them a hand
ghosts revisit Karachi
The case for structural reforms
An assessment of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the flood-affected areas highlights that old habits die hard
By Zulfiqar Shah
The sorry picture of the
2010 flood-affected areas depicted in assessment reports prompted many
civil society actors and development experts to call for a paradigm shift
in rebuilding the infrastructure. They called for massive overhauling of
the government priorities and policies — and to increase capacities to
resist and better coup with disasters. Basically, they suggested using
this as an opportunity to “build better”.
An assessment of
avoidable losses, poor quality and inadequate relief operations during
2011 floods exposed that appropriate disaster prevention structures and
disaster management systems were not effectively in place.
But have we learnt
lessons in disaster management and reconstruction?
The situation may not be
any different in case another disaster hits this year — unless a totally
different model of development paradigm is adopted.
There is no fundamental
change in the development policies related to construction of houses for
flood-affected communities and repair and rebuilding of schools and
hospitals. Sadly, the same old, failed pattern is being repeated to build
Dr Kaisar Bengali, a
renowned development economist and former advisor to Sindh Chief Minister
on planning and development recognizes that the government is doing well
given its limited resources but acknowledges that there is no major change
in development patterns before and after the floods.
“This was the right
time to re-think and re-design village architecture and rural
infrastructure, making it disaster-resistant and uplift the standard of
rural population,” he says.
rural population lives in about 90,000 villages; an average size of a
village is 30 houses, some smaller villages comprise five to ten houses.
These villages are built on the private land owned by either landlords or
on government land. In either case, an overwhelming majority of villagers
are without any legal entitlement of the piece of land they reside on.
Dr. Bengali, who
resigned from the Sindh government’s planning and development department
in July 2011, says he had proposed a major development shift after the
floods. “I proposed to rebuild village units with a minimum of 100
houses each, otherwise providing school, clinic, water supply, gas,
electricity and other amenities to units with as few as 10 to 30
households would be uneconomically.”
Alongside, he proposed
development of three industrial hubs in Sukkur, Dadu and Nawab Shah in
upper Sindh to create jobs and linkage between the new proposed villages
and the new cities.
unfortunately did not muster the required support from the law makers.
Karamat Ali, a veteran
social scientist and labour activist, says: “The state is bound to
provide people with the basic necessities but we don’t see any
intervention that ensures that right”.
The rural population,
particularly the marginalised haris, dalits and women, is living lives
without dignity, they are victims of feudal oppression and state
“Here school buildings
are used as warehouses by landlords, teachers who never go to school,
hospitals without doctors and villages without safe drinking water,
sanitation and livelihood opportunities. Here easily half the population
sleeps hungry. In the rebuilding phase, after the floods, we saw an
opportunity to improve the living conditions but regrettably we are
repeating the previous failed model in the name of rehabilitation and
reconstruction,” he added.
The PILER survey noted
“Deficiencies in capabilities, landlessness and a very low household
income have perpetuated the cycle of poverty”. An overwhelming majority
of 3,000 respondent households of the survey were landless and worked as
farmers and daily wagers.
Karamat Ali urges the
government to distribute state land among the flood-affectees — “Give
them a piece of land, say 12 acres to each household, and notice the
Well aware of the strong
resistance to land reforms, Ali suggests that the government can start by
distributing state land among the worst hit victims of the flood and later
extend the scheme to all landless people. “Compared to the high cost of
relief and aid, purchasing private land to distribute among affectees will
prove to be more economical,” he adds suggesting what’s needed is
political will and out of box thinking.
Perhaps, time is still
ripe to switch to a changed paradigm of development — where development
and disaster management is interlinked. Even if we have missed the
opportunity of building differently in many areas of upper Sindh, we must
not let the opportunity go lost when we plan rehabilitation and
reconstruction in areas of lower Sindh affected by rain floods of 2011.
While stories of
devastation of infrastructure and human miseries by natural and manmade
disaster such as floods and earthquake abound what haunts more is that
people seem to have been destined to live in poverty forever.
After visiting the flood
affected areas of southern Punjab, especially near the banks of river
Sindh and Chenab, one can witness a clear case of ‘collective
destitutions’ and poverty. I coin this term ‘collective destitution’
as a parallel to ‘collective efficiency’ which is employed to
understand growth dynamics of industrial clusters such as in Sialkot. This
is to understand dynamics of collective failures in generating
Despite less poverty in
central and northern Punjab, South Punjab is witnessing extreme poverty.
