effects on economy
dear, let’s give a damn
World Urban Forum
promotion of developing countries' exports
By Hussain H. Zaidi
Of the total 153 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), an overwhelmingly majority are developing countries. To help these countries secure a share in global trade commensurate with their development needs is one of the objectives of the WTO.
"The West still has a very colonial mentality"
By Ramma S. Cheema and
Robert Fisk is one name in international journalism that needs little introduction. A British and foreign correspondent for The Independent, Fisk visited Pakistan recently to report on political, social, and judicial system for his paper. Fisk happens to be one of the few Western journalists to have interviewed Osama Bin Laden three times between 1994 and 1997. Fisk has been voted International Journalist of the Year seven times in his career. In an exclusive interview with The News on Sunday on phone, Fisk talks about a host of issues, including the current political system in Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan, 9/11, Middle East, and the ethics that journalists need to apply when reporting. Excerpts from the interview follow:
The News on Sunday: Pakistan is governed by a democratic system now after an 8-year long military period. Keeping in mind the current political and economic situation of Pakistan, do you think we have benefited from this transition from military to democracy?
Robert Fisk: In the 60 something years of Pakistani politics you have seen very few years of formal democracy. Political opposition to military rule hasn't had much practice. Sadly, the concept of corruption has seeped deeply into the fabric of Pakistani politics. Even dictatorship is an extreme form of corruption. It's very important that you put dictatorship into the past now and accept only the shining dynamic of democracy as the only system.
Corruption is like cancer. Once you suffer from it, it's difficult to get rid of it. When you have politicians, almost all of whom are tainted with corruption, there is a cynicism in the electorate (people who come out to vote). In Britain, we did have military dictatorships. British parliament is also corrupt but not on the scale as here. The public says why should we vote for the corrupt, they don't represent us? Tony Blair went to war in Iraq even after a million people walked on the London streets against the invasion. Similar discontent is present in other European countries between the people and the people they elect.
What you have here in Pakistan, which really goes in your favour, is a strong body of lawyers who for various reasons have helped the country in intricate moments. They have stood together for the advocacy of the rule of law. The fact is that the issue of the reinstatement of the chief justice showed greatly on Pakistan. It showed that this little country can show great political maturity and belief in law as opposed to the belief in power which is what Musharraf wanted.
Any democratic setup in Pakistan has to tackle the issue of poverty, unemployment, electricity, and education on an urgent basis to avoid anger and social disruption. The coming out of people on the streets of Islamabad when transport fares were raised is symptomatic of a dangerous tradition. In any other country you will need a much bigger social injustice and inequality to bring people on the streets. It is a very fragile situation.
But one thing that has always impressed me about Pakistanis is the intelligence of the people here. Despite low literacy rates, the people are intellectually very sound. The people here don't need to be highly educated in order to know about politics and what's going on around them. People discuss law and politics in detail; know about the political parties, their manifestos. The people are the saving grace of this country and that is the reason I like coming here. You can ask anyone about politics here and you will get an interesting reply.
TNS: You say you like coming here but Time Magazine reported Pakistan to be one of the most dangerous places in the world. You have spent time here. What do you have to say?
RF: Journalists have their own point of view, I don't believe what I read in the Time. You all should stop believing it too.
Here is Pakistan I am amazed that you worry about what Time or New York Times report about you than worry about your own country and its reality. I think it's a very bad habit to refer to foreigners talking about your country. You have no future if you keep asking foreigners what they think of your country. Ask people from the nearest city or village, not people from New York, London or Tel Aviv.
TNS: Do you think 9/11 was staged in order to attack Iraq and Afghanistan?
RF: No. Everywhere I go people ask me, do you really think George Bush staged the 9/11. I reply do you actually think George Bush was capable enough to carry out 9/11 (laughs). He wasn't capable of doing anything. I think Bin Laden's people were behind it. I also think that the American administration and intelligence authorities were aware something was about to happen and were thinking of a response in case it happened. At least one senior member of the Bush administration was talking about Iraq within 24 hours of 9/11. The members of the Bush administration were aware what opportunities could present themselves if America was attacked or wounded by terrorists…I don't like the word terrorists…I call them mass murderers. The Bush administration wasn't quick enough to cover up the security lapses but by and large people should stop believing that 9/11 was a CIA administered conspiracy.
TNS: Is Obama doing a better job than Bush as far as the policy in Middle East is concerned?
