derailed safari train
the tax base
peace a chance!
the best part of eight years, multilateral 'development' agencies,
including the international financial institutions (IFIs), have lauded the
Pakistani government's economic reform programme. The narrative went
something like this: in October 1999, the Pakistani economy was on the
verge of collapse due to gross mismanagement and corruption. The incoming
military regime, armed with an abundance of technocratic hitmen, rescued a
sinking ship by designing and then implementing a reform programme that
addressed the fundamental distortions in the economy.
the surprise then when the World Bank released a report only a few months
after the Shaukat Aziz led team of economic managers vacated their cozy
positions in Islamabad, asserting that the Pakistani economy is gripped by
a multitude of severe crises. The report claims that corruption and
mismanagement actually increased during the tenure of the previous
government (or should one say sitting government, given that Pervez
Musharraf refuses to vacate the Army House / presidency). The report
admits that poverty too has increased due to many factors, though
unprecedented food inflation stands out as a major cause. Finally, there
is an acknowledgment of a major power shortfall and a warning about the
serious social conflicts to which this shortfall could give rise.
the rather remote possibility that the World Bank -- along with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) --
has been kept in the dark about the realities of Pakistan's economic
'miracle' engineered by Shaukat Aziz and Pervez Musharraf, the quite
remarkable about-turn in its diagnosis of the state of the economy is
staggering. In the main, it smacks of intellectual dishonesty: for at
least six years the underlying weaknesses in the economy were essentially
swept under the carpet, while the easily marketable 'successes' were
publicised incessantly, presumably because the prevailing geo-political
situation demanded that Pakistan's military regime be presented in such
people have been wondering how the technocrats in Islamabad and Washington
managed to simply overlook the fact that a major electricity crisis was in
the making, or the fact that the prices of basic food items, including
atta, were increasing at rates that would lead to acute deprivation.
Granted that food prices have shot up all over the world and Pakistan's is
not the only economy struggling to match up to the rigours of global
markets, the fact of the matter is that the Shaukat Aziz-Pervez Musharraf
regime and its international creditors simply never accorded the basic
needs of working people the importance in their policy logic that could
have prevented the emergence of some of these eminently avoidable crises.
rhetoric, of course, was always to the contrary. Pro-poor growth and other
slogans were commonplace, as they are in almost all Third World countries
where the IFIs have a major say in the design of economic and social
policy. But this cannot disguise the fact that the neo-liberal paradigm
that underlay the economic reform programme over the past few years
clearly privileged the interests of capital, and that too financial
capital, over that of the people of Pakistan. Of course there were
beneficiaries, and not just the super-rich. A credit boom allowed a
significant urban middle class to engage in a major consumption binge,
which, alongside investments in the stock market and real estate, explains
the relatively high growth rates.
again one is taken back by the completely haphazard manner in which this
growth was conceived. The consumption boom has exposed the power
shortfall, the volatility of the stock market has repeatedly caused
multi-bullion rupee losses and urban real estate prices have exacerbated
the already severe economic vulnerability of a large majority of
important to bear in mind that Pakistan is not the first or the last
example of a great economic reform story gone bad. The IFIs have backed
radical liberalisation of financial markets all over the Third World, and
in the vast majority of cases the consequences have been disastrous for
the majority of people and the natural environment. The development
'experts' claim that poverty and development are technical matters, and
can be meaningfully addressed through plans hatched in boardrooms far
removed from the relevant context.
Ferguson famously called the international development industry the
'Anti-Politics Machine', because of the deliberate manner in which poverty
and development were presented as 'apolitical' problems. In actual fact,
of course, the interventions designed by the IFIs are explicitly
political, and reinforce existing socio-economic and political structures.
generally, the IFIs attempt to make what should be policy choices into
policy imperatives. Take, for example, the rhetoric that is currently
doing the rounds about the need for the new government to under take
much-needed measures to correct price distortions, even at the risk of
inciting popular opposition. It is said that successive governments have
refrained from increasing petroleum prices, even though the increasing
prices of oil internationally objectively demanded a domestic increase.
The fact of the matter is that governments are well within their rights to
maintain subsidies for fuel, or any other good or service for that matter;
there is no hard and fast rule that domestic petroleum prices must
increase in proportion to international prices. Of course, no economy in
the world is insulated from the pressures of the global market, but given
this basic constraint, individual states that claim to be sovereign are
bound to a particular kind of economic orthodoxy -- not because they must
be, but because they choose to be.
for instance, fixes the price of petroleum for domestic consumption at
$0.10 a litre. If a consumer wishes to buy more than 30 litres of petrol
in a week, the price goes up 10 times. This pricing policy reflects the
Iranian government's political priorities, namely to ensure that its
citizens are guaranteed consumption security up to a point. Of course, one
can point to the fact that Iran is one of the world's biggest producers of
oil and can afford such a policy. But there are similar pricing policies
in other Third World countries that are not oil producers, such as Cuba
and India (though not in all states).
course, Pakistani governments constantly face a major revenue shortfall --
but this is not because they do not reduce subsidies on basic consumption
items, but because they do not tax the rich. The neo-liberal paradigm is
projected as divine truth, not because it produces unambiguously positive
results for the people of a country -- who should be the beneficiaries of
any economic or social policy -- but because it is consistent with the
political and economic objectives of dominant national and international
forces. Thus, when these same forces overnight turn eight years of 'good
governance' into 'bad governance', but yet demand implementation of
virtually the same policies, one should not be surprised. One can only
hope that Ishaq Dar and his team of economic managers do not uncritically
accept the dogma of the 'Anti-Politics Machine'.
Literary traits every foolhardy investor can use
By Kaleem Omar
never lost money on the stock market, not in this country nor in any
other, for the simple reason that I've never in my whole life played the
stock market -- which is the only sure-fire formula for not getting
suckered into losing your shirt. But for those investors who are obsessed
with playing the stock market and insist on dabbling in Hubco shares on
the Karachi Stock Exchange, or plunging into whatever is left of the
dotcom bubble after the great Wall Street meltdown of 2001 and 2002, or
financial stocks after the bursting of the US housing sub-prime mortgage
bubble of 2007 and 2008, here are some unusual tips. I say unusual because
the tips come not from stock market analysts or stock market insiders but
from the domain of literature, of all things.
Hemingway's Nick Adams is a character partly based on Hemingway himself.
The protagonist of stories set in the Michigan woods, Adams is a very
practical person who seems at home anywhere, judging from stories like Big
Two Hearted River. He knows things like how to collect grasshoppers early
in the morning while there is still dew on their wings, making it easier
to catch them. He carries a bottle around his neck to keep them in. He
fishes after the sun has risen and the fish are more active. And he never
fishes near the swamps, even though there are large trout there. It is too
difficult to land them, and he would end up losing fish, bait and time.
