One should like to hope that an important lesson the PML-N leader has learnt is the need for him to acquire the spirit of a team player
By I. A. Rehman
The ugly crisis caused by Mian Nawaz Sharif's about-turn on the constitutional reform package last week has mercifully blown over. But the debate on the objective in the PML-N supremo's mind when he decided to throw a spanner in the government's works is unlikely to die down for quite some time.
Some of the issues thrown up by this debate need to be examined. If nothing else there may be some lessons that could help prevent a recurrence of this unsavoury episode.
There was no doubt about the strong public reaction against the PML-N's volte face which confirmed that the constitutional package prepared by the Raza Rabbani committee had won huge support across party divides. When the PML-N leader subsequently said he had reservations on two amendment proposals only and that 93 changes in the constitution were okay by him, he merely confirmed the tenuous nature of his stand.
The matter of the two proposals he had objected to could have been resolved by his representatives in the parliamentary committee, as it eventually was, or during the debates on the package in the parliament. His explanation was too thin to satisfy any keen observer of the scene and this gave rise to a spate of speculation on the sudden decision to pull the rug from under the government's feet.
The suggestion that the PML-N had reacted to the possibility that the government parties might gain great political advantage if the 18th amendment was adopted was a blow below the belt. Nawaz Sharif should have learnt much about political proprieties during his years in wilderness and he is unlikely to be swayed by such base calculations. He did not have to point out that he could not have blocked a move that promised his installation as prime minister for the third time. That was a weak statement one does not normally expect from a political heavy-weight. Yet, some people are saying that if the 18th amendment bill does get through the parliament now the government will not be able to claim total credit for it; the bill will have had a second birth, courtesy the PML-N.
It has been vigorously argued in some quarters that the real reason for the PML-N leader's abrupt move could be the permanent power-brokers' opposition to the quantum of provincial autonomy conceded in the reform package. This line of thinking invites criticism for making assumptions without evidence. The army knows fully well that it has no reason to interfere in constitutional matters. It should have also realised by now that the grant of maximum possible autonomy to the federating units offers the only hope of overcoming Balochistan's near total alienation from the state and of saving the federation. Neither the defence establishment nor the PML-N, nor any other party for that matter, is expected to be lacking in ability to read the writing on the wall. No one who cavils at the autonomy provisions of the reform package, except possibly for those who wish to allow the provinces even greater powers, can be considered Pakistan's friend.
Likewise, the judiciary should not be dragged into the controversy over the constitutional package. It cannot but respect the parliament's right to perform its democratic functions. The case of the lawyer's association is different. They are free to lead the charge against parliamentarians whom they cannot forgive for winning mass support in election. But even the lawyers cannot claim to be free from partisan politics or to be otherwise infallible. The PML-N should know better than being led by any pressure group in its own party or outside.
One should like to hope that an important lesson the PML-N leader has learnt is the need for him to acquire the spirit of a team player. His demand for the repeal of the 17th amendment was unexceptionable. Much can be said against the government for not sharing his passion for the earliest possible repeal of Musharraf's handiwork. But it was not fair on his part to deny due consideration for those who felt for their causes as passionately as he did about the 17th amendment.
For instance, all provinces, or at least three of them, consider provincial autonomy to be Pakistan's top priority issue, human rights activists believe the gaps and deficiencies in the fundamental rights chapter must be removed first of all, and the non-Muslim citizens and women perhaps regard discrimination against them as the most fundamental issue. For the jobless poor, guarantees of food and work are the real problems. In a pluralist society the principle of participatory democracy demands accommodation of the aspirations and views of the largest number of people. There is no doubt about the powers the PML-N chief enjoys without being in government, and this thanks to acceptance of the value of government by consensus to some extent at least, but it is necessary for him to use these powers for causes upheld by groups larger than his own following.
It is not impossible that Mian Nawaz Sharif was advised to distance himself from the government's sinking boat or that the Get-Zardari operation was going to enter the final round. If there is any truth in such conjectures, one will be surprised at Mian Nawaz Sharif's inability to notice the flaw in the line of his advisers' argument. As a politician, he is not expected to abandon fellow politicians for the sake of hatchet men who target all politicians without any distinction. In any case, the outcome of the President's encirclement will be known within a few days and only time will tell as to how many politicians will remember Bulleh Shah's warning against celebrating the demise of one's rivals.
