new East India Company
up loose ends
Alarmism does not help
The Taliban's accession to the position they occupy today is a logical culmination of the Pakistani state project as it has been executed since 1978
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Over the last week or so, alarmists have succeeded in creating a sense of imminent doom within the country's liberal elite. I have been astonished at how many columns and conversations are obsessing about the Taliban's impending takeover. Needless to say, the media has played a big part in spreading panic, but it is also important to recognise that the elite is genuinely worried and that the force of its reaction is likely to have significant consequences.
The immediate cause of concern for the elite is the 'surrender' represented by the Nizam-e-Adl agreement. It is argued -- and not necessarily incorrectly -- that the Taliban will be emboldened by the government's accession to its demands in Swat. This apprehension has been borne out by the Taliban's unchallenged march into Buner. As if all of this were not enough, Maulana Abdul Aziz has been released and restored to his position as chief advocate of Islamic revolution in the federal capital, all in a very dignified manner.
The liberals' worries are obviously shared by many important actors in the Great Game that is unfolding in the region, including the most powerful of them all. Nawaz Sharif has acknowledged that things go could very awry very quickly if they were allowed to continue as they have been doing. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made an impassioned plea to all (presumably civilised) elements to recognise the need for urgent and unified action.
Given that all of these frenzied developments have taken place in the last week or so, it is hardly surprising that even those who are not prone to alarmism are starting to wonder if the entire house of cards is indeed about to come crashing down. But even while everyone is up in arms about what is about to happen, there is an increasingly open acknowledgement that the security establishment retains some links with the Taliban and others of their ilk. In other words, at least, as far as GHQ is concerned, things are not spiralling out of control like everyone seems to be suggesting they are.
Now there is no guarantee that the great military strategists who have gotten us into this position are not thoroughly deluded about the extent to which they can actually manipulate militancy in their own (perceived) favour. Besides, if the situation is not totally irretrievable at present, it may well be in some months or years if the existing course is not dramatically altered. And this is the crux of the matter. In short, I think the seemingly inexorable march of the Taliban must be understood as a structural phenomenon, and the alarmists are likely to simply exacerbate the problem by calling for immediate action.
When I say structural phenomenon, I am referring not only to the state's continuing commitment to jihad as a strategic policy tool, but also to the fact that the jihadis have cultivated significant pockets of support (even while employing outrageous brutality and coercion at the same time) by representing themselves as an alterative to incumbent state and class power, throughout invoking a divine mandate. Trying to bomb them into submission will serve only to make their millenarian mission into a self-fulfilling prophecy and increase their popularity.
Then there is the question of who exactly is being invoked to rid us of the Taliban. If it is true that the army is compromised, then the alarmists are all directly or indirectly asking Washington to take the bull by its horns, so to speak. But that too seems disingenuous given that the Pentagon remains the Pakistan army's biggest benefactor. And it does not appear as if that relationship is about to be severed any time soon.
Besides, any objective observer has to acknowledge that until the Americans leave Afghanistan things are not likely to improve. And even while Hillary Clinton waxes lyrical about the Taliban representing an existential threat to Pakistan, American military commanders are talking up a 'surge' and admitting that the insurgency in Afghanistan is going to get worse in times to come.
It is impossible to do away with the Taliban now just because we are worried that they may soon encroach into our own spaces. It is necessary instead to recognise that the Taliban's accession to the position they occupy today is a logical culmination of the Pakistani state project as it has been conceived and executed since at least 1978. As I have repeated ad nauseam on these pages, the state ideology is projected through the educational curriculum, the popular media, the systematic dismantling of organic bases of politics, and many other, structural, factors.
Whether the elite likes it or not, for the majority of common Pakistanis, what is going on in Swat, Buner and Fata, or even in Bahawalpur (where jihadis have also made substantial inroads, albeit much more surreptitiously than in Pakhtun areas), is very distant. This largely silent majority does not feel alarm or a sense of impending doom. In fact, for many people the Taliban are still romanticised.
This is not a good thing by any means. But it must be understood. It is not good enough to curse governments and mullahs for bringing things to this point. The elite's unwillingness to see the problem for what it really is emerges most manifestly in the vigorous condemnation of the parliament for signing on to the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation bill. In other words, the democratic process – for whatever it is worth – is considered part of the problem rather than the solution.
Indeed, it is not recognised that the paucity of the political process has allowed jihadis to garner the space they have. If one does not like what the parliament is doing, then parliamentarians should be challenged by their constituents. Unfortunately, the parliament and the people that it represents have never been empowered enough to challenge the guardians of the 'ideological frontier'. And for this the elite must take at least some of the blame, because it has historically exhibited disdain for politics and thereby not framed a national discourse that addresses causes rather than symptoms, such as the Taliban.
There is much at stake here. One hopes that for the elite this is not only a question of maintaining a lifestyle of relative privilege. Most Pakistanis live in relative deprivation. And the distance between the elite and the people is increasing on a daily basis. If things are to change in this country -- and it must be reiterated again that there is no quick-fix -- then the elite must decide whether it wants to get its hands dirty or simply wants to invite whoever has the biggest stick to wipe out the mullahs, which will in turn ensure that the polarisation between the common people and the elite becomes more acute. In any case, if the Taliban were to march on Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, one wonders whether the elite would not already be on planes taking them far away from this blessed land, leaving the common people behind to fend for themselves.
