debate
Deconstructing the 'deal'

How exactly would a deal-induced transition of power from a military-headed to a civilian regime be able to ensure that military does not commit institutional overstepping in the future?
By Amjad Bhatti
The recent rumours and rhetoric about Benazir-Musharraf interface in the growing socio-political chaos has given media analysts an opportunity to read between the lines an emerging 'corporate bargain of political interests' between two power contenders. While one represents the ebb and flow of political struggle, the power of second emanates from the institutional hierarchy of the most powerful outfit of the state. Indeed, the bargain between both would not be a new tradition in the country but its implications seem to give new dimensions to the political future.

Newswatch
Putting SMEs at the top of the agenda

By Kaleem Omar
Commentators on a current affairs programme broadcast last week on the state-owned PTV were heard making much of the fact that an American CIA report released recently had stated that poverty in Pakistan had gone down by 10 per cent since 2000. Do we really need the CIA to tell us this? Can't we figure this out for ourselves?

Justice in the dock
Pakistan's constitutional history has been a series of wrestle-acts between the executive and judiciary
By Hussain H. Zaidi
It is possible to write the politico-constitutional history of Pakistan only in terms of the attempts by the executive to control the judiciary and divest it of its independence. Armed with the power to appoint superior court judges, transfer them (from High Court to the Federal Shariat Court), and remove them during military regimes (simply by not inviting them to take oath under the provisional constitutional orders), the executive has more often than not been controlling the judiciary. Not surprisingly, therefore, the judiciary has been made to put its seal on the most controversial executive actions including the abrogation of constitution and dismissal of legislatures.

comment
The helpless people

The struggle against a repressive and authoritarian ruler cannot be waged successfully without the help of masses, who unfortunately are suffering from 'learned helplessness'
By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr Ikramul Haq
"The main illness of Pakistan is not Islamism, but militarism." -- Frederic Grare in 'Islam, Militarism and the 2007-2008 Elections in Pakistan', Carnegie Papers, Number 70, August 2006

firstperson
Dr Muhammad Zubair Khan
Finance man

Political stability is essential for investor confidence to assure continuity in policies. By governing outside the constitutional framework, the present regime has failed to create predictability in the political future of the country. Seven years of the same regime does not mean stability. In fact, it is 'continuous instability'.
By Raza Khan
Dr. Mohammad Zubair Khan has done his PhD in Political Economy from John Hopkins University in 1978. He is currently a member of the National Finance Commission (NFC), member Securities and Exchange Commission and member Provincial Finance Commission, NWFP. He is also a consultant of World Bank, Asian Development Bank and UNDP. Dr Zubair has also been consulting in the areas of country risk assessment, natural resource development, stabilisation policies, monetary policy, trade and exchange rate issues, fiscal and external debt sustainability, fiscal federalism, tax administration and poverty related issues. He is a regular lecturer at central banks of Egypt, Sri Lanka, NIPA Lahore, Pakistan Administrative Staff College and National Defence College

critique
What it means to be modern

It is only in establishing the interest and power of the collective that true individual freedom can be achieved
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Arguably the most definitive feature of modernity is sociological individuation, or, in other words, the fact of the individual constituting the basic unit of thought, action and analysis in society. This is a significant departure from the 'traditional' social formation in which the family -- typically extended -- forms the basic unit. In the latter case, allocation of resources and other basic decision-making processes tend to be guided by a collective -- if quite often parochial -- logic, whereas modernity implies a commitment to the classical liberal values of individual liberty, protection of private property and a state committed to the protection of these basic 'rights'.

Drive to excel
Urban transport system can be improved by building up capacity of the existing service providers instead of carrying out new experiments
By Dr Noman Ahmed
While driving on the major streets, one experiences wild attitudes of fellow motorists. The more articulate looking yuppies tend to drive fast, though occasionally making use of indicators and other control systems. The neo-urban driver breed, captives of the begum sahibs, are the most ruthless of all! With their crude driving skills which are barely enough to shackle the monster, they can be observed turning, screeching and even honking crazily along the busy streets of Pakistani cities.

 



debate
Deconstructing the 'deal'
How exactly would a deal-induced transition of power from a military-headed to a civilian regime be able to ensure that military does not commit institutional overstepping in the future?
 

The recent rumours and rhetoric about Benazir-Musharraf interface in the growing socio-political chaos has given media analysts an opportunity to read between the lines an emerging 'corporate bargain of political interests' between two power contenders. While one represents the ebb and flow of political struggle, the power of second emanates from the institutional hierarchy of the most powerful outfit of the state. Indeed, the bargain between both would not be a new tradition in the country but its implications seem to give new dimensions to the political future.

A brief historical overview reveals that the transition of power from military rulers to the civilian regime led to major historical events in Pakistan's brief history. Ayub Khan's coup in 1958, Yahya Khan's coup in 1969 and Zia-ul-Haq's coup in 1977 proved to be watersheds of political development in the country. According to some analysts, General Ayub started civilianising his regime by co-opting politicians after 1962. General Yahya surrendered power to civilian rule only after 1971 debacle, whereas General Zia converted military's 'overt' rule into a 'covert' rule by setting up controlled government in 1985.

In line with this, what forms the upcoming transition under General Musharraf? There are various 'rumours' which include: First, Musharraf doffs the uniform of army chief, wears designer Shervani and stays back in the presidency. Benazir goes to the prime minister house and forms her cabinet. Even if this is a serious option considered by the involved parties, the core issue of civil-military relation would still remain problematic.because the transition of power is made through 'transactions' and not through massive political mobilisation.

The 'deal' or 'reconciliation' between political institutions and military establishment is not expected to bring radical changes in the structural dynamics of power. Rather this is being considered as a pragmatic solution for the growing mess at political and institutional level.

According to some informed quarters, this is state's own script which has been written for the 'king' and the 'queen' to be performed in the theatre of public entertainment. Media calls it a 'deal', while some view this as a strategic management by the influential power-wielders to help bail the state out of a multidimensional crisis and bring some respite to the growing pulls and pressures. Some critics maintain that populist forces are always deployed by the military interests as a 'ventilator' to the imminent radical politicisation or to neutralise the divisive implications of authoritarian rule.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a renowned political analyst, maintains that the extended military rule in a multi-ethnic and diversified society increases political fragmentation and creates vested interests supporting authoritarian and non-democratic political arrangements. "These conditions make the task of political management difficult for any post-martial law civilian regime aiming to establish its credentials as a genuine democratic government while not alienating the senior commanders," Rizvi explains.

According to a recent report released by an American thinktank, it looks like Musharraf is inclined to give 'concessions' to Benazir Bhutto and this is being heatedly discussed among journalists and political analysts in the country. Yet, this 'concession' in its essence is an intricate instrument of control, seemingly manufactured by the global dictates of politics. Some would say, Musharraf has outlived, and a re-born Benazir is needed. Will Benazir also give desired concessions to General Musharraf? Apparently, the deal got stuck here.

