistanis. Women should be given respect in the society and given rights according to laws.

Pakistanis have capacity to rebuild their future in a much better way but it is only possible through political and economic stability. However, the continuing political turmoil based on challenging the veracity of the election result of 2013 elections has led to a stalemate which is creating political uncertainty leading to economic instability hurting the poor and working classes. The government has to resolve this political stalemate if it wants to function smoothly. Postponing the resolution of the crisis will further damage the system itself.

Armed forces should review their policies and have a better perspective of their successes and their failures. We have fought proxy wars in Afghanistan but at the cost of our children’s future. There is nothing more Pakistanis can sacrifice. Economically we are a weak country and have already drained all of our resources available in fighting these wars. Time has also come for Pakistan military and civil establishment to put their heads together and decide once for all that what would be the mode of relationship between these two institutions to strengthen democracy and how are they going to meet the serious challenges being faced by Pakistan. Moreover, what will be the political and economic future of Pakistan or the country will keep limping from one crisis to another because stability in the country is only possible if both work within the parameters defined in the Constitution and give space to each other.

Reality is bitter but we should learn lessons from past mistakes and this is the only way to save Pakistan. Time has come when we should surface as a mature, liberal and a resilient nation in the world which is trying to solve its deep rooted Socio-economic problems, including health, education and energy, trying to build up institutions free of corruption, sacrificing to eradicate terrorism, trying to bring poverty rate down so that every child has access to education, trying to protect the rights of women and minorities and trying to meet the challenges of unemployment.

Kashmir issue is yet to be settled amidst the ongoing confrontation between India and Pakistan. Serious efforts should be made to resolve this according to UN resolutions.

Political and religious leaders should try to build confidence in the public that Pakistan is their priority and they will not compromise country’s interest over their personal interest.

Pakistan is our identity and we should save our heritage. This is the only way to achieve our destiny. Otherwise, history will never forgive us. http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=286688&Cat=2&dt=11/27/2014

November 27, 2014   No Comments

Boiling point in Islamabad: by S Tariq in the Nation, Nov 27, 2014

The writer is a freelance columnist

I have been a permanent resident of the Federal Capital since the last twenty years, but my association with this city dates back to short residential stints commencing in 1973. Let me hasten to add in all fairness that I am, but a late arrival to a city that was rated as one of the most environmentally attractive capitals of the world. I say this because Islamabad is home to families, who preceded me by almost two and a half decades. Nonetheless, this city is my home – a fact that was painfully impressed upon me as I drove to work this morning. Turning into a road, I was confronted with a CDA signboard apologizing for the inconvenience caused to citizens due to the Metro Bus Project. I almost stopped my car to strike down the offending text and tell the world that this apology was an unacceptable affront.

 

I have strong reason to be angry and frustrated, for the once tranquil jewel nestling in the lap of the picturesque Margalla Hills has been ravaged on account of senseless decision making. First, our peace was shattered by the coming of the Metro Bus Project. Avenues were ripped up, traffic was disrupted as were businesses along the proposed route and lush greenery was coated with a layer of dust and grime. What prompted the PML N Government to plague us with the project is something beyond the farthest reaches of logic, forcing us to a single conclusion i.e. the project and its multibillion cost has beneficiaries – and these are definitely not the residents of the Federal Capital.

 

Then came the two long marches and ‘dharnas’, which put everyone on edge – not because of any threat from agitating parties, whose motives to descend on Islamabad were constitutionally correct and authenticated by historical attitudes. Concern stemmed from official steps taken to stop the two rallies from converging on Islamabad. The residents of this city and its suburbs were confined to their homes, unable to even restock their larders, because of earth filled containers that were placed across roads in a fruitless bid to stop the incoming crowds. The two agitating parties did make it to their destination and sat there through a rain of rubber bullets and tear gas. While one of these parties pulled out of the sit-in amid controversy, PTI stuck to their guns and continued to draw crowds even as their protest crossed the hundred day mark. In time, the containers were removed and the city began returning to normal even as men, women and children continued to attend Imran Khan’s daily evening speech opposite the Parliament House.

 

Then came Khan Sahib’s call for a mammoth gathering on 30 November and it is panic all over again. The ruling party has done its best to appear nonchalant, but their state of mind is more than apparent from their actions. Political wisdom dictates that PTI should be allowed to gather as many people as they can without the slightest of hindrance, but this is not likely to happen. Containers have already been placed at various points on the roads leading to the Red Zone and others will soon appear on routes into the Federal Capital. Citizens will once again be confined to their homes and even emergency vehicles will face difficulty in performing their duties. And all this will happen, not because of the ‘dharna’, but because of a government that is unsure of its footing and will risk putting the public through inconvenience, while provoking a law and order situation by police action against people, who are exercising their constitutional right to attend the public meeting peacefully.