Now that the constitutional package has been signed by all the parties represented on it, credit should be given where it is due: All members of the committee deserve to be congratulated, Mr. Raza Rabbani more than anyone else. Compromises always leave some people unsatisfied but they must realise that give-and-take is the essence of democracy. The moral of the story is that there is no substitute to the politics of dialogue. Let this principle guide Pakistan's decision-makers in future too.
On ZAB's 32nd death anniversary, searching for truth behind the myths that surround the man
By Haroon Khalid
Having grown up in an environment where hagiography of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was routine, I still was never able to ever grant him the larger-than-life status. However, over the years that I have spent under the shadow of these narrations, I have come across a number of stories, which force me to draw similarities between lives of the much-acknowledged saints and Bhutto.
The first example of course is his Mazaar at Garhi Khuda Baksh, which could also be called the Makkah of a new religion. Devotees from all over the country throng this tiny village throughout the year and in large numbers during the times of the death anniversaries. All the activities that take place here are similar to ones that are taking place at the tomb of any saint.
Around a year ago I was researching for an article that I wrote on Wasti Ram, whose smadh still exists outside the wall of Lahore Fort, facing the Minar-e-Pakistan. I read that during that time period Ravi still used to flow from nearby. Every year the river would inundate the surroundings causing havoc for the inhabitants of the city. When Wasti Ram (a Hindu Saint) settled at that location, where his smadh stands, the river changed its course. Here a natural event is related to life of an individual, to establish his authenticity as a chosen one for the ordinary people. I hear a similar story resonating from Sindh which easily elevates the status of Bhutto from a politician to a saint, attributed to perform miracles.
The Indus throughout its course was inhabited by a species of crocodile called Gavial, also known as the Indian Gharial. This reptile has a sleek but long snout, and can grow up to a height of 4.5 m. In mature male Gavials, who are bigger than their female counterparts, there is a bulbous mass known as the ghara, right at the tip of the snout. The Indian Gharial, which was unique to South Asia, is extinct from Pakistan. No scientist has seen one for over 25 years now.
In 2008, it was reported that someone had seen a Gavial in the Nara Canal, which sprouts from the Sukkur Barrage. As a result, a team of scientists from WWF, which included my uncle Dr Masood Arshad, reached the spot to confirm the claim. They spent days going up and down the 100 kilometre long canal, during low flow of water but found none. To make sure, they interviewed around eight to ten people from the local fishermen community. The eldest of them, who clearly demanded the most respect of the lot as his claim wasn't challenged, narrated that the last Gharial was killed when Bhutto was hanged.
If this statement contains any veracity, then today i.e. April 4 also marks the death anniversary of the last of the Gharials. There is no need to point out that this is an apocryphal claim; the statement, however, has underlying cultural tones.
A larger event is related to the death of a politician, similar to the case in Wasti Ram. My uncle Dr Masood Arshad pointed this event out to me, when I was telling him of another Bhutto story that I heard. A couple of months ago, I was having a discussion with another elder in the family, Tahir Manzoor. He told me that around 1995-6, sitting in the chamber of a lawyer from Gujranwala, Malik Basit, he happened to meet a person who had voluntarily given up talking after the hanging of Bhutto. The person would only communicate through writing, stating that in a country where a leader like Bhutto could be hanged, there was really nothing worth talking about.
My uncle did not know the whereabouts of the gentleman who went silent, but recalled that he was around 35 then. I asked a few partymen around but nobody knew about him. I also asked a few people in Gujranwala but in vain. Finally, after much effort, I got hold of Malik Basit, who is a card-holding member of PPP and still practices law and has his chamber in the district courts Gujranwala. Basit confirmed that this man called Abdul Bari Rajput, who belonged to the village of Amenabad, had relinquished talking after the murder of Bhutto. He used to visit his chamber regularly and would never write until spoken to. He would keep a small pad and a pen with him all the time. Bari was attached with Chaudary Ishaq, the health minister from Gujranwala during the early days of PPP in the 1970s. I was told that, sadly, Abdul Bari recently passed away, and did not utter a word till the day he died.