Victims of 'development'
The fishermen of Gwadar are at the receiving end of the policies of both the government and the Baloch nationalists
By Yousuf Aziz
Balochistan is facing a fresh wave of street protests and armed resistance in the wake of the recent kidnapping and murder of three Baloch nationalist leaders. In the din and clamour of the ongoing conflict between the Baloch nationalists and the Pakistani state, it is easy to forget the plight of poorer segments of the Baloch society, who are weary of both the Pakistani state and the traditional elites of their areas.
The extraordinary violence tends to dwarf and hide from public view the everyday struggles for land and livelihood that characterise the fate of the majority of Balochs today. The struggle for the form of Baloch identity, nationhood and sovereignty overshadows its contents; namely, the many small struggles for livelihood, right to land and provision of civic amenities. The movement of the fishermen of Gwadar against dispossession from their ancestral lands and fishing waters is a case
The fishermen of Gwadar and nearby coastal communities hail from med (fishermen) and wado (boat-makers) kinship groups, and occupy a lower status position in the local social hierarchy. Some of them are of mixed African-Baloch descent whose ancestors were brought to Gwadar as part of the Indian Ocean slave trade and did not have any formal title to the land that belonged to the more powerful kahodas (local
Historically, there were three distinct classes or status groups in the Mekran region: 1) the minority ruling elites from Gichki and Kalmati tribes called hakum; 2) the large menial labouring class derogatively called hizmatgars (servants, slave-born or slaves); and 3) a broad layer of society comprising nomads and independent agriculturists that stood mid-way between the elite and the subaltern classes called Balochs.
However, as a result of socioeconomic changes and a nationalist awakening since the 1960s, in which the working class and Balochs of African descent actively participated, older tribal identities and status divisions were abandoned in favour of a common Baloch identity. This also resulted in the elevation of the status of fishermen and hizmatgars as social and political equals in the local society. However, material inequalities and vestiges of social prejudice towards them, especially from upper class Balochs, remain to this day.
Before Gwadar's development as a port city, the land near the sea was a sandy waste of no value for anyone but the fishermen. Because the fishermen had been living there for centuries and had moral claims to livelihood, it would have been inconceivable for the kahodas to push them out despite possessing formal title to the land. This, however, changed with the initiation of the permanent settlement, execution of the master plan and construction of the Gwadar deep seaport, because the Pakistani government's vision and notion of trusteeship, and of rights and benefits of fishermen, was different from the local one.
The land near the beach where fishermen lived as well as the traditional fishing grounds were taken over by the state for the purposes of the port's construction. Moreover, the waters around the port were declared as a commercial and security zone. Nako Khuda Baksh, a retired boat captain, gets agitated and his eyes become misty when he recalls the brutal manner in which they were beaten by personnel of the Marine Security Agency (MSA).
"When the construction of the Gwadar port started in 2003, we launched a protest movement against it, because this venture limited our access to the fishing waters. But our people were beaten and humiliated by personnel of the MSA. Later, when we were having a meeting with the district nazim and Gwadar port officials on this issue, our people were fired at by personnel of the MSA, resulting in injuries to three of them. When we returned from the meeting, our people said what was the point in holding talks when they were being fired at. On the other hand, police and intelligence agencies dubbed us as traitors who wanted the Gwadar port project to fail," he informs.
The prospect of making big money through sale of land to outsiders on behalf of the wealthy locals (such as mirs, kahodas and motabars) appears to have overridden the traditional concern of respecting the moral claims of tenants, squatters and fishermen. As if this was not enough, other places along the beach, where the fishermen and their families could have moved to for continuing fishing activities, were also converted into commercial and industrial real estate.
Instead, the government has been trying to resettle the people living close to the Gwadar port to another fishing village, which is about 25 km away from the centre of the city where they currently live. The Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) is building a fishermen's colony and a fishing jetty there, and officials believe that the fishermen will be better off living there. However, Khudadad Waju, a leader of the Med Ittehad (Fishermen's Alliance), disagrees, and rejects official claims of adequate compensation and resettlement of fishermen.
He says fishermen need to be close to the sea to plan their fishing activities accordingly. "If you travel along the Mekran coastal highway, you will see that fishermen build their huts right on the beach in a horizontal arrangement, rather than the circular or rectangular arrangement common in the plains. If a fisherman sets out with his net and other implements and finds out that the sea is rough, his entire trip is wasted. If he is close to the sea, he can find out immediately whether or not to set out for fishing," Waju explains.
Unfortunately, the focus of the GDA, the official agency responsible for urban planning, has been exclusively on the development of new areas on the periphery of the existing localities. In short, the government has neglected the needs of the existing inhabitants of Gwadar. This makes the city a contradiction of sorts: on the one hand, there is the majority of people, mostly local Balochs, whose streets and neighbourhoods lack proper sanitation, safe drinking water and other civic amenities; while, on the other hand, there are dual carriage roads, shopping malls and bungalows at the edge of the city awaiting the future denizens of Gwadar.
The fishermen believe that the government is neglecting their needs on purpose to force them to abandon their ancestral lands and relocate to the periphery of the city near Surbandar. Surprisingly, despite lofty claims, Baloch nationalist parties have devoted little time and attention to the concerns of the fishermen. The nationalist opposition to Gwadar revolves mainly around the fear of the future influx of non-Baloch migrants; land encroachments, misbehaviour by security forces and the looming threat of dispossession facing the fishermen rarely finds mention in their speeches.
It is high time that the federal and provincial government takes notice of the plight of the fishermen of Gwadar, and plans development activities in the city around their needs and not at their cost. As concerns Baloch nationalist parties, they should also take up the cause of the fishermen of Gwadar as an explicit part of their political agenda, rather than trying to feed them on a diet of nationalist rhetoric alone.
(The writer is a graduate student in Social Sciences.)