The moral of the story is: if you're going fishing in the stock market,
stay clear of the swamps.
Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, because of his isolation, is forced to be prudent
and economical. At one point, Crusoe raises a fence around his encampment
by driving stakes into the ground. He unwittingly discovers the process of
dry-wood cuttings when the green stakes take hold and sprout into an
impenetrable living barricade -- a great return on a small investment.
Dumas' swashbuckling romance The Three Musketeers (in fact, there are, for
some inexplicable reason, four of them: D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and
Aramis) are proud, courageous men without the benefit of a stake.
"Listening to D'Artagnan's plain matter-of-fact account," writes
Dumas, "the Duke looked at the Gascon from time to time in wonder as
if he could not understand how so much prudence, courage and devotion
could belong to a man who looked barely 20." The Three Musketeers has
all the elements of the grand life lived wholly -- courage, fidelity,
love, honour. But you cannot live the grand life playing the stock market.
people think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is a real-life
detective and still write to him for help, addressing their letters to
231-B Baker Street, London. That premises is now part of the UK home
mortgage company Abbey National's offices, and the company has a small
group of staff devoted exclusively to answering letters addressed to
Holmes. The standard form reply letter says: "Mr Holmes has retired
and moved to the country, where he has become a bee keeper. He no longer
takes cases, but thank you for writing to him all the same." But in
the days when he did take cases, Holmes would get clues others were
programmed to overlook, using his skills and experience, looking and
observing with a non-assuming eye, with imagination to recreate and
science to verify. In short, a great deal lay behind Holmes' celebrated
and oft-repeated remark: "Elementary, my dear Watson."
here is Holmes talking to Watson in The Adventure of the Illustrious
Client: "The first thing is to exaggerate my injuries. Put it on
thick, Watson. Lucky if I live the week out -- concussion -- delirium --
what you like! You can't overdo it." Wounded investors, who've burnt
their fingers badly on the stock market, will know what he means.
Twain's Tom Sawyer has many praiseworthy qualities: a sense of adventure,
openness, alacrity, resilience and adaptability. Tom gets into scrapes,
but goes on to the next adventure wiser and still open. He is able to get
to the crux of ideas unencumbered by societal notions. He's able, for
example, to form his own ideas about Jim, the black slave who also
features in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sequel to The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom is an expert at games and deception. And his
adventure in the cave is classic speculative symbolism -- as in the case
of stock market speculators.
the subject of deception, Homer's Odysseus has been described by British
chess grandmaster Nigel Davies as "one of the greatest masters of
deception". Davies says: "Tying yourself to the mast to resist
the siren call is a useful concept for investing."
Tokien's wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings (voted the greatest novel
of the 20th century in a UK poll in 2000) has acquired hordes of new fans
ever since the movie version came out. In Tolkien's tale, the world is in
dramatic and irreversible change, and Gandalf picks up his staff and leads
the inhabitants of that world through the chaos. All the while, he adapts
as events dictate -- an invaluable trait for investors as well.
Crockett, as he describes himself in A Narrative of the Life of David
Crockett of the State of Tennessee may not qualify as a great literary
character and certainly not one to be nominated for a modern PC award
anytime soon. But anyone who claims to have killed 105 bears in a year has
to be a model for investors, especially in an era when bear markets seem
to have overwhelmed the bulls.
Aubrey, the sea captain hero of Patrick O'Brian's adventure yarns, is
handy at going for the jugular. Aubrey's philosophy can be summed up thus:
"Never relax for a moment; defeat is just around the corner."
of course, had his own take on the subject of wealth. Speaking of his own
verse, he said: "Not marble nor the gilded monuments of princes /
Shall outlive this powerful rhyme." As with most things, he was spot
on about this as well.
I have never acted like a nawab's daughter
By Zaman Khan
frail, mosquito-weight but steel-nerved, Shahtaj Qizilbash, convener of
the Joint Action Committee (JAC) for People's Rights, is seen on the
forefront of every protest demonstration organised by civil society
organisations in Lahore. She is called 'The General' by close friends for
her leadership qualities. She was born with literally a silver spoon in
her mouth. Her mother was princess of a small princely state in the state
of Maharashtra in India, while her father was from the Qizilbash family of
Qizilbash was different from all her cousins, both male and female,
because since childhood she took a fancy to sports like swimming, riding,
etc. She got her early education from Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore.
She does not like to talk about her personal life. Shahtaj Qizilbash spent
a lot of time with her uncle Nawab Muzaffar Ali Qizilbash, who also
remained Pakistan's ambassador to France. When she returned to Pakistan
from England in 1983, she found the atmosphere charged with women on the
roads, particularly against the discriminatory laws introduced by General
woman like Shahtaj Qizilbash could not remain indifferent to this
situation and jumped into the fray. Since the early 1980s, she has been
part of every agitation for people's rights. She is an active member of
the Women Action Forum (WAF). When Asma, Gul Rukh, Hina and Shela
established an all women's law firm (the AGHS), she joined them and took
the task of paralegal training, which she is still running with
dedication. She is also looking after a women's shelter home named Dastak.
Qizilbash is a disciplinarian. She is running a large paralegal network in
the lower-income residential areas of Lahore. She is on the board of a
number of civil society organisations, including the Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). She is an untiring peace and human rights
activist, as well as a feminist who does not believe in segregation. She
was interviewed by The News on Sunday recently. Excerpts follow:
News on Sunday: Please tell us in detail about your family background?
Qizilbash: I come from the affluent Qizilbash family, but I have been
totally different from my family. My thinking, my ideas and my direction
of life has been totally different. I have never acted like a nawab's
daughter. In 1983, when I came back from England, the Women Action Forum (WAF)
had just started and since then I have been on the roads.
Why are you different from the rest of your family? Who influenced you?
don't know. I have always been different. I have never thought that I am
from a royal family. I have always been very active. I lead an active
life. Even in my teens, I indulged in riding, swimming, mountain climbing,
etc. Nobody changed me. I think that my schooling contributed a lot to
setting the trend of my life and thinking. At that time, education was
taken more seriously. I was also active on the social front. You learn
from the milieu around you.
When did you join the AGHS?
joined the AGHS in 1989. This was part of the movement, since we were
working together in WAF. An idea was floated that educated women should
come on the roads to protest against the Hudood Ordinance, but despite
being directly affected an overwhelming majority of women were not aware
of their rights. Then Asma requested me to join the AGHS and start a
paralegal training programme. I did not respond initially, but joined
later on persuasion. Believe me, when people known to Asma were requested
to send their wives and sisters to attend the paralegal training programme,
no one responded in the positive.
