life
Shaping an image
Slim, well-toned bodies are not just there on the billboards, they haunt the minds of women of all ages
By Sarah Sikandar
It is everywhere. The rage for 'perfection'. From bedrooms to drawing rooms, colleges to offices, committee parties to gyms, the obsession for perfect beauty has consumed the days and nights of ladies. Slim, well-toned bodies are not just there on the billboards but haunt the minds of women of all ages; from teenagers to middle-aged aunties, the fixation with replicating the billboard beauty seems to be the order of the day.

The Russian connection
The split in the ranks of Taliban has delayed the much-talked about summer assault against the coalition forces in Afghanistan
By Behroz Khan
Though some Pakistani officials reject any connection of the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov -- the first by any high-ranking Russian to Pakistan in past 40 years -- with the 'mass uprising' of tribesmen to evict the battle-hardened Uzbekistanis from Wana, critics of President Musharraf do see a link between the two.

Taal Matol
Bone!
By Shoaib Hashmi
For some odd reason, I keep thinking of an old story from the American Civil War. As you might know back in 1850 the southern states of the US seceded from the Union to form their own nation; the rest, led by Abraham Lincoln would not accept this and the two went to war. It was the first modern war, and it went on for five years and cost hundreds and thousands of lives, was a seminal episode in the history of America, and one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of man.

situationer
Politics recharged
With judges and generals turning on each other, how does this startling development impact the politicians and their parties?
By Adnan Rehmat
Political parties in Pakistan have finally been afforded a massive public engagement opportunity to rally around ahead of parliamentary elections. This is their ticket to engage the public on an issue the people feel strongly about, without considerations to political affiliations. Understandably the political parties want to cash in on the sympathy factor by offering themselves as the voice of public concern.

Rescue rally
The MQM rally is understood to have been organised to serve many other purposes besides the stated one
By Shahid Husain
Tens of thousands of followers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) rallied in the city of Karachi on April 15 against the onslaught of religious extremism that has gripped the capital city of Islamabad. Ironically though, when MQM leader Altaf Hussain in his 2-hour long telephonic speech denounced 'Kalashnikov and Danda Bardar Shariah' of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa 'fanatics', it was difficult to erase the memories of a not-too-distant-past when Kalashnikov culture was the order of the day in Karachi.

RIPPLE EFFECT
No bijli, we are Pakistani
By Omar R. Quraishi
When do you know that summer is well and truly here? When the temperature hits forty-plus Celsius? No. You know that the summer is well and truly here in Pakistan when your bijli begins to go out every day, several hours a day. Being a resident of Karachi, this is the norm for at least the past decade -- and the main problem seems to be that the crisis only gets bigger every year. This implies that those who run KESC and those sitting in the federal ministry of water and power in Islamabad (which controls all of WAPDA's various distribution and power generation companies as well as its transmission grid, and KESC too) have no vision, no sense of planning and certainly no urgency about solving the country's acute power shortage crisis.

Shaping an image

Slim, well-toned bodies are not just there on the billboards, they haunt the minds of women of all ages

 

By Sarah Sikandar

It is everywhere. The rage for 'perfection'. From bedrooms to drawing rooms, colleges to offices, committee parties to gyms, the obsession for perfect beauty has consumed the days and nights of ladies. Slim, well-toned bodies are not just there on the billboards but haunt the minds of women of all ages; from teenagers to middle-aged aunties, the fixation with replicating the billboard beauty seems to be the order of the day.

Zainab, a teacher, says, "It has become a problem because media is promoting the idea of conventional beauty which is rampant everywhere and whoever is different is not considered not pretty. Everyone wants to be accepted by becoming something that is socially acceptable. In our society marriage is an important issue and only thin girls are considered to be the perfect catch. Even in the job market if you look at the job advertisements, employees are looking for 'smart, presentable' ladies which everyone knows are skinny well-dressed girls. I believe we are very image conscious."

Most of the people now blame the media for inculcating the negative self-image in women. Hooria, a working woman, thinks it's women's own fault. "They believe what they see on TV. Look at the advertisement where a girl goes for liposuction and comes out happily. Life is perfect. It is as if happiness comes only from your physical image. This is what is being projected and I think we are all responsible. The idea of beauty is impossible for a normal person to achieve. Not all of us are blessed with perfect figured bodies, what about the rest of us?"