According to a research by Arif Naveed at Sustainable Development Policy
Institute, poverty in Punjab is largely concentrated in districts in the
District Rajanpur has 43
percent population living below the poverty line, Muzaffargarh 40pc, DG
Khan 36pc and Layyah 31pc. These are alarming figures which are based on
four key dimensions — education, health, asset holding, and living
Let us use a bit of
microscope in Southern Punjab. What defines the misery of people living
near Sindh and Chenab area, especially Muzzfargarh? It appears that there
are at least three issues which have put people in an extremely difficult
situation without any visible end to misery in the near future.
One is the destruction
caused by floods in 2010 whose water and sand has made land uncultivable,
thereby leaving small farmers and small landowners worse off. With a key
factor of economic activity such as land being less useful, inflationary
pressures in agriculture production sector has negatively impacted both
the production and consumption side of food items.
As a result, food
insecurity of small scale farmers has actually increased in the
rehabilitation phase. The third most important feature which defines the
people is a sheer lack of growth dynamics in local economy which can come
from modernisation and diversification of economic activities. The last
being a critical area makes a case of ‘collective destitution’.
Is there any way to
break this situation? There can be many ways such as one prescribed by the
new growth strategy of the Planning Commission. The strategy puts emphasis
on building more and better cities which can bring qualitative change in
the national economy through innovation.
Such cities will have
the capacity to absorb people migrating from rural areas. However, such a
strategy appears to be clearly unplugged from the reality of immediate
survival needs of the poor who are facing threats to their subsistence
level economic activities.
Such a strategy might be
good for a small class of people who can partially catch up with
development elsewhere in cities; the poor of aforementioned rural areas
are practically divorced from mainstream economic wellbeing of the
country. There can be another way to bring mega-development projects to
such areas which can create employment. Such a strategy can take time and
resources but immediate beneficiaries are the people who manage and invest
in such mega-projects. There can be a third way as well.
The third way to end
‘collective destination’ is to develop small-scale local development
projects. The same South Punjab has some islands of hope which have been
created by pro-poor civil society organisations. The case in point is the
cash-for-work type programmes of some civil society organisations that
pooled their resources with international development community and tried
to generate local development. In the post-disaster recovery phases, such
types of schemes have benefitted local communities in many places such as
Sri Lanka, Ache, and Gaza.
The main idea is a
miniaturized Keynesian-type intervention which can inject cash in the
economy for production and consumption to jumpstart economic activities.
At the same time, such cash injection through a work programme ensures
decent work and sufficient wages for a small period of time (30 days
usually) apart from using the local labour for rehabilitation of local
While not staying here,
the development agencies use locals to identify schemes and monitor
progress through local social organisations of the benefitting
communities. They become active partners in development rather than just
One can see at least
seventeen such interventions organised by Doaba Foundation in Southern
Punjab and Mercy Corp and Islamic Relief in Ache and Gaza respectively.
The experiment in Pakistan could be interesting in the sense that it could
bring social and economic benefits for the communities in breaking the
breathtaking ‘collective destitution’. It could help people build for
themselves better roads, small bridges and culverts, cleaning of water
channels, and most importantly community organizations which can organise
effective local development at a low cost.
It is a very small yet
elegant response to the challenge which argues that only 38pc of the
earmarked money in Public Sector Development Programmes in Pakistan
reaches the direct beneficiaries. In such a cash-for-work schemes, which
are managed with a community development approach, at least 75pc of the
money directly reaches the beneficiaries of the project and the rest
brings new equipment in the community.
Having said that, it
appears that where growth dynamics in poor rural areas are jammed there is
low accumulation of human and financial capital. These traps perpetuate
poverty, helplessness, and misery in a chronic way. Father, son, daughter
and their sons and daughters have to live in ‘collective destitution’
and poverty. Any relief through cash-for-work?
writer works with Impact Consulting www.impactconsulting.com.pk
Killing of one
journalist is a message for another. This is the story of every second
journalist working in the conflict zones where dozens have lost their
lives and many are under death threat. In tribal areas of FATA and
Balochistan, journalists seem more concerned about the telephone from the
‘Amir’ or ‘Commandant’ than of their editors or director news.
“I can ignore the call
from the editor but not from the militant leader or intelligence official.
I would be fired from the job if I refuse the call from the desk but would
be ‘fired’ from life in the other case,” said one tribal journalist,
on condition of anonymity.
Selection of words and
phrases are most difficult for journalists reporting from the conflict
zone. It’s very difficult for them to use words like terrorists and
militants; instead they try to use for neutral words like extremists. The
construction of how a victim gets constructed in the news is increasingly
complicated by the voracious appetite for live coverage of 24 hour news
channel. At times, they have had to face difficulties when the ticker desk
without taking them into confidence used these words and the journalists
were summoned to explain their position.