An interesting issue regarding the much discussed deal would be how the 'reconciliatory forces', which are also the third party, tend to deal with the 'deal'. It is an inevitable fact that the battlefield of US establishment's 'war on terror' is just on our threshold. Against this backdrop, the political re-alignment in a 'hotspot' like Pakistan is not possible without the 'policy advice' of the Centcom.

However, the government representatives and spokespersons of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), all in one voice, deny the news of any political bargain putting forward their high-sounded arguments wrapped in a puritan morality. "No compromise on principles." "It is disinformation." "No deal possible with plunderers." "No deal possible with dictators." Senator Durrani says, "a deal drama is part of flop disinformation campaign by the PPP." Benazir's spokesperson former senator Farhatullah Babar affirms, "We would not board a sinking boat." Shaikh Rashid assumes the role of 'whistle blowing', lifting his stature as an 'insider'.

The nosy media makes a selling story out of it. Where is the political participation of public in all this dealing wheeling? How a commoner looks at it? What message this kind of secretive reshuffling of power would bring to the masses? How does it affect the importance of public vote? How does it contribute to the 'sustainable democracy'? These questions are considered non-issues and turned down as unnecessary verbosity by the matter-of-fact politicians and cut-and-dry power brokers.

Zillur R. Khan, a Professor at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, reminds us about Jawahar Lal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, who instructed a revision in the training manuals of the army, air force, and navy to reflect the change in civil-military relations in the postcolonial era. The revision focused on incorporating into the training manuals of the three services, a detailed analysis of the legitimate role of military institutions in a democracy. Comparing India's case with Pakistan, professor Khan contends that "the military leadership of Pakistan, on the other hand, has followed Field Marshal Ayub Khan's usurper-caretaker model, with an effective organisation requiring the least physical force for takeover of civilian governments from time to time."

Will Benazir Bhutto or any political leader of Pakistan will ever be able to follow the political courage of Nehru? Would the desired transition of power from military regime to the civilian regime allow ensuring a revision in the curriculum of Pakistan army? This does not appear to be a very promising idea as the army in Pakistan has developed an entrenched interest and influence in Pakistan's political and commercial portfolios.

Selig S. Harrison, director of the Asia programme at the Center for International Policy in Washington, while writing in Herald Tribune (September 23, 2002) states this commonplace fact that Musharraf has elbowed aside the bureaucracy, installing 76 generals and 600 brigadiers and colonels in a variety of key civil service posts. According the Herald Tribune report, military officers are now running most of the powerful government agencies that oversee the Pakistani economy. Among the dozens of such agencies under military control are the Karachi Port Authority, the National Shipping Corporation, the National Highway Authority, the National Fertilizer Corporation, the Pakistani Steel Corporation, the Oil and Gas Development Corporation and the Minerals Development Corporation. Six university vice-chancellors are also military officers, the Herald Tribune report indicates.

Against this backdrop, how would a deal-induced transition of power from a military-headed to a civilian regime be able to ensure that military does not commit institutional overstepping in the future? This is not possible without a popular movement demanding army to resume its professional role of defence and security. Therefore, some political analysts believe that Benazir like her father is going be made another instrument of transition. It is so because the professional and political image of army is no more enviable at home and abroad. Internal pulls and pressures coupled with risky international partnerships are contributing to expose the true state of military's professionalism and expertise. Political management is turning to be harder day by day. These signs of fatigue became clearly evident in the last couple of weeks.

The general premise is that Benazir might serve better to international partnerships and to local sentiments. It would be still a difficult decision for Benazir to belittle her political legacy for an unsure business. Having experienced both power and sufferings, Benazir Bhutto might have learnt it more closely that "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce."


Newswatch
Putting SMEs at the top of the agenda
 

Commentators on a current affairs programme broadcast last week on the state-owned PTV were heard making much of the fact that an American CIA report released recently had stated that poverty in Pakistan had gone down by 10 per cent since 2000. Do we really need the CIA to tell us this? Can't we figure this out for ourselves?

I am reminded in this context of an evening at a friend's house in Clifton, Karachi back in 1972 when the city, along with some other parts of Sindh, was in the grip of language riots.

When I got to my friend's house, I found half a dozen people sitting there steeped in gloom. "What's the matter?" I asked. One of them replied "We've just heard on the BBC that there's been a lot of trouble in Nazimabad." It struck me as odd, to say the least, that here were some Karachiites who had to depend on the BBC to find out what was happening in their own city.

Things don't seem to have changed much since those days if we still have to depend on foreign sources for information about our own country.

Be that as it may, poverty reduction has become a much debated topic in Pakistan in recent years. Government planners say that the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, prepared in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund, provides "a strong and credible strategy for the coming years to achieve lasting reduction in poverty."

But no poverty reduction strategy can succeed unless creating an environment favourable to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is put at the top of the agenda. What is needed, then, is a comprehensive policy package aimed at creating an entrepreneurial Pakistan.

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of Pakistan's economy. They represent 90 per cent of all enterprises in the country, provide millions of jobs and are an essential source for entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. 

Prerequisites for creating an environment favourable to businesses include improving the knowledge on the SME population. Producing reliable and updated statistics is crucial in this respect.

The government should also set up an SME policy group to formulate and coordinate policies relating to SMEs. The group should be chaired by the federal finance minister, with the federal and provincial industries ministers, provincial finance ministers and other officials as members. It should also have members drawn from the business community, including representatives of the SMEs.

Encouraging entrepreneurship is a key to creating jobs, improving competitiveness, boosting exports, fostering economic growth and reducing poverty. In any such endeavour, education and training play a vital role. Training programmes, which define entrepreneurship as a basic skill, must stress the importance of developing an entrepreneurial spirit among Pakistani citizens.

Projects on the development and implementation of entrepreneurship training curricula should be chalked out, including entrepreneurship amongst women and management capacity building. An education toolkit on private equity financing and venture capital should also be developed.

Difficulties experienced in starting up an enterprise can clearly act as a direct brake on entrepreneurship. Policy makers therefore need to place considerable emphasis on improving start-up procedures. A best-procedure benchmarking exercise should be carried out, establishing a clear mapping of federal and provincial procedures and identifying illustrative cases of best practice, with the aim of reducing delays.  

SMEs are the most sensitive of all to changes in the business environment. They are the first to suffer if weighed down with excessive bureaucracy. And they are the first to flourish from initiatives to cut down red tape and reward success.

SMEs must be considered as a main driver for innovation, employment, poverty reduction and social integration. The best possible environment for SMEs and entrepreneurship needs therefore to be created.

In order to gain a better understanding of the real economic position of small and medium-sized enterprises and to remove from that category groups of enterprises whose economic power may exceed that of genuine SMEs, policy makers need to make a distinction between various types of enterprises, depending on whether they have holdings which do not confer a controlling position (partner enterprises), or whether they are linked to other enterprises.