The IMF is playing havoc with our economy and industry, as if to remind us that we are still ruled by a colonial power
By Huzaima Bukhari and Dr Ikramul Haq
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to a private television channel, will finalise Pakistan's budget for the financial year 2009-10 (FY10) in 'consultation' with the country's officials on May 11 in Dubai. This confirms an old-age adage that beggars cannot be choosers. The channel quoted sources in the Ministry of Finance as saying that Pakistan and the IMF would hold talks from May 4 to 11 in Dubai to discuss the payment of the third tranche of IMF's loan to Pakistan.
It was also reported that the Federal Bureau Revenue (FBR) would present to the IMF "an action plan under which new taxes would be levied in the upcoming budget. Prepared with IMF assistance, the action plan proposes imposition of new taxes on the services sector while focussing on audit of taxpayers." Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tareen, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Saleem Raza and senior officers of the FBR would represent Pakistan during the talks.
The IMF -- or the new East India Company -- has now virtually taken over the Ministry of Finance and FBR. Its role is the same as was that of the East India Company in the subcontinent, leading to the long British colonial rule during which a few thousand foreigners were able to overpower hundreds of millions of locals. There are striking similarities in the operations of the IMF in Pakistan and those of the East India Company in the subcontinent vis-à-vis revenue collection; both are oppressive, tyrannical, unjust and anti-people.
The IMF-dictated policies are reminiscent of the British rule when the East India Company's henchmen used to go to the abodes of peasants and snatch most of their produce. According to some historians, the East Indian Company's tax collectors used to take away one-half to two-thirds of the crops. Therefore, the peasants' life was most miserable during the colonial period. The current Pakistani government, by imposing general sales tax (GST) on everything, even on salt and agricultural inputs, has resurrected the days of the East India Company.
For more than 150 years, the East India Company (John Company) raised its own armed forces in the British India. The three administrative units of India – the presidencies of Bombay, Madras and Bengal – each maintained their own army with its own commander-in-chief. However, the commander-in-chief of the Presidency of Bengal was regarded as the senior officer of the three. These armies were paid for entirely out of the East India Company's Indian revenues and together were larger than the British Army itself. All the officers were British and trained at military academies in England. There were a few regiments of European infantry too, but the vast majority of the soldiers were natives. The IMF and World Bank, in the present day technological era, do not need armies in thousands; even a few people can control an entire nation through revenue administration and economic subjugation.
The East India Company destroyed the indigenous industry of the subcontinent to promote the products of the Queen's England. In the same manner, the FBR is blocking refunds worth billions of rupees due to exporters to ensure the success of IMF's agenda: Pakistan's export industry in particular and the country's local industry in general become paralysed, and the products of other developing countries fill in the gap. The IMF and World Bank want to capture the markets of populous countries like India and Pakistan. This can only be done if the indigenous industries of these countries are either destroyed or taken over by the multinationals that make the policies of the IMF and World Bank.
The IMF has recently ordered Shaukat Tareen to act as the 'chief tax collector'; he sits in the FBR to supervise that taxes are collected where they are not even due. Similar orders were issued by the East India Company to the local rulers, to act as mansabdars (local revenue officials) on their behalf. These mansabdars unleashed a reign of terror on the locals through revenue collection, as is being done by the IMF's cronies in the Ministry of Finance and FBR these days. Although they are not ashamed of being treated as slaves by the IMF, citizens of Pakistan have a right to agitate against this neo-colonial behaviour of foreign donors.
It is true that the FBR is facing revenue shortfall of billions of rupees, but does it justify a reign of terror against the taxpayers? In most of the cases, taxes are levied unjustly only because no deal could be reached. In cases where taxes are levied in a 'friendly' manner, there are absolutely no problems! Therefore, the IMF is actually lending a helping hand to the FBR to penalise the honest taxpayers, because those who are 'friends' of tax collectors are fully protected though they are proven tax evaders.
The sovereignty of a state is measured by the power it enjoys in imposing taxes on its people. These taxes are to be used for the benefit of the less privileged and to ensure general welfare of all the citizens. On the contrary, we are opening our markets to foreign goods so that our local industry becomes paralysed. Is this globalisation? One wonders how the rulers of the day in Pakistan are operating. Obviously, they want perpetuation of their rule and perhaps know that this is only possible if they unquestionably follow the commands of their foreign masters, who only want economic benefits because they are no more interested in subjugating us physically.
It is painful to note that the FBR, to please its foreign masters, has resorted to a tyrannical structure of taxation. According to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study, the tax system of Pakistan, which was progressive till 1990, was converted into a regressive regime in 1991 with the introduction of massive indirect taxes. As a result, during these 19 years (1991-2009), the tax burden on the poorest households increased by 17.4 percent, while it declined by 15.9 percent for the richest households. The ADB study should serve as an eye-opener for the target-oriented FBR officials, who -- in the frenzy of showing higher figures to their foreign masters -- have put additional burden of taxes on the poor.
Pakistan joined the IMF on July 11, 1950. After receiving disbursements of a few billion dollars in more than 30 installment since then, what we in Pakistan have so far seen is increasing poverty, depreciating value of rupee, declining purchasing power, increasing electricity and natural gas tariffs, declining standard of living, and increasing unemployment, inflation, de-industrialisation, unequal distribution of wealth, ethnic tensions, child labour and loss of sovereignty.
The IMF is bent upon destroying our agriculture sector through the imposition of new taxes, despite the fact that this sector already pays a number of taxes. Do we really need any other proof to show where the actual power to levy taxes lies? Our economic subjugation is now complete. We are a nation that is neither dead nor alive. The foreign masters will not allow us to die until they squeeze out the last drop of our blood. But this is the result of our wrongdoings in the past.
