has seen worse cases of animosity”
in disaster mitigation
A resilient democracy
While the court is surely acting according to its interpretation of law and the Constitution, it is unwittingly adding to the political capital of the PPP
By Raza Rumi
surprisingly, Pakistan’s fundamental fault-line — the primacy of
unelected institutions over the elected — continues to haunt us. In the
recent days, the unelected and the elected institutions have once again
confronted with each other.
This confrontation is
multi-pronged and complex and can lead to uncertain outcomes.
Before we get cynical about this reality, there is something to
celebrate. Exercise of power by the permanent civil-military establishment
has become difficult due to the addition of the superior judiciary,
especially the Supreme Court within the power-club. The Courts were always
important but the real source of power historically lay with the
executive, particularly the military-intelligence complex.
The dilution of
executive, theoretically, is good and should be hailed in a country where
repeated military adventures at home and abroad have landed us into a
messy and perhaps intractable situation. Jinnah’s Pakistan was truncated
in 1971 by not accepting the democratic principle and resolving the
The next three decades
were consumed by Pakistan’s strategic games in the region, its unwise
alliances with the United States and its meddlesome policy vis-à-vis
Afghanistan. The permanent state once bitten by India in 1971 was even
more resolute in countering Indian influence on the region and keeping the
arms’ race active and alive.
What was the fallout for
the millions of Pakistanis? Empty rhetoric about patriotism, defined as
firm faith in the national security paradigm, ruled the public
imagination. The economy kept on suffering. State obligations frittered
away to the point today that public services are absent in large areas
such as Balochistan and FATA. No wonder, Pakistan is world’s most
curious laboratory of the elites demonstrating syndromes such as ‘growth
without development’, ‘a graveyard of projects’ and where reform has
been a sham-word for the state.
Reforms have almost
always represented certain election factions used the word ‘reform’
for a shameless advancement of its vested interest (army and local
government) or individual glory (Bhutto era).
We are struggling with
ourselves with our uncertain future as a state and society, isolating
ourselves internationally and braving an economic meltdown with sheer
resilience. In such a climate, elite infighting is most unnecessary.
After all what has the
PPP led-coalition not done according to the national security script? By
decentralising security and foreign policies to its military branch it was
hardly a threat to the establishment. With the judiciary things, however,
The PPP government’s
battle with the Supreme Court is part of a political strategy to keep its
perceived victimisation as the popular cause; and which resonates with the
poor and the dispossessed of Pakistan.
But this tension has
political and economic costs; and this is why Pakistan needs effective
governance more than ever. Yet, there is more instability than Pakistan
can afford. We are again entering into a fragile transition phase.
The coalition government
has nearly completed its tenure and is eyeing a second stint in power
given the alignment of smaller province interests. The PML-N is another
popular party with a solid base in the Punjab and pockets of other
provinces. The rest are all regional parties except the PTI of Imran Khan
but its electoral credentials are still unknown.
It remains to be seen
whether they are able to understand and compromise on a single point:
interruption of the democratic constitutional process must not take place
under any circumstances. This is a tricky endeavour as the record of
Pakistan’s elites has not been that unblemished either.
They have squandered
several opportunities to forge an alliance for civilian supremacy.
Instead, they are always keen to engage with the military keeping their
factional interest above the cause of democratic politics.
The new Prime
Minister’s tenure will be limited is a given. If he survives then it
would be for a maximum of six months or so. But more plausible is that he
may be out well before that due to the PPP policy of non-compliance with
the judicial directive of writing a letter to Swiss authorities that would
re-open the corruption case against President Zardari.
While the court is
surely acting according to its interpretation of law and the Constitution,
it is unwittingly adding to the political capital of the PPP which has
thrived due in such a struggle. Benazir Bhutto was twice ousted, defamed
and exiled but her return in 2007 defeated all theories about PPP’s
demise. Her murder, therefore, was viewed by the party’s base as another
blow by the establishment.
Similarly, the ruling
coalition has almost all the provinces with a tilt towards the smaller
provinces. Now if this narrative is rational or not, valid or not is a
separate issue. PPP and some its allies (such as the ANP) are viewing the
world in such a manner.
The impending transfer
of power in 2013 will determine whether Pakistan’s democratic future has
any chance or not. If the constitutional process is truncated by any
means, for instance the much talked about technocrats’ government, then
we will be repeating all the mistakes of history.
Thankfully, chances of
this happening are remote for now. But then rumours act as means of
preparing the public opinion for its de facto ‘acceptance’ overruling
its de jure nature status of a constitutional deviation punishable by
The unique nature of the
current power-play is that it creates a balance of power where state
organs and powerful institutions are guarding their turf against
democratic politics. But the arrangement is such that no actor can cross a
certain line without the fear of a ‘backfire’ scenario.
For instance, for the
PMLN the best option is to negotiate for a fair and free election;
therefore, it will not support any extra-constitutional measure to prolong
the caretaker administration. Similarly, the judges will be in a difficult
position to justify even if they think that the civilians are a rowdy
bunch. And, the media simply will be a major loser if the current freedoms
are not continued in the months to come.