How did the paralegal training programme start then?
was roaming near Molanwal. It was closing time for schools. Teachers were
coming out of school. I talked with them. Our target was to get 60
trainees, but we could gather only 40.
Tell us more about the paralegal training programme?
It is basically a nine-month awareness programme. The women come for
training for two days a month. The programme has become so popular that
for 60 seats, we receive more than 100 applications. Now women apply on
their own. Besides the legal training, they also discuss their issues and
current affairs. We have 11 paralegal centres in Lahore and one in Kasur.
In the last 23 years, about 1,400 women have completed the paralegal
training programme, which is open to women of all ages. These women
include housewives, students, councillors, teachers, lawyers, etc. The
only criterion is that they should be able to read newspapers and write
letters. Every year, 60 women are selected through a process that also
includes interviews of applicants.
programme is based entirely on legal matters, such as marriage and divorce
laws, custody and well-being of minors, crime cases, family laws, property
cases and the Constitution of Pakistan. Additionally, it is ensured that
paralegal trainees also get a firsthand experience by visiting both the
civil courts as well as the high court. They also get a chance to watch
the proceedings of a number of cases, especially those pertaining to
family laws. They are also taken to judges' chambers, so they can ask
quires from and share their opinions with them. They are also introduced
to issues like human rights, child rights, minority rights and
environmental pollution. Besides field visits and lectures, they also
attend press conferences and take part in protest rallies organised by
various civil society organisations.
Haven't you thought about opening such centers in other cities too?
Many women get the training and move to other cities after their marriage.
They carry our message to other cities. They do legal counseling, for
which people approach them. If there is a need for legal assistance, then
the matter is referred to the AGHS.
Why was there a need to open Dastak?
Some of the women who approached us for resolution of domestic disputes
and violence-related matters said there was a threat to their lives and
they needed lodging too. Initially we used to keep them at our friends'
houses, but later realised the need for establishing a women's shelter
home; so Dastak was established in 1990. In the beginning Dastak was
attached with the AGHS, but now it is an independent trust. We faced a lot
of difficulties initially, because we did not have the experience to run a
women's shelter home. We learnt by doing.
A girl was also murdered at the AGHS office a few years back. Can you tell
us more about that incident?
The murder of Saima was a big tragedy. Thank God, it did not happen again,
though girls do receive threats. Women are still murdered in the name of 'honour',
but this is done mostly in the NWFP.
What are the reasons behind domestic violence?
The major reason is poverty -- if there is hunger, there will be quarrels.
Moreover, there is no concept of family planning and there is a lot of
unemployment. All these factors contribute to domestic violence.
Do you think that there is more awareness among women about their rights
Yes, there is a lot of awareness about women's issues now. If you look at
the literacy rate, you would see that the percentage of girls in school is
higher than that of boys. In the past, if a woman went out of house for
work people raised questions but now this has been accepted by the
society. There has been a sea change in the last few decades.
When and why was the Joint Action Committee for People's Rights
JAC was established when in Benazir's second government, Nawaz Sharif
introduced the Shariat Bill is the Senate. It shook all and sundry. We
formed a committee, which was later named JAC. It is a joint front of
civil society organisations. This bill could not be tabled in the National
Assembly because Benazir's government was dismissed. We, however, decided
that in order to continue creating awareness, the platform of JAC should
remain. The committee meets regularly once or twice a month depending on
the situation. JAC also took a very active part in the lawyers' movement
for the restoration of judiciary. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N),
however, reaped the benefit. The party was given votes because of his
clear cut stance on the issue of judges' restoration. When Chief Justice
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said 'No' to General Musharraf, he became a
hero and people came on the roads in solidarity.
How do you see the women's rights movement in Pakistan right now?
Very bright. Look at the speaker of the National Assembly. For the first
time in the history of Pakistan, a woman has been elected as speaker of
the National Assembly. It is a welcome move, which will boost the morale
In the recent general elections, some political parties -- including the
Awami National Party (ANP) -- did not allow women to cast votes. What are
your views on this?
Unfortunately this trend is still there, but it is on the decline. Maulana
Fazlur Rahman, though a coalition partner, did not vote for Dr Fehmida
Mirza in the election for the National Assembly's speaker simply because
she is a woman. A cleric feels insulted to vote for a woman. This trend
would end slowly and gradually.
What should be done to rectify the situation?
Struggle, raise voice. This is what we can do and hopefully this trend
will also end.
What are your future plans?
Being a peace activist, how do you look at the nuclear programme of
think that Pakistan should not have a nuclear bomb in the first place. We
spend a lot of money on the security of our nuclear assets. If we had
spent this money on people, their lot must have changed. The country's
defence budget should be cut down and it should be debated in the National
prevailing violence in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and
non-projection have been casting a shadow over the tourism sector, though
all the seven tribal agencies offer scenic sites to tourists and
holiday-seekers. The Khyber Steam Safari (KSS) is no exception and
requires immediate attention to resume its glorious ride between Peshawar
and the enchanting Landi Kotal. Dubbed as "a unique ride through the
legendary Khyber Pass", the flag-bearer locomotive of the Pakistan
Railways is dysfunctional for the last 10 months. It is likely that in the
ensuing summer season, many foreign excursionists visiting Pakistan would
miss one of the five celebrated trains of Asia.
the good things that the British left in their most fabulous colony was
the connectivity of the whole subcontinent through railways links. Being
pioneers in the field, the British brought this technology to
pre-partitioned India. Khyber Railway too is one such example of the
achievement of those who conceived its idea (though with strategic
conception against the Russian threat) and materialised it for the
1920s model vintage oil-fired steam engines, which push and pull the
carriages from the rear and front, were built by the Valcon Foundry
Kingston and Company, the United Kingdom, and it started moving between
Peshawar and Landi Kotal on November 4, 1925. Victor Bailey, the wife of
the engineer who was assigned the construction of the track, ran the first
train on the Khyber Pass Railway. The steam safari carriage climbs more
than 1,200 metres through 34 tunnels and 92 bridges, and culverts to reach
Railway has experienced ups-and-downs of the time: the train's operations
were stopped in 1982, as it was not viable commercially. However, in the
1990s, the KSS was launched by a private enterprise in collaboration with
the Pakistan Railways. The steam-operated carriage covers about 50
kilometres in almost five hours to reach Landi Kotal, located in the
historical Khyber Agency, from Peshawar. The parlour of the train
comprises 75 seats, including 28 widow seats, with onboard kitchenette,
service counter and two toilet facilities. One of the unique features of
this train journey is that its path passes through the Peshawar Airport
runway -- making it the only airport in the world through which a railway
Pakistan Railways and the private travel enterprise operated the KSS
successfully till May 14, 2007, when 15 ambassadors and high commissioners
of European Union countries enjoyed its journey through Khyber Agency.