Sonya, who works in a local newspaper, also believes that media is the culprit.

"We are focusing so much on the exterior. The media, I believe has a major part to play. Look at our advertisements. It is only when she is fair that the girl gets a handsome boy. Everywhere on our local channels, you see skinny VJs and presenters who have nothing to say but girls look up to them only because they look good."

There are those who trace the reasons for people's behaviour in society and history. Bushra, who works at SAFTA, says that women in South Asia have become obsessed with their image. "The biggest portion of this image is targeted at how fat or thin we think we look. Our problem arises from our colonial mindsets. It is such a mindset that dictates that fair complexion is better than darker or that blonde is prettier than brunette. Most importantly, the notion that skinny looks are sexier than a full figure."

"We tend to follow the Western culture and feel less complete unless our bodies reflect their prototypes. Europe is only starting to realise the social effects of 'perfect' sizes and the death of models Luisel Ramos of Uruguay and her sister Eliana," adds Bushra.

Losing weight to look better is more serious for some people than we might actually think. Sadaf, while sharing her personal experiences, says that the desire to be slim "is a self-inflicting curse. More you think about your looks, the more depressed you become. You end up eating more and eventually become a loner. For the last two years I have put on weight. It affected my self-esteem and limited my social life. I think by gaining weight one's self-image gets distorted. I started avoiding meeting people I didn't know. While talking to someone the only thing on my mind was that the other person is thinking about how fat I am."

Our fears and desires are dictated by the society we live in. Nimra, a clinical psychologist, says, "The desire to adapt to others' ideas of perfection is actually a fight between ego and super-ego. It is a personality clash. Before you face the world you have to fight the clash within. The fear to be left alone imputes a person to achieve something that people believe in. It is human psychology that one wants to be the best and the inability to accomplish that leads to deterioration."

While the majority constitutes those who want to shed 'extra' weight there are those who don't believe in doing something to please others. Saba, a student, says it is ridiculous. "Water diet is the silliest thing. People who do that don't even know what it is. They believe that if you are not cool and thin you are singled out and that is where your lose confidence. This impacts our life in the long run. We have to change our thinking generally."

Nutritionist Dr. Farzeen Malik asserts that not many people in Pakistan are aware of what it means to be healthy. She says that not only in Pakistan but people all over the world are now more concerned about how they look than they were in the past. "This obsession for perfection is not just related to looks but all aspects of society. Many people come to us and say that they want to lose 20kg instantly. I think it is more important to look healthy than to be bony."

Yet there are some women in the public sphere like politics who support the idea of being conscious about one's image. Mariam Mamdot, Joint Secretary Muslim League, is one such person. "I think it is very good and positive because it changes their way of thinking also. Women are coming out as a force in our society. They are working in multinationals, banks and designers. We compose more than 50 per cent of our population. Women should be confident about their image."


The Russian connection

The split in the ranks of Taliban has delayed the much-talked about summer assault against the coalition forces in Afghanistan

By Behroz Khan

Though some Pakistani officials reject any connection of the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov -- the first by any high-ranking Russian to Pakistan in past 40 years -- with the 'mass uprising' of tribesmen to evict the battle-hardened Uzbekistanis from Wana, critics of President Musharraf do see a link between the two.

The Uzbekistanis led by Tahir Yaldash, also known as Tahir Jan, are the remnants of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) headed by late Juma Namangani, who was killed in the US-Anglo air strikes near Mazar Sharif in northern Afghanistan in October 2001. The Uzbeks were invited to South Waziristan Agency and offered safe sanctuary with the consent of local tribal militants after the fall of Taliban regime on December 7, 2001. The IMU fighters are struggling to overthrow the Russia-backed government of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan to impose a 'pure Islamic regime'.

ANP president, Asfandyar Wali Khan, blames Pakistani secret services for bringing these foreigners to the tribal belt along the Pak-Afghan border saying, "the South Waziristan border was left open with the sole intention to repatriate these fighters to be used for destabilising Afghanistan in the post-Taliban era."