Thus, an early election
or a negotiated power transition between Government and the Opposition is
important at this stage. The PTI could be a wild card in terms of reaching
a settlement but even its own interest would be to participate in the
electoral process and enter the mainstream. The classes, which support
Imran Khan, also want his party to be more than a social reform movement
and a political player.
Most importantly, the
military embroiled in a major border situation and worried about the
Afghan endgame would not prefer to rule directly. At the end of the day, a
civilian coalition would be best placed to deliver its agenda while the
security forces focus on the borders and the serious issues of militancy
and insurgencies all around.
Given such a state of
play, an election despite the rumours may actually take place; and perhaps
sooner than we think. It is an imperative that Pakistan’s political
elites rescue the democratic system and consider the current phase a test
of their maturity. Their own self-interest would be not to side with the
unelected institutions. Once again, such alliances are short-lived due to
the inherent conflict within an opportunistic alliance with unelected
This phase will also be
a test of Supreme Court to validate its hard-earned credibility; make
choices, which take away the mixed, contested perceptions about their
recent conduct. As stakeholders of the democratic system, the latter’s
preservation should be in the judiciary’s rational self-interest.
The media, which has
also suffered due to the recent expose, should not be divided in its quest
for freedoms. It would need to act swiftly and develop a means to
self-regulate and self-monitor itself. The offices of Ombudsmen in each
media house would be a minimum requirement in this process.
The writer is Director,
Policy and Programmes at the Jinnah Institute, Islamabad. The views
expressed here are his own. Writings can be found here:
sector, the main source of living for over 70 per cent of the people in
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has yet again been neglected as meagre funds have been
allocated in the next annual development programme.
In the Rs303bn budget,
total ADP is Rs97.4bn, up from Rs85bn in the outgoing year, with the core
provincial ADP standing at Rs74.2bn.
While apparently the
allocation to the sector has been increased from Rs1355 in current ADP to
Rs1452mn in the next one, the share of agriculture in total ADP has in
fact decreased from1.6 per cent in the former ADP to 1.48 per cent in the
The agriculture sector
has only got Rs17mn or 0.1 per cent in the total foreign component of
Rs23.2bn in the ADP against the share of 42 per cent for education.
The share of livestock
in the agriculture ADP has also decreased to Rs0.379bn (26 per cent) this
year from Rs0.60bn (44 per cent) in the current year, reducing its share
in total ADP from 0.70 per cent this fiscal to 0.38 per cent in the next
Only Rs1197mn of total
agriculture ADP of Rs1355mn could be utilized this fiscal. Viewed in this
backdrop, the actual agriculture ADP may be much less than allocations.
Most of the funds are,
however, directed to the revenue expenditure with only a portion going to
the capital (civil works/construction) side. However, allocation for
capital expenditure has increased on some projects. For example, while
agriculture and livestock extension had earmarked Rs25mn and Rs81mn in
this head in the outgoing ADP respectively, they have Rs43mn and Rs88mn
for civil work in the next ADP.
The government intends
to give grant of Rs500mn to the model farm services centres for purchasing
modern agriculture machinery and agriculture inputs but it is too less an
amount to have an impact.
Again, the establishment
of poultry diseases investigation and vaccination facility in VRI Peshawar
has been conditioned with free donation of land which seems improbable
there for high land prices.
According to an
official, who didn’t want to be named, the new ADP has been prepared in
the light of KP’s agriculture policy 2005, horticulture policy 2009, the
comprehensive development strategy (CDS) and the economic growth strategy
(EGS) prepared by KP government.
The EGS says productive
sectors (energy, minerals etc) and socio-economic sectors food,
agriculture etc) would be the top priority in allocation and the
expenditure on social sectors would be capped at current level but
allocations to the sectors speak otherwise.
Against the avowed 70
per cent, 30 per cent and 20 per cent share for the sectors respectively
in the ADP, while the 9 productive and 7 socio-economic sectors have been
allocated just 12 per cent (Rs11.6bn) and 23 per cent (Rs22.6bn)
respectively in the ADP, the social sectors have got 39 per cent
with schemes of Rs61mn, agriculture mechanisation Rs372mn, on farm water
management Rs188mn, agriculture research Rs155mn, livestock extension
Rs223mn, agriculture planning Rs8mn, livestock research Rs89mn, soil
conservation Rs91mn, veterinary research institutes with Rs68mn and
Fisheries with Rs67mn make up the agriculture the ADP for 2012-13.
The 2012-13 ADP focuses
on ongoing programmes and in line with the EGS recommendations,
allocations for the ongoing projects and new projects have been increased
to 70 per cent and 30 per cent of the agriculture ADP respectively from 63
and 37 per cent this year.
Rather than thinly
distributing money over several schemes as earlier, allocation has been
made to fewer schemes as per the EGS. For example, against 37 schemes of
agriculture research this fiscal, Rs155mn are distributed in 6 schemes in
new ADP. Similarly against 9 schemes in the livestock research this year,
there are only 4 schemes in the next ADP.