The news monitoring
system of the conflicting parties is so strong that the journalists cannot
lie to them. “Their stories are fully monitored on the internet and
action is taken against them accordingly,” said another journalist.
Journalists remain under
surveillance of both militants and agencies and their telephones remain
under observation. Sometimes they were even called and were told what they
had been saying on the phone and are often warned to be more careful in
Their coverage of
events, beepers and reports were fully monitored. A journalist was once
called by the leader of a militant group and was enquired about his
meeting with the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. When he informed them
that he was only part of the delegation, he was told of his private
conversation with him after the meeting. It was so shocking for him that
he had no option but to apologise.
The murder of tribal
journalist Nasrullah Afridi a few months back was perhaps the warning for
Mohammad Khan Atif, a stinger for Voice of America’s Pashto service.
Atif too was killed early this month. Journalists in the Federally
Administered Tribal Area (FATA), now waiting for the next target as
everyone seems to be hostage of “gun power” whether of the State or
Non State elements, making it world’s most dangerous are for reporting.
Prior to 9/11, there
were hardly 50 journalists in the tribal areas who used to send soft
stories which hardly got front page of the newspapers as there was only
Pakistan Television. Events in the post 9/11 not only gave boom to the
media in the tribal areas but most of the journalists emerged as stingers.
The well-reputed journalists from the tribal areas as well as from
Peshawar were well in demand.
Situation was not
threatening for journalists till 2003, and they continued their work
without much hindrance till the kidnapping of Hayatullah Khan in December
2005. Almost six months later his body was found. The shocking incident
spread a wave of terror. There is no clear evidence about who was behind
his murder but it was a first serious message for independent and free
media. The threat was not confined to tribal areas alone but as the war on
terror spread journalists in the settled areas like Swat, Malakand, DI
Khan also started getting threats and reporting became difficult.
With two to three years,
some five journalists were killed in Swat and Malakand alone, forcing some
of the journalists to leave their homes.
From 2005 to 2011, some
24 journalists from FATA, Swat and other adjacent areas were killed, some
as a result of target killings while others become victim of suicide
Fear replaced excitement
for reporting in these areas. After 2004, special training courses were
arranged by the journalist unions like PFUJ in collaboration with
International journalist bodies,” how to report from conflict zone.”
At least 70 percent
journalists working in North and South Waziristan and other adjacent areas
had left their homes because of safety concerns for themselves and their
families. Atif’s murder has just added to their apprehension about
independent coverage from these areas any more.
It’s very important
that some kind of reporting code be prepared for the journalists living in
FATA and Balochistan or wherever there is conflict. Codes of reporting
should be different for FATA, Balochistan, sectarian and ethnic conflicts,
terrorism. The media owners, editors, journalist must be told to follow
In the last 10 years, at
least six journalists reporting from North and South Waziristan left their
homes and settled in the settled areas but their lives remain unsafe. Atif
was one of them, who had moved to Shabqadar after getting death threats. A
few years back, BBC correspondent, Dilawar Khan Wazir who also remained
under constant threat — his house was also attacked — had already
moved from FATA.
However, the price is
too low — a few hundred dollars — for those reporting from one of
world’s most dangerous Federally Administered Tribal Area called FATA.
As Secretary General of
the PFUJ, I wrote a letter to one of the US newspapers, asking the
management not to endanger the life of local stinger. If they do need one,
he must be provided an insurance cover as he has to pay the price after
the publication of any controversial story. On one occasion I got a
journalist, who was detained by militants, released after they asked PFUJ
to verify whether the said person is a journalist or not.
Journalists working in
the tribal areas have opted for stingership because of the poor economic
condition and poor salary package offered by the local media. None of the
250 tribal journalists are regular employees of any media outlet. Yet they
send stories from the most dangerous places on the ongoing “war on
Sometime they send
stories on the military operation and at times on the militants attack on
security forces. None of them have life insurance, few have got life
saving jackets and have limited training courses.
There are no bureau
offices and very few have cameras and mobile facilities. Those working for
the print send their stories through fax or Internet (if at all they this
facility). The TV journalists send their stories through FTP, but some do
not even have this facility. After filing their stories or giving their
beepers, they always expect a ‘telephone call’ either from the state
or the militants. If the story is too controversial, the reporter often
moves to a safer place for a few days and waits for reaction.