There are claims that besides the banned Hizbul Tahreer, Tahir Yaldash's IMU was also behind the uprising in Andijan city of Uzbekistan, but the move was crushed and culminated in the killings of hundreds of people. Tahir Yaldash has not publicly accepted responsibility for the uprising.

Meanwhile, Tahir Yaldash and his fighters have been dislodged from their abode and are on the run. However, neither him nor his top lieutenants have been harmed or captured by the tribesmen, thousands of whom are reportedly searching them in the mountainous region.

According to some reports Tahir Yaldash has been spotted in Mirali sub-division of North Waziristan Agency, another sanctuary for foreigners, especially Uzbeks and Arabs.

Analysts believe that this U turn by the tribal militants against their own guests has dented the image of jihadi outfits and this would play a key role in determining their future status and credibility at least in the region. The tribal lashkar comprising all sub-tribes of Ahmadzai Wazir assembled in Wana and sought a fatwa from the local clerics against Tahir Yaldash and his men, which was issued with overwhelming majority by the ulema.

Commander Nazeer, a former Taliban fighter, who was promoted to the rank by the tribesmen a couple of months back, declared jihad against the Uzbeks, once their brothers-in-faith, and marched his rag-tag army towards the hideouts of the foreigners to purge Wana from unwanted elements. The fatwa of the ulema against a popular jihadi and declaring him liable to death for the crimes he and his group committed during their stay in the region, has not been received well by the Taliban and al-Qaeda operating in the tribal belt and Afghanistan.

This is the first instance that a religious organisation, committed to fighting anywhere has lost face and evicted from its stronghold. Taliban sources acknowledge that the rift has also distanced the Afghan Taliban from the Pakistani Taliban taking control of the South and to some extent North Waziristan.

The tribal Lashkar, believed to have technical and material support from the armed forces of Pakistan, is still hunting the fleeing Uzbeks in the mountains separating the Wazir tribesmen of Pakistan from the Wazirs living on the Afghan side of Durand Line. The whereabouts of the Uzbeks is not known but locals and sources in intelligence agencies say that their next likely destination could be the Pashtun belt in Balochistan, the Mehsud land in South Waziristan or the Khushali Mountains of North Waziristan agency.

The exact number of Uzbeks is not known but locals put the number of overall foreigners staying in both tribal agencies from 2500 to 3000. The split in the ranks of Taliban has, for the moment, delayed the much-talked about summer assault against the coalition forces at least in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan -- thus providing a breathing space to the anti-Taliban forces stationed there.

Commander Nazeer-led force has once again invited Pakistani armed forces to establish its posts in areas from where they were evicted -- in line with the terms and conditions of the peace agreements signed by the tribal militants and the government. The recent development would enable Pakistani security forces to interact with the local tribesmen in a friendlier atmosphere as compared to the past.

Emboldened by the move, the commander of Pakistani security force in the region, Maj. Gen. Gul Muhammad, general officer commanding (GOC) Kohat and commander of the troops fighting in South Waziristan, told a group of journalists in Wana soon after the eviction of Uzbeks, that the policy of hot pursuit against these foreigners would continue and that South Waziristan would be made a role model by encouraging tribes in all tribal areas to rise against such unwanted elements.


Taal Matol

Bone!

By Shoaib Hashmi

For some odd reason, I keep thinking of an old story from the American Civil War. As you might know back in 1850 the southern states of the US seceded from the Union to form their own nation; the rest, led by Abraham Lincoln would not accept this and the two went to war. It was the first modern war, and it went on for five years and cost hundreds and thousands of lives, was a seminal episode in the history of America, and one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of man.

It was about many things, but primarily it was about the question of slavery. Slavery was legal and practiced in the southern state, and frowned upon in the north. And the story is that two black slaves were sitting under the stars doing nothing much and talking, and one asked the other what he thought about the war. The second man thought for a bit and then asked the first if he had ever seen two dogs fighting over a bone? Of course the first man said yes, and then the other said, "And have you ever heard the bone having an opinion of the matter"!

I am not quite sure of the logic of it, or entirely convinced, but somehow this seems an apt comment on the recent fracas in Karachi wherein the lawyers making a protest procession turned on the press cameramen covering it and busted them up. It wasn't a chance incident because when the photographers got together to protest a bunch of lawyers also got together and beat their asses off, again.