RF: Well, he is pretty much doing the same thing. Governments are not about good or bad guys. It's about conducive power. Obama understands Middle East better, has a number of intellectual Arab friends but in Washington power does not lie with individuals. There are several lobbies. Not just the Israeli lobby, several others too. In Washington, at the end of the day the Congress does know that if it opposes Israel, the Israel lobby will support its opponents in the next general elections. Remember the president of the US may be the most powerful man in the world but he has little power to make decisions in Washington.
When Gaza war was going on, 1300 Palestinians were slaughtered. Obama said nothing. Now if 1300 Israelis were killed I am sure he must have said something. I heard Obama's speech in Cairo and Obama's referring to the exodus of the 1948 as the 'relocation' of Palestinians. That's a very odd way to mention what was clearly ethnic cleansing and he didn't use the word refugee camps throughout his lecture and I was there taking down notes and thinking: now there is a problem here.
TNS: Why do you think Americans and foreign journalists are afraid to report actual facts relating to Palestine?
RF: There are a number of things. Firstly, reporters don't want to get into trouble with their editors or land up in a major controversy relating to Israel. Therefore, they have invented a special language which in my opinion is outrageous and disgraceful but keeps the press safe from accusations. They use words 'disputed' instead of 'occupied' for areas that are essentially occupied areas. Then they call the settlements 'Jewish neighbourhood' and fence. Even a paper in Pakistan called the wall a 'security fence'. I find it outrageous because a fence is something you have around your fields, a neighbourhood is somewhere where you can chat to your neighbours, a dispute is something you solve over a cup of tea or a lower court.
Once you turn a colony into a neighborhood, an occupation into a dispute, a wall into fence, you de-semiticise the entire thing. It's sad that our reporting not only supported the Israeli occupation but also made Palestinians into a generically violent people who throw stones at Israelis. And this happens because of the practice in journalism where journalists think it's better not to be controversial and write in a way not to offend anyone but by doing that they take away from the reality of war, the blood and the suffering of the people.
American journalists are especially fearful of being labelled anti-Semitic, of losing their jobs due to strong Jewish lobby, be reviled, be shunned. These people make anti-Semitism respectable. One of the papers in Pakistan also called the settlements controversial. I say it's not controversial, it's illegal. But you see you can't give a backbone to a reporter. If you are a reporter who doesn't have the courage to speak the truth then it's better to go work in a bank, IT or Public Relations.
Another problem is the editors. An editor needs to stand by the reporter. I am very fortunate to have an editor who trusts me and whom I trust. I am lucky because if you don't have a courageous editor, no matter how good a reporter you are, you will be defeated.
TNS: Do you think the US is fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan and it's affecting the entire region?
RF: Yes. No one in history has won a war in Afghanistan. The British lost in 1842, the nineteenth century, 1919, the Soviets lost in 1979 and 1989. Americans are on the verge of losing it now. We can malign our enemies anywhere, call them savages, terrorist etc. The Canadian commander in Afghanistan called the Taliban 'scumbags' but you see that is not the point. The point is that the Afghans, the people, are never going to tolerate any foreign occupier. Afghan people might have a very low rate of education, live in intolerable conditions but they know if a president has had a fraudulent election and then they hear that Obama calls the fraudulently elected president, Karzai and congratulates him on getting elected. Afghans are not stupid. Being uneducated doesn't mean you are stupid.
We can be romantic about the situation, be moralistic about the situation but at the end of the day the truth is we will never win in Afghanistan. These lands don't belong to the British or Americans. They belong to the Muslims, the Afghans people. The Muslims might need our education, our technical assistance but they don't need our military, our soldiers. We do not have any right to have our military in the Muslim world.
TNS: You are reported to have said that all strategy on Afghanistan and this region will fail if the Kashmir dispute isn't resolved. Is it true?
RF: Yes, it's true. There will be no solution to the mess in Afghanistan and this region until America deals justly with Kashmir. When Richard Holbrooke was appointed he was appointed for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was told he wasn't dealing with Kashmir. Does that mean Kashmir is an India issue not to be discussed with Pakistan? Then why should the Pakistan army, the ISI, and the people of Pakistan fight a war that is essentially America's? It's like asking people in Gaza to support US foreign policy after it supports Israel to occupy Palestinian land and carry out atrocities on the people of Palestine. It won't work. People won't do that. They are not stupid.
One of the main problems I think while dealing with this region is that the West still has a very colonial mentality by which they feel they can tell the Muslims what to do and what not to do. We still think we are better than them. This is very demeaning to the people here.
TNS: Did Musharraf really have a choice to say no when confronted with "are you with us or against us"?