In fact, our fate was sealed the day we decided not to fulfil our obligations as a nation. The blame of our own misdeeds can easily be shifted to the IMF or World Bank, but the fact is that we are at the receiving end only because we opted for losing our sovereignty and independence. We have no right to blame the IMF or others for this self-destructive path. We have been moving towards self-annihilation and that is not very far now -- the coming budget will bring more miseries for the poor segments of society and further debt enslavement for the state!
(The writers, tax consultants and authors of several books, are visiting professors at LUMS.)
Pakistan has been able to improve its international image by adopting strict measures against piracy
By Madiha Mujahid
Individuals and businesses need an economic incentive to invest their valuable time and resources in developing and streamlining new ideas, products and creative works. They will only undertake any new venture if they are secure in the belief that they will be able to claim their inventions and their efforts as their own legally, and not have others trying to pilfer the economic gains arising from their efforts. It is upon this premise that the concept of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is based. Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind. Hence, IPRs are the legal property rights over creations of the mind.
The theory behind the promotion of IPRs is simple; if a vigilant and efficient system is in place to protect the interests of different entities, they will be more willing to undertake economic activity, which will in turn result in spikes in the national economy. Ultimately, this will also help in sustaining and strengthening this enhanced economic activity through the process of technology creation, technology transfer and creativity promotion. This is because in the present era of globalisation, if any country wishes to achieve and sustain economic development, it needs to facilitate a competitive domestic economy, which is based largely on a high-tech research and development base and resourceful knowledge input.
Individuals and businesses will only be willing to bear research and development costs if they are guaranteed a financial incentive in the form of being the sole beneficiaries of their undertakings through the provision of monopoly profits. This is achieved through IPRs by providing them with exclusive ownership rights to intellectual creations. Such a move is undertaken to stop others from exploiting the creator's efforts through checking the ability of others to copy the work or invention. This ensures that the creator is not deprived of reward and incentive. Some rights (such as patents) require registration, while other rights (such as copyrights) ensue automatically upon the work's creation.
However, despite the undisputable importance of these inalienable rights of the creators, the IP situation in Pakistan was dismal before 2005, with the country having gained international notoriety as being the hub of cheap optical discs, which were then exported to the rest of the world. This had the dual fallout of tarnishing the country's business image in the international market, as well as adversely impacting the consumer's interests in terms of competitive quality and price.
Keeping in mind the dire need for improving the legal rights available to the masses and to counter the bad image that was attached to it as being an IP violator, the Government of Pakistan took three related decisions on April 8, 2005. Firstly, it established the Intellectual Property Organisation of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan) as the primary agency responsible for overseeing the state of IP in Pakistan and to take the required steps to address the issues arising out of this situation. The core objectives of the IPO-Pakistan are integrating IP management, improving service delivery, increasing public awareness and enhancing enforcement coordination. The basic purpose for setting up the organisation was to overcome the institutional shortcomings fettering the IP situation in the country.
Secondly, it included the Copyrights Ordinance 1962 in the FIA Act 1974 to eradicate piracy and provide a shelter to artistic and literary works. Thirdly, it enabled the Pakistan Customs to launch a crackdown against all trade activities related to the export and import of pirated optical discs. The last two moves were undertaken with a view to fortifying the IPRs enforcement in the country.
These moves have yielded positive results, both internally and externally. Internally, the piracy infrastructure has been dismantled and strict legal action has been taken against the perpetrators of these illegal activities. Consequently, the supply of pirated software and other illegal merchandise has dwindled. Externally too, the moves to enforce IPRs has garnered a positive response from other countries, such as the United States and United Kingdom, which had previously raised a massive hue and cry over the deteriorating IP situation in Pakistan.
Additionally, Pakistan is also a signatory to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This has further propelled the upward momentum of the IPRs situation in the country, because under the rules and requirements of this agreement, Pakistan needed to streamline and upgrade its IP infrastructure. To achieve this end, the existing IP legislation has been improved and new laws have been promulgated.
Currently, the IPO-Pakistan is providing a number of IP-related services. These include trademarks, patents, registration of industrial designs, copyrights, geographical indication and plant breeder's rights. Trademarks refer to the distinctive signs or symbols used by an individual, business or other legal entity to distinguish and identify its products or services. In Pakistan, any person wishing to apply for a trademark has to file an application with the Trade Marks Registry, which works like a civil court and hears and decides cases under the jurisdiction of the Trade Marks Ordinance 2001 and Trade Mark Rules 2004.
A patent protects original inventions through the grant of exclusive rights for a period of 20 years. It gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without permission, However, to successfully procure a patent in Pakistan, it is vital to meet a number of requirements -- the invention must be new, it must have involved an inventive step, it should be capable of being made or used in some kind of industry, and it should not be contrary to the law or morality.
Another way to protect IP is to provide registration for industrial designs to check their unauthorised copying and imitation, which helps to promote fair business practices and a wider range of choice for the consumers. Industrial designs deal with the physical product design of an article. According to the guidelines provided by the IPO-Pakistan, this may deal with either two-dimensional features, such as patterns or colour, or three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article.
However, exclusive ownership rights are not limited only to the trade sector. Artistic and literary creations also fall under the umbrella of IPRs in the form of copyrights. Copyright laws gives the creators sole rights over their creations, and authorises them to control the reproduction, sharing and displaying of their work. Copyrights come into effect the moment the work is created in a permanent form.