SMEs face particular difficulties. To compensate those difficulties, federal and provincial legislation needs to be enacted to grant various advantages to SMEs.

Such legislation must acknowledge the dynamic capacities of SMEs in answering to new market needs and in providing jobs. It must stress the importance of SMEs in fostering social and regional development, while behaving as examples of initiative and commitment. It must recognise entrepreneurship as a valuable and productive life skill, at all levels of responsibility.

The situation of SMEs in Pakistan can be improved by action to stimulate entrepreneurship, to evaluate existing measures, and when necessary to make them small-business-friendly, and to ensure that policy makers take due consideration of SME needs.

To this end, policies should be put in place to: (a) promote and strengthen the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to enable enterprises to face the challenge ahead; (b) achieve a regulatory, fiscal and administrative framework conducive to entrepreneurial activity and improve the status of entrepreneurs; (c) ensure access to markets on the basis of least burdensome requirements that are consistent with overriding public policy initiatives; (d) facilitate access to the best research and technology; (e) improve access to finance throughout the entire life cycle of an enterprise; and (f) improve performance continuously, so that Pakistan offers a user-friendly environment for SMEs.

Government agencies and policy makers must also listen to the voice of small business and promote top-class small business support.

Emphasis must also be placed on education and training for entrepreneurship. General knowledge about business and entrepreneurship needs to be taught at all school and college levels. Specific business-related modules should be made an essential part of education schemes at secondary level and at colleges and universities. Young people's entrepreneurial endeavours should be promoted and encouraged. And appropriate training schemes should be developed for managers in small enterprises.

The costs of companies' start-ups should evolve towards the most competitive. Delays and burdensome procedures for approving new companies should be minimised and eventually eliminated. Measures should be put in place for online access for registration.

Bankruptcy laws should be assessed and modified in the light of good practice. New regulations at the national, provincial and community level should be screened to assess their impact on SMEs and entrepreneurs. Wherever possible, national, provincial and local rules should be simplified.

Policy makers should endeavour to ensure that training institutions, complemented by in-house training schemes, deliver an adequate supply of skills adapted to the needs of small business and provide lifetime training and consultancy.

Policy makers should formulate and pursue reforms aimed at creating a user-friendly environment for small businesses including electronic commerce, telecommunications, utilities, public procurement and payment systems.

Tax systems should be modified to reward success, encourage start-ups, favour small business expansion and job creation, and facilitate the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Entrepreneurs need finance to translate ambitions into reality. In order to improve the access of small enterprises to financial services, policy makers should: (a) identify and remove barriers to credit; (b) improve the relationship between the banking system and small enterprises by creating appropriate access conditions to credit and to venture capital; and (c) increase funding available to start-ups and high-technology enterprises, including equity instruments.

Measures should also be adopted to strengthen the technological capacity of SMEs. The measures should include programmes aimed at promoting technology dissemination towards SMEs as well as the capacity of small businesses to identify, select and adapt technologies to improve their capabilities to enter domestic and export markets.


Justice in the dock
Pakistan's constitutional history has been a series of wrestle-acts between the executive and judiciary
 

It is possible to write the politico-constitutional history of Pakistan only in terms of the attemptsby the executive to control the judiciary and divest it of its independence. Armed with the power to appoint superior court judges, transfer them (from High Court to the Federal Shariat Court), and remove them during military regimes (simply by not inviting them to take oath under the provisional constitutional orders), the executive has more often than not been controlling the judiciary. Not surprisingly, therefore, the judiciary has been made to put its seal on the most controversial executive actions including the abrogation of constitution and dismissal of legislatures.

Judges who do not succumb to pressure from the executive are penalised. The current presidential reference against the chief justice of Pakistan on charges of misconduct and restraining him from performing his functions is the latest and the stormiest chapter in this sordid history.

During Pakistan's history, the first real test of the independence of judiciary came when the superior courts were called upon to adjudicate on the dismissal of the first constituent assembly by the governor general in 1954. The dismissal of the constituent assembly, which was also serving as the Federal Legislature, was challenged by its President Moulvi Tamizuddin in the Chief Court (now the High Court) of Sindh. The Chief Court in its historic judgement accepted the petition and declared the dismissal of the constituent assembly invalid in exercise of its powers under Section 223-A of the Government of India Act 1935, which at that time was the interim constitution of Pakistan. The government went into appeal against the decision of the Chief Court in the Federal Court (now the Supreme Court), which at that time was headed by Justice Muhammad Munir. The Federal Court, by majority of opinion, reversed the decision of the Chief Court. The apex court did not go into the legality of the dismissal of the constituent assembly. Rather, it ruled that Section 223-A of the Government of India Act 1935, under which the Chief Court had issued the writ against the government, was not a valid piece of legislation because it had not received the assent of the Governor General.

The Federal Court verdict is arguably the most important judicial decision in the history of Pakistan because it sets the direction of both parliamentary democracy and executive-judiciary relations in Pakistan. Had the Federal Court upheld the Sindh chief court decision, the history of parliamentary democracy and judiciary-executive relations in Pakistan would have been altogether different: a well-established democracy and a stronger judiciary.

In October 1958, the 1956 constitution was abrogated and countrywide martial law was imposed. The entire administrative and legislative machinery was taken over by the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) vide the Laws (Continuation in Force) Order 1958. The apex court was called upon to adjudicate on the legitimacy of the new regime in what is known as 'The State versus Dosso and Others'. The court, again headed by Justice Munir and drawing inspiration from Hans Kelsen's doctrine of necessity held that a successful revolution or coup d'etat was an internationally recognised method of changing a constitution. Hence, the Laws (Continuation in Force) Order 1958 constituted the new legal regime from which all legal instruments and institutions including courts derived their validity and legitimacy.

The judicial verdict had far-reaching implications, the most significant being that success was the only test of the legitimacy of a military coup and no judicial decision could make it illegitimate. Another implication was that the courts derived their authority from the new legal regime put in place by the CMLA and were therefore bound to uphold the supremacy of that regime. The decision was thus an invitation to future military adventurers to step in. 

The Supreme Court decision in the Dosso case came in for sharp criticism from the apex court itself in 'Asma Jilani versus Government of the Punjab'.  According to the court, it was difficult to appreciate under what authority martial law could be proclaimed.  By itself, a military coup or a legal regime put in place by a military ruler was not legitimate. Rather, they acquired legitimacy only when courts recognised them as de jure.

The Supreme Court landmark judgement created hope that in the future judiciary would not put its seal on extra-constitutional actions of the executive. However, contrary to the expectations, in 'Begum Nusrat Bhutto versus Chief of Army Staff and Federation of Pakistan', the apex court again declared Gen Ziaul Haq's military coup as legitimate on the basis of state necessity and welfare of the people. The court observed that in the wake of the political crisis which erupted after the 1977 elections, a situation had arisen for which the constitution did not provide any solution. As the welfare of the people and safety of the state were in imminent danger, the army takeover was justified and the army chief could not be termed a usurper of power.