RF: Remember then you had a dictator and his priority was not the future of Pakistan but the future of Musharraf. For him, it was a personal situation and power that mattered when confronted with 'with us or against us'. He agreed to go along with the US because had he refused the US would have found a way to get rid of him. It didn't matter to him what it might do to Pakistan in the future. At that time Pakistan was safe because there was no internal insurgency but now after Pakistan took sides with an Imperial power, the war came to the country.
TNS: How do nations like Pakistan avoid falling victim to the US, of the West's notion of democracy in their own country?
RF: It's difficult. The history of this nation began with Pakistan and although Pakistan is a great nation the history after partition is not glorious at all with constant military dictatorships and economic disasters. On the other hand, the West has a long history of colonisation and occupation but I feel there is one occupation more sinister than the military occupation and that is economic domination. You see you don't see any Western soldiers marching on your streets but you need their money to run your country.
The moment you go to Washington to ask for money, they say you have to pay interest and the interest is to support their foreign policy because of their economic hold. How do you avoid it…by good governance, a government of people who don't rule to make money out of politics but to improve and help the country. You have a spirit alive in Pakistan that can save this nation. The lawyers came close to it. The conditions here might be tough but that doesn't mean you can't run your country. If you don't do that you will have to ask the West for their money and in return submit to their foreign policy demands.
Lenders are least pushed about the inequitable character of our tax system
By Huzaima Bukhari and Dr. Ikramul Haq
On November 25, 2008, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the $7.6 billion standby arrangement for Pakistan to be delivered over 23-month. As expected, a number of conditions were imposed by the IMF. One of the demands of the lender was introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) from July 1, 2010, coupled with surrendering control of monitoring of the revenue collection to the IMF; six of its directors and two of the World Bank since then are supervising revenue collection and the preparation of the federal budget of Pakistan.
There are remarkable similarities in the operations of the IMF/World Bank in Pakistan and the colonial era of East India Company vis-à-vis revenue collections. According to many historians, the East Indian Company’s tax collectors would take away one half to two-thirds of the crops. Therefore, the peasants’ lives were most miserable during the colonial period — the same is the case now for Pakistanis.
Our economic survival now lies in collecting taxes wherever due by abandoning the policy of appeasement towards the powerful and the rich. However, VAT is not an answer. Being regressive in nature it would push more people towards poverty — their number has already reached 50 million. The rich will pass on the burden of this tax to the poor consumers. The real solution is taxing the rich and mighty by introducing asset-seizure legislation. If they fail to pay taxes on their un-taxed assets — kept in or outside Pakistan — they should be seized at once. This legislation will be true manifestation of democratic rules confirming an unshakeable determination, consistency and political will to curb the 64-year-old habit of defying tax laws, together with complete purge in the tax machinery.
The primary function of any tax policy is to raise revenue for the government for its public expenditure. So the first goal of a development-oriented tax policy is to ensure that this function is discharged effectively but simultaneously it ensures removal of inequalities through redistribution of income and wealth. Higher rates of income taxes, capital transfer taxes and wealth taxes are some of the means for achieving economic justice. In Pakistan, an opposite approach has been adopted: there has been a complete shift from equitable to highly inequitable taxes. The progressive taxes aimed at removing inequalities are replaced with regressive ones favouring the rich.
Taxes collected are consumed on debt-servicing, defence, security of the rulers and their foreign tours. Besides regressive taxation, the government keep on borrowing at a high cost, from wherever source available, to run the day to day affairs. Interest payments on domestic and foreign debts during the ongoing fiscal year 2009-10 are likely to exceed Rs664bn (48 percent of revenue target fixed for the year) that is 17 billion more than what was estimated in the budget. If the defence spending — including cost of ‘war against terror’ — is added, the entire revenue collection of Rs. 1380 billion will be engulfed by just two items, meaning by for all other outlays more borrowings, domestic and international, will be made. It is a never-ending vicious circle.
It is now well-established that there is a direct link between growing poverty in Pakistan and distortion in tax base since 1991, when a major shift was made by introducing presumptive taxes (indirect taxes in the garb of income tax) and VAT-type sales tax. Since 1991, the burden of taxes on the poor is increased by 38 percent whereas on the rich it is reduced by 18 percent. The lack of judicious balance between direct and indirect taxes has pushed an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis towards the poverty line — their number is now 48 million according to official figures.