Of course there have been pious and hurried statements about the sanctity of unity, and promises of everlasting friendship, and even half hearted attempts to pin it on domestic, or foreign hidden hands but they convince no one. The fact is that there is somewhere a deep seated hostility which has suddenly come to the fore.

Odd, or perhaps not so odd, because the lawyers and the small screen media were the two sections most keen to make capital and a fuss and fortunes out of the matter, and seemed to be getting along swimmingly. The other party raring to get on the bandwagon and make their own two bits worth are the opposition, and the latent hostility and mutual distrust there has been obvious to anyone. Ah, well all this is part of life. It's like childhood illnesses, they simply have to be endured.

Which reminds me that it is also change of season and childhood illnesses too are having a field day. One's own childhood being in the medieval past I recall that these too used to be talk of the town when one was young. And our attitude to them was very different. The most talked of was chicken pox which, in Urdu had the name of Lakkrakakkra, and I would any day suffer the itches just for the poetry of the name.

There was also Khasra which was measles, and its lesser cousin called the German Measles whose local name I cannot recall. In the colder climes of the West measles could lead to pneumonia, or even to pleural pneumonia which we thought was Plural, hence 'Double nmonia'; but here it was just a minor nuisance. If one kid got it, the conventional wisdom was to put all the other kids the same age into bed with him and they all got it and got it over with!

Except that when the pimples were ripe, touching them would burst them which was not very nice. And they could burst even because of a sharp sound, so it was usual to ask the neighbours not to fry too many onions whose sizzling sound could do the trick. And that brings me to the point that if the present shenanigans of the law and press are to be termed a childhood disease, precisely which one is it? Mumps?

 

situationer

Politics recharged

With judges and generals turning on each other, how does this startling development impact the politicians and their parties?

By Adnan Rehmat

Political parties in Pakistan have finally been afforded a massive public engagement opportunity to rally around ahead of parliamentary elections. This is their ticket to engage the public on an issue the people feel strongly about, without considerations to political affiliations. Understandably the political parties want to cash in on the sympathy factor by offering themselves as the voice of public concern.

But what will be the political price to pay by the protagonists in the bruising public battle between the military and the judiciary? The judges and the generals have, traditionally in Pakistan, been on the one side and politicians at the other, losing end. With, on the face of it, judges and generals turning on each other, how does this startling development impact the politicians and their parties?

For bigger parties, revitalise ahead of elections

For the 'big' parties whose capacity to dictate the political agenda has been rendered impotent by the extraordinarily-long absences of party heads, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League-N, this is a heaven-sent opportunity to shake free of their moribund state and announce their size and influence.

Recharge party workers

Before the onset of the judicial crisis on March 9, 2007, virtually no party was visibly preparing for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Some parties such as the PPP and ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q were making some noises about in-house elections to restructure leadership to mobilize their workers and activist but there was no visible movement that this in-house mobilization would come into its own for several more months. The crisis has given the parties a chance to short-circuit the lengthy process and recharge their workers for the elections by pushing them into the thick of street action and get the adrenaline going.

Reconnect with voters

The crisis has given an opportunity to the political parties to reconnect with their voters on a tailor-made, outreach-friendly issue that would have taken a lot more effort and resources to overcome political inertia. For opposition parties this is closest that can come manna from political heaven while for the more enterprising parties in the ruling coalition, such as Altaf Hussain's Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), here is a ridiculously good opportunity to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

Both MQM and MMA -- mutely for the former and shout-over-the-rooftop for the latter -- have used this opportunity to 'prove' to their voters that despite being in the government, they are conscientious enough to stick their necks out for the right cause and therefore deserve continuous patronage.

Beat Musharraf where it hurts the most

All said and done, few in Pakistan, including most in government as well, condone the way Musharraf cavalierly chose to handle the chief justice of Pakistan. Arguably this has hurt Musharraf more than even the U-turn in foreign policies effected by the 9/11 situation. And all political parties opposed to Musharraf and his ways are doing only what they were expected to: pile on the pressure on him so that they have their finger on him where it hurts the most. Indirectly, this also translates into political sense considering it enables the political parties seeking election patronage from voters to demonstrate their credentials of the ability to take on Musharraf, the 'Goliath' of Pakistan.