Journalists in settled
areas like Swat, Malakand or D.I.Khan also face similar kind of threats.
At least four journalists have been killed in Swat and Malakand in the
last couple of years and the threat for others still persists.
The threat varies from
the militants posted outside the office of any newspaper or channel to the
intelligence officials who call them on phone or even visit the office in
order to stop the reporter from sending any controversial report. Sometime
they visit after the story is aired.
Following the murder of
Mohammad Khan Atif, the TTP leader who claimed the responsibility of the
murder defended the action on the ground that despite repeating warning to
him, the slain journalist did not listen to them. The TTP complained their
version was not given by him in his reports. Apparently they are more
concerned about the coverage and commentary in Pashto language media,
particularly the Pashto service of VOA.
What is the life of
these journalists? Those living in the settled areas have a much better
life then the one living the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, FATA
“We don’t have normal life as you people have. In areas where even a
common man finds it difficult to work, send his children to school, live
with fear of a suicide or drone, freedom of media is just a sweet
dream,” said a senior journalist from North Waziristan, on condition of
In the last 10 years, at
least 95 percent stories sent from the seven tribal agencies and some
nearby areas were about the bomb blasts (suicide or remote control),
attacks on girls schools on the one side and drones attack on the other
hand. In the last one decade, one rarely saw any package or report on any
other social or cultural issue. Death is the only news. For international
media, any news of the killing of any leader linked with al-Qaeda turns
into a major story.
Violent attack against
journalists is common around the world. 1106 journalists were killed in
2011, threatening the very concept of freedom of expression. Pakistan
remains one of the most dangerous countries for reporting in the world.
Over 80 journalists have been killed. Yet, when it comes to the struggle
for the freedom of the press or media freedom, they remain in the
forefront. They are living for freedom, dying for journalism. Believe me
they are not in dozens but in hundreds.
Over the last four
years, since PPP government has taken over, the value of rupee against the
US dollar has depreciated cumulatively by 30 percent. At the end of third
quarter of FY 2007-08, the price of one USD was 62 rupees and now at the
end of second quarter of FY 2011-12 the price of 1 USD has reached to 91
rupees. With debt servicing, lack of external aid, dwindling reserves,
import payments, the pressure on rupee is expected to continue.
The pressure on rupee is
continuing and no serious measures have been taken yet to control this
depreciation. If the pressure on rupee will continue then the rupee will
be depreciated to around rupees 100 to a USD at the end of 2012.
The main culprit behind
this huge depreciation of exchange rate is widening of the current account
deficit during the period mentioned above, because of the large trade
deficit due to higher demand for imports and rising oil and other
commodity prices in international markets. In addition, financial inflows
and foreign capital also kept declining due to deteriorating law and order
situation in Pakistan and global financial crisis.
On the other hand, the
cost of doing business in Pakistan is also increasing due to this
depreciation and it is also badly affecting the manufacturing, industrial,
and agriculture sectors of Pakistan as the country has to import
fertilisers, oil, machinery, and industrial raw material. Although the
weaker rupee has given benefit to exporters, as they are earning more, but
this benefit is neutralised by the costly imported inputs of manufacturing
sector, including textiles.
The impacts of this
sliding value of rupee can be classified into three main segments: first
is the higher price of imported goods that households have to face, for
example the higher cost of food imports and the higher cost of fuel
imports. If we talk about oil import payments which are being paid in USD
and make up about 40 percent of the total import bill, they are increasing
the pressure on rupee. Oil imports have increased to $6.299 billion from
July-November 2011, compared with $4.237 billion in the same period last
fiscal year. Furthermore, the oil import bill is likely to increase
because gas crisis is now forcing factory owners to run their business on
Second impact is the
higher cost of import burden for the industries, so the industries that
import lot of raw material as well as machinery from abroad now have to
give a higher price for imports.
Third is the rising cost
of debt burden which of course is linked with whatever the rupee value
internationally is, and if this cost of debt servicing goes up, this
actually implies the greater burden on the coming generations as well. The
depreciation of exchange rate not only contributes to the surge in public
debt but also it is inflationary by definition and it has also
multi-dimensional adverse impact on economy and on people. I had explained
in my previous article that the sharp depreciation of rupee had
contributed to the rise in public debt as this depreciation alone had
contributed roughly 1.3 trillion rupees of debt.