The FBR has in its reports admitted that in the first half of the current fiscal year 2009-10, the share of indirect taxes rose to 72 percent and that of direct taxes dipped to 28 percent. It confirms that the taxation system of Pakistan, contrary to the rest of the world, is highly regressive. If we take into account the portion of so-called income tax collection, which is in fact indirect in nature, the share of indirect tax would not be less than 82 percent in the total collection of FBR. The IMF and others lenders are least pushed about the inequitable character of our tax system, under which the burden of taxes is less on the rich and more on the poor. They are interested in getting their money back with interest.
Over a period of time, our tax system has become rotten, oppressive, unjust and target-oriented. There is a dire need for discussing the philosophical framework, the principles of equity and justice, which should be the main concern of our tax policy; not mere achieving of targets set out by the foreign lenders. Our tax managers are meeting budgetary targets through oppressive taxes, shifting incidence on the poorer segments of society and exempting the rich. We must reintroduce wealth tax, gift tax, estate duty and capital gain tax — progressive taxes abolished by military dictators.
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance is also of the view that VAT is inflationary in nature. It has pointed out in its recommendation forwarded to the National Assembly that 15 percent VAT will have a burden of 21 percent on taxpayers. It has asked for deferment of the VAT for a year at least. It is hoped that National Assembly and all the four provincial assembles, while discussing the IMF-drafted VAT laws, will reject them in totality and instead will go for progressives taxes mentioned above.
The legislators must reject iniquitous prescription of VAT as it will never solve our economic problems. The only solution is introduction of taxes on the rich coupled with reducing the monstrous size of the government. They should monetize all the perquisites and benefits available to them and to the civil-military bureaucracy. If we manage to drastically cut the size of government and formulate a rational tax policy through public debate and parliamentary process, and implement it through consensus and not coercive measures, there is every possibility to ward off the IMF and World Bank in the shortest span of time. However, if we continue following their prescriptions, we will neither tap our real tax potential, which is not less than Rs. 4 trillion, nor achieve the cherished goals of self-reliance, rapid industrial and economic growth, and socio-economic justice for all.
The writers, tax advisers, are Visiting Professors at Lahore University of Management Sciences
Political will is a must for implementing National
By Sheher Bano
Pakistan is a major transit country for opiate produced in Afghanistan. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that 40 percent of all the heroin and morphine trafficked out of Afghanistan transits through Pakistan. The UNODC reported in 2009 that opiate trade in Pakistan was valued at about USD 1 billion. The 2006 National Assessment of Problem of Drug Use in Pakistan estimated that the prevalence of opiate use in Pakistan is around 0.7 percent of the adult population. The same report estimates the number of opiate users at 628,000 of which 77 per cent (482,000) are chronic heroin abusers. According to the National Survey on Drug Abuse 1993, carried out by the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board, there were 3 million reported drug addicts in the country. Recent figures estimate about 6 million addicts in the country, although the fresh, exact data is not available.
The government formulated its first Anti-Narcotics Policy in 1993. The new National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010 addresses both Pakistan’s prevailing drug situation and changes in the global narcotics environment that have emerged since the 1993 Narcotics Policy. The policy will soon be announced. Although the 1993 Policy created various institutions and drug enforcement structures, an effective mechanism to coordinate and integrate these efforts was lacking. The absence of a cohesive approach has led to continued drug trafficking and proliferation in Pakistan, compounded by a limited availability of treatment centres and data on drug addiction.
The new policy aims at re-energising the existing National Drug Laws Enforcement Institutions, capacity building of Anti Narcotics Force and developing an effective coordination and control mechanism, concurrently mobilizing people of Pakistan, especially youth, so as to ensure their active participation in eradication of the menace of drugs from Pakistan. The Policy seeks to boost treatment and rehabilitation services.
The focus of the policy is on eradication of narcotics and maintenance of Pakistan’s poppy-free status. The new Policy outlines a number of objectives targeting three areas namely: supply reduction, demand reduction and international cooperation. The Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010 supports the Drug Control Master Plan 2010-2014.
In order to cope with the segment of "Drug Supply Reduction" the policy has outlined steps like elimination of poppy cultivation, effectively check-resurfacing of heroin laboratories, prevention of the trafficking and production of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals, strengthening and streamlining law enforcement agencies and their activities, improving legislative and judicial processes, enhance coordination/information-sharing through structured arrangement within organisations/institutions; capacity building of Anti-Narcotics Force; enhanced efforts for forfeiting drug-generated assets and improvement of judicature for expeditious disposal of drug cases.