Livestock and diary
development department, farm mechanisation, on-farm water management and
soil conservation have been the biggest beneficiaries of the decision both
in terms of retaining most of their projects and getting hefty
allocations. The agriculture extension and research have suffered on both
But for overall lesser
funds, several schemes from the current year’s ADP have been dropped,
apparently for shortage of funds. For example, the project for integrated
pest management and strengthening of model farm services, construction of
research station in Buner, block plantation of selected fruit in the hills
of Hazara and Malakand, rice research in KP and the much trumpeted
wasteland development and its distribution to landless farmers and
agriculture graduates, strengthening of research stations in Mansehra and
Peshawar and of outreach activities in KP, capacity building of livestock
extension staff, and processing techniques in Southern KP and on
development of improved poultry production projects have been left out.
Projects for backyard
farming and livestock rearing, value addition of fruits and vegetables and
project on micro-propagation/tissue culture have been neglected.
Farmers say the
agriculture sector has been neglected. Haji Niamat Shah, a farmer leader
in KP, lamented that the negligence continued even in the post devolution
hasn’t provided any subsidy on agriculture inputs nor announced any
subsidized loans. Worse, the KP government has decreased development
budget for the sector this year while it should have increased it to at
least five per cent of ADP after its manifold revenue receipts from the
federal government. The sector is threatened by the indifference of the
government and lack of unity amongst farmers,” he said.
Murad Ali Khan, another
farmer from Charsadda, complained almost all of the lands destroyed by the
2010 floods were yet to be rehabilitated though the government promised
each year to do so. “It should have allocated sufficient funds to buy
land levelling machinery for the purpose. Lack of coordination between the
farmers and government and inter-departmental liaison also goes
unnoticed,” he said.
The official, however,
said the ADP focuses on potential sectors for increased productivity and
“KP has vast edible
potential especially in olive oil. We will introduce European olive
varieties and plant more olive gardens on the waste lands,” he informed.
“There are also 5
projects worth Rs181mn in the fisheries. Through a project, model fish
farms would be established in Peshawar, Nowshera and Mardan. Through
another project, the floods devastated trout hatcheries will be
rehabilitated and their production capacity will be expanded in Swat,
Chitral, Dir and Shangla. Also there is a project for conservation of fish
resources in Lower Dir on pilot basis,” he added.
“We also would
construct check dams in rain-fed areas for water harvesting. Each of these
will not only irrigate around 100 acres of land and will contain soil
erosion but these will be used for fish production. Another important
intervention is the project on fermenting technology in which the animal
wastes dumps of farmers will be used for making organic fertilizer. We
also have milk, meat and poultry related projects,” the official noted.
High efficiency sprinkle
and drip irrigation technologies are to be installed on 2,000 acre land
and water courses would be lines. Dug-wells be established, 25 bulldozers
will be bought and fruit orchards would be established on1000 acres to
rehabilitate floods devastated lands. Thousands of farmers would be
trained under a project for food security. Animal health dispensaries
would be established. There would also be projects for livelihood
improvement of rural women through livestock intervention.
private partnership on 80:20 percent cost sharing for government and
farmers is being followed in watercourses’ lining, construction of water
storage tanks and in maize hybrid seeds production,” said the official.
According to him, there
was no scheme for easy loan to small farmers but talks continued with the
ZTBL and SBP to offer credit schemes where principal amount will be paid
by farmers and interest by the government.
government recently announced its budget for 2012-13. Besides claims of
peoples’ friendly budget it has so far received mixed reaction. It
reflects governments’ priorities and economic vision.
Several measures have
been announced in the budget that may be termed as pro-people but quite a
few are either missing or are not people-friendly. There are several
questions and concerns voiced by stakeholders. The budget needs to be
analyzed on the yardstick of its viability for future growth and national
There are claims of
economic growth and development which do not match with the issues
reflected in recently released Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-2012
report by Ministry of Finance.
The Survey revealed that
none of the economic targets set by the government could be achieved. The
government has acknowledged that there has been a strong failure to attain
the desired results. As during this period, economic conditions remained
detrimental, with skyrocketing increases in inflation and official loans.
Growth ratio remained
constrained at 2.4 percent against the targeted of 4.5 percent; while
inflation registered an increase of 14 percent. The government’s
maddening addiction to loans got it entangled into debts amounting to
Rs.342 billion, with foreign debts’ graph mounting to U$.59.50 billion.
The survey held factors
like aid of flood affectees, fluctuation in oil prices, law and order
situation, and massive debt ceiling as being responsible for pressure on
Only 0.7 percent
increase in per capita income was registered, with public debt surmounting
to Rs.0.20 trillion; while the standby agreement with IMF is also
practically static, discouraging tranche from other global financial
institutions, regarding disbursement of budgetary support funds.
difference of income has increased by dangerous proportions so much so
that any kind of growth rate failed to reflect on any just and equitable
distribution of wealth.