It includes literary, dramatic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, architectural and audiovisual works, as well as sound recordings, lyrics, motion pictures, etc. Copyrights are generally given for the duration of the creator's life plus an additional 50 years. In the case of a cinematographic work and/or photographs, copyrights exist until 50 years after the production of the work.
The issue of copyright infringement has always been a matter of grave concern for Pakistan, with pirated movies, software, music and books being freely available for sale within the country and also exported abroad. Finally, the government has woken up to the reality that such a move was not only hindering free and fair trade, but also inviting the wrath and censure of other countries. One of the most noteworthy developments in the protection of copyrights in Pakistan was the promulgation of the Copyright (Amendment) Act 1992.
The ordinance makes certain that firm penalties are put into place for offenders and that reimbursement is made available to the people whose rights have been infringed. The offences that can incur penalties include publishing collections or compilations of work that have been adapted, translated or modified in any manner without the say-so of the owner of the copyright. According to the ordinance, such works might include literary, artistic, dramatic, musical or cinematographic works.
An additional segment that falls under IP protection is the geographical indication of goods. This refers to that feature of a good that denotes the place or country of origin of that product. Normally such a move is undertaken so that the specified goods may benefit from the positive goodwill of that place, that is, the mention of the geographical origin of the good would naturally lead to the assumption that it is of the highest quality and distinction.
The agricultural sector is also given cover through the promulgation of the Plant Breeder Rights Ordinance 2000, which bestows exclusive rights to the developers of a specific new plant variety. This is to encourage the establishment of a viable seed industry that is crucial for the development of the country's agriculture sector. Therefore, the importance of ensuring that the creators of original and innovative products, designs, ideas and works are granted sole property rights over their invention is incontestable. This applies to all segments of commercial enterprise as well as other creative, artistic and literary works.
By securing their IPRs, individuals and businesses can benefit in a number of ways; for example, by protecting themselves against infringement by others, having the right to use and make their products, earning money by selling them, receiving royalties, etc. Conversely, a failure to do so would lead to the dwindling of the ingenious and pioneering industries that drive the national economy, because in an environment where one cannot benefit from the fruits of one's labour without being exploited, little incentive remains to continue with it.
There is a growing perception in the developing world that the TRIPS Agreement is only aimed at facilitating the developed world
By Sibtain Raza Khan
With the global economic integration, politics of intellectual protectionism has widened the gulf between the developing South and the developed North, particularly on the issue of intellectual property rights (IPRs). This subject matter has created mistrust as well as disparity between the developing and the developed world, because the former feels that it is at the receiving end. Without due consideration to the level of development of the South, it is being forced to follow policy initiatives of the North, which requires IPRs to be regulated internationally for its own economic growth.
Being a signatory to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Agreement under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), countries have to establish organisational infrastructure for protection of IPRs, which can be categorised in two groups: industrial property rights and copyrights. The former comprise patents, trademarks, industrial designs and geographic indication of source; while the latter consist of literary and artistic works, such as novels, poems, plays, films, musical works, paintings, photographs, architecture designs, etc.
There is a growing perception in the developing world that the TRIPS Agreement under the WTO regime is only aimed at facilitating countries of the developed world, especially its pharmaceutical and entertainment industries. Developed countries took these steps to maintain their monopoly on these industries. Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph E Stiglitz argues that "it was clear that there was more interest in pleasing the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries (of developed North) than in ensuring an intellectual property regime that was good for science."
As a matter of fact, developed countries vigorously backed the agreement on IPRs, while developing countries did not demand for the same, during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994. Now, assent to the TRIPS Agreement has become condition to the WTO's membership. Unfortunately, this agreement, which has given more powers to multinationals than developing countries, was imposed on the developing South without considering its genuine concerns, such as the level of development.
Like other developing countries, the incentive of opening of markets of developed countries for its products forced Pakistan to accept the WTO regime. However, Pakistani products failed to attract buyers in the developed world, mainly due to their protectionist measures, such as anti-dumping duties and quality controls. On the other hand, because of being a signatory to the TRIPS Agreement, different sectors of Pakistan's economy, especially the pharmaceutical and agrochemical sectors, are suffering.
Tahira A Sulhari, a social activist, is of the view that a multilateral platform is being used by multinational companies (MNCs) for their vested interests. Dr Safdar A Khan, an economist who is associated with a reputed private educational institution in Islamabad, points out that Pakistan -- being a developing country -- is giving more and getting less as a result of the TRIPs Agreement. "We even had to erect a huge set up in the form of the Intellectual Property Organisation of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan), which is nothing but an additional burden on our ailing economy," he says.
Prof Pervaiz Bajwa claims that fast progress in science and technology has been suffering due to IPR-related issues, and the developing world is the biggest loser. He argues that criteria for developing countries should be different from that for developed countries. "The rationale behind the TRIPS Agreement is to maintain the monopoly of developed countries in the field of science and technology. This would further increase the disparity between the North and the South," says Dr GH Chohan, an economist.
Munir Ahmed, director of the IPO-Pakistan, tells The News on Sunday that "though signing the TRIPS Agreement is a pre-condition for becoming a member of the WTO, there are waivers and exemptions for developing countries." When asked about implications of the TRIPS Agreement on Pakistan's economy, he said though the pharmaceutical sector may suffer because of it, paragraphs 4 to 6 of the Doha Declaration provide for safety nets in the area of public health in emergency periods.