On the Drug Demand Reduction side, the policy aims to prevent drug use through education and community mobilisation campaigns and create a drug-free society in Pakistan, particularly the youth. It also proposes an effective and accessible drug treatment and rehabilitation systems and conducting a drug abuse survey to determine the prevalence of drug addiction and establishing a national coordination mechanism for drug demand reduction. In order to seek international cooperation, a mechanism for active participation in bilateral, regional and international efforts to combat drugs will be devised.
National Anti-Narcotics Council (NANC) will be set up under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Pakistan in order to evaluate and review Anti-Narcotics Policy. The council will meet annually with the MNC acting as the Secretariat. Parliamentary Committees on Narcotics Control will exercise parliamentary oversight by evaluating and monitoring the implementation of the Anti-Narcotics Policy. The Committee will also prepare recommendations regarding review and improvement of Anti-Narcotics Policy for the NANC.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan also wants Lahore to be a drug-free city under the new draft National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010. The Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010, though quite comprehensive, misses out on certain key issues. On the supply side, it does not lay stress on the need for strict legislation, registration and licensing of the sale and purchase of precursor chemicals like acetic anhydride or phenobarbitone (an anticonvulsant). The latter is a chemical used to treat epilepsy, hence, may be used inappropriately. Such a policy will not only allow documented tracing of chemicals but also act as a measure of check on those involved in the trade of chemicals with the potential for such grave harm. The policy must take into account the availability of drugs through prescriptions and must place an effective ban on substances and medicines that can be misused.
Thirdly, the policy is silent on the question of how regularly the Drug Abuse Survey will be conducted. In the absence of proper statistics, revising the policy will serve little purpose and become ineffective. In order to reduce the health, social and economic costs associated with drug trafficking and substance abuse in Pakistan, the Drug Control Master Plan 2010-2014 has been developed in accordance with international best practices. Pakistan is a signatory to all United Nations (UN) drug control conventions as well as the SAARC Convention on Drug Control.
Recently PILDAT arranged a series of Consultative Sessions on Draft National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010 in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore with all the stakeholders in order to take their views on the proposed policy so that a comprehensive plan can be put in place.
In all these sessions the participants stressed on introducing stricter punishments for drug traffickers and users, like that of death penalty, social mobilisation, a vigorous anti-narcotics drive on the pattern of judges movement, an efficient law enforcement staff to achieve the drug-free status of Pakistan, considering certainty of the punishment more necessary than the severity of the punishment etc. However, strong drug mafia network and weak law enforcement leaves a question for all the efforts done towards a drug-free society. Differentiation is also required in the policy between drug trafficking and drug cultivation.
The policy must introduce subsidies and incentives for farmers in areas where poppy cultivation is high so as to facilitate crops, which are legal and equally profitable. The policy must introduce a framework and monitoring of drug rehabilitation and treatment centres, rehabilitation of displaced persons, especially youth who suffer poverty, lack of employment opportunities. Besides, post-rehabilitation monitoring to check for re-lapse in drug users and to identify reasons for re-lapse is also mandatory. One of the participants suggested replacing "drug addict" with "drug user" in the policy. The criticism was also raised on the contents of the policy, which to many seemed a replica of the past policies made in Pakistan.
Participants also suggested following "Rainbow Strategy", which was adopted in the Paris Pact in Vienna, in order to reduce the negative health, social and security consequences of opium and heroin in and around Afghanistan. In this connection, in order to strengthen cross-border counter-narcotics cooperation, a Trilateral Initiative between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan should be initiated.
Muhammad Naveed Younus, Coordinator, New Horizon Care Centre, Karachi said that the policy lacks the involvement of representatives from grassroots level which is actually needed for effective implementation. While highlighting some of the amendments, he suggested twice yearly meeting of the National Anti-Narcotics Council (NANC. Besides, he also recommended that President of the Drug Free Pakistan should be the member of this committee. He suggested forming National Anti-Narcotics Committee under federal secretary, a Provincial Narcotics Control Committee under Chief Minister, with a permanent representative from Pakistan Merchant and Dyes Association, City Narcotics Control Committee under DCOs, and Town Committees under Town Nazims. He suggested deputing young officers in the ANF staff instead of near retirement officers, so that the cause does not suffer due to the retirement of any officer.
While the political will is a must for implementing National Anti-Narcotics Policy 2010, in the words of Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider, former Governor Sindh and former Interior Minister, "drug-free Pakistan may be a big dream, but we have to dream big to achieve big."
Going up in smoke? Hopefully not.