The economic growth
during year 2010-11 remained at 3.7 percent while a conservative target
set by government for the year 2011-12 stood at 4.2 per cent. The overall
deficit stood at 8.94 trillion in comparison to the envisaged figure of
7.71 trillion. As compared to the set target of 33 billion to be spent
upon external financing during July-March last year, the govt. ended up
spending 47 billion rupees.
Trade deficit of the
country has surged exponentially. The total import bill has escalated to
$37 billion against the total exports of $ 19 billion.
Despite tall claims of
positive growth rate during 2000- 2006, the notion arising out of
‘figures and statistics’ that poverty had decreased was just a mirage
by all means. Whereas growth rate was more important, tackling poverty was
The survey holds
devastating floods of 2010 as being responsible for inflicting long-range
economic losses, as it affected 20 million people, besides any efforts to
contain poverty. However the areas affected were already sliding downhill,
economically, as they even lacked any basic amenities before the floods,
while floods just pushed them deeper into the abyss of poverty.
The economic survey
report exposes the failure of economic policies and vision of the
government by revealing facts that during the fiscal year 2011-2012, the
inflation has arisen by 14 percent while budgetary deficit is expected at
5.7 percent instead of an anticipated 4 percent.
It also admits the fact
that there was simply no escape from official loans unless the official
expenditure is controlled. All of these elements use familiar excuses of
energy crisis, the misfortunes of floods, energy crisis or terrorism, none
of which could be legally entertained.
Till 2012 Pakistan has
suffered net losses of U$, 100 billion in its role in decade-long war on
terror that has serious repercussions on its ability to invest in future
development. This need to be reviewed and new formulas of engagement in
this war need to be carved out. By renegotiating its new terms of NATO
supplies Pakistan can gain substantially to support its sick economic and
In the backdrop of poor
economic performance in 2011-12 and preceding years it will be too
ambitious to think that the government can achieve its growth targets.
Similarly it seems over optimistic estimates of controlling inflation
upsurge, servicing internal and external debts and investing more on
people’s welfare, higher spending on public sector development programme
and poverty alleviation objectives at the same time.
Achieving these targets
will require radical measures which seem impossible given political
fragility of the present coalition government and flurry of elections
activities in coming months.
It would be unrealistic
to believe that given high inflation and increasing budget deficit
government can meet its targets of creation of one hundred thousand new
jobs and can meet ensuing energy crisis. Surprisingly, many potential
aspects of economic planning are missing or are slipped down in the
priority that could help deal with the weak economic performance.
There are three main
growth engines of our economy — agriculture, foreign remittances, and
informal economy. Though industrial sector and salaried class bear the
largest tax burden and agriculture and service sector contribute small
percentage of revenue despite their size and scale. It is very unwise that
government is still providing subsidies to big farmers.
By not levying tax on
agriculture income, the government has once again succumbed to the
pressure of powerful feudal and landed elite that has been successful in
keeping itself out of the tax net. This will deprive government of an
estimated Rs. 500 billion in its tax revenue.
can achieve better results by increasing its investment in dealing with
energy crisis and invest more in informal sector, provide support to home
workers and small and medium enterprises. Incentives for small growers,
subsidies on water and urea and support package for medium farms can
increase the growth level.
It is also point of
serious concern that government has not allocated any amount for disaster
mitigation or relief and reconstruction. There are strong evidences that
another disaster may hit the country during this year.
This omission is
certainly not an oversight but shows misplaced priorities. Areas in Sindh
and Punjab that are food producers and contributors of national revenue
need attention to reconstruct infrastructure and subsidies to recover from
flood losses of 2010 and 2011.
An estimated Rs 10
billion is needed to rebuild damaged infrastructure and create strong
foundation for disaster mitigation and preparedness. These aspects
didn’t get any attention of our budget planners.
The development budget
of Rs.873 billion needs to be spent intelligently. Priority should be
given to water and power sector, on-farm infrastructure development,
support systems and low interest loans and emphasizing on social sector
health education and poverty alleviation, can provide need boost to
The budget has once
again failed to prioritize important investments needed to support growth
target and achieving national development goals.
The writer is Deputy
Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global Campaigner
linguistic bonds of a civilization are stronger than its religious bonds,
says professor Naeem ur Rehman Farooqi, former Pro Vice Chancellor of
Allahabad University. “So the connection between India and Pakistan is
inherent and intrinsic, something that no political and military power can
In an interview with
Aman Ki Asha, he said that the history of a civilisation cannot be divided
along communal or even epochal lines. “You cannot say that on that
particular day, the ancient era ended and the medieval began, it’s all a
complex mixture of shared myth, values and beliefs.”
Born in Azamgargh, Prof
Farooqi completed his secondary education from Gorakhpur and joined
Allahabad University in 1971. In 1978 he went to University of Wisconsin
on a Fulbright fellowship to complete his PhD on the political
relationship between the Mughal and the Ottoman Empire. He learned Turkish
at UW and spent six months in Istanbul going through the archives of the
Ottoman Empire related to the Mughals from 1556 to 1748.