Ever since the KSS has not been in operation, a powerful flood has washed
away its track at several places, as well as damaged several bridges that
it used to cross on its way. Pakistan Railways authorities, unfortunately,
have so far not been able to restore the damaged track.
managing director of the Sehrai Travels, which jointly runs the KSS in
collaboration with the Pakistan Railways, Zahoor Durrani, tells The News
on Sunday: "The safari train needs special attention of the new
government, as the previous regime had no interest in it -- no interest in
something that attracts globe-trotters and can contribute immensely to the
tourism industry of the country. A lot of travellers from other countries
contact me to know about its resumption, but due to the damaged track I
cannot oblige them."
says if the track and the bridges are repaired, the journey can resume
within a few months, and can attract many foreign and local tourists.
"The resumption of the train has an enormous potential to contribute
to the prosperity of the people of Khyber Agency, who already lack
employment opportunities, besides portraying a soft image of the tribal
areas," Durrani believes.
a query about the security of the train, he says: "It could be a
target for the anti-social elements in the tribal area." Durrani,
however, expressed his confidence that the government would be able to
resolve the strife in the troubled parts of Fata through non-violent
means. "If we take the local tribal people into confidence, they
would co-operate -- they also want to show their way of life to the rest
of the world," he adds.
security of the train is a matter of genuine concern -- a couple of months
ago, Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin was abducted
from Khyber Agency along with his driver, while on way to Kabul. So far,
whereabouts of the two are shrouded in mystery. On the other hand, the
firebrand Lashkar-e-Islam, a Bara-based militia, and Kokikhel tribesmen of
the Jamrud tehsil are at loggerheads with each other. The growing tension
between the two groups may create law and order problems in the area, and
the journey of the train may not be very safe.
the history and things of antiquity is an art in the modern world, and
nations take pride in conserving the unusual things of the bygone ages.
Perhaps India is more known for its Taj Mahal than anything else.
Similarly, China has earned fame for its Great Wall and Egypt is more
visited by travellers for its pyramids than for anything else. Pakistan,
of course, has a number of excellent tourist destinations. However, due to
poor performance of the concerned authorities, the country's tourism
sector could not develop into a saleable commodity.
KSS poses a big question to the management of the Pakistan Railways, the
tourism ministry and the rulers of the country. The British, during their
stay in the undivided India, laid the track for Khyber Railways and
regularly operated it in the face of fierce hostilities of the locals.
But, after the passage of almost a century, the concerned authorities
could not even repair its track and ensure the security of this antiquated
steam engine connecting Peshawar to Landi Kotal.
Shaheen Rafi Khan
does not have an enduring democratic tradition. Since the country's
inception, it has experienced three extended periods of military rule,
interspersed with short spells of democratic government. Though elections
were held periodically, they usually reflected regional populist
loyalties. A dominant view is that frequent military interventions have
stymied the democratic process in Pakistan -- by centralising power and
authority, the military has completely destroyed the legislative, judicial
and executive organs of the state. By the same token, the space available
to the media and civil society has been constricted. Pakistan, as a
result, has experienced constitutional, economic, security, ideological
and sociological crises throughout its history.
policies have delivered growth without addressing the issue of poverty or
income inequality. These policies have combined with under-spending on
education and health, to create a palpable sense of injustice and
deprivation among the masses. Inequities as a result of these policies are
further compounded by the interweaving of religious and secular law (with,
among other things, its inherent gender biases), the arbitrary enforcement
of law and absence of judicial recourse, and the supremacy of federalism
with its attendant appropriation of provincial resources. In turn,
economic, social and judicial excesses have bred both secular and
religious militancy. While the latter has both global (al-Qaeda) and local
(the Taliban) origins, the alienation engendered by national policies also
provides fertile grounds for the emergence of secular nationalist
movements. Thus, a culture of crime, conflict and confrontation pervades
the Pakistani society today.
has also enjoyed limited spells of democratic rule, but this has failed to
establish a foundation for more enduring institutions. Transitions to
democracy have also often been inconclusive, and the resulting
'semi-democracy' has been more conflict-prone than either genuine
democracy or full-blown autocracy. Though even a 'semi-democracy'
motivates political contest and the organisation of interests, it lacks
the institutional mechanisms for 'interest mediation', much less the
capacity to address the underlying grievances. in politically difficult
environments like that of Pakistan -- where violent conflict is a recent
memory or where social, political or ethnic tensions are running high ñ
this can make for an explosive mixture.
history of democratic rule suggests elected governments have fared no
better than their military counterparts. These periods have been prone to
economic mismanagement, policy reversals, inter-provincial discord and the
miscarriage of justice. Further, civilian governments have aggressively
instigated cross-border provocations with India, inviting damaging
reprisals. In a comparative sense, inter- and intra-state violence has
been an endemic feature across regimes. At first glance, one can attribute
these outcomes to the transitional character of democracy -- while space
has been created for political contest, elected governments have not been
able to advance to the state of institutional maturation where 'interest
mediation' becomes possible and national interests subsume parochial
explanation for the intermittent nature of democratic rule and the failure
to institute pluralistic processes partly lies in the military-executive
nexus. The army represents a unified chain of command, which has remained
intact even during times of crises, such as the separation of Bangladesh
in 1970 and the withdrawal from Kargil in 1999. It has maintained a
stranglehold over the country's economic resources, establishing an
economic base at par with a large global corporation. To a large extent,
the army's economic and political clout derives from its strategic
alliance with the United States and other Western powers -- initially in
the fight against communism and more recently against the threat of
terrorism. It also maintains a mutually reinforcing relationship with the
executive branch, with a hierarchical mindset inherited from its colonial
over time, tensions have started to emerge as the military has
increasingly begun to take over and manage civilian affairs. The
military's control over the legislative and judicial branches of the state
has had the most emasculating effect on the growth of democratic pluralism
in Pakistan. On the other hand, structural weaknesses within the political
parties have left them vulnerable to military takeovers. Simply put, these
parties are defined by their feudal constructions or by their ethnic,
religious and sectarian divisions. A dynastic-feudal politics prevails
where populism masks the surgical divide between the politicians and their
constituents; and internal party decisions flow through hierarchical
channels, rather than through consultative processes.
army has been quick to exploit political fissures. Opposition parties have
helped military takeovers, often instigating the process through informal
negotiations. On the face of it, the legislature has demonstrated a
measure of independence; for instance, Nawaz Sharif (1997-1999) dismissed
one chief of army staff and was on the verge of throwing out another when
his government was dissolved. However, such displays of independence are
driven mostly by power imperatives rather than by public demand. Thus,
during the famous Sajjad Ali Shah case, in a blatant show of authority,
Nawaz Sharif ordered his henchmen to storm the Supreme Court building. The
late Benazir Bhutto and her spouse, Asif Ali Zardari, though relatively
secular, were no less autocratic during their rule. Ultimately, they too
fell from grace, charged with crimes ranging from corruption to the
outright murder of family members in an internecine power struggle.