Increased interaction can help create a
By Elisa Di Benedetto (Italy) Amer Farooq and
Waqar Gillani (Pakistan)
"Terrorism, burqa and war". This is Pakistan in the eyes of Italians Iqbal meets every day in Milan, where he lives with some friends, immigrants like him, mostly from Pakistan. After arriving in Italy in 2002 following short stays in Germany, France and the Netherlands, Iqbal has chosen to stay, although his family lives in Pakistan. "I feel at home here. I love this country, especially the south, in summers."
Iqbal, 34, spends free time with friends from Pakistan; contact with Italians is limited to sporadic occasions. "When I travel by train or by bus, women hold their bags tightly," he says in a tone between resignation and amusement, recalling the questions that he is more frequently asked. "Sometimes people do not know much of Pakistan and confuse it with other countries. They even mistake it for Afghanistan." So close on the map, especially in the popular imagination. "They ask me about war in Pakistan and I wonder what war they are talking about. They want to know about drugs production!". Iqbal says he tries to talk about his country and explain the situation there, but sometimes feels "that even if people are saying "yes", they don’t really understand what I’m trying to say".
The story of Iqbal is not exclusive. It’s a story of many – Ali, Ahmad, Naveed, Aslam and over 80,000 immigrants of Pakistani origin in Italy. About 70 percent of them live in Lombardia – Northwest of Italy especially in Brescia, which has become "Brescia-stan" – reflective of an immigration that has been transforming over the years, becoming an integral part of the local community.
"While in the eighties Italy was a transit point for immigrants bound for Northern Europe, the restrictions introduced by England and Germany have encouraged the transformation of the immigration phenomenon that has a sedentary characteristic now," says Ejaz Ahmad, a Pakistani journalist and cultural mediator in Italy since 1989.
Emphasizing that immigration is something more than a temporary trend, Ejaz hints at the purchase of home ownership. "Around 10,000 Pakistanis have purchased home, often through a loan," continues Ejaz, who knows well this reality. "It is a signal of intention to stay." Explaining further the significant features of Pakistanis’ immigration, Ejaz says, "It’s usually the man who leaves his country, and his family joins him after a few years." In Italy, immigrant Pakistanis are in industry as workers, and usually after 5-6 years they try to get self-employed by starting a business, especially in the food and telephony, fruits and vegetables shops, call centres and Internet points. "For them, the possibility of a business represents a quantum leap, a raise in the social position."
"When my son insisted on going to Italy, I thought I would never be able to see him again," says Khan, 62, who lives some 100 kilometres south of capital city Islamabad, in the rural town of Chakwal, and runs a small grocery store.
Aslam, Khan’s 36-year-old son, went to Italy 15 years ago through an agent who demanded a fortune for sending him to Italy on fictitious documents. Khan had to succumb to his son’s insistence who was "under a spell by the stories narrated to him by his cousin who had gone to Italy while Aslam was still a child".
"My nephew told my son a lot about Italy and he was so fascinated by these stories that he even threatened me to give his life if I didn’t let him go," says Khan who is now happy with his son. "I had double trouble in sending my son to Italy. It was really hard for me to meet the agent’s demand and secondly I was afraid that my son would ruin himself with wine and women," adds Khan.
Khan says his son was married to a cousin back home and he is happy with wife and two children. His son, who once migrated to Italy on fake documents, is a legal resident now and plans to help his young nephews migrate to Italy through legal means. Aslam’s father is no more worried about the idea of his grandchildren planning to move to Italy, neither do their fathers.
Aslam’s brothers who run the family business, a grocery store, are more comfortable while planning about sending their children to Italy than their father when he was compelled to send his son.
"My son would join his uncle and I am not worried that he would be indulged in ‘immoral’ activities", says Akhtar, elder brother of Aslam. He, however, has different fears. A concern today is the news on the atmosphere created against immigrant Pakistanis. "There is lot of news in media about difficult situation for Muslims in Europe and America and this worries me at times."
However, he quickly adds, "The situation in Pakistan is equally bad as the security agencies are picking up people on slightest doubts, and even on their appearance if they have grown beards that make them look like Taliban." Akhtar hopes situation would improve if people are allowed to interact with the people of cultures different than theirs.
"The problem is not with people, it is with politicians," says Akhtar who has only higher secondary level formal education, but is an avid consumer of newspapers and news and talkshows on television.
Behind the memory of Hina, who was killed in 2006 by his father, uncle and brother for being "too Western" in her lifestyle, there is a more hidden Pakistan, which comes through the spicy flavors of fast food, through craft shops and call centers. Here, the ‘borders’ becomes more tenuous and the Pakistani and Italian cultures meet.