“I was the first
historian to delve into the subject, it was a delightful experience. A new
world opened up to me,” he said of his experience.
The division of Indian
history among communal lines began in 1817 with the publication of the
books ‘The History of British India’ by James Mill, holds Prof.
Farooqi. “Prior to that, the history of this region was not studied as
the history of Hindus and Muslims. The idea of dividing the Indians among
Hindus and Muslims never occurred in the academia before the publication
of this book.”
Mill’s book soon made
it into the canon of history books by the British and then it made its
place in “mandatory readings” in British civil service exams.
“That’s where the seed of discord was sown among the intelligentsia.
As new invaders, the British opted for the divide and rule policy.”
On the creation of
Pakistan, Dr. Farooqui holds the view that in the initial years, the
partition put the Muslims who chose to stay in India, in a very
disadvantageous position. “The cream of the Muslim community came here
(to Pakistan), leaving the masses floundering in confusion,”
But with the passage of
time, said Farooqi, the Indian Muslims stood on their feet and are now as
ambitious and vibrant as any other community in the country. “What
worked for the Muslims in India is that they are scattered in almost all
the states as a sizable minority that the politicians cannot ignore, so
their rights are more or less safeguarded.”
Commenting on the state
of Pakistan, Dr. Farooqi said that it’s unfortunate that Pakistan lost
its founder in the early years. “Had Jinnah lived longer, Pakistan would
have been a very different place from what it is today,” he said.
Farooqi said anybody who is faintly acquainted with the speeches of
Jinnah knows that he was a secular man and his idea of Pakistan was to
have a country that protects the rights of the Muslims and it’s all.
In that respect India
was lucky. “Nehru lived for 17 years after the British left, he
appointed Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad his education minister. Dr Azad gave
India the education system that the country follows to this day. He
inculcated secular values in the textbooks and raised a generation based
on the essentials that India calls its own.” Nevertheless, Dr. Farooqi
does not deny that there has been a rightist influence and fiddling with
history, leading to debates about tampering with the education system that
continue to this day.
What does he, someone
who has carved out a glittering career in Humanities, think about the
future of humanities — are subjects like English literature, history,
political science, being sidelined due to the rising demand of hardcore
business and computer science courses? “No doubt that there is a decline
in the demand of humanities, but the situation is worse in Pakistan, when
compared to India,” responded Dr Farooqi. He said that his own son is
pursing a degree in computer studies.
In India, he says, the
perennial hunger for the civil services makes the subjects of humanities
popular. “We have our craze for MBA and IT, but the young Indians still
find the government bureaucracy a viable option, which keeps the
humanities subject always in the list of preferences.”
Commenting on the future
relationship of India and Pakistan, Dr. Farooqi said that efforts like
Aman ki Asha are the rays of hope that people of both countries look to.
“Pakistan and India
have a bitter history of rivalry, but as a historian I can say that the
world has seen worse cases of animosity. France and Germany are shining
examples of the worst and the best relationships between neighbours. Look
at them today.”
growing city — Karachi, lays in disaster zone and given its feeble
infrastructure, particularly in coastal areas, has further increased its
vulnerability towards natural disasters like earthquake, heavy rains,
tsunami, tropical and non-tropical storms.
The significant risks
posed to the city by potential natural disasters are that significant
population segments could be marooned. High winds can cause widespread
damage and take a heavy human toll. Blockage of storm water drains, if not
kept properly maintained and encroachments removed, can deepen the
post-cyclone flood impact and hamper relief operations due to flooding of
essential communication infrastructure.
Breakdown of essential
services like electricity and water can further aggravate the humanitarian
impact of the disaster. Most
importantly, lack of preparation of the Karachi city for cyclone response,
i.e., absence of shelters, evacuation plans and poor state of emergency
response services makes, the city increasingly vulnerable.
The city’s existing
infrastructures, including high-rise commercial and residential buildings,
hospitals, schools, water supply and drainage network, and unsustainable
land-use patterns that are much likely to suffer of enormous proportions
should any disaster strikes.
Fourteen cyclones, four
of them ferocious, were recorded between 1971 and 2001 in coastal areas of
Sindh and Balochistan. The cyclone of 1999 in Thatta and Badin districts
eliminated 73 settlements. It killed 168 people and 11,000 cattle. Nearly
0.6 million people were affected. It destroyed 1800 small and big boats
and partially damaged 642 boats, causing a loss of Rs380 million. Besides,
the damage to the infrastructure were estimated at Rs750 million, she
The city’s planners
and managers hardly seem to have learnt lessons from the experiences of
narrowly escaping passing cyclones and earthquake tremors of higher
magnitude in recent years. Apart from it, thickly populated coastal
communities of the cities are in the snooze of ignorance and may be caught
unawares if any disaster strikes these coastal areas.