It is pertinent to mention that an independent judiciary is essential for protecting public rights; without this basis, the notion of public welfare is meaningless. The Zia regime, true to its character, tried to put the judiciary in chains through various measures the most important of which was the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) 1981. The following provisions of the PCO were anathema to the independence of the judiciary.

Superior court judges who did not take oath under the PCO ceased to hold their offices.

The executive was empowered to transfer a judge from a High Court to the Federal Shariat Court.

All orders of the CMLA were declared valid, notwithstanding any judgement of any court.

The Supreme Court decision in the judges appointment case (March 1996), represented a valiant attempt by the judiciary to assert its independence and free itself from the shackles of the executive. Before that, there were a couple of other cases in which the superior courts exhibited remarkable independence. The most notable was the Supreme Court's 1988 verdict against holding elections on non-party basis. It was that verdict which paved the way for the restoration of democracy. Coming back to the 1996 judges case, the court ruled: "The opinion of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the Chief Justice of a High Court as to the fitness and suitability of a candidate for judgeship is entitled to be accepted in the absence of very sound reasons to be recorded by the President/Executive." The decision implied that the judges of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the president on the advice of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The advice was binding unless the president had sound reasons to act otherwise. The decision ended the executive's discretion in the appointment of judges.

The court also declared transfer of a High Court judge to the Federal Shariat Court without his or her consent as a violation of the fundamental character of the constitution. The reason given by the court was that Article 230-C, under which the executive was empowered to transfer a High Court judge to the Federal Shariat Court without his or her consent was incorporated in the constitution by the then CMLA (Gen. Ziaul Haq under the PCO 1981) and was in conflict with Article 209, which was enacted by the framers of the constitution.

The row between the judiciary and the executive during the Nawaz Sharif government is an ugly chapter in the constitutional history of Pakistan. The crisis erupted when the government showed reluctance to elevate five judges to the Supreme Court on the recommendations of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif had earlier praised the Supreme Court March 1996 judgement as leader of the opposition. But as a Prime Minister, he was reluctant to implement the same. In the end, the Prime Minister agreed to elevate the judges only after the President had decided to notify the elevations on his own. But that did not resolve the crisis.

The Prime Minister was summoned to the Supreme Court on the charge of contempt of court. As contempt of court proceedings against him were in progress, the inconceivable happened: The Quetta bench of the Supreme Court suspended its own chief justice. The decision was confirmed by the Peshawar bench of the apex court. But the Chief Justice and some other judges at the principal seat did not accept the decision. The worse was yet to be. A mob, ostensibly at the behest of the government, attacked the Supreme Court and the judges had to run for their lives.

Many other examples can be presented to show how the executive has tried to emaciate the judiciary. But the bottomline remains the same: the executive in Pakistan has never been well-disposed towards the idea of an independent judiciary. And when it comes to stifling the judiciary, all political parties act alike when in the saddle. The moment they are driven out of power, they become staunch supporters of a strong and independent judiciary.

All said and done, rule of law is a product of an independent judiciary, without which democracy and social justice cannot take root in a society.

"The main illness of Pakistan is not Islamism, but militarism." -- Frederic Grare in 'Islam, Militarismand the 2007-2008 Elections in Pakistan', Carnegie Papers, Number 70, August 2006

Frederic Grare, as visiting scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, assesses US and European policies towards Pakistan. He is a leading expert on South Asia, having served most recently in the French Embassy in Islamabad and, from 1999 to 2003, in New Delhi asDirector of the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities. Grare has written extensively on Islamic movements and has edited the volume, 'India, China, Russia: Intricacies of an Asian Triangle'.

In his paper quoted above, he has analysed various scenarios that may emerge vis-a-vis the forthcoming Pakistani elections. He lamented that "despite the blatant rigging of the 2002 elections, the international community remained mute, accepting a military dictator who promised to fight political Islam and promote 'enlightened moderation' but then did neither". People of Pakistan are suffering irreparable losses for tolerating a military dictator, who is bent upon destroying all the State institutions and norms of a civil society.

Today, in Pakistan, we are witnessing all kinds of conflicts -- economic, socio-political, centre-province disagreements, sectarian, tribal, ethnic and religious fights, and what not. The chaotic situation arising out of perpetual crises is assuming alarming proportions, threatening the very existence of the national state. From shameless attack on judiciary to sheer failure to combat rising tide of self-proclaimed right of imposing Islamic order by a handful of enthusiasts in Islamabad, the warning given by Grare of grave consequences to the West for relying on a military dictator is proving correct. One wonders if policymakers in US administration or the West have bothered to give due attention to the paper written by Grare and published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in August 2006.

The criminal culpability of supporting a dictator by US and its allies in the name of so-called 'war on terrorism' (sic) has now started showing its worst side in Pakistan -- from institutional crises to breakdown of civic society, which is attacked by self-styled, so-called religiously-motivated guardians of morality. It is also posing a great danger to international community as forces of obscurantism are gaining support in EU states where Muslims feel that they are second class citizens. Grare has warned that forces of obscurantism will keep on gaining more and more acceptance and support of Muslim masses as long as General Musharraf continues to get his backing from Bush and his allies.

The conclusion by Mr Grare in 'Islam, Militarism and the 2007-2008 Elections in Pakistan' that the "main illness of Pakistan is not Islamism, but militarism" is well-reached and convincingly argued. He has rightly highlighted the crux of the issue that the West applies double standards while dealing with despotic Muslim rulers, which creates hatred amongst the masses. The much-cherished values of democracy and freedom in the West are conveniently ignored while pampering repressive rulers who are playing havoc with the lives of their people in the Muslim world and depriving them of both economic benefits and fundamental rights. These undemocratic rulers are 'friends' of the West as they serve their economic interests.

For the prevalent chaotic condition in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world, besides the corrupt, incompetent, unpopular and inefficient rulers, blame must also be shared by the US administration and its Western allies. Corrupt and autocratic Muslim rulers patronised by them in the long run will prove counterproductive and will bring for the international community further dangers of disorder and chaos. These rulers are in fact acting as catalysts in promoting the cause of terrorists.

As things are emerging, General Musharraf will try to forge an alliance with the so-called secular parties (most significantly with PPP headed by Ms Benazir Bhutto as it enjoys the support of the US administration), to avoid the frustration of dependence on MMA he had to bear in the wake of success of religious grand alliance in 2002 general elections. The political parties as usual are divided and unwilling to resign en masse to launch a united movement against General Musharraf for the restoration of democracy in the country. Unfortunately, some of them appear eager to join hands with the military junta in the forthcoming elections.

Accepting General Musharraf as president of Pakistan in uniform for another term of five years is no problem for them provided corruption cases are withdrawn and they are given 'due share' in power. Here lies the strength of General Musharraf that despite repressive and authoritarian rule, and after subjugating and/or dismantling all the State institutions, he can still forge alliance with popular parties in the country and by doing so can secure continued support of Uncle Sam and his Western allies.