Undoubtedly, the struggling economies of developing countries are still facing the adverse effects of the TRIPS Agreement, along with other problems such as technological backwardness, unskilled human resource and weak infrastructure. For instance, the TRIPS Agreement protects the interests of Western pharmaceutical giants. Under the agreement, patent right-holding Western pharmaceutical companies are maximising their profits by selling their drugs at higher prices despite lower cost of production. On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies in developing countries are not authorised to produce the same drugs at lower prices. If a country violates pharmaceutical patents by manufacturing generic copies of these medicines, it may be penalised through economic sanctions.
Khalid Mehmood, chairperson of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Committee on the WTO, alleges that MNCs are forcing WTO officials to increase the period of patent rights from 20 to 40 years under the TRIPS Agreement, which is unjust and unfair because people of the developing world would be the main victims. He maintains that Pakistan also needs to protest against the enforcement of patent linkage and data exclusivity or data protection, which is required by MNCs, because these demands of Western companies are not in the interests of the developing world.
Nevertheless, the manifest objective of IPRs is to protect the industrial property, as well as copyrights, of artists, writers and publishers. However, its latent purpose is to safeguard the interests of MNCs of developed countries. It is rightly argued that IPRs should not be included in a trade agreement, because they encompass different public policy issues and consequently create confusion that is exploited by Western economic giants for their vested interests.
Indeed, the IPR regime is a right step; however, both developing and developed countries have differences on this issue because of their incompatible frame of references, needs and requirements. Like every year, April 26 (today) is being celebrated as the World Intellectual Property Day with the theme of 'Green Innovation'. However, for equitable progress and prosperity in the world, there is a need to celebrate this day in a way that persuades developed countries to give due consideration to the reservations of developing countries.
(Email: [email protected])
Hoping against hope
It remains to be seen whether the forthcoming May Day would bring the promised good news to Pakistani workers or they would continue to suffer in misery
By Shujauddin Qureshi
Pakistani workers have been suffering hardships for decades due to various reasons, such as increased working hours, low wages without any proper health and safety conditions, increased trend of contractual employments, and restrictions on joining trade unions. Though successive governments have pledged to provide relief to the workers, none of them has fulfilled its commitments in the regard. The ruling PPP government is expected to announce the country's sixth labour policy on May 1, to coincide with the International Labour Day, in an attempt to provide better working conditions to labourers in the country, as also promised in the party's 2008 election manifesto.
Pakistan's first labour policy was announced in 1955, but it remained only on paper. The second labour policy was announced by Ayub Khan in 1959. The third labour policy was announced by Yahya Khan exactly a decade later. The same year, the Industrial Relations Ordinance (IRO) 1969 was enacted to introduce legislation guaranteeing freedom of association and right to collective bargaining to the workers. The ordinance also had provisions regarding the welfare of workers and minimum wages for them. This was done mainly to fulfil obligations as a signatory to various International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. The IRO 1969 was followed by the West Pakistan Minimum Wages for Unskilled Workers Ordinance 1969 and the Workers Welfare Fund Ordinance 1971.
The fourth labour policy was announced by the country's first civilian prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972. It is important to note that both the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif failed to announce any labour policy during their two tenures as the country's prime minister. The fifth (current) labour policy was announced by Pervez Musharraf in 2002, after a lengthy consultative process with representatives of both employers and employees.
However, the final policy did not include the promised benefits for the workers. It may be recalled that the spade work for this labour policy was done by then-Minister for Labour and Oversees Pakistanis Omer Asghar Khan, who held a series of meetings with both labour unions and employers. However, he parted ways with the government before the announcement of the final policy in Dec 2001; hence, the benefits promised to the workers were missing.
Moreover, the fifth labour policy was followed by the notorious IRO 2002 that virtually ruined the labour movement in the country. It is for this reason that trade union activists criticise the present labour laws as have been drafted to benefit the employers only. The previous government further added to the miseries of the workers by amending many labour-related laws -- the Factories Act 1934, Shops and Establishment Ordinance 1969, West Pakistan Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Ordinance 1968, Workers Welfare Fund Ordinance 1971, and Employees' Old-age Benefits (EOBI) Act 1976 -- in the Finance Bill 2006.
The amendments to the Shops and Establishment Ordinance increased daily working hours for the labourers from eight to 12, and abolished their compulsory weekly holiday. The amendments to the Factories Act removed the bar on female labourers from working in factories before sunrise and after sunset; the employers may now force them to work two shifts at a time, up to 10pm.
The amendments to the Standing Orders Ordinance introduced a new category of 'contract worker', who will not be entitled to compensation for overtime, and raised the ceiling on overtime from 150 to 624 hours a year for adults and from 100 to 468 hours a year for juveniles. Similarly, the amendments to the Workers Welfare Fund and EOBI restricted their scope. For example, registration with the EOBI was made compulsory for only those establishments employing 20 or more workers. In short, these amendments snatched the fundamental rights of the workers.
Although the present government has already adopted some measures for the welfare of workers, such as increasing the minimum wages of unskilled workers to Rs6,000 a month and replacing the controversial IRO 2002 with the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) 2008, trade union activists doubt its seriousness. "Even the minimum wages are not being implemented throughout the country and most workers still get salaries between Rs3,000 and Rs4,000 a month," says Zulfiqar Shah, joint director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), a Karachi-based NGO working on the rights of labourers.
The abolition of the IRO 2002 had been a major demand of labour unions and federations throughout the country, because the "black" law had curtailed many of their liberties. For example, under this ordinance, the state had withdrawn itself from monitoring the implementation of labour laws through suspension of labour inspection in industrial and commercial establishments. This had made the Labour Departments of the provincial governments inactive. Though there is a lot of corruption in these departments, the regular inspection of factories was a major deterrent.