Korangi, DHA, Saddar,
Kemari, Lyari localities, bordering with the coastal belt and comprising
3.65 million population, are the most vulnerable areas to natural
disasters including cyclones, windstorms. While these localities of the
Karachi city are situated in the most disaster-prone area, any single
disaster can result in heavy death toll and massive devastation to the
The coastline snaking
along the Karachi district is about 135KM long, extending along the Gharo
Creek westward beyond Cape Monze to the estuary of the Hub River.
During recent visit to
some coastal areas in Karachi, the scribe found most of the infrastructure
including water supply network, sanitation system, sewerage and wastewater
disposal system like in other parts of the city is in a dismal state.
Conditions of the existing schools and health facilities are not
residing along the Karachi coast are inadequately aware of risks from
tsunami or any disasters that may hit their areas anytime. Most of them
never realise that a peacefully subsiding wave might turn into a
devastating wave that could uproot every single structure and wipe out
communities without giving them time to flee it,” said Sameena Mirbhar,
a local schoolteacher in Ibrahim Hydri coastal village on the outskirt of
communities, especially those in small islands and creeks, have no
elevated grounds, they are more vulnerable to a risk of being buried in a
watery grave, should be there any rise in a sea level or any cyclone
“Absence of integrated
vision for the city has hampered the implementation of development plans
for the city, unplanned and unsystematic growth has led to acute civic
problems and environmental degradation resulted in deterioration of living
deficient infrastructure and utilities, absence of the unified town
planning and building regulations, inadequate disaster and crises
management has exposed the city and its dwellers to a host of potential
threats from possible natural disasters,” said Mahjabeen Khan, head of
environment programmes at the Karachi-based Society for Conservation and
Protection of Environment (SCOPE).
There are four major
faults around Karachi and along the southern coast of Makran in
Balochistan province. An earthquake of over 8.0 on the Richter scale could
generate a fatal tsunami in the area, resulting in heavy loss of the life
and unleashing massive destruction to the property and infrastructure.
Chief Meteriologist at
the Pakistan Meteriological Department in Islamabad, Dr Ghulam Rasul, said
with most current structures erected in breach of building codes, a jolt
of such magnitude can flatten a city like Karachi.
What adds more to the
worry is that the coastal areas are without gadgets to receive early
warnings that can otherwise help local communities to respond to early
warnings of any disaster in much advance that is in the making. Given the
fact, the community members will come to know about potential natural
disaster when it is too late to react to.
“No investment has
been made ever in preparing these communities or those settled in the high
[so-called safe] grounds in any part of the city to understand the signs
of any impending disaster. Lack of this decipherment on the part of local
people can intensify loss of the life or devastation further,” said
Mohammad Ali Shah, chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum in Karachi.
institutions prepared for disaster response are yet to build up their
capacities to respond to any disaster and hence not capable enough to take
care of the disasters. Recent gushing floods exposed such the capabilities
of provincial and district levels disaster management bodies, he said.
have pressed on need for investment in disaster risk mitigation and
adaptation programmes, particularly those which are community-based.
among vulnerable communities about how to decode the natural signs of any
impending natural disaster and respond to it in timely manner, identifying
and developing escape routes and building up elevated ground and producing
volunteers trained for responding to disasters and helping during
evacuation times can be of great help,” said Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, chief
executive of the LEAD, Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation engaged
in climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in different parts
of the country.
He also underlined need
for building disaster-resilient and earthquake-resistant infrastructures,
which can help lower chances heavy death toll and massive damages to the
infrastructure. Mr. Sheikh also urged the government authorities concerned
to ensure that building codes are strictly abided in the city and every
building structure and community has systems that can help in disaster
Conference on Sustainable Development held at Rio De Janeiro, Brazil from
June 20 to 22 also known as Rio+20 was termed as ‘a
once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to put the world on sustainable
development path by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
It was one of the most
debated conferences as for the first time the concept of green economy,
along with sustainable development, was brought to a UN conference. It was
the initiative of Europe to put green economy as major theme.
The preparation for zero
draft of the conference started in June 2010 and ended on June 20, 2012.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the head of states and official
delegation at Rio+20 on Thursday June 21 and announced that beyond a
shadow of doubt, we had entered a new era.
“We have made
significant progress. Now is the time to take the final big step”, he
said. “Now is the time for action. Let us not ask our children and
grandchildren to convene a Rio+40 or Rio+60. Now is the time to rise above
narrow national interests — to look beyond the vested interests of this
group or that. It is time to act with broader and long-term vision. Here
at Rio+20, we can seize the future we want. Let us not pass it by. Let us
make Rio our legacy … a foundation that future generations can build
on”, he said.
But nobody seems happy
with the outcome paper of the conference. Green Economy, which is one of
the main themes of the conference, is only fleetingly mentioned in one
paragraph of the document. Sources indulged in preparation of final draft
told TNS that the EU is not happy with the text and is asking various
organisations and governments to push for reopening certain issues.
During final preparation
round at Brazil some African courtiers also threatened to boycott the
whole process. However, Brazil, host of the conference, forced its agenda
as it does not want to see conference a failure.