The tragedy of Pakistan besides misgovernance and lack of democracy is unholy alliance between the establishment (both civil and military) and political elite. This anti-people alliance dispossesses the people from the wealth of natural resources and economic benefits of the country. Unless this unholy alliance is destroyed, there is no hope of establishment of true democracy and rule of law in Pakistan. The way General Musharraf handled the defiant Chief Justice of Pakistan [who was not ready to act as a rubber stamp the way parliament does] and maltreatment meted out to him since March 9, 2007 shows how far a US-backed military dictator can go to humiliate his own people and make a mockery of the rule of law. The removal of Chief Justice of Pakistan is not only unconstitutional, but also casts a ghastly shadow on our legal history.

In legal perspective and constitutional interpretation, it needs to be emphasised that the chief justice of Supreme Court is also the chief justice of Pakistan, meaning that he is the head of the entire judicial system. These two positions are distinct and from this perspective the unlawful removal of Chief Justice of Pakistan by an executive order, which is not mandated in constitution, amounts to crippling the entire judicial system of the country. If Musharraf survives after this worst possible transgression with the help of the US and the support of any political party, history will never forgive the Pakistani political leaders and intelligentsia for not mobilising the common people against such an authoritarian ruler.

The struggle against a repressive and authoritarian ruler cannot be waged successfully without the help of masses, who unfortunately after perpetual military rules are suffering from "learned helplessness". Learned helplessness, as demonstrated by empirical data in 1965 by psychologist Martin Seligman, arises from apathy. Once a person knows he is helpless, he stops making any effort to change his circumstances and develops apathy as a way of life. The masses of this country have become apathetic after continuously witnessing the hopeless conduct of their political leaders, who failed to do anything for them during their rules [twice the leading parties PPP and PML(N) got a chance to serve the people but they opted to make money and/or please the mighty generals].

Such apathy arising from 'learned helplessness' is the reason why the masses are not ready to take to the streets as was the case when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto started a movement against the military power or Sheikh Mujibur Rehman countered atrocities in the then East Pakistan. In those days, political apathy was non-existent as people had faith in their leaders and were ready to fight for their rights. Our political leaders must focus on regaining the support of masses through scarifying their worthless parliamentary seats as a first step. They must help the masses to overcome the syndrome of 'learned helplessness' and apathy.

This apathy can only be shaken off if all the political parties and intelligentsia join hands to support the movement of lawyers aimed at saving the independence and freedom of judiciary. The unconstitutional removal of Chief Justice of Pakistan is violation of fundamental right of free access to justice, which a military dictator wants to deny to the people of Pakistan. Dictatorship and democracy -- the main pillar of which is true dispensation of justice -- cannot co-exist.

Recent examples of this policy of divide and rule are creating rift between lawyers, encouraging tribal battles to weaken the anti-government elements in certain tribal areas, and promoting religious extremism, through certain madrasas which are funded by the government, to counter the liberals so that instead of uniting against fighting for removal of the military dictator they should rather seek his support. These tactics by a dictator are not new. Every dictator indulges in these kinds of policies and tactics to perpetuate his rule.

At this critical juncture of history, it is the people of Pakistan who will have to decide their fate. If they once again fail to force a dictator to step down, no one will be able to avert a long and dark period of subjugation that renders a nation neither amongst the dead nor alive -- the worst possible punishment history can inflict on apathetic people.

 

The writers ([email protected]) are members of Visiting Faculty of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). They have authored many books and papers


firstperson
Dr Muhammad Zubair Khan
Finance man

Political stability is essential for investor confidence to assure continuity in policies. By governing outside the constitutional framework, the present regime has failed to create predictability in the political future of the country. Seven years of the same regime does not mean stability. In fact, it is 'continuous instability'.
 

Dr. Mohammad Zubair Khan has done his PhD in Political Economy from John Hopkins University in 1978. He is currently a member of the National Finance Commission (NFC), member Securities and Exchange Commission and member Provincial Finance Commission, NWFP. He is also a consultant of World Bank, Asian Development Bank and UNDP. Dr Zubair has also been consulting in the areas of country risk assessment, natural resource development, stabilisation policies, monetary policy, trade and exchange rate issues, fiscal and external debt sustainability, fiscal federalism, tax administration and poverty related issues. He is a regular lecturer at central banks of Egypt, Sri Lanka, NIPA Lahore, Pakistan Administrative Staff College and National Defence College

Dr. Zubair served as Pakistan's Federal Minister for Commerce during 1996-97 while also serving as a speech writer to the president from 1994-97.

There are some important publications to his credit which include 'Financial Markets and the East Asian Crisis'; 'Kickstarting Pakistan's Economy', 'NWFP Private Investment, Growth and Development'; 'Economic Integration in Asia' BFA China.

Recently TNS talked to him at length on various economic issues of Pakistan and particularly NWFP.

 

TNS: How do you look at the current financial health of the country and how true are the claims of government about building huge forex reserves?

DZ: During the seven years of unbridled power with unprecedented international support and more resources than ever before, the present regime had a unique opportunity to shape the economic destiny of this country. Yet today Pakistan presents a picture of striking contrasts. On one hand, the country is experiencing a consumption boom and asset price escalation ever seen. Urban land prices have skyrocketed and the Karachi Stock Exchange index has crossed record levels. The Government of Pakistan claims that Gross Development Product (GDP) growth rates are higher, per capita income has doubled to $800, employment is up and poverty reduced through a trickle down of benefits. The GOP also claims forex reserves have exceeded $11 billion, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) may cross the $2 billion mark, indicating confidence in Pakistan. This is quite a rosy picture.

In contrast, most of the population feels excluded from the economic boom, continues to suffer in congested mass transport, has limited access to safe water and sanitation and can barely pay electricity bills. For them high real estate prices mean that owning a home is impossible and many have lost their lifetime savings in the manipulated and volatile stock market. Inflation has seriously eroded the purchasing power of fixed and lower income people. There is not a single government school or hospital of an acceptable standard of service. Poverty is pervasive and may have actually increased. Macroeconomic indicators point to serious imbalances in the fiscal and external accounts. Institutions are in decay, law and order and the justice system unsatisfactory. The military is at war in two regions of the country against its own people. This picture is quite bleak.

It is obvious that both pictures take a partial view. Viewed together, we cannot escape the conclusion that while there has been a revival of economic activity and some have benefited, it looks like a shining veneer on a rusty body.

What is more conspicuous is that Pakistan has increasingly become a country of great disparities across social and income groups, urban and rural divide and provinces. Most importantly, the institutional weaknesses and security issues could well jeopardise the economic revival altogether.

TNS: Why do different economic indicators show a negative trend, despite having huge forex reserves?

DZ: Just three years ago, Pakistan's economy was enjoying one of the lowest rates of inflation, a low fiscal deficit, a surplus on the external current account and growing forex reserves. In the period since then, the fiscal deficit has doubled annually in terms of GDP, inflation has reached double digits, the trade account deficit has exploded offsetting the large inflows of remittances and the current account has shifted from surplus to a significant deficit.