For smaller parties, a share of the cake

For smaller parties which would have had to struggle hard to merely be recognised as also-rans in the upcoming election, such as Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Asfandyar Wali's Awami National Party (considering their performance in the last elections), and others, the judicial crisis has provided them a much higher visibility in the stakes. The likes of Khan and Wali -- the former more than the latter -- now get top billing on the media and sit as equals with political giants as they give voice to the people's concerns and therefore offer themselves as worthy leadership.

Piggybacking on Musharraf's political faux pas

The judicial crisis was not created by the political parties. It was midwifed by Musharraf himself. And it was an issue that could not be underplayed despite the incredible resources at the military and their leader's disposal. The political parties, for once, were not found napping. Here was the rare chance for parties big and small to dabble in street politics at long last, and, difficult to believe but true, at the military's expense. It's been a big success. The political parties have piled it on, on Musharraf. The advantage is that -- another rare after a long, long time on Pakistan's political scene -- the political parties are protesting across the country, the same spaces being occupied by flags of dozens of parties, knowing that there is safety in numbers and that by the time the crisis dissipates, if at all, they will have been energised to participate in elections in high spirits.

Building a new hero at the expense of their leaders

Pakistan's top vote getters (the figures from the last few elections speak for themselves) are Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain. It is not in their interest to see another potential political giant emerging on the country's political horizon. By extending unconditional support to the aggrieved chief justice of Pakistan, who has support and sympathy from the whole cross section of Pakistani society, they would potentially be limiting their own political roles in the future.

Hence despite the general support to the top judge, the interestingly calculative responses from each of their parties: the PPP has some of the smallest crowds at street protests marking the chief justice's appearances at the Supreme Court for the Supreme Judicial Council hearings; the PML-N, while it has a greater visibility than PPP, deploys few mainstream leaders (it's almost like they're atoning for their own vicious attack on the judiciary when in power). For MQM there is no street presence in the pro-chief justice protests although its leaders make noises that are sufficient enough to construe its unease at the chief justice's plight and yet not concise enough to upset its shared applecart with Musharraf.

The major threat in a nutshell: creating a new non-political national hero at the expense of political heroes. Imagine how more wildly popular Iftikhar Chaudhry will become if he is formally 'ousted' from the Supreme Court in a 'guilty' verdict and is free to make political speeches. Or forms a political party and becomes a kingmaker in the next parliament.

Takes away attention from party-centric 'election issues'

Political parties get votes for articulating their voters' concerns and spelling out how they will help them overcome their problems and realise their dreams. While public support for the chief justice and against Musharraf's patently Orwellian strike against the judiciary is unprecedented, if the crisis persists over several months, political parties will find it difficult to lobby voters on issues that get guaranteed votes: mehngai (dearness), rozgar (employment) and ghurbat (poverty). If the judicial crisis persists too close to, or even during, the elections then the public will not be able to focus too clearly on which parties can help them with their problems -- there is a danger that soundbites of the judicial issue will drown out the more present and persistent concerns of the public.

And this can only benefit Musharraf who can potentially wriggle out of the crisis personally and 'regaining' a 'moral high ground' by offering a fall guy -- perhaps Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Sacrificing Aziz will not be too much of a big deal as a caretaker prime minister is needed in a few months any way.

Make judiciary a bigger pillar of the state

Of the three pillars of Pakistani state -- the parliament, the executive and the judiciary -- the chamber of people's representatives has traditionally been the weakest and the most hounded by the other two. The executive (read: the unholy military-bureaucracy combine) has declared military coups legitimate, whimsical dissolutions of the parliament justified and put prime ministers and other parliamentarians in the dock or in the lock-up (never an army chief, mind you). This has traditionally been possible because of judiciary's complicity with the executive. Now the two are ostensibly fighting.

By the time it ends, egos will have been sufficiently bruised to retain psychological scars to prevail for some time to come. This can only mean trouble for political parties whose myriad combinations makes up the parliament. The judiciary-executive behind-the-scene tussles over the next several months and years will continue to extract a damaging toll on the parties which, when in power, are expected to try and restrict the extra political space the judiciary has created for itself at the expense of the executive and parliament.

