planning
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”.

Lend them a hand
More than a year after the floods swept everything away, people in southern Punjab look for a little help
By Zubair Faisal Abbasi
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. 

rules
Death is the only news

Challenges of working in conflict zones — tribal journalists share their woes
By Mazhar Abbas
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. 

Rupee under pressure
The government needs to improve fiscal framework not only to stabilise budget but also currency which runs the risk of going into a free fall
By Muhammad Adnan
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. 

analysis
A step for Indo-Pak trade normalisation

For now, efforts to improve trade ties between the two countries seem to be on the right track
By Pradeep S Mehta
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 well.



comment
Role of informed citizenry

Media regulator, ironically, has not paid heed to a large number of complaints submitted by the citizens
By Muhammad Aftab Alam
Maya Khan’s 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 the media.

Sectarian ghosts revisit Karachi
Poor law and order and the recent political violence in Karachi have enabled banned sectarian outfits to re-surface with renewed vengeance
By Zia Ur Rehman
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 Gulshan-e-Iqbal. 

 

 

 

planning
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 these structures.

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.

Currently, Sindh’s 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.

His proposal 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 exclusion.

“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 change.”

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.


 

Lend them a hand
More than a year after the floods swept everything away, people in southern Punjab look for a little help
By Zubair Faisal Abbasi

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 poverty-reducing activities.

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 south.

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 standards.

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 infrastructure.

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 silent beneficiaries.

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?

 

The writer works with Impact Consulting www.impactconsulting.com.pk

 

 

rules
Death is the only news
Challenges of working in conflict zones — tribal journalists share their woes
By Mazhar Abbas

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 conversations.

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 attacks.

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 these codes.

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 terror.”

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 anonymity.

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.

 

Rupee under pressure
The government needs to improve fiscal framework not only to stabilise budget but also currency which runs the risk of going into a free fall
By Muhammad Adnan

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 oil.

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.

 

The writer is a consultant at SDPI and can be reached at [email protected]

 

analysis
A step for Indo-Pak trade normalisation
For now, efforts to improve trade ties between the two countries seem to be on the right track
By Pradeep S Mehta

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 well.

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 and Afghanistan.

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 month.

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!

 

The author is Secretary General of CUTS International, India

 

   

comment
Role of informed citizenry
Media regulator, ironically, has not paid heed to a large number of complaints submitted by the citizens
By Muhammad Aftab Alam

Maya Khan’s 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 the media.

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.

 

The writer is Islamabad based media law and policy expert and can be reached at [email protected]

Sectarian ghosts revisit Karachi
Poor law and order and the recent political violence in Karachi have enabled banned sectarian outfits to re-surface with renewed vengeance
By Zia Ur Rehman

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 Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

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 area.

“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.

Political experts 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 Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.”

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) and others.

   

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