The rapid emergence of macroeconomic imbalances is the result of the initial adoption of an inappropriate monetary policy response to the continuing inflow of foreign exchange. Later a rash policy of monetary expansion during 2003-2005 also contributed to it together with a naive approach to public debt management that financed budget deficits with direct borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). The result was inflation and excessive domestic demand, eventually causing a deficit in the external current account. And the exchange rate appreciated in real terms eroding the competitiveness of exports and domestic import substituting sectors.

The problem is graver than what the GOP would have us believe because the $2 billion FDI which the government boasts will finance the external imbalance and fill the investment gap, actually includes proceeds of privatisation, which is not new investment. FDI, in services, typically tend to be a net drain on the balance of payments rather than help finance current account deficits. The sustainability of the economic revival is threatened by the urgent need to address inflation including by raising interest rates, but that will hamper investment which is already too low?

While adequate investment, which if successfully generated, will add to domestic demand and increase the current account deficit, unless domestic savings can be increased significantly. Ways out of this macroeconomic mess are available, but these involve conflicting choices between growth and inflation. Both choices diminish the prospects that benefits will ever trickle down to the poor.

TNS: How can wars in the region impact Pakistan's economy?

DZ: Continued economic growth in Pakistan and reduction in poverty requires higher investment than we have at present. Pre-requisites for private investment in any economy are peace, political stability and the rule of law. Unfortunately Pakistan remains afflicted by the absence of all three. Instead of capitalising on the peace dividend after tensions with India were reduced, the GOP started boasting of being a frontline state in somebody's else's war, the war on terror. Before long, policy failures led to launching two wars within the country against different segments of our society.

Today newspapers report equally from the domestic front as from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is no surprise that investors are more likely to speculate and trade than choose long-term investment. To encourage industrial investment in Pakistan, we really need to put our guns away and find political solutions to our differences.

Political stability is essential for investor confidence to assure continuity in policies. By governing outside the constitutional framework, the present regime has failed to create predictability in the political future of the country. Seven years of the same regime does not mean stability. In fact, it is 'continuous instability.' The sooner we return to the constitutional process, the better it will be for investor confidence and the country.

TNS: Pakistan is a country with extreme financial and resource centralisation. How has this stunted the economic growth of the country and impacted the smaller provinces?

DZ: In Pakistan the ethnic distinction of provinces makes horizontal equity in development vital to political stability and national cohesion. The separation of East Pakistan was rooted in a perception of economic injustice. The 1973 constitution, by addressing many of the contentious economic issues, provided the country another opportunity to address regional disparities and strengthen the federation.

Unfortunately, violations of the constitution as well as partisan interpretation of various articles have aggravated economic disparities and rekindled perceptions of economic injustice. Two provinces have reached the limit of their tolerance; in Balochistan people have started waging a war triggered by perceptions of inequity, while NWFP has decided to rectify its grievances through an arbitration tribunal.

The failure of the NFC to reach a consensus could potentially destabilise Pakistan's federal structure. Lack of consensus on the NFC was further complicated by the continuing dispute over the determination of royalties and surcharges on gas and hydel profits. Despite having potential persuasive powers, the federal government failed to display leadership and a commitment to constitutional obligations in resolving disputes over the NFC.

Instead, when the deadlock over NFC persisted, the federal government asked all the NFC members to sign off their constitutional responsibilities in favour of the president on letters drafted for them, giving him unquestioned authority to decide whatever he deemed fit. Unfortunately three provinces signed off their responsibilities. NWFP held its grounds saying that it would violate the constitution and further erode provincial autonomy, while setting a precedent that would weaken the federation. In response the government announced an award anyway.

Not surprisingly, the changes announced in the 1996 award do not reflect any principles or equity considerations. The share of the federation has been reduced by an amount which is a mockery of the needs of the provinces. To add fuel to the fire, the federal government has subsequently withdrawn federal support for provincial investment programs, thus taking away more than what little they had initially given.

TNS: Being engaged in different official capacities with the economy of NWFP, how would you describe the financial health of the province?

DZ: As in other provinces, NWFP depends on federal transfers for over 90 per cent of its resources. Yet there has been a marked improvement in the financial health of NWFP since the reform process was started in 2000. This has been done by making efforts to increase our own revenues and user charges, negotiating more money from the federation through NFC and reducing NWFP's debt service liabilities.

TNS: How would you comment on the general belief that the MMA government in NWFP has failed to deliver in economic terms?

DZ: I think that if such a perception exists at all, it is misfounded. Although NWFP has made progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) much remains to be achieved. The most recent data available on the outcomes is of 2001-02. It is expected that more recent data for the period of the Provincial Reform Program would show improvements in these indicators. Moreover progress in reform implementation and improved input and intermediate indicators give a strong indication that the underlying progress is substantial.

The Government of NWFP has made substantial efforts in the last few years to improve the lives of its citizens. Progress has not been uniform and certain reforms have taken longer than expected. The NWFP Government has taken significant steps in areas of reform, such as in fiscal, public financial management and service delivery. Significant progress has also been made in governance and civil service reforms and in facilitating growth and development of the private sector. But there is no doubt that because of the low starting point, NWFP still faces huge challenges and needs to continue with the direction and pace of reforms for poverty reduction and human development.

TNS: Was it wrong to take the unpaid share of NWFP's share in net hydel profit to an unconstitutionally constituted arbitration tribunal as per NWFP government's agreement with the federal government?

DZ: Not at all. I take pride in initiating this idea at the NFC before the last general elections. As you know hydel profits is not a NFC issue but falls under article 161 of the constitution and therefore could not be put on the NFC agenda. While outside the NFC, the federation and Wapda were refusing to even respond to Government of NWFP's letters on the hydel issue for many years during previous governments.

In order to force the federal government to respond, I argued that since hydel profits could potentially be a major source of revenue for NWFP, our stand on financial issues could not be made unless we could settle the issue of hydel profits first. Consequently it was agreed to bring it within the purview of NFC, but we met with a stalemate in which conflicting views of Wapda and NWFP could not be adjudicated upon by the NFC.

There were two options: to seek redress via the Supreme Court which many believed in 2001 could not judge the issue as independently as it would judge now in April 2007, or seek a binding arbitration of an independent judge. We chose the second option. When agreement at the NFC was reached on all issues except hydel profits before the general elections in 2002, the NWFP team refused to sign the NFC award unless the federal government agreed to the arbitration on hydel profits. The NFC could not be awarded since the federal government failed to agree. After the elections, the MMA government supported the same approach and eventually we were able to force an arbitration and a verdict which is in accordance with the constitution and strengthens the federation.

This route adopted by the NWFP was far better than the route taken by the Baloch nationalists who seek to address their grievances through an armed struggle. I hope the federal government will abide by the arbitration verdict and send a clear signal to all provinces that there is a legal route to settling differences.