Parvez Yaqub, also known as Parvez Masih, who immolated himself for the release of his beloved leader, also came from Gujranwala. He died on 1st October 1978. When Bhutto was imprisoned, there was widespread agitation throughout the country. Party workers from Lahore, Faisalabad, and Gujranwala committed self-immolation; Yaqub Masih was the first one to die. He was followed by five others. A woman called Begum Naseem also tried to burn herself outside the Mochi Gate, but she was saved by the people. She still lives here.
Rana Jamil belongs to a well-off landlord family from Lilyani, Kasur. All his siblings do jobs in the government sectors and other organisations. The entire family is loyal to PPP, but Jamil surpasses all. He roams around the streets of Kasur with a PPP flag in his hand and another one draping his shoulder. Still raising slogans in favour of PPP, he openly abuses Zia-ul-Haq, Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif. This makes him a source of entertainment for children, and a source of embarrassment for his family. He is known to go to PML-N meetings, where he slurs the party and its followers, which no one, however, seems to mind. Every year on ZAB's and Benazir's death anniversaries, he travels to Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on public transport. In his 70s, this man is popular around this area.
Bhutto ceased to be a politician the day he died. He became a myth, a cult, a creed, even a caste. Many people use the name Bhutto at the end of their names. No matter what status historians give him, he is part of a legend. History is for mortals and he has broken that barrier.
US-Israeli deadlock on settlements in East Jerusalem may trigger another round of bloody Intifada
By Mazhar Khan Jadoon
Relations between the United States and Israel have hit the rock bottom after Israel spurned all calls from around the world to rescind its plan to build 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish suburb in East (Palestinian) Jerusalem. The Obama administration is finding it hard to convince an adamant Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to halt construction and start talking to Palestinians for peace in the Middle East.
The whole Arab world, which is always short of solutions when it comes to Palestinians miseries at the hand of Israel, looks up to President Obama to rein in Netanyahu and avert another round of violence that may snowball into a larger conflict. Obama needs to prevail upon Netanyahu to keep his Arab allies on board who are growing frustrated at the deadlock that somehow suits Israel.
The Arab leaders, on their part, get together, talk a lot, eat large quantities of food and disperse, hoping the crisis will end one day. All the Arab League could come up with was a verbal protest and a declaration that there will be no talks with Israel unless it stops building settlements. Their declaration sounds ridiculous as it lets Israel off the hook giving it enough time to complete its illegal settlements in Jerusalem. The Arab leaders have threatened suspension of peace talks as if Israelis are dying for talks with Palestinians.
An official Israeli statement, issued in Jerusalem after the unsuccessful talks between Obama and Netanyahu, said the meeting was positive. The statement said the two parties would carry on discussing the ideas that were tackled during this meeting without providing any additional details.
President Barack Obama gave Netanyahu an unusually low-profile reception at White House talks, devoid of the traditional photo opportunity or joint statement. The feud with Washington has put Netanyahu in a political bind. Meeting US demands on settlements after a 10-month partial construction freeze he announced in November could endanger his coalition and bolster the centrist opposition. On the other hand, it was quite embarrassing for Americans as well that Israel has rejected all US requests with contempt despite the fact the latter breeds on American aid in the form of cash and guns. Netanyahu and Obama meeting was on when the governor of Jerusalem gave green light to build habitation units for Jewish families in east Jerusalem.
Netanyahu had stressed that Israel wants to carry on building settlements in Jerusalem, warning the US that if it supports the demands of the Palestinians, then the political process could be delayed for an additional year.
During his address to America's most powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, hawkish Netanyahu didn't budge from his position that building anywhere in Jerusalem is an Israeli right. He asserted that Jews had been building in Jerusalem for 3,000 years and said Israel would continue to do so. "Jerusalem is not a settlement. It's our capital," Netanyahu said to a standing ovation, surprising many critics across the world.
Sensing the expansionist designs of Israel, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton sent back a strong signal that the Obama administration would not budge on its stand-off with Benjamin Netanyahu. Clinton cautioned that Israel's refusal to halt construction in the territories it occupied after the 1967 war was emboldening its enemies.
She also hinted for the first time that the United States could reduce its role in the Middle East peace process if Netanyahu did not reverse the controversial housing project in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem.