A read of final document
shows that the section of the green economy is probably the weakest in the
whole document. Experts believe that one of the biggest mistakes was to
select two themes because those are the themes on which no progress has
There is really no
agreement of any substance on green economy. The text simply says that
this is an idea which countries can apply in ways that they see fit
through voluntary measures and through undefined or not likely to be
defined areas of support.
Even on the
institutional framework there is more or less reaffirmation, there is only
one major change which is that the commission on sustainable development (CSD)
which was finding it difficult to peruse its work is now to be replaced by
sustainable development forum with pretty much the same mandate but,
again, there is no indication that the new forum would be able to do what
CSD was unable to do.
So, even though the
problem has been recognised just change in nomenclature is not going to
change the situation. In the case of UNEP, although there is considerable
expression of goodwill the only substantive change is the universal
membership with its governing council, it’s not clear how it’s going
to change the working of UNEP.
The issue of access of
developing countries to technology has also not been defined clearly. In
fact, it seems many developed countries do not want to commit anything and
even the agreement released in Rio at 1992 or between Rio and
Johannesburg, there has been a retreat from them.
The same thing about
financial support, since 1962 developing countries have been trying to get
some clear commitment from developed countries about financial support. At
the beginning, they said it would be one percent of GDP, then it was 0.7
percent and there is also commitment on new and additional resources of
new challenges none of that actually has happened.
There is the third issue
many countries were concerned about that nature, instead of being
protected or supported, would actually be made part of market system and
anything could be done with it.
The argument of the
people who are supporting is that this would give actually a higher value
to nature. “Any right-wing economist would know that it is not the case
and this would actually end up destroying nature, mainly because putting a
price on it is simply a way of justifying doing away with some of those
things. It would also end up empowering the poor people although there are
tall claims that it could not be done. Even on this, some of the worst
language has been deleted, so it’s not as bad as it started out to
be”, says Dr Tariq Banuri, former Director of Division for Sustainable
Development at United Nations (UN) and active participant at Rio+20
conference from the platform of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
The areas where there
has been progress, one is the genuinely new idea of sustainable
development goals and process has been set up to define them through
inter-governmental consultation. Another area of progress is the
sustainable development financing although no decision was taken but a
more dedicated inter-governmental process has been set up to undertake
consultation. It is not sure if it would lead to any significant results,
but at least there is a recognition that there is a problem.
The 10 year programme of
sustainable consumption and production has been adopted. But there is no
funding at this movement so it’s not clear how it will move forward.
There are some pockets where some decisions have been taken but the
challenges are big and this was an opportunity to confront those
A majority of civil
society organisations, including Green Peace, have called this a
fraudulent document and have vowed to start a civil disobedience movement
against the document.
Executive Director, Northern Alliance for Sustainability tells TNS,
“Science is very clear. If we do not change in the coming five to ten
years the way our societies function, we will be threatening the survival
of future generations and all other species on the planet. This event was
an opportunity for governments to be the saviours of the planet. It is all
up to them. And yet we stand on the brink of Rio+20 being another failed
attempt, with governments only trying to protect their narrow interests
instead of inspiring the World and giving all of us back the faith in
humanity that we need. If this happens, it would be a big waste of power,
and a big waste of leadership”, she says, adding, “It does not in any
way reflect our aspiration, and therefore, we demand that the words “in
full participation with civil society” are removed from the first
paragraph”, she says.
“On the issue of
finding resources to implement sustainable development, we see countries
using economic crisis as an excuse, while at the same time spending
billions of dollars subsidising the fossil fuel industry, the most
profitable industry in the world”, she says.
Rijnhout believes there
are many other failures in the document related to women’s reproduction
health, missed opportunities to start new global treaties on civil society
participation and on sustainability reporting, the extraordinary lack of
any reference to armed conflicts, nuclear energy (especially after the
Fukushima disaster), and many others.
Dr Banuri says that
final outcome is disappointing for a lot of people. NGOs have rejected it.
“Most people believe that it does not come up to anybody’s
expectations. On the other hand, one can also say that the attempt to roll
back the global agreements on equity is not successful. My sense of this
document is that even though it is a disappointing document, it is not a
disastrous document in the sense that it does not do a lot of bad things
that we were afraid it could do.”, he says.
Dr Banuri says Pakistan
should take note of this document and should realise that our own policies
have to be based on the knowledge that is reflected in the document.
“It does not give a
very clear direction of what the other countries are going to do because
the better we have that sense the more we can tailor ourselves. There is
no commitment whatsoever in the document to provide support to developing
countries and that is also a weakness because poor countries do require
international support. The document on this front is a complete
failure”, he concludes.
An agreement on
a “compromised” declaration on “the future we want”, a day before
Rio+20 conference were to be officially inaugurated, proved to be an
anti-climax before the climax could unwind. Last week, delegations of 191
countries gathered in Brazil’s historic city of Rio to choose the
architect of planet’s future amidst the worst environmental crisis,
social inequity, and financial crisis the world is facing today.