It has been the judiciary that has been ruling against the political parties/parliament and in favour of the military executive. The political parties can only become more uncomfortable if the judiciary asserts itself as an even stronger arbiter of political fates.

 

Rescue rally

The MQM rally is understood to have been organised to serve many other purposes besides the stated one

By Shahid Husain

Tens of thousands of followers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) rallied in the city of Karachi on April 15 against the onslaught of religious extremism that has gripped the capital city of Islamabad. Ironically though, when MQM leader Altaf Hussain in his 2-hour long telephonic speech denounced 'Kalashnikov and Danda Bardar Shariah' of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa 'fanatics', it was difficult to erase the memories of a not-too-distant-past when Kalashnikov culture was the order of the day in Karachi.

The irony of the situation was felt in other contexts too. Thus, soon after the rally, the participants of TV talk shows minced no words in telling MQM leaders that liberalism includes respect for institutions like constitution and judiciary. "Why did the MQM choose to stay silent on the events of March 9?" asked an agitated Amir-ul-Azim of JI to which Dr Farooq Sattar obviously had no answer.

Actually, as a coalition partner of the government, MQM must support Musharraf. A show of allegiance was warranted more so because the Musharraf allies are nervous in view of the rumours of a possible 'deal' between the military government and Pakistan People's Party. If the said 'deal' materialises, it would send at least the Pakistan Muslim League led by Chaudhry Shujaat into oblivion.

The speculations about the deal gained ground when The Sunday Times of London published a story by its South Asia Correspondent Dean Nelson that said, "The former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, is to make a defiant return from exile to lead her party's election campaign and seek a controversial third term in office."

These speculations are being made in the backdrop of reports in the western media indicating the United States was dissatisfied with the endeavours of Musharraf regime on its role in the so called 'War on Terror'. The US has indicated for the first time that it might be willing to back plans by elite echelons of the military in Islamabad to oust Pervez Musharraf from power, as the Pakistani president was beset by major new difficulties over his attempts to sack the country's chief justice.

"Reports yesterday quoting highly placed US diplomatic and intelligence officials -- previously rusted on to the view that General Musharraf was an indispensable Western ally in the battle against terrorism -- outlined a succession plan to replace him," wrote Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent of The Australian on March 14, 2007.

Many believe that it was almost impossible for religious fanatics in Islamabad to lash out in the absence of support from a certain section of the establishment that wants to unnerve Musharraf. But some analysts even suggest that it was a 'staged' drama to send a message to the West that if attempts were made to oust Musharraf the alternative would be religious fanatics whose deeds send shivers down the spine of the moderate and liberal majority in Pakistan.

This silent majority has been suffering since 1977 when General Ziaul Haq staged a coup against an elected government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and irrationalism was introduced in the country with gusto under official patronage.

The dictator got a new lease of life when the United States launched a crusade against former Soviet Union and Pakistan fought a proxy war in Afghanistan. No wonder the fallout of the previous Afghan War was devastating for Pakistan where a drugs and arms culture became so rooted that in the words of former President Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari it was capable to destabilise any government.

Political analysts believe that the massive rally organised by MQM in Karachi has sent a message to the disenchanted elements in the establishment to refrain from pressurising Musharraf. Musharraf himself has indicated many a time that certain lobbies in the establishment were not happy with him. Hence if there is a divided opinion on issues such as Hafsa Mosque, Waziristan and Balochistan in the establishment, it should not be astonishing.

Musharraf has tried his level best to satisfy the West that it was adopting all measures to contain unrest in North and South Waziristan and browbeat the Taliban. But it seems the situation is out of control, more so because of indoctrination spread over decades.

In the changing circumstances, it seems, he is trying to broaden his base through changing his stance towards Pakistan People's Party that could become his natural ally in the 'War on Terror'. The PPP supported the government on the issue of Women's Bill and is known in the West as a moderate, liberal force.

"The US officials say hardline Islamists have usually not done well in elections in Pakistan and that if General Musharraf were removed, a doomsday scenario would not necessarily follow," says The Australian.

Obviously, Musharraf has to tread very cautiously and that means broadening his social base through keeping in government's fold not only the MQM but also adjusting with more liberal forces such as the PPP.