Given the current fiscal
situation of the country as the government continues to finance the
loss-making public sector enterprises and also continues with untargeted
subsidies, the State Bank of Pakistan as well as commercial banks come
into picture where they need to finance the government’s borrowing
requirements. Once the banking system of the country mortgaged to the
government’s needs, it squeezes the financing that would have been
available for private sector as well. Now the additional inflation that
gets created because of existence of extra money in the transmission
channel, not only creates a price hike domestically but also puts the
rupee in pressure vis-à-vis other currencies.
This in turn has two
impacts: first it makes imports expensive as we know almost 60 percent
Pakistani exports have in imported context, that have repercussion on
exports particularly of industrial sector and secondly it makes existing
debt stock more expensive.
Stabilising the currency
and making an effective strategy to control this depreciation policy
makers have to focus on growth reforms, supply side measures and expands
its production particularly in case of export oriented industries. One
does not expect the currency to be safeguarded otherwise, it has to be the
focus on productivity that will actually safe the currency in future. So,
Pakistan needs to improve fiscal framework not only to stabilise budget
but currency also which runs the risk of going into a free fall.
Pakistan needs to look
very closely at two things, first at the Euro zone debt crisis which will
have its impact if it is prolonged, second at the related fears about a
double depreciation. Pakistan’s economic managers must keep very close
eye on both of these international trends which can in turn translate into
falling exports for Pakistan, falling aid inflows, foreign investment
inflow. In case both these crisis prolong, they will make adverse impact
on the currency.
The debt repayments will
put further pressure on rupee as Pakistan will have to repay $2.5 billion
to international lenders in the coming six months, including $1.2 billion
to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in February this year. So,
let’s see the policy makers will make an effective policy and implement
it in time or not to save the currency.
writer is a consultant at SDPI and can be reached at [email protected]
The forthcoming visit of
Indian Commerce Minister to Pakistan on February 13 is likely to make way
for developing a sustainable model of bilateral trade. The Maldives SAARC
Summit has already asserted the vitality of bilateral cooperation as a
necessity not only for the region, but for all their trading partners as
The Pakistan’s Cabinet
nod for grant of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India and the Indian
Prime Minister’s optimism for gradually moving toward Preferential Trade
Agreement (PTA) are defining the baselines of trade normalisation. The
visits by the two commerce secretaries: Rahul Khullar and Makdhoom Amin
Fahim to Pakistan and India have generated an atmosphere of optimism. This
has been resonated by not only the business community on both sides but
also echoed by policy honchos as more than baby steps. Further, Makhdoom
Fahim’s declaration that they now have the mandate from their
establishment to move ahead in this direction reflects the hubris.
It is, therefore,
pertinent that bilateral relations be strengthened to reach the true
potential. A study by CUTS in partnership with SDPI, Pakistan and other
think tanks in the region, entitled, “Cost of Economic Non-Cooperation
to Consumers in South Asia”, supported by the Asia Foundation, has taken
a close look at the impact of tariff liberalisation under SAFTA on
consumption expenditure of five of the largest countries of South Asia.
The study found that
trade between India and Pakistan has the highest growth potential. While a
large share of gains to Indian consumers will be through Pakistani exports
in plastic-based articles, minerals and mineral fuels, Indian exports in
pharmaceutical ingredients and electrical equipment will significantly
reduce the burden of Pakistani consumers.
In order to have a
comprehensive and deeper engagement, both countries need to focus on
several other issues, besides tariffs, which act as impediments to both
bilateral trade as well as regional integration. A bilateral cooperation
package in terms of coverage on transport and connectivity; mutual
recognition for the harmonization of standards in pharmaceutical, textile,
cement, food products etc.; streamlining financial institutions and
banking facilities; and, working for a common competition regime in South
Asia, among others have become highly desirable goals.
In the context of MFN,
one of the crucial issues to be addressed is the issue of trade in
petroleum products. Both countries are paying due attention to this issue
and have formed a joint working group. Numbers reveal that India accounts
for an estimated average of one million barrels of petroleum products
exports per day, and enjoys a global comparative advantage in petroleum
products owing to its efficiencies in cost of production and R&D.
Interestingly, the US$
7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline
project is also moving ahead. In the last week of January, both countries
have agreed to a transit fee formula for the TAPI project, with Pakistan
agreeing in-principle to accept the formula as is settled between India
Another pertinent issue
is related to the poor trade infrastructure and transport connectivity
through the Wagah-Attari land route, which are taking its toll on trade
costs. It has been agreed by both sides that all infrastructure
construction would be completed by February and trade through this route
shall resume to its full potential. A Rs150 crore package is all set to
upgrade the checkposts.
The Integrated Check
Post at Attari will also help reduce the various associated non-tariff
barriers and bottlenecks especially those relating to lack of mechanised
loading and unloading facilities, poor infrastructure facilities,
stringent customs procedures and other such trade facilitation measures.