According to BBC, the US is considering abstaining from a possible UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. The possibility surfaced at talks in Paris last week between a senior US official and Qatar's foreign minister. This will, perhaps, be a rare moment in US-Israeli history when Israel does not find the US behind its back to clear the mess.
The Obama administration's continuing pressure on Israel may also bolster Palestinian hardliners and further antagonise the policy of Arabs and the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians, who want their own state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with a capital in East Jerusalem, backed out of planned US-mediated peace talks. The diplomatic deadlock has also triggered Israeli-Palestinian violence anew in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas has already spurned the Jewish state and derided Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for seeking peace with Israel. If the deadlock persists, the world might see another bloody Intifada wherein unarmed Palestinians youths will sling stones at Israeli soldiers only to be shot back to death.
The annual HRCP report states terrorist attacks constituted the greatest threat to rights last year
By Waqar Mustafa
The State of Human Rights in 2009
By Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan
Editor Adnan Adil
Price: Rs 300
I may sound a bit clichéd in quoting the Father of the Nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah's August 11, 1947 address to the Constituent Assembly pointing to the track Pakistan would tread. But since Jinnah's successors rejected his vision not only by censoring his speech, but also by reversing several of his steps that could ensure equal rights to the citizens of Pakistan and, only a month after his death, passing the Safety Act Ordinance of 1948, providing for detention without trial, which Jinnah had in March that year angrily dismissed as a "black law", I may be allowed to cite the words we forgot.
"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. … We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. … In course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State."
Meant to be Jinnah's political will and testament, according to his official biographer Hector Bolitho, the speech was pushed to oblivion. And with this came the state of denial we have always loved to be in, which has made things go from bad to worse for the state and the society. Societal decline is too speedy to ignore because we have not been heeding to the warnings coming to us from several watchdogs, who courtesy such alarms have been slapped with the tag of being anti-state and foreign agents. Few Pakistanis buy their version for it could risk them being dubbed siding with the enemies of the country. Several pen-pushers would come out to whitewash the dark spots. Apologists abound though the audacious has become the norm.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has come up with a chronicle of the year 2009. It sees a sharp increase in violence against women and religious minorities and new incidents of enforced disappearances. Portraying a dismal state of affairs, which the title photo also suggests, the report says that terrorist attacks constituted the greatest threat to fundamental rights of people. According to non-official estimates, 3,021 people were killed and 7,334 were injured in 2,586 incidents of terrorism. Out of these, 1,296 people were killed in 108 suicide bombings. It also faults operations against terrorists as less caring for the human rights of the combatants and non-combatants alike. The HRCP regrets that its suggestion to set up a parliamentary committee to probe extra-judicial and revenge killings and mass graves in the aftermath of the Swat operation has gone unheeded. Its figures show only five al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders were killed in 44 strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in tribal areas, while 700 innocent civilians lost their lives in these attacks.
While the ruling coalition parties in Sindh remained engaged in tit-for-tat killings in Karachi, the HRCP says the parliament did very little legislative work and the president's special powers to issue ordinances were invoked excessively. It reports 1.52 million cases as pending in superior and lower courts at the end of last year.
The report says 118 citizens and 158 security officials were killed in 164 incidents of target killings in Balochistan, while 83 citizens and 7 security officials were injured in these attacks. It says 592 cases of kidnapping for ransom took place in NWFP, 241 in Balochistan, 224 in Punjab and 163 in Sindh. It says seven journalists were killed in the line of duty, while four others were killed in crime-related incidents. A total of 163 direct attacks, including murders, kidnappings, threats and assaults were made against the media.
The report says 1,404 women were murdered. Out of these, 647 women were killed in the name of 'honour' (including the cases of karo kari). The number of rape cases reported was 928. Some 563 women committed suicide, 253 attempted suicide and 135 fell victim to burning. The number of cases of domestic violence, including torture, beating, shaving, amputation and murder attempts, shot up to 205 from 137 in 2008.
Out of 70 million children of less than 18 years of age, almost 20.3 million do not go to school. Around 20.8 million are less than five years of age. It says around 20,000 children die of diarrhoea every year and nearly 20 percent of children suffer from asthma, adding 39 percent were moderately or severely malnourished. According to the HRCP, children are being recruited to join the 'lashkars' supported by the government to take on Taliban remnants in the tribal areas.