judiciary, for the most part, has remained subservient to both military
and civilian governments, legitimising extra-constitutional acts through
diverse constitutional amendments like the infamous and much invoked
'doctrine of necessity'. A corollary to the loss of judicial independence
has been the traditionally low importance given to public litigation
against economic, social and human rights excesses. Similarly, the media
has been severely repressed and civil society groups have been denied
access to the corridors of power, unlike their counterparts in other
countries. Thus, the three entities with the strongest penchant for
constitutionalism have traditionally been the most marginalised.
surprisingly, growth-oriented economic policies, unconstrained by fiscal
accountability, have widened income disparities. There is no evidence that
suggests that elected governments have been more successful in eliminating
poverty than their military counterparts. In fact, the country's economy
has performed better during military governments, mainly due to easier
imposition of taxes and adoption of harsh economic policies, though
without the 'trickle-down' effect. Also, in comparison with military
governments, civilian governments have paid only lip service to
progressive social legislation and issues like women's empowerment.
instability breeds conflict, both intra- and inter-state. The several
manifestations of intra-state conflict are sectarian violence, crime,
militancy (of al-Qaeda and the Taliban variety), dissident movements and
civil unrest. An appropriate research question would be to examine the
correlation between various types of conflict, political instability and
regime change. A series of related and unrelated events in the recent
past, highlighted by the dismissal of the superior judiciary, appear to
have nudged Pakistan on a constitutional course. Do these changes offer
any hope of a more tangible and long-lasting political change?
multilateral donors have launched a series of initiatives, aimed at
generating constitutional awareness and responsibility, governance
improvements, judicial reform, departmental strengthening and political
decentralisation. Concurrent economic initiatives include fiscal
decentralisation and improvements in fiscal governance. The key donors are
the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development
Programme, the European Union and United States Agency for International
Development. It is ironic that most of these initiatives, with a focus on
institutional strengthening, took place under a military dispensation.
can be argued that regime change was never an intended outcome of these
reforms; a key objective was to create a stable political and
socio-economic climate in Pakistan, aimed at keeping the rising threat of
religious fundamentalism and militancy at bay. Essentially, this has bred
duality -- efforts to give democratic impulses a material shape co-exist
with the acceptance of barely-concealed authoritarianism. Thus, foreign
governments obsessed with the 'war on terror' have tended not to cavil too
much about democratic transgressions that have taken the form of
engineered elections, human rights violations, and suppression of the
media and judiciary.
over the past three years or so, the media has been given unprecedented
rein, allowing open debate and discussion on a wide range of subjects.
However, the frequent disclosures of government misdemeanours forced a
rethink and an attempt was made to circumscribe media freedoms. But having
let the proverbial genie out of the bottle, the attempt has not entirely
the Musharraf government adopted the mantra of 'enlightened moderation'.
While the intent was to convince the West of its secular credentials,
rising anti-West sentiment -- combined with the entrenched strength of
militants ñ made such compromises necessary that diluted the progressive
thrust of social legislation. The government did, however, increase
women's representation in the legislature, armed forces and in public
departments. Civil society groups have latched on to such opportunities,
and have been relentless in pushing their social and political agenda.
Unlike their Indian counterparts, they lack a direct access to
decision-making circles. The situation, however, is gradually improving in
the future brings opportunities, it also poses many risks. The elected
government's survival will depend on whether it can move beyond vendettas
and factional politics into the realm of public policy-making. The
challenges are enormous, ranging from the 'war on terror' to inflation,
and the shortage of food, energy and water to rising crime. In the
institutional development context, the government will need to respect
judicial autonomy, make space for civil society, respect media freedoms,
decentralise decision-making authority to the provinces and divide
national resources more equitably. In current circumstances, these are the
minimum prerequisites for political stability.
writer works with Sustainable Policy Development Institute, Islamabad.)
Huzaima Bukhari and Dr Ikramul Haq
Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) evaluates its performance in terms of 12-14
per cent growth it has achieved in revenue collection in the last five
years, which in real terms -- after taking into account the ever-soaring
inflation rate -- is no more than five per cent. Even this growth has been
achieved by shifting the burden of taxes to the poor through increased
reliance on indirect taxes. The most disappointing aspect of FBR's reform
efforts in the last five years has been its failure to improve the
tax-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, despite the imposition of all
kinds of regressive taxes.
financial year 2006-07, the FBR surpassed even its revised target by more
than 10 billion and collected Rs 843 billion. It could have easily
collected Rs 1 trillion had unjustified exemption not been extended for
another year to capital gain on sales of listed scrip. It is also a fact
that the record revenue collection of Rs 843 billion was made possible
largely due to the higher collection of import-based taxes and withholding
of money at source from people who even did not have taxable income.
revenue target of Rs 1.025 trillion for the current financial year is
under-fixed, as Pakistan's revenue potential is not less than Rs 2-2.5
trillion. This revenue potential can be tapped by broadening the tax base.
There is a consensus among official and independent quarters that Pakistan
needs to strive very hard to achieve the desirable tax-to-GDP ratio of
more than 15 per cent (currently it stands dismally low at only 9.5 per
cent). Radical changes -- like reduction in exorbitant sales tax rate,
equitable tax base, and simpler and fairer tax procedures -- are needed to
encourage investments and saving. The government needs to re-prioritise
its tax goals while preparing budget for the next financial year (2008-09)
if it wants to improve the tax-to-GDP ratio, coupled with rapid industrial
and business growth.
tragic that the previous regime showed least concern about the
undocumented economy and benami transactions. The mighty sections of
society are involved in such transactions and the FBR, being their
handmaid, has neither will nor ability to tax them. Multinational
companies -- through abusive transfer pricing -- evade taxes worth
billions of rupees every year, while the FBR confers on them awards for
'excellent performance'. This also exposes the efficacy of the FBR as an
institution entrusted with the responsibility to tap the real tax
potential of the country.