"Customers ask me questions about my country and my family and women love my wife’s clothes," says Asad Abbas, owner of six "Pak Fast Food" in the Veneto region. Abbas lives in Belluno, where he arrived four years ago to establish business after seven years in Prato as a labourer. Although he arrived in Italy following the footsteps of his uncle and cousin just for a ‘future’, he loves Italy and Italians who form the majority of this friends. Unlike Iqbal who seldom gets a chance to mix with Italians, Asad has hardly anything averse to share about the community he has become an integral part. For him, integration was easier because there isn’t a Pakistani community in Belluno.
Cross-cultural dialogue and mutual understanding are enhanced by the institutions, associations and individuals working to help Italians know Pakistan and Pakistanis to understand and know the country that hosts them; something that can help them integrate without abandoning their identity.
Ejaz Ahmad is one of them. He arrived in Italy to escape the tyrant military regime under General Zia in eighties with a degree in mass communications from the University of Lahore and experience in practical journalism. Now Ejaz lives in Rome with his Italian wife and two sons. "I work every day to promote integration, understanding and the development of a multi-ethnic society," he explains, describing his activities in schools to ensure that diversity may be perceived as a common heritage. "It is something in compliance with the Constitution of Italy," says Ejaz who works to illustrate the phenomenon of new immigration and promote knowledge about the culture, traditions, history and politics of Pakistan.
Understanding the importance of cultural integration and eradication of stereotypes about the two cultures, Ejaz founded a monthly magazine in Urdu, Azad – meaning "Free". Published in 5,000 copies every month with the help of Western Union, Azad reaches Pakistani community in Italy, with reports from Pakistan, useful information for immigrants in Italy, information on immigration and the reality of Pakistan in Italy.
"It’s not easy to promote and spread our culture because Pakistani embassy here lacks a specific programme for this and because immigrants live in communities with little contact with the Italian culture and society." As confirmed by Ejaz, who is a member of the Islamic Council of the Italian Ministry of Interior, the relationship between Islam and the Italian institutions is very important. "It is not the difference, it is the ‘distance’ that causes problems."
If the story of Hina is still alive in public opinion, many are unaware that in 2009 the Italian national Under-15 cricket team won the European Championships. An unexpected result, not only because cricket is not among the most popular sports, but mainly because of a team that had only one player of Italian descent. Ten of the eleven players who took to the field were in fact young second-generation immigrants, children of immigrants from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
As said Akhtar, dialogue and integration are possible if there is a chance to meet and interact, if the differences are not perceived as a barrier, but as an asset, starting with a popular saying, known by those who leave their country to build a future elsewhere: "respect and you will be respected."
Thus, immigrants can be "inconspicuous ambassadors" of their own culture in Italy, and of Italian culture in Pakistan.
Giving peace a helping hand
Thousands of handkerchiefs to pave the path of peace
Ever wondered what you can do to change history Ever thrown up your hands in quiet despair as two nations of the subcontinent fumble with foreign policy Ever realized the power of the people when it comes to resolving discords of the past A solution is possible, though our politicians squabble across the barbed border.Instead of wondering ever so often just what keeps India and Pakistan from coming together, now is the time to take that step towards changing history. Making peace happen.
Its time to go in for some active fencebuilding. It’s your turn to ensure the Indo-Pak relations break new ground with your singular initiative. All you have to do is to join the Rope of Respect made of heartfelt peace messages on a handkerchief! Yes, that’s exactly what The Times of India’s online initiative The Peace Chain does, under the aegis of the Aman ki Asha.
The peace chain Rope of Respect, helps bridge rifts in the mind. Some of the peace slogans received can very well be lessons for politicians who seem to find themselves at a loss for words whenever its time for meaningful dialogue. As Pawan Sharma (Delhi) says, "Let the tradition of love move on to make the world a better place." As Meenakshi Sharma (Ghaziabad) says, "Friendship paves the way for peace and peace the way for growth". As Swagata Dutta (Mumbai) says: Promote peace, not pieces. As S.Preethi (Chennai) says, "Live life with harmony and peace."
A message of harmony is a simple click away, says Shreya Indulkar, DPS, Mumbai, if spreading the message of peace across the two nations is so easy a task, why not go for it! Adds Shardha Singh, DAV, New Delhi. It is youngsters like us who are expected to change the world for the better. Our Peace Chain indeed proves a point those on either side of the border think alike. They all want peace to prevail; let us act as friendly nations, not historical foes.
Sharda’s right. For, we have Lahore’s Imran Warraich, and several others Pakistani friends on the website bringing in their peace messages as well. As he joins the Rope of Respect, Imran says, "The greatest power in the world is love. One heart. Two nations. One people."