The HRCP says the 2009 saw 'increasing frequency of organised violent attacks' by Islamists on religious minorities, and the government has done little to improve minorities' general economic situation. "Nearly 80 percent of the minority population falls below the poverty line," says the report.
The report says 1,668 suicide cases were reported across the country in 2009, whereas 747 people were killed in Karachi.
Being published annually since 1990, the report on 18 subjects, along with pertinent photographs, is a probing review of human rights situation that can help us build a stronger human rights culture. Written in straightforward, non-technical language, it describes events in Pakistan during the year 2009. The report, an invaluable resource for journalists, citizens and the government itself, goes far beyond an account of human rights abuses in the country.
The 104th meeting between Pakistan and India over water issues ended without any breakthrough
By Waqar Gillani
The 104th meeting between Pakistan and India over water issues ended last Tuesday without any breakthrough in Lahore as India rejected six out of eight objections raised by Pakistan over water projects. The lingering water dispute has also become a tool in the hands of extremist organisations like Jamaatud Dawa to invoke hate-India emotions in general public and further their cause in Kashmir.
Religious extremists and militants, fighting a proxy war against India in Kashmir, have been cashing in on the ongoing water controversy between archrivals Pakistan and India, bracketing the issue with Kashmir.
Pakistan's banned 'jihadi' publications like Jarrar (a publication of Jamaatud Dawa), Zarb-e-Momin (a publication of Al-Rasheed Trust) and Al-Qalam (a publication of Jaish-e-Muhammad) have been highlighting this issue as "water terrorism" for the past several weeks. These organisations have specified a portion of their publications to highlight the Indo-Pak water issue, urging people to get ready for Jihad against India over water. JuD has been quite active for the past couple of months in holding public rallies and delivering anti-Indian speeches on water issue across Pakistan. Hafiz Saeed, founder of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and chief of JuD, has been publicly 'threatening' India to stop water terrorism.
Through their speeches, these militant leaders are portraying a picture that Pakistan and India are heading towards a war on this issue, and India has decided to make Pakistan a barren land by cutting its water sources and violating the Indus Waters Treaty. Abdul Rehman Makki, a senior leader of JuD, last week held a well-attended public rally in Pattoki, one hundred kilometres from Lahore towards south, urging people to get ready for Jihad against India over water.
An article in Zarb-e-Momin reads, "You (Indians) will be buried in soil if you trigger a war on water issue. Crazy jihadis (Deewanay) will fight at every front and will not hesitate to sacrifice their lives."
In the last week's meeting at Lahore, Indian delegation was conveyed Islamabad's concerns over Chutak and Nimoo Bazgo water projects being built by New Delhi. These projects would block 43 million cubic metres of water from flowing to Pakistan in the River Indus, Pakistani Indus Waters Commissioner Syed Jamaat Ali Shah said after the meeting. He said according to the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, India must inform Islamabad at least six months before finalising the construction of any dam.
The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-sharing treaty between India and Pakistan signed in 1960, comprising three Western Rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab and three Eastern Rivers Sutluj, Beas andRavi. Under this treaty, India has the exclusive right to use waters of Eastern Rivers. But, India has now started using Western rivers' waters violating the treaty.
Aranga Nathan, the Indian Indus Waters Commissioner, said Islamabad was given advance information regarding the construction of Nimoo Bazgo Dam, but even then India would respond to all queries raised during the meeting. Pakistan has also proposed to India to install telemetry systems in remote areas to monitor the water flow.
Under the treaty, Pakistan has the right to utilise the upper three western rivers -- Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Shah said Pakistan wanted nothing but honest and fair implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty.
If mechanisms and design parameters, defined in the treaty, are not adhered to, it will affect the flow of water to Pakistan. When India set up Baglihar Dam in 2008, water flow from India to Marala reduced from 55,000 cusecs to 38,000 cusecs.
India has again violated the treaty by starting another project on the Indus without informing Pakistan. The Pakistani side also believes that according to the treaty Islamabad has the right to raise objection to the designs of Indian dams.
India has constructed three big and eight small dams on Chenab River, in addition to 24 other projects that are in the pipeline.