Also, it is hoped that plans of possible grid connectivity between
Amritsar and Lahore, which can enable trade of upto 500 MW of power,
reaches its logical conclusion.
Pakistan currently uses
a positive list approach, but a move toward having a sensitive list
approach would be more beneficial for both the countries. Recently, it
amended the Import Policy Order 2009, and added 12 more commodities to its
list of items that can be imported from India. This takes the number of
commodities to 1,946 up from 1,934 in the positive list that Pakistan
maintains for trade with India. In a more recent development, Pakistan
proposes to have a small negative list.
It is also important to
save time and cost incurred by third country trade that encompasses almost
20,000 items, which could otherwise follow the bilateral route. The
present volume of trade is marred by exorbitantly priced imports from
third countries like UAE. Moreover, the illegal trade between the two
countries, which as per various estimates accounts for more than US$4bn
can also be checked, thereby contributing to an estimated three-fold
increase in bilateral trade over a short span of time. In a recent
development, Pakistan proposes to have a smaller negative list by this
The CUTS study
disseminated at a regional meeting in Kathmandu on 3-4 February 2012 also
shows about 91.24 percent of the total consumer welfare due to India will
accrue by way of imports of rice, plastic and polyethylene based articles,
household articles made of polymers, cotton yarn and woven fabrics
from Pakistan. India’s total current import expenditure on these
items is about US$939.54mn, out of which not less than US$545mn can be
saved if such imports from outside the SAFTA region is replaced by imports
from Pakistan. This implies that India and Pakistan can together save a
minimum of 55 per cent of their import bills on about 200 product
categories, reducing the consumption expenditure by consumers of both the
countries by more than US$800mn per year.
On the other hand, the
main product categories which exhibit maximum consumer welfare gains for
Pakistan from imports from India are pharmaceuticals and ingredients for
medicines, various electrical and electronic products including telephonic
or telegraphic switching apparatus, and automotive spare parts.
Currently these products
are included in the sensitive list of items to which preferential tariff
rates prescribed under SAFTA are not applied. Application of SAFTA
preferential tariff rates on a number of commodities on which both Indian
and Pakistani consumers would gain will be an important step leading to an
eventual PTA between India and Pakistan.
Also, the business visa
regime is all set to be relaxed with the expected decision for
multi-entry/ multiple cities for businessmen. We thus need maintain the
momentum of optimism of smoother business relations and taking it towards
a peak. Importantly, two most vital ideological considerations need
continuous attention. One is the political willingness, and the other
being the effort to eliminate the trust deficit through change in hearts
on both sides!
author is Secretary General of CUTS International, India
vigilantism in her morning show has revived the debate on media ethics,
right to information and right to privacy, and media and morality, and
citizens’ role as media watch in the country. This is perhaps the first
time when a very strong citizens’ voice has emerged against a TV
programme, which was considered as unethical on the ground of violation of
citizens’ rights to privacy. A few citizens’ groups are planning to
file petitions in the Supreme Court to have judicial review of the
situation. As a result of this assertiveness, the concerned TV channel has
finally decided to terminate the entire team of Maya Khan Show. Many have
appreciated the decision of the management of SAMA TV. But, is it enough
to have a few citizens’ groups, a few facebook pages, and a few blogs to
‘monitor the enormous electronic media’ in the country? The situation
becomes more critical when the regulator appears to be completely
ineffective in ensuring compliance of any sort of ‘code of ethics’ in
It is needless to say
that since liberalisation of airwaves in the country in 2002, media have
played a pivotal role in informing the society, providing voices to the
voiceless, raising issues of the marginalised segments, helping people in
access to justice, and educating citizens about their rights. Lawyers’
movement, governmental ineffectiveness and inefficacies, financial scams
like NICL and Hajj scam, missing persons issue, are a few of the issues
which media have played a vital role to bring to the light. However, it is
also a fact that media act as double-edged sword. Camera and the
microphone of television channels can be more dangerous than the weapons.
In the past, media have been termed as a ‘weapon of mass deception.’
The vigilantism has made the media a ‘weapon of social destruction’ as
it seemed to crossing the limits. Showing mutilated body parts of victims
of terrorism and accidents, faces of rape victims, portraying alleged
accused as a criminal, and sting operations — recording the proceedings
with hidden cameras, etc. are a few of the examples of such violations.
Maya’s programme has been considered as a direct attack on the right to
privacy of the individuals.