Moreover, the IRO 2002 did not recognise the right of agricultural labour to form unions. Similarly, the powers of the National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) to grant immediate relief to sacked / retrenched workers were abolished under this law. Earlier, if any worker was sacked and a case was filed with the NIRC, he or she could get stay order until the case was decided. However, under the IRO 2002, sacking of the workers had been made easier for the employers, because no immediate relief was available to the former from the NIRC. Besides abolition of the labour appellate tribunal, the powers of labour courts to reinstate sacked workers had also been curtailed in the IRO 2002.
Although the draconian law has now been replaced with the IRA 2008 through an act of the parliament, the workers are still unhappy. "We want the government to grant unconditional right to the workers to form trade unions irrespective of the nature of their jobs, because the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees this right," says Farid Awan, general secretary of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Sindh Chapter.
Talking to The News on Sunday, he tells that in the tripartite meeting held in Feb, the government had shared drafts of three laws -- the Service Conditions Act, Health and Safety Act and Industrial Relations Law -- that were to be part of the new labour policy with representatives of the workers and employers to seek their input. "We have already submitted our recommendations to the government and hope the same would be incorporated into the forthcoming labour policy," Awan says.
With sky-rocketing inflation and increasing commodity prices and transport fares, the living conditions of the workers are deteriorating with each passing day. In Pakistan, the majority of the workforce is employed in the non-formal sector, where labour laws do not even apply. So, these workers are not considered as labour force and are denied the rights due to them.
The labourers in the agriculture sector are also not covered under the existing labour laws, thus the majority of the workers are denied institutional benefits. Similarly, the labour working in brick kilns and power looms is not entitled to receive any facility from state institutions. Since all the abovementioned categories of workers do not have the right to collective bargaining, they cannot claim health and other benefits either.
There is an urgent need for establishing the relevance of medical autopsy
By Dr Arif Rasheed Malik and Khayal Khalil
The concept and scope of health care in this part of the world is thought to terminate with the life of the patient. In case doctors fail to establish the cause of death during the life of that patient, the quest is abandoned as soon as the patient is lost. The doctors -- as scientists -- must enquire into such a 'mystery' and solve it to avoid encountering it again. However, despite the acknowledged role of medical autopsies in the prevention of medical errors, they are not carried out in Pakistan. This is an irresponsible attitude, because by not trying to learn we deliberately ensure the repetition of our mistakes, costing no less than somebody's life.
Medical (also called hospital or clinical) autopsy, a surgical procedure performed on a recently deceased patient, is the last and most complete diagnostic procedure. Carefully performed by a thoughtful, interested and experienced individual, it should reveal much of the truth about the health of the deceased patient and the mechanism of death. On the other hand, in Pakistan mostly only medico-legal or forensic autopsies -- which are performed with the aim of providing answers to questions about the identity of the patient, cause of death, time of death, circumstances of death, etc -- are carried out, and that too to help the law-enforcing agencies in solving a crime.
In short, medico-legal or forensic autopsy is performed when there is suspicion of a criminal activity; while medical autopsy is usually carried out in case of hospital deaths with the consent of the patient's relatives. Medical autopsy is rarely performed in Pakistan, except in the army's medical institutes, and that too in only high profile cases. The pathologists who carry out medical autopsies try to figure out exactly what caused the death of an undiagnosed patient or a patient for whom a treatment for an established diagnosis failed resulting in his/her death. As part of this procedure, there is a systematic analysis of the patient's body, especially the organ systems.
The external scrutiny of body and examination of clothes, in this case, is of lesser significance, because no foul play is suspected. Further examination may require a team of professionals who can carry out histological and biochemical examinations. The medical records registering the course of treatment undertaken and the complete medical history of the patient is very important to reach a verdict about the exact medical cause of his/her death. This knowledge can be used to educate practising physicians and students, and even help the patient's family to come to terms with the tragedy.
Different beliefs among health professionals in particular and people in general create a certain hesitation to performing a medical autopsy. Some believe that due to advanced diagnostic medical procedures, there is little room for error and autopsy is unlikely to reveal anything other than that what is already known. Moreover, hesitation may result from defensiveness of doctors apprehending blame for diagnostic complications.
Medical autopsy, however, remains the most comprehensive and final method 'when one sees for oneself' in case a death has occurred, especially considering everything that was done was by the book. After all, we must not forget in our complacency that a new disease might have appeared to endanger us all. So, the role of medical autopsy is well acknowledged and established throughout the world. Unfortunately, however, we in Pakistan have failed to adopt it. Medical autopsy is especially important in clinical medicine, because it can identify medical error and assist continuous improvement.
For example, a study focussing on myocardial infarction (MI) or heart attack as a cause of death found significant errors of omission and commission: a sizeable number of cases ascribed to MIs were not MIs and a significant number of non-MIs were actually MIs. Similarly, a review calculated that in about 25 percent of autopsies a major diagnostic error will be revealed. In another contemporary US institution, 8.4-24.4 percent of autopsies will detect major diagnostic errors.
At some hospitals abroad, the rate of autopsy was astonishingly high, demonstrating the emphasis laid on the relationship between the quality of health care and the rate of autopsy in the past. In Cuba, for instance, a hospital having 520 beds, and more than 15,000 admissions and about 1,100 deaths per year, claims to have performed autopsy on more than 80 percent of the cases since its opening 24 years ago. However, autopsy rates are now on the decline even in developed countries. For example, in US hospitals, the autopsy rate was about 50 percent before World War II; it reached about 60 percent in the 1960s; and then rapidly declined to its current level of 5-10 percent.