"Currently, hundreds of hankies in The Peace Chain are redefining Indo-Pak equilibrium. And the number is growing by seconds", says Sayanti Mishra of Lucknow. We are making the best of it. So much so, we are even calling upon our friends to join in by sharing The Peace Chain link on Facebook.
Just log on to www.amankiasha.timesofindia.com,select a colour for your handkerchief, fill in personal details, key in your very own peace mantra across the border and beam up some aman with asha. Monanza (Delhi) sums it up, "Its time for outstretched palms. Its time not to point fingers, but shake hands."
Courtesy: Times of India
Students of DPS,South 6 Bangalore & Loreto Day School.
Sealdah write peace slogans for the Aman ki Asha Rope of Respect campaign.
The first state visit to S. Arabia by an Indian leader in almost 30 years saw Manmohan Singh discuss terrorism and peace
By Waqar Gillani
After the ‘encouraging’ role of the US to press Pakistan and India to break the stalemate after the Mumbai attacks, Saudi Arabia has also emerged as an important player in an effort to help nuclear neighbours start a positive dialogue.
The Mumbai attacks allegedly masterminded and executed with the help of terrorists operating from Pakistani soil and belonging to defunct Lashkar-e-Tayyba badly affected the composite dialogue between Pakistan and India. Following different top level meetings between the two countries in 2009, meetings between the Pakistani and Indian foreign secretaries held at the end of February ended without achieving considerable results, with New Delhi continuing to publicly voice concern over Islamabad’s inaction against perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.
The effort to initiate a positive dialogue between the two countries surfaced after Indian premier Manmohan Singh visited Saudi Arabia. This was almost after 30 years that any Indian premier paid visit to Saudi Arabia and hold talks on the issues of trade, regional security, and terrorism. Indian premier Singh visited Saudi Arabia in the beginning of March and the talks, reportedly, also led to the conclusion that Saudi Arabia can also play an important role in bridging the Pakistan-India gap after Mumbai attacks in 2008. Shashi Tharoor, Indian state minister for foreign affairs in his statement while visiting Saudi Arabia as part of the Manmohan delegation, also hinted at the suggestion in a statement that Saudi Arabia can mediate between Pakistan and India. The statement, however, became controversial as it became an issue in India but the Indian premier defended the situation in the parliament. He did not admit the Saudi role but said that India always wanted peaceful relations with Pakistan and there is no harm in dialogue with Islamabad at any stage.
The first state visit to Saudi Arabia by an Indian leader in almost 30 years saw Manmohan Singh discuss terrorism and peace with Pakistan, and trade with the Saudi King Abdullah. According to the on the record statement of Manmohan "We can walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in relations between our two countries."
"We seek cooperative relations with Pakistan. Our objective is a permanent peace because we recognise that we are bound together by a shared future. If there is cooperation between India and Pakistan, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel, and development that will create prosperity in both countries and in South Asia as a whole," Singh reportedly said to the Saudi Consultative Council in Riyadh.
"Pakistan is a friendly country. Anytime one sees a dangerous trend in a friendly country, one is not only sorry but worried," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told Indian journalists after meeting Singh.
Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has also visited Riyadh on the invitation of his Saudi counterpart for taking him into confidence about the recent visit by the Indian prime minister to Saudi Arabia. "If a friend like Saudi Arabia comes forward for mediation between Pakistan and India, we will go ahead without hesitation," Qureshi has told media. The visit based on the invitation of the Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud-Al-Faisal, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi left for Riyadh on April 2. During his stay in Saudi Arabia, the foreign Minister was scheduled to meet King Shah Abdullah Abdul Aziz, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud-Al-Faisal, and Saudi Intelligence Chief, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz. The Saudi foreign minister took his Pakistani counterpart into confidence about the recent visit by Manmohan Singh. Pakistani FM has also been briefed about the cooperation sought by India from Saudi Arabia to normalise the relations between Pakistan and India.
Interestingly, just before these visits, the statement by All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has also suggested that China and Saudi Arabia could mediate to resolve the core issue of Kashmir. Speaking on the sidelines of a function hosted by the Pakistan High Commission to mark the Pakistan National Day at New Delhi on March 23, Farooq suggested that China and Saudi Arabia could mediate to resolve the issue.
Referring to the statement of Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, Farooq noted that he also had sought Saudi Arabia as an interlocutor in resolving the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. "Saudi Arabia has very good relations with both the countries India and Pakistan. It is obvious that such a suggestion has