a fact that there exists massive sales tax evasion, coupled with
non-reporting of income in Pakistan. The new government must tackle the
issue of broadening tax base on priority basis. The people should be given
tax benefit / incentive, as this will help in expanding the country's tax
base, and improving documentation and collection of taxes. A
well-thought-out scheme is required, which should not only check leakages
in tax collection but also encourage the people to file their income tax
and sales tax returns. The twin goals of expanding the tax base and
combatting tax evasion should be achieved simultaneously. The prevalent
massive evasion of custom duties, income tax and sales tax can be tackled
only through implementing a tax intelligence system, which is capable of
recording, storing and cross-matching all tax-related information inflows
and outflows. As the FBR has now developed an online database of and
registration mechanism for taxpayers, the government should announce the
following scheme in the next budget:
who pays sales tax should be entitled to claim refund of 20 per cent of
the amount paid. The procedure for claiming refund should be simple -- the
payee should send invoices to Central Tax and Refund Depository, which
will authorise refund from the nearest branch of the National Bank of
Pakistan, after verification of genuineness of the invoice (by checking
sellers' registration number). In this way, the FBR can develop database
of sales of all registered people and then cross-verify the same with the
particulars declared by them in their sales / income tax returns; or,
alternately, any person who pays sales tax may be allowed to claim credit
of part of the amount paid, say 10 per cent against his income tax
liability by producing all sales tax invoices obtained by him or her in
the year. Detailed mechanism can be devised to cater to the situation
where income tax liability is less than the amount of credit of sales tax.
this scheme, the people may choose not to claim full credit of sales tax
paid by them, since they could not justify sources of their full expenses.
To overcome this situation, the government can announce immunity for three
years from scrutiny of their expenses declared through sales tax invoices.
This scheme will encourage the people to obtain sales tax invoice for each
transaction, which is currently not being done. The evasion of sales tax
is mutually beneficial. If sales tax payers are given the above incentive,
they will insist for invoice and the government -- without spending any
extra money or making any extra effort -- will be able to expand the tax
recent scheme introduced by the Indian state of Kerala -- which has
already been successfully implemented in Taiwan, Turkey and Venezuela --
can also be tried in Pakistan. The Government of Kerala has introduced
five per cent sales tax on all retail sales, with incentive to both the
shopkeepers and buyers. The shopkeeper gets 10-15 per cent refund of the
tax collected and paid to the government and the buyer gets value-added
tax (VAT) coupon of Rs 5 for every purchase of Rs 100. Every week a draw
is held and coupons-holders get prizes. This scheme has boosted retail
sales of shopkeepers who are willing to get registered with the
government. It goes without saying that there has been a tremendous
increase in government revenue since the introduction of this scheme.
seems that certain vested interests in the FBR want to keep the system
complex, so that their corrupt practices keep on flourishing. The
government must remember that if taxation is viewed as being unfair or
favouring some chosen ones, it becomes counter-productive in the long run.
Special efforts and rational policies are needed to restructure the tax
system and restore public confidence in tax officials. Even a good tax
system will not work if the prevalent negative mindset of tax officials
does not change.
is an immediate need to improve both the system and the human fabric that
controls it. The tax system must ensure rule of law and predictability of
the authority that imposes taxes; principles of proportionality,
efficiency, effectiveness, flexibility, continuity, reciprocity, fairness
and equity; tax harmonisation; no double taxation or intentional
non-taxation; non-discrimination; and strict anti-tax evasion rules. The
FBR, instead of performing its prime duty of collecting revenues where due
but avoided, is busy in constituting committees to ponder over many issues
relating to tax policy and administrative reforms, which is in fact the
job of the parliament.
FBR recently formed a task force to suggest measures for improvement in
the taxation structure, by speeding up sales tax refund payment to the
business community and analysing the scope of expansion in the general
sales tax net to cover more services. The task force was given a mandate
to analyse performance of the existing tax system with particular emphasis
on expanding the tax base. In the past, the FBR has wasted a lot of time
and money in the formation of such task forces, committees and what not,
but the result has always been zero. The root cause of problem is the
FBR's unwillingness to do what is its duty and indulgence in activities
that fall outside its mandate or domain.
elected members of the parliament should take bureaucrats sitting in the
FBR to task. It is purely the domain of the parliament to make tax
policies and the FBR is only required to implement them. On the directions
of foreign masters, who have given us a big loan of $ 100 million for tax
reforms, the FBR has assumed the role of legislators and policy-makers.
The FBR should be an autonomous body insulated from outside political,
financial and administrative pressures; but in no way it should assume the
role of policy-makers, which under the Constitution is sole prerogative of
the people of Pakistan expressed through their democratically-elected
representatives. The parliament should devise, following a democratic
process, a rationale and acceptable tax policy after taking input from all
stakeholders and experts in the field. This alone can help broaden the tax
base and improve the tax-to-GDP ratio in the country.
writers are tax consultants and also teach at Lahore University of
Dr Noman Ahmed
his inaugural speech in Parliament, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani
announced the setting up of a Madrassa Regulatory Authority to oversee the
functioning of seminaries across the country. It goes without saying that
madrassas have been a hot topic of discussion for about a decade. The
previous regime had also undertaken a number of initiatives to reform
madrassas, but on the whole these efforts failed to bring about the
desired changes. Therefore, it is necessary that the current effort is
guided by a full understanding and analysis of the situation.
image of madrassas has changed drastically over time. Once, they were
considered as the ideological flag-bearers of the state. As a 'holy war'
against the Soviet Union was to be fuelled by a zealot crop of recruits,
all kind of state patronage was extended to madrassas. All that was
associated with them was held in high esteem. Components of the
establishment, predominantly the armed forces, carved a special niche for
madrassas in their operation manuals. After the Soviet retreat in the late
1980s, however, the Western perception changed. Influenced by the West and
irked by the misdeeds of the mercenaries disguised as clerics, the
Pakistani establishment also took a U-turn in the late 1990s.
far as the syllabus is concerned, the centuries-old Dars-e-Nizamiya is
still taught in most Pakistani madrassas. Demands of reforms, therefore,
are being made by different quarters, mainly because this syllabus is
outdated and not in line with the contemporary educational needs. The
state has also started exerting pressure in a bid to diffuse the potential
threat of militarism, thought to be evolving due to obscurantist policies
and practices of the past. The clerics, on the other hand, refuse to
acknowledge the need for reforms, at least those fostered by the state.
liberal elements are viewed as the arch-rivals of madrassas in Pakistan.
In their pursuit to foster liberal thinking and attitude, they consider
madrassas as the harbingers of retrogression and orthodoxy. Madrassas and
clerics, in turn, denounce the liberals, terming them promoters of evil.
Both the camps refuse to recognise the existence and subsequent validity
of each other's school of thought, modus operandi of learning and the
overall ideology of life. In comparison, academics and scholars have a
mixed approach. Skeptical of the liberals, who demand dissent from the
conventions, they mostly mend fences with the clerics and share some
wavelength, at least on controversial issues, with them.
media, especially international outfits, paint a very negative picture of
madrassas and their activities. More often than not, madrassas are shown
as sites brewing anti-social activities. Brainwashing for suicide
bombings, attacks on civilian targets hosting Western interests and other
such happenings are all shown with madrassas in the background. The print
media, especially the English press, is especially hostile to madrassas.