 

Even as I write this piece, I am receiving rumors of behind the scenes contacts between the Government and PTI to find a solution to, what in my reckoning is a cauldron ready to boil over into violence, if wisdom and restraint is not resorted to. As a peace loving Pakistani, I hope this bit of news is correct.http://nation.com.pk/columns/27-Nov-2014/boiling-point-in-islamabad

 

 

November 27, 2014   No Comments

Power over principle: by Nadir Hassan  in The News, November 27, 2014

The writer is a journalist based in Karachi.

The only person who can bring down the PML-N government is not Imran Khan or Tahirul Qadri. They are at best a nuisance to be endured and will eventually tire out and pack their bags.

 

The real danger to Nawaz Sharif comes in the form of Pervez Musharraf, the former dictator now in the dock for treason. Musharraf himself is a pitiful figure these days. He has no power, no supporters and no hope. But he still has an institution which may not care about him personally but hates the idea of the precedent being set that an army man can be tried by civilians.

 

There is a school of thought which says that the current protests in Islamabad are connected to Musharraf’s fate. They believe that there had been an agreement with Nawaz to let Musharraf leave the country on humanitarian grounds after he was indicted. The courts even left it up the government to decide if it would grant Musharraf’s request to be taken off the Exit Control List so he could visit his ailing mother. Nawaz said no and the drama in Islamabad began. The thinking here is that Imran and Qadri were unleashed to put Nawaz in his place and show him who the ultimate master is.

 

Even if Nawaz had made a promise to free Musharraf, it is hard to conceive anyone believing him. The vendetta against Musharraf is personal – and quite rightly so. The 1999 coup was humiliating for Nawaz and the subsequent years, as he had to beg and grovel for his freedom, were no better. Nawaz is a proud man and on top of that extremely stubborn too. A bevy of army chiefs will testify to that; just ask Kakar, Beg or Karamat. He is also – crucially – correct to be stubborn. A public trial of Musharraf could be cathartic and help heal the wounds caused by his coup and the 2007 emergency.

 

Musharraf has no one but himself to blame for his current predicament. Leave aside the fact that he is guilty as hell. Musharraf was undeservedly given safe passage out of the country by Asif Zardari but his considerable ego and a coterie of sycophantic advisers told him the country yearned for him. It didn’t. A child returning from his or her studies abroad gets a larger welcoming party at the airport than Musharraf did. This should have disillusioned him enough but Musharraf soldiered on and now finds himself in his present predicament.

 

Perhaps Musharraf thought the army would save him and he may still be right. He is a nuisance to them but he is their nuisance. Musharraf’s odds of survival may have been given a boost by the special court ruling that others could also be charged under Article 6. This is now the essence of Musharraf’s defence: ‘hey, I wasn’t the only one’.

 

The problem is that this would open a can of worms. Much of our political class was complicit in Musharraf’s rule. Some have repented; others pretend they had nothing to do with it.

 

Technically, though, Article 6 would allow for Musharraf’s allies to be charged and tried too. This is where prosecutorial discretion needs to come in. Sure, there are many who supported and abetted Musharraf’s illegality but convicting them all would be tremendously destabilising for the country in the way that convicting just the prime individual behind the 2007 emergency wouldn’t.

 

And it is grating that Musharraf still hasn’t apologised for his dictatorship. In a recent interview with the BBC’s Hard Talk he admitted to no wrongdoing and was as stubborn as ever.

 

Still, we as a country have to grapple with our support for Musharraf’s rule. The judiciary atoned in a way by fighting back in 2007 and trying to wipe the slate clean for its earlier PCO oaths. The political class, alas hasn’t done so yet.

 

All the talk of third umpires and even direct calls for army intervention were a reminder of how power still trumps principle. Launching an army coup today would be much harder than it was even ten years ago but power can be exercised in different ways. It looks like putting Musharraf on trial has eroded Nawaz’s power to the point where he is a manager running the day to day affairs of the country but does not get to direct policy, especially when it comes to India and Afghanistan.

 

The PPP survived its five years in power by always deferring to the army and even then had to endure the likes of Memogate. Nawaz has tried to be more assertive but the end result is the same. It may still get the conviction against Musharraf but what comes after? If our history is any guide we can expect more trumped-up scandals, maybe even more destabilising protests and then an eventual realisation by Nawaz that he is up against forces much stronger than him.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-286736-Power-over-principle

 

 

November 27, 2014   No Comments