TNS: By compromising its outstanding amount towards Wapda of over Rs 400 billion -- the net hydel profits from 1974-91 -- the government has inflicted an irreparable loss on NWFP. Your comments.

DZ: No one has compromised any pre-1991 NWFP dues. It is mere propaganda by those whose governments paid only lip service to achieve provincial constitutional dues.They could not win a single rupee for the province and now probably feel that their failure has been exposed by our success. The pre-1991 dues is a pending issue which future governments must pursue.

Arguably the most definitive feature of modernity is sociological individuation, or, in other words, the fact of the individual constituting the basic unit of thought, action and analysis in society. This is a significant departure from the 'traditional' social formation in which the family -- typically extended -- forms the basic unit. In the latter case, allocation of resources and other basic decision-making processes tend to be guided by a collective -- if quite often parochial -- logic, whereas modernity implies a commitment to the classical liberal values of individual liberty, protection of private property and a state committed to the protection of these basic 'rights'.

Perhaps a more qualitative -- although related -- indicator of modernity is its association with a belief that man -- in the form of the 'free' individual -- can shape the natural world in the way in which he chooses. The much slanted 'fatalism' and 'superstition' of the pre-modern period are supposedly now well and truly behind us, or at the very least, as the pioneering modernisation theorists of the 1950s and 1960s insisted, if any society does not benefit from the innumerable wonders of the modern world, it is because that society chose not to walk the path of modernity. Thus the Third World is condemned to its plight at least partially because it does not adopt the techniques, methods and practices that have made the first world what it is.

This is a myopic view of the world that acknowledges little about the dynamics of modern political and economic structures, and particularly the very real legacies of the colonial debacle. But it is also startlingly blind to the obvious evidence that modernity is here to stay in all parts of the world, including the most 'backward' of post-colonial societies. The third world is characterised by its utterly modern cities, even if they are missing the 'civilized' and 'rational' features of first world cities. The Third World's most remote villages are now being overrun by cable TV, Pepsi and the inevitable cultural influences that the returning migrant workers bring with them. Modernity is indubitably a global phenomenon, primarily because of the overwhelming reach of capital, and it is simply foolish to suggest that the 'problem' with the Third World is that it is not modern enough.

The language of modernisation from the colonial period centred around the mythical concept of development, and it still does. If it is no longer kosher for the 'experts' to suggest that the Third World has not shed its pre-modern values and thought processes, it is still more than acceptable to couch similarly ethnocentric assertions in the language of development. Over the years the development paradigms championed by the world's rich countries and the international financial institutions (IFIs) has been subject to considerable criticism, particularly following the fall of the socialist bloc and the subsequent swoop of capitalism on a previously non-capitalist world. And so the language of development has also undergone numerous facelifts to match the fashions of the day.

That being said, not much has changed. The IFIs still champion obsolete mega projects -- particularly dams and canals -- under the guise that 'big development' is the best way for agrarian economies to extricate themselves from the 'underdevelopment trap'. The results are unambiguously bad -- even the IFIs themselves acknowledge low success rates and a host of disastrous impacts including the accumulation of huge debts, massive social dislocation, ecological crises, and a shift from subsistence agriculture to cash crop farming which subjects the small and landless farmer to the vagaries of the international market and ultimately leaves him incapable of meeting his basic needs. This obsession with 'mega-development' projects is situated within a larger economic paradigm in which neo-liberal values and policies are accepted as unquestioned truths.

At the heart of this ongoing crusade of the dominant classes and institutions of the world to 'modernise' and 'develop' is a battle between a conception of the world in which man unproblematically conquers nature and one in which man clearly recognises the unwritten laws of the natural world and evolves a manner of co-existence that neither compromises the eco-systems that man inhabits nor subjugates man to man through the unprecedented violence and exploitation that has become an accepted fact in the modern world.

Needless to say the more enlightened scientists of previous and present generations have insisted that science is not designed to conquer nature, but rather the constant struggle is to understand it and then allow humanity to evolve more effective and even sustainable ways to survive and improve the human experience. Yet this ideal has always remained an elusive one; in practice, the fruits of science have been swallowed up whole by dominant classes, nations, and empires that have employed it to reinforce their power and to further subjugate the weak while sacrificing the very earth we inhabit.

At least part of the problem is the belief of many scientists themselves that science is a means of conquering nature, of condemning to the past foolish superstitions that had societies believing that praying to a higher power was a sign of wisdom and humility. But what such ultra-rationalists fail to understand is that the so-called 'traditional' worldview is far richer than is implied in exhortations against superstition. And besides, is it not time to move away from the fashions of lamenting tradition and underdevelopment and instead make an honest indictment against the very modern processes and values that have got us into the mess we are in today?

As suggested earlier, the people, regions and continents that continue to be dismissed in conventional academic circles as 'backward' and 'underdeveloped' are no less a part of the process of capitalist modernity than the rest of the world. They indeed have a different history and culture to that of the average European society, but they are also subject to many of the same impersonal forces that characterise the modern era, and most often they are at the wrong end of the bargain. It is simply obfuscating the facts to suggest that the battle between tradition and modernity still rages as the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close.

It is however true that the confrontation between those committed to a modern way of conceiving the world that seems unwilling and/or unable to acknowledge the possibility of progressive elements within the 'past' and those who understand that modernity is irreversible yet do not celebrate it uncritically is one that will persist for at least a little bit longer. It is important to bear in mind that, at the present juncture in this country and many others like it, the most vocal opposition to the many unspeakable injustices that are a direct result of capitalist modernity is voiced by revivalist forces which, because of the machinations of the state and imperialism, come across as the only principled defenders of humanity and righteousness. Their ability to make inroads into society is largely explained by the hegemonic use of religion as their primary idiom. Yet, these forces are neither able nor willing to provide a meaningful response to the crisis of modernity, and this is better understood if one realises that they themselves are unique products of modernity and seek only to secure a stable share for themselves within its established political, economic and cultural spaces.

For all of their clamouring, the revivalists tend to avoid the really hard questions, focusing on an excessively cultural critique of modernity. The real critique of modernity must recognise its multi-pronged essence, while a challenge to the inherently destructive aspects of it -- almost all of them related to the ruthless expansion of capital -- must be able to dislodge the structure that underlies the systematic destruction.

This is not a black or white question, and cannot be considered so. There is one absolute however, and that is the unprecedented danger of unbridled individualism, arguably the major pillar of capitalist modernity. It is only in establishing the interest and power of the collective that true individual freedom, and therefore the promise of modernity as genuine human advance in harmony with nature, can be achieved.


Drive to excel
Urban transport system can be improved by building up capacity of the existing service providers instead of carrying out new experiments
 

While driving on the major streets, one experiences wild attitudes of fellow motorists. The more articulate looking yuppies tend to drive fast, though occasionally making use of indicators and other control systems. The neo-urban driver breed, captives of the begum sahibs, are the most ruthless of all! With their crude driving skills which are barely enough to shackle the monster, they can be observed turning, screeching and even honking crazily along the busy streets of Pakistani cities.