For many, the forty
pages Rio+20 declaration is one step forward two steps back. The developed
countries could not completely go back from what they agreed during the
last 20 years. However, they did manage to dilute their commitments by not
coming up with any action plan against those commitments.
In 1992, the global
community agreed on 27 principles for sustainable development through the
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. For developing countries,
the most important one was the principle of common but differentiated
responsibilities (CBDR). Principle 7 of the 1992 Rio Declaration reads:
“…. In view of the different contributions to global environmental
degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The
developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the
international pursuit to sustainable development in view of the pressures
their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies
and financial resources they command.”
CBDR is an explicit
confession by developed world for its unsustainable consumption and
production which had created imbalance and inequities within and across
generations. Through CBDR, the developed world agreed for technology
transfer and financial aid for developing countries as a compensation for
creating these inequalities.
The second major
milestone for sustainable development is the World Food Summit of 1996,
where the term food security was coined. This concept gave the dimensions
of distributive justice and nutritional value of food to the debate of
eradication of hunger.
The third important
milestone was UN Millennium Resolution passed in September 2000; commonly
known as Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are to be achieved by
2015. While agreeing on MDGs, the developed world once again reaffirmed
technology transfer and financial assistance.
While three more years
are left for achieving the MDGs, most of the developing countries
(including Pakistan) have already conveyed that they would not be able to
achieve the targets set for poverty reduction, improving mother and
children health, improving literacy, and environmental conservation.
One can find hundreds of
shortfalls among developing countries due to which they would not be able
to achieve MDGs: poor governance, corruption, and lack of political will
are the salient ones. However, the major external factors for this failure
remain the failed commitments of developed countries for developmental
assistance (minimum 0.7 percent of GNP) and technology transfer to the
Paris Declaration of
2005, its follow-up meetings in Accra did talk of aid effectiveness.
However, Busan Agreement on Development partnership of 2011 changed the
development assistance architecture and the traditional donors (OECD
countries) stressed upon China and India to contribute financial resources
on voluntary basis and provide development assistance to the developing
Many in the developing
world, while appreciating the potential role that emerging economies such
as China and India could play in catalyzing transition towards sustainable
development, noticed that developed world was trying to find a respectable
way out of CBDR.
The EU and US
governments, faced with their own fiscal crisis are rapidly shrinking
their developmental assistance; tightening the regime of protectionism in
the name of protecting their local industries (goods and services) and
shying away form technology transfer in the name of intellectual property
rights regime. So much so that last week the US Trade Commissioner
formally announced that due to fiscal crisis it was difficult to stick to
US’s commitment on “Duty Free Quota Free Access” for least developed
countries, meaning backing away from Doha Agenda of WTO.
It is in the above
mentioned context Rio+20 (the conference on sustainable development) was
being perceived as a major opportunity to remind that the global north was
mainly responsible for most of the climate change related problems that
the world is facing today.
The developing countries
(G77 plus China) wanted an expedited implementation on principle of CBDR
and in the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “The world is
watching to see if words will translate into action, as we know they
must.” Another aim set for the conference was to improve the global
institutional arrangement for sustainable development. Energy, food
security, and social inclusion were still other points where a collective
resolve and action was required from international community in order to
follow the principles of sustainability.
As expected, there was
difference of opinion on fundamental issues between developed and the
developing world (and among developing blocks as well) in the preparatory
committee meetings in the run up to conference.
The host government
along with some Latin American Countries had floated the idea of
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). However there was neither a concrete
construct of SDGs not a clear modality to achieve them. Many developing
countries were of the opinion that without incorporating the lessons
learnt from MDGs, SDGs would have been another failure.
China and G-77 wanted to
link the idea of SDG with CBDR, asking the developed world to fulfill
their differentiated responsibilities. The talk of Green Economy also got
diluted due to lack of consensus on the concept of green economy as a
common undertaking. Energy issue also remained a contested one as there
was no commitment from the developed world on withdrawal of their massive
fossil fuel subsidies. The differences and confusions around climate
financing and adaptation fund also remained unresolved.
In the above-mentioned
context and in the changing global circumstances, especially the Euro zone
crisis and the US fiscal deficit the biggest achievement for developing
world is that the developed world, although managed to dilute its
commitments, could not completely back out from them.
Having said that, there
is also a message for emerging economies and developing world that they
cannot simply shift the burden of their unsustainable development on
developed world and would have to bring their house in order too.
One needs to realise
that Rio+20 is another chance to turn our common vision into action for
the future that we want. Our next generations do deserve sustainable
prosperity without socio-economic poverty in a well protected environment.
All of us have to do to the best of our abilities to ensure this future
through ensuring individual security.
The cost of inaction is
huge and its consequences would have to be born equally by the developed
as well as the developing world in the shape of national, regional, and
The writer heads the
Sustainable Development Policy Institute. He was part of official
delegation to Rio+20 and is contactable at email@example.com