 

RIPPLE EFFECT

No bijli, we are Pakistani

By Omar R. Quraishi

When do you know that summer is well and truly here? When the temperature hits forty-plus Celsius? No. You know that the summer is well and truly here in Pakistan when your bijli begins to go out every day, several hours a day. Being a resident of Karachi, this is the norm for at least the past decade -- and the main problem seems to be that the crisis only gets bigger every year. This implies that those who run KESC and those sitting in the federal ministry of water and power in Islamabad (which controls all of WAPDA's various distribution and power generation companies as well as its transmission grid, and KESC too) have no vision, no sense of planning and certainly no urgency about solving the country's acute power shortage crisis.

In this regard, an email received a few days ago via a mailing list is worthy of being quoted verbatim. It comes from a Mr Saeed-ur- Rahman, who works with an NGO based in Kabirwala in South Punjab. Titled 'Electric power issues in Pakistan', it says: "The light goes for several hours many times in the day and the night. The summer season has started and will last till October. This period is a very hot time for those living in Sindh , Punjab, NWFP and Balochistan [that's the whole country basically]. The temperature today was 44 degrees Celsius and will reach around 50 degrees by June. The consequences of these unending power breakdowns are: patients dying in hospitals (since not all have generators); business dropping in markets; voltage problems and damage to electrical appliances; reduction in industrial output; increase in costs of production; consequentially, an increase in inflation, fall in GDP and in level of exports and damage to quality of life, especially through lack of, or disturbed, sleep at night."

He then asks the following questions: "Why has no planning been done to avert this situation, especially since it is not exactly all that new or sudden? Didn't WAPDA/KESC and/or the ministry of water and power foresee that by 2007 there would be a rise in demand and with supply stagnant, there could be a major power crisis? Who is to be held responsible for the lack of planning in the past? Why do electricity consumers have to pay exorbitant charges (which appear in consolidated form as 'service charges' on their power bills) to WAPDA/KESC when the service provided to them is generally unreliable and expensive? And, who is going to compensate the people of the country for the mental and physical torture that they undergo as a result of lengthy power breakdowns?"

Who will answer these questions?

As for KESC, it was handed over to private management and is operated, through a controversial agreement, by the well-known German firm Siemens. Its managing director and chief executive, Sohail Wajahat Siddiqui, was interviewed on a private business channel on Tuesday. He was asked at length about his company's agreement to operate KESC -- under which KESC's chief executive (by his own admission) has little say in the way the power utility is operated and for which Siemens is paid $9 million every year. He was told of several news reports detailing this controversial agreement and taking Siemens to task for failing to bring about any change in the way KESC was being run (and shown in the massive loadshedding and power breakdowns that the country's commercial and business capital has to live with this summer). His response was basically that this was 'negative propaganda' and mostly untrue. The interviewer at least had the good sense to ask him that if that was the case, why didn't Siemens see it fit to deny such propaganda to which the MD had no answer.

He was also then asked about a major scandal that has rocked Siemen, Pakistan's parent company in Germany. The MD said that this was the work of an individual and that the company had nothing to do with it. The interviewer did not press the issue any further.

This is from Der Spiegel (May 28, 2007, issue), one of Germany's and in fact Europe's most reputable publications. Titled 'Something's Rotten in Germany, Inc.', the article says that German authorities had taken a member of the company's board into custody on 'suspicious of irregular payments'. It quoted 'German commentators' as saying that the case showed that "corruption is systemic at one of Germany's biggest companies". The company is being investigated for "paying bribes around the world to secure lucrative contracts -- and for paying millions to its workers' council to ensure pliability," Der Spiegel said.

German business daily Handelsblatt wrote: "It has become increasingly difficult to avoid the impression that (the corruption revelations) are part of a system. Slush funds in the telecommunications division, anonymous accounts in the generator manufacturing branch, dubious payments made to workers' council members." Another newspaper, the well-respected S?ddeutsche Zeitung -- based, like Siemens, in Munich -- wrote: "The scandal has now reached such dimensions that the company management under Klaus Kleinfeld can't ignore it anymore."

Back to Siemens Pakistan. Its MD was awarded the Sitara-e-Pakistan this year by the President of Pakistan. Interestingly enough, his citation read that this was in recognition for "outstanding services in growth of telecom sector".

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