To prove their worth for the salt, they are quick to pick up any quarrel on the streets. The mighty feudals can be routinely observed behind the tinted glasses of high speed cruisers, at times with a mini motorcade of their own. Our servants of the nation -- bureaucrats and senior police officers -- use the same profile as their land lord cronies, while moving on the roads. Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists can be found running for their lives, whenever confronted by these haughty folks. Social divide and class structures has spread its tentacles firmly into all avenues of life, not barring the streets and roads. Accessibility and physical connectivity are prime considerations in the efficient performance of cities. These factors also constitute a vital issue with respect to social justice.

The rich and powerful are usually found to control the public resources which are diverted towards projects and programmes that are expected to generate limited benefits. For instance, in Karachi, Lyari Expressway is being constructed to facilitate fast movement of cars and other similar vehicles. It shall cost more than Rs 20 billion if completed on time. The maximum number of cars that are likely to use this highway is not more than 10,000 per day. In contrast to this value, ordinary citizens generate more than 10 million work trips that need to be serviced through public transport. Independent experts are of the view that even if half of this amount would be spent on acquiring ordinary buses, the citizens shall be able to obtain significant relief in daily commuting.

It is unfortunate to note that our political decision makers are entirely captive in the hands of big money adventurers in the domain of public transport. In their usual functioning, they respond to the marketing gimmicks of the investors instead of paying attention to the actual need of the people and the cities at large. Three mentions are vital to be considered in this respect. In May 2005, the Chief Minister of Punjab accorded approval to the US$500 million proposal to develop light rail transit (LRT) through imported technology. This decision was entirely contrary to the standard practices in public sector working where work cannot be awarded without competitive bidding.

The short sighted yellow cab scheme, which was launched in 1990s, had a terrible consequence on the overall economy of the country. A sizable chunk of the banking capital was diverted towards the costly purchases -- including imports -- of motor cars. Taxis constitute para transit mode which have a limited impact on the overall commuting needs. Thus the scheme was not able to generate any worthwhile and sustainable outcome on the movement of ordinary people. A similar venture is in the offing at present. Permission has been granted to an entrepreneur to ply black London cabs on the Pakistani cities. One is speechless to weigh the relevance of this project across the burgeoning problems faced by the masses.

Urban centres in Pakistan can resolve the issues of commuting through very simple and time tested solutions. These solutions have been applied in various parts of the developed and developing world and found to be effective. Scores of research studies and documentations are available in the universities and institutes of repute that establish the validity and significance of people-friendly solutions in respect of transport sector. If the present regime is really interested to address the plight of common people, then low profile and cost effective solutions must be given priority in implementations. It shall help ease out some of the burden that masses have to shoulder in a bid to lead a decent life.

Public transport cannot be facilitated without strong and well managed institutions. Our cities have memories of some of these service provision companies or corporations that ran well for some time but eventually fell apart due to various reasons. Government Transport Services in several provincial capitals, Karachi Transport Corporation, Sindh Road Transport Corporation and the recently created Karachi Public Transport Society are few examples. Poor maintenance of bus fleet, limited incentives to the staff, internal corruption and mismanagement did not allow these institutions to survive. It must be remembered that the public transport is a service which cannot make profits for sure. However, if managed efficiently and cautiously, it has the possibility of survival and generating operating revenue.

The various pubic sector ventures simply failed to deliver sustainable service due to lack of understanding of this vital principle. The need of the hour is to build up the capacity of the existing service providers through financial assistance, capacity building in technical and managerial respects, and extension of corresponding advantages such as the allocation of proper terminal spaces in the public domain. If managed properly, a good bus fleet is the answer to transport problems of the medium and large sized cities in the country. This is not only a cheap option, at least when compared to expensive projects currently being contemplated, but also capable to bridge the social divide. If decent and efficient public buses shall be available, many car users will be attracted to use them due to their cumulative benefits.

Large cities, such as Lahore and Karachi can also benefit from surface rail based solutions. In Karachi, the circular railways was an intensely utilised option till the 1980s. It possesses an exclusive right-of-way and has the capacity of transporting large commuter volumes, if suitable modifications are made to the system.

In the prevailing scenario where the economic managers are averse to the extension of subsidy, the public transport sector needs a special mention. There are many sectors which are treated as an essential service such as maintenance of law and order or security. These services are extended irrespective of any geographical or locational advantage. It is therefore vital that the city neighbourhoods should be connected to work locations in a uniform manner. In reality, it is a difficult proposition.

Most of our cities have developed in such a manner that the high income groups live close to the city centre or major work locations. Lower income groups are left with limited options and thus reside far away from their work places. A sizable part of their meagre incomes is spent on bus/mini bus fares. A peon living in Orangi in Karachi spends half of his salary on transport simply to maintain his job. Contrarily, a CEO of a multinational who resides in Defence Society and goes to work in Clifton, spends a fraction of his income on transport. Such anomalies merit review on an urgent basis. Intelligently worked out financial management solutions can be of relevance.

Specialised outlets of fuel for filling the public vehicles, fare rate adjustments, motor vehicle tax exemptions for public transport vehicles and loans with cheaper financial costs to transporters are some options. Besides the government must consider to raise the level of motor vehicles tax for private cars so that the rich may balance the cost of their luxury with the poor.

Transport and landuse are integral variables. The cities which maintain equilibrium in between these two aspects are able to survive and function satisfactorily. There is no hard and fast concept in this respect. Some key considerations help in the rationalisation of urban land management. The land use decisions, especially with reference to changes, must be made after a detailed transportation analysis. The 'through' or fast moving traffic should be allowed to continue unaltered. Public transport should be assigned priority of movement and parking in all the residential and commercial areas. Speed limits and road section alignments may be worked out in such a way that public transport moves without hindrance and interference.

In many cities around the world, the creation of exclusive bus lanes have proved to be useful. Choice and design of public transport vehicles, signalisation and synchronisation of vehicle movement and alignment of routes are few important matters that need to be intelligently handled.

Public transport, like all other types of transport, are driven by illiterate and semi-trained drivers. Many of them only understand the basics of the vehicle operation without even any rudimentary understanding of traffic system and signals. It is ironic to note that such a vital service of our urban performance is handled in a medieval fashion.

Driving attitudes have a major impact on the efficiency of transport system. Many problems related to traffic jams, congested road space, noise pollution due to pressure horns/tape recording and accidents can be curtailed by proper driver education. Technology can be employed for traffic monitoring. Tracking devices and street cameras can be used to document traffic offences, especially those committed by drivers of public transport vehicles. The value of non-motorised transport such as bicycles is very important. For short and medium range trips, bicycles can become a cheap and effective mode. Many forward looking cities such as Geneva in Switzerland and Bogota in Colombia have applied them. There is no reason why these people/environment friendly solutions cannot be applied in our context.

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