Urdu newspapers, however, are not hostile to madrassas, and provide wide
coverage to their activities and outlook. Similarly, feudals and landed
aristocracy hold madrassas and clerics in high esteem, as they normally
share the common perception of anti-progressivism. On the other hand,
women's and human rights groups are suspicious of madrassas and clerics.
our society, barring a few exceptions, the bright students focus their
attention on those disciplines that offer lucrative employment and posh
lifestyle. Thus, they adopt the fashionable channels of learning right
from the beginning to be prepared for future challenges. On the other
hand, madrassas receive the bottom strata of the youth. There are several
reasons for this, as elucidated in the following:
the parents who cannot afford to raise their children -- let alone bear
their educational expenses -- are left with no choice but to send them to
madrassas. They, at least, have the consolation that madrassas shall house
the child, and provide for his or her food, boarding and lodging. The
parents also draw satisfaction from the assumption that because of their
child acquiring religious education, the way to Heaven would be opened for
them as well as the child.
destitute children and orphans who do not have any relative to look after
them normally end up in a madrassa. The whole Taliban syndrome is an
exemplification of how a sizable number of these orphans and destitute
children joined madrassas as the only choice. According to famous
journalist, Ahmed Rashid, the Taliban primarily evolved from the dozens of
madrassas established in the refugee camps along the Pak-Afghan border
territories. Besides teachings, these children received hands-on training
on some of the most lethal weapons in the world. The Taliban, as a result,
soon became an invincible force.
urban ultra-orthodox families send their children to madrassas to learn
Nazra Quran or for Hifzul Quran. However, since most of these students do
not have any other choice or outlet available to them, they become the
captive clientelle of madrassas.
issues are vital for consideration with respect to madrassas / traditional
system of education. The pattern and system is in need of a dire change,
at least in response to the sea changes that have occurred in the society
in the past several decades. The doctrine that the religious corollaries
and axioms are static, and thus do not need a change over, itself requires
a review. By taking this stubborn stand, madrassas are likely to lose
their very relevance to the society in which they operate. In this rapidly
changing world, an impartial assessment of the situation seems to be a
pre-requisite for a beginning towards change. Besides, madrassa
administrations follow a very introvert pattern of operation. They are
reluctant to engage into dialogue and discussion even with other
components of the education sector.
taking this isolationist stand, madrassas seem to be losing the
traditional sympathy that the masses in general and middle classes in
particular used to have for them. Skill development with particular
reference to the prevailing circumstances is non-existent. Former students
of madrassas have almost no avenue for gainful employment. Either they opt
for becoming prayer leaders (pesh imams) or prayer callers (moazzins);
both jobs available in extremely limited numbers. Due to this supply side
pressure, more and more mosques are being built -- some often at sites not
legally allocated to them. Some of these students start offering tuitions
to neighbourhood children of middle- and upper-income groups. But all
these choices are temporary, and limited in scale and operation.
are many ways forward: the ulema / madrassa administrators need to analyse
the prevailing circumstances in an impartial and honest manner. The harsh
realities of both the local society and global environment must be
understood to equate the potentials and threats. Unless this is done, very
little improvement can be expected. The clerics need to open up to the
outside world, so that people can freely access their viewpoints and
vice-versa. They need to see the important realities of life as they stand
today and put their acts together accordingly.
political corridors of Pakistan seem to be resonant with the voices of a
fresh and enthusiastic start towards a vibrant political milieu. The
parliament is expected to be a leading institutional arrangement to
counter multi-faceted challenges to the country of more than 160 million
people. Of these, whose power this parliament will use under the
Constitution's provisions, a vast majority still lives in zones of silence
carefully guarded by a feudal and elitist cultural ethos. How to genuinely
empower the parliament itself and the people it represents is a question
that needs enormous political acumen, foresight, and a sense of basic
commitment to the democratic governance and dispensation.
the same time, the political economy corridor of the country also deserves
a fresh and enthusiastic start. This corridor resonates with the
protesting voices of regional and income inequality, both in terms of
opportunities and access to productive resources. The voices in this
corridor are not new. These are coming from the chambers of an
ever-exploitative system of economic governance that systematically
generates elitist capital accumulation, while excluding the not-so-rich
and the poor alike. The system, by implication, ensures that the fruits of
economic growth seldom 'trickle-down' to the people at the lowest level of
result, the political economy of Pakistan, at this very moment, shows the
signs of social polarisation leading to a stalemate -- failing to generate
momentum for a long-term equitable economic development. This is a point
where Pakistan, despite trying most of the policy instruments earlier
employed by East Asian economies, fails to become a tiger economy, being
perpetually trapped in a low equilibrium.
fact, East Asian economies could accumulate, use the accumulation for
productive investments and execute structural transformation because of a
couple of basic commitments. The commitments included that the state has
to be responsible, effective, efficient and autonomous at the same time.
Another basic commitment that newly industrialised countries of East Asia
always kept was to acknowledge the ethnic diversity and inequality in
society, and manage the 'trichotomy' of state-society-market relations in
such a way that fruits of economic growth spread equitably. Their
at the challenges of political economy for Pakistan! One can see that such
challenges are no longer confined to managing the economic fundamentals
and getting short-term results. Perhaps the post-9/11 situation -- which
led to increase in inflow of remittances, and also brought some aid and
debt-rescheduling, helping Pakistan's economy to re-emerge -- needs
reassessment. This re-assessment needs to anatomise, besides using a
monetary perspective, the structural causes of rising inflationary
pressures, especially related to food items; worsening trade deficit; and
the persistent unemployment.
fact, the real challenges of political economy are structural in
composition, and go well beyond reliance on monetary and fiscal policy
solutions. They enter the domains of economic governance, asking to review
the role of the state in economic change. At the same time, these
challenges are related with establishing autonomy of and accountability in
the state institutions. Responses to these challenges entail bringing back
the state into lived experience of the people -- the experience of
welfare-oriented state that was promised by the founding fathers and later
enshrined in the 1973 Constitution.
the challenges of the political economy are to make the people believe,
not by rhetoric but by action, that they can trust the capacity of the
state institutions. The primary function of the state institutions is to
prevent crisis, as well as protect the citizens in the case of financial
and economic downturn, while facilitating people-friendly equitable
economic growth and development.
challenges are not like the ones that can be met by bringing in bankers or
military personnel on commanding heights of economic governance, or
increasing or decreasing the money supply. These can also not be met with
dolling out loans to the elites and writing them off later in the 'supreme
national interest'. In fact, the enormity of challenges asks for
developing a national development framework that is manifestly in sync
with the spirit of the Constitution. At the same time, it is equally
important that the state institutional arrangements show basic commitment
to pursue the objectives of this framework. Perhaps the economic role of
constitutional provisions needs to be brought to the fore while developing
any public policy.