It is noteworthy that despite the increased use of advanced imaging techniques (considered as invaluable for diagnosis), the frequency of medical errors, diagnostic or therapeutic, has not reduced significantly. In US hospitals, studies have shown findings suggesting that major clinical diagnosis can be wrong. Beginning in the 1970s, 21-43 percent of autopsies discovered at least one clinically undetected error contributing to the patient's death, and 10 percent to 13 percent discovered a condition, which if known before the patient's death, would likely have changed ongoing treatment.
One study found 55 percent major diagnostic errors (Class I and Class II), documenting its findings as: "Autopsies revealed 171 missed diagnosis, including 21 cancers, 12 strokes, 11 myocardial infarctions, 10 pulmonary emboli and 9 endocarditis, among others." Focussing on intubated patients, another study found abdominal pathologic conditions -- such as abscesses, bowel perforations or infarctions -- were as frequent as pulmonary emboli as a cause of Class I errors. While patients with abdominal pathologic conditions generally complained of abdominal pain, results of examination of the abdomen were considered unremarkable in most patients and the symptom was not pursued.
A large meta-analysis suggested that approximately one third of death certificates are incorrect and that half of the autopsies performed produced finding that were not suspected before the person died. Moreover, it is thought that over one fifth of unexpected findings can only be diagnosed histologically – by biopsy or autopsy – and that approximately one quarter of unexpected findings, or 5 percent of all findings, are major and can only be diagnosed from tissue by biopsy or autopsy.
These facts and figures reflect the existence of a considerable number of medical cases that should have been approached differently. Moreover, they portray possible medical errors and missed diagnosis even at centres that are considered as first class. We have no data to speak of that might make us aware of how mistaken we have been in the past; hence, there is little promise that we will be able to correct these mistakes. Therefore, it is suggested that medical autopsies should be carried out in Pakistan, at least in teaching and tertiary medical institutes.
(Dr Arif Rasheed Malik is associate professor and head of the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Lahore. Khayal Khalil is an MBBS student at the same institute.)
The family planning marketing techniques need a revamp
By Naila Inayat
Turn on the radio in the morning; the first thing that brushes your ears is this annoyingly melodious track Suno Zara Khushi Ki Aahat / Chu Lo Zara Man Ki Chahat. If by any chance you are planning to switch on the TV for morning news, then better not touch the remote -- the same song, brought to you by Touch Condoms, a product of Greenstar, is being played there as well!
This bold campaign is being noticed across the cities because of the huge billboards, as well as advertisements in the print and electronic media. If the target audience is the urban locale, then what about the rural areas where the majority of Pakistanis still live? Even if it is urban-area specific, what about the downtrodden majority that lives in slums and other underdeveloped areas of the big cities? Do they get the message in black and white? However, it is not only this particular campaign that one should question; the entire family planning marketing techniques should be in focus.
According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2006-7 (PDHS), the unmet need for family planning is defined as the percentage of married women who want to space their next birth or stop child bearing entirely but are not using contraception. The survey reveals that 25 percent of married women have an unmet need for family planning -- 11 percent for spacing and 14 percent for limiting. Moreover, the unmet need ranges from 23 percent in Punjab to 31 percent in Balochistan.
"I do not understand these advertisements much. All I know is that I have problems convincing my husband about planning our family. I do not get any help from the radio or TV for this purpose, while I cannot read newspapers," says Haleema, a 27-year-old mother of one and a resident of a slum near Liaqatabad.
Javed, a carpenter living in the same slum, tells The News on Sunday: "When I was growing up, I watched the comedy programme Janjalpura on PTV. That was an effective way of convincing people with a pinch of salt. However, the government does not seem to be focussing on the issue of population control these days."
"If you ask what awareness has been created through advertisements, my answer would be bachay do hi achay (two kids are the best). I have not come across anything as simple as this. It was through this tagline that health workers convinced us to practice contraception. This is the only reason I have only two children," Shafiq, another resident of the area, says.
"I find the family planning advertisements really amusing. In fact, at first I thought the Touch Condoms advertisement was publicity of some mobile phone," says Hina Tariq, creative manager at an advertising agency. It is a fact that advertising of contraceptives is still very much a taboo in Pakistan. Therefore, such awareness campaigns should be encouraged in societies like ours where there is a lack of knowledge about reproductive health, especially in the underdeveloped areas.
During discussion on the key findings of the PDHS at a recent workshop, it was claimed that 45 percent of the country's women have been exposed to a family planning message through the radio (11 percent) or TV (41 percent) in the month prior to the survey. Urban, educated and wealthy women are more likely to have heard a family planning message than those living in rural areas, those with less education and those who are poor. The most common types of messages heard related to limiting family size, spacing children and using contraception.
However, Hina says: "Medium is the message. If you are following that rule in advertising, then it is imperative for you to know who is decoding your message; in other words, who is your target audience." If you are trying to convince slum dwellers to adopt contraception through advertising and you are coming up with a generalised idea -- glamorous models, beautiful props and a vague message -- they would be further alienated. Therefore, there is a need to evolve simple and dynamic ways of advertising. Street theatre could be one such method whereby the population control authorities work with NGOs to create awareness among the masses.
Federal Minister for Population Welfare Dr Fardous Ashiq Awan agrees with the idea. "Social marketing is important to counter this unmet need for family planning. The family planning advertising campaign should be in the reach of those couples who are 'convinced' of the use of contraception. In Pakistan, the practice is otherwise -- you are trying to convince the 'unconvinced' lot, while you are not giving proper information to the convinced lot," she says. Awan believes that in order to spread the message, the Ministry of Information can work in tandem with the Ministry of Population Welfare, especially now when the electronic media has become so vibrant.
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