Media claim that they
exercise their right to information and expression. Right to information
and expression are fundamental rights of citizens and media supposed to
exercise these rights in the best interest of the citizens. However, the
current media have huge tendency to violate citizens’ rights under the
garb of right to information and expression. The Pakistan Electronic Media
Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), which is a regulatory authority to implement
its ‘code of ethics,’ seems to be completely silent despite having a
huge media-monitoring cell at PEMRA’s headquarter. The sole purpose of
the cell seems to monitor so-called ‘violation of media against the
government or state agencies’ only. The regulator, ironically, has not
paid required heed to a large number of complaints submitted by the
citizens. Except issuing a show cause notice to the concerned TV channel,
it has not uttered a single word on this infamous Maya’s vigilantism.
The citizens are left at the mercy of the ‘double-edged sword’ without
any protecting shield or escape rout.
The media is huge. There
are more than 70 local satellite television channels and more than 130
local radio stations operating in the country. Pakistan Broadcasters
Association (PBA) is a strong body of the electronic media owners in the
country. The number of working journalists, according to the Pakistan
Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ), has gone beyond fifteen thousands.
Important to mention here that majority of these journalists are
associated with the electronic media and have very limited work
experience. Every single day, a new issue can emerge and can potentially
— and actually — infringe the rights of individuals. Citizen groups,
on the other hand, are very few and even these few have limited capacity
to deal with the situation. (One should not over estimate their capacity
after a successful campaign against Maya’s vigilantism.)
In this situation —
where media have enormous presence, regulator is indifferent and
ineffective, and citizens have limited capacity — how can one keep an
eye on these enormous media and secure their rights. Moreover, who will
see whether media exercise right to information and expression within the
given parameters? Furthermore, who will judge whether media violate the
rights of the citizens such as right to privacy? For an educated and
assertive citizen, these questions would be relatively simple to answer
but think about a person who is either semi-literate or illiterate and
subject of media’s so-called right to information and have little idea
about the infringement of his privacy! What about children, women, and
other marginalised communities, which have already very limited voices in
the society, and are subject to discrimination through a number of ways?
Mr. Nadeem Iqbal, a
former reporter and executive coordinator of the Network for Consumer
Protection, has raised a very pertinent question of rating and revenue of
the channels. He mentioned that the rating of a programme and advertising
revenue are making the producers and managers of the TV channels to do
whatever is possible to ensure their pie. For a channel, revenue is the
primary concern, he said, and the rest is least important. Mr. Iqbal
lamented the situation and pointed out that the citizens have little idea
about the overall media practices. “Like the definition of corruption,
it is also becoming difficult to differentiate between ethical and
unethical practices in media” he said. There is a need to initiate
campaigns against such deceptive practices and citizens need to be
vigilant about their rights, he emphasized.
While reflecting on the
above questions Mr. Mazhar Arif, who is a veteran journalist and Executive
Director of the Society for Alternative Media and Research (SAMAR),
stressed the need of a massive media literacy campaign. “We have been
trying to watch practices of media from citizens’ perspective and
highlighting the infringement of rights of the citizens, Mr. Arif said. He
also mentioned that the SAMAR has been educating the citizens about media
through seminars, lectures and public meetings. However, there is a need
to initiate sustained and comprehensive efforts with a broader scope and
mandate in this regard.
As a result of a
successful campaign of a few assertive citizens’ groups, the Maya’s
programme is no more on the air. This successful campaign again reaffirms
two fundamental claims: first, that concerted efforts even by a few can
make a huge difference; and second, that without citizens’
assertiveness, no one will bother about their rights. But, success in this
current issue does not mean that all is green now. Media is enormous and
very well-organized. We, the citizens, are uninformed and un-organized. We
have a long way to go, particularly when media do not want to have any
state control or influence on their operation and, unfortunately, the
state is ineffective to ensure protection of rights of the citizens. It is
then the sole responsibility of the vigilant citizenry to move forward and
secure their rights both from the state and the market. All this is
possible only when we have comprehensive media literacy and unanimity
against the infringers of our rights.
writer is Islamabad based media law and policy expert and can be reached
at [email protected]
A wave of killings on
sectarian grounds continues to plague Karachi as several people,
especially lawyers, were targeted in the city during January this year.
On Jan 25, three Shia
lawyers, Badar Munir Jaffery, Kafeel Jaffery and Shakeel Jaffery, were
gunned down near Pakistan Chowk area. Similarly, on Jan 24, two legal
advisors to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), identified as Muhammad Ali
alias Mama and Noman, fell victim to target killings. Another senior
lawyer Maqbool-ur-Rehman, a legal advisor to ASWJ, was killed in an attack
on New MA Jinnah Road on Jan 11. Rehman had fought cases of activists
belonging to the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). On Dec 31, Askari
Raza, a legal advisor to Pasban-e-Jaferia, was shot dead in
Besides the lawyers,
Taseer Abbas Zaidi, brother of famous noha Khawan Raza Abbas, was shot
dead on Jan 30 in FB area. On Jan 28, Jaffar Mohsin Rizvi, a trustee of
the Imambargha Aal-e-Aba, was gunned down outside his residence in Gulberg
“The militants are
mainly targeting the lawyers who are fighting the cases of activists of
their rival sectarian groups,” claims a leader of Karachi Bar
Association (KBA), adding that the killings of lawyers on sectarian
grounds have created fear among the legal fraternity.
This was also
corroborated by a senior police official at Criminal Investigation
Department (CID), who is of view that banned sectarian outfits, especially
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), have become
active in the city and targeting people, especially lawyers and doctors,
of rival sects. Banned sectarian outfits are taking advantage of the
existing ethnic and political violence to kill each other’s workers and
sympathisers, he says. It is pertinent to mention that in 2011, dozens of
doctors were killed in the city on sectarian basis.
“In fact, we were busy
in cracking down against other militant groups linked with Tehrik-e-Taliban
Pakistan (TTP) like Al-Mukhtar group and Punjabi Taliban and succeeded to
shatter their network in the city to a great extent, but now we have
shifted our focus on these banned sectarian outfits in the city,” says
the CID official, adding that higher authorities have ordered police
officials to stop the ongoing killings.
Rehman Malik, Federal
Interior Minister, had said that terrorists from Gilgit and Miramshah have
become operational in Karachi to destabilise the law and order situation
in the metropolis.
believe that sectarian violence has reached an alarming level in Karachi
and the victims include members of the Deobandi and Shia sects. As many as
111 sectarian-related terrorist attacks, including five suicide attacks,
were reported in Pakistan in 2011, killing 314 people and injuring 459,
according to Pakistan Security Report 2011, prepared by Pak Institute for
Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank. The report further
states that Karachi was the worst-hit city with 36 attacks, about 32 per
cent of the total sectarian-related attacks in Pakistan, killing 58 people
and injuring another 58. The report also states that the overall
incidences of sectarian violence in the country decreased significantly in
2011, but the ratio of casualties were concentrated in the cities of
Karachi, Lahore and Quetta.
Raees Ahmed, a security
expert, believes that law-enforcement agencies have shattered those
outfits’ network in Karachi in the past, but the recent political
violence in the city has enabled them to re-surface there. He says a
government ban on these sectarian organisations led them to operate under
different names. “Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) began operating under
the names of Millat-e-Islamia and ASWJ while the SMP started working as a
new organisation with a different name. Similarly, other banned jihadi
organisations like Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) is now working as al-Furqan and
Khuddamul Islam, while Jamat-ud-Dawaa or Lashkar-e-Tayyaba as
Some analysts say that
the May attack on Saudi Consulate in Karachi was also an effort to
re-ignite Sunni-Shia discord in Pakistan, especially in Karachi. “The
attack on the Saudi Consulate and the killing of its staffer clearly show
that the fight for Bahrain has shifted to Pakistan and could ignite the
decade-long Sunni-Shiite rivalry in the country, especially in Karachi”,
Ahmed says. “Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have funded hardline
Sunni militant groups like LeJ and SSP in Pakistan for years, angering the
minority Shia community, while Iran has channeled money to Shia militant
groups like the SMP.”
He says that in the
1980s and 1990s, Pakistan was the scene of an effective proxy war between
Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Karachi being a bloody battleground in the
struggle. “The involvement of hardline religious groups from Afghanistan
in Pakistan’s internal affairs has further complicated the sectarian
conflict.” Since 1989, sectarian fighting has engulfed the entire
country, claiming nearly 7636 lives, mostly from the Shia community,
according to statistics compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP).
Law enforcement agencies
have failed to nab 17 terrorists belonging to different banned sectarian
outfits whose names are enlisted in ‘Red book’, a report published in
Daily Jang, states. These terrorists include Syed Kashif Ali Shah a.k.a
Shaheen (Judullah), Riaz a.k.a Afghani (LeJ), Syed Azhar Ali (SMP), Jamil
Barmi a.k.a Qari Sahib (LeJ), Syed Asif Ali Zaidi (SMP), Fasi-uz-Zaman (Jundullah)