addition, the framework should not be about how to pursue more
privatisation, liberalisation and deregulation. The sought-after should
target the state institutions, making them fully functional, effective and
competent to guide the markets. Pakistan needs a strong but democratic
'doctrine of state' embedded in institutional working that consistently
builds social consensus for the kind of developmental policies needed to
many empirical studies show that not only the now-developed countries, but
also newly-industrialised countries, have had both the state and corporate
agencies for industrialisation and economic development. They did it while
keeping bureaucracy aligned with basic commitment to equitable
development, establishing a reasonable rule of law to prevent
non-productive rent-seeking in its ranks. Such economies did not always
believed in the so-called virtues of free-market-based resource
allocations. They could guide such allocations to create and guide markets
in preferred sectors and geographical regions. This type of policy and
direct intervention by the state can create room for management of
conflicts over economic resources.
the same time, the new government should realise that Pakistan does not
sufficiently and equitably invest in human and infrastructure development
-- required to generate and retain highly-skilled workforce to fuel the
engines of long-term economic growth. Consistent investment in knowledge
and technological capability, in a layperson's language, generates
self-perpetuating momentum for a long-term growth. Similarly, increase in
skill and knowledge level enables and empowers people to search new
avenues to participate in economic development processes. Such
investments, with socio-political equity in mind, can also mainstream the
neglected regions and people in a society.
conclude, history shows that the true dynamism for economic growth does
not come from prescriptions of economists or international development
establishment; the real dynamism comes from leaders. If leadership is able
to define the challenges correctly, coordinate the vision and processes
for development, and make the state simultaneously autonomous and
accountable, then the people of Pakistan can stretch all the production
possibility frontiers. The political economy challenge to the new
government is enormous, but this is also the right time to respond by
mobilising all intellectual and political resources.
society is a complex one, where emotions sometimes overcome intellectual
faculties and rationale. Since 1947, we have seen that political violence
has not only become a part of our political culture, but has also become a
hindrance in the establishment of true democratic norms and values in the
society. The current wave of politics of violence is a bad omen for
democracy, which demands accommodation and reconciliation among different
political actors, rather than use of force.
The important issue
is that which forces are instigating political violence and what long-term
affects this trend is likely to have? What appears from the political
history of Pakistan is that specific sections within almost all political
and non-political communities have resorted to violent means in persuasion
of their goals, and these violent acts have not only damaged that
community's public image but also clouded its real objectives. For
instance, the recent use of force by some lawyers against a former federal
minister affected public impression of that community, as well as exposed
differences within it.
Going in the recent
past, when Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafza students turned violent, it not only
brought loss of innocent lives but also brought a bad name to the
religious community as a whole. The same can be said about the May 12
incidents in Karachi, where certain elements of a political party were
involved in violence leading to massive killings. This brought a bad name
to the party, whose leadership may not be supportive of all these actions.
There is a pressing need for minimising violent conflict between different
communities, because politics of violence has resulted only in economic
problems, political instability and strengthening of undemocratic forces.
committing political violence can range from economic -- like poverty and
inequality -- to political -- like lack of democracy, lack of openness,
hate-vote syndrome and failure of the government to deliver. It is true
that some political groups have exploited the multi-ethnic and
multi-lingual aspect of the Pakistani society, and got popular through
hate-vote syndrome. This syndrome has bred intolerant political behaviour,
which, in turn, has resulted in politics of revenge and weakening of
The cost of politics
of violence is very high. Besides the human loss, the country also
suffers, in particular in terms of economy. This, in turn, inflicts
further human misery in the form of joblessness or underemployment and
flight of capital due to security concerns. There is no blinking the fact
that Pakistan's business hub -- Karachi -- has suffered a lot because of
the politics of violence. In 2006, the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and
Industries (KCCI) estimated that a one day strike deprives the city and
the country of more than one billion rupees in revenues and exports.
However, the current KCCI president projected the losses at Rs 14 billion
(this amount includes taxes and duties, production and exports, as well as
losses incurred in commercial markets. According to the KCCI's
calculations, Karachi suffered corporate losses of Rs 80 billion in just
five days during the mayhem that followed Benazir Bhutto's assassination.
According to a
research study, political violence has significant short- as well as
long-term effects on the society, in terms of physical and psychological
trauma, financial losses, poor schooling and health, biased pattern of
child development, migration of families, and further division of society
into identifiable communities that may prolong the conflict. Revenge
seeking and score-settling behaviour also results in political instability
in the country. In this way, non political forces exploit this situation
and democratic forces suffer losses in the form of discontinuation of
elected democratic process. There is also a view that the recent wave of
violence is an attempt to change the public opinion that democracy does
not suit us, and the politicians are not only incompetent but also
responsible for the miseries of the masses.
Pakistan is passing
through a difficult juncture in its history, and it is high time that
political leaderships realise this reality; and forget the differences and
work collectively for the betterment of the country. Instead of paying
lip-service to the virtues of non- violence and tolerance, we all have to
work together to address the root causes of political violence. Pakistan
needs ethnic, as well as political harmony, for the smooth functioning of
democratic institutions. Besides this, when one political group tries to
achieve its objectives through violent means, in the absence of justice,
the other group retaliates. Consequently, violence breeds violence, and
the country faces political and economic instability in the form of loss
of lives and property. We have witnessed that foreign investors are
leaving the country because of heated up political violence since the last
year. As a result, Pakistan's economy is suffering a lot due.
This now is the
responsibility of the democratic forces to collectively strive to build a
law-abiding democratic society. Leaderships of political parties need to
show exemplary maturity in their conduct. Instead of adopting the path of
politics of violence and revenge, they need to sit together and work for
the supremacy of rule of law, as well as to provide relief to the masses
and mitigate their sufferings. They need to practice the politics of
tolerance and adopt the path of constant engagement, rather than
confrontation. Doors for reconciliation and cooperation should not be
closed in the larger interest of democracy.
All the stakeholders
should play their due role in strengthening democratic institutions in the
country. Political leaderships have to prefer politics of reconciliation
over that of revenge and confrontation, and spirit of mutual tolerance
would have to be reflected in their actions. It is expected that good
democratic ideals and traditions would be followed, and all energies would
be devoted for mitigating the sufferings and problems of the masses. In
transition to democracy, it is essential to achieve national
reconciliation and consensus, as this could prove to be a major
stabilising factor. Instead of indulging in the politics of hate and
revenge, all efforts should now be directed towards meeting the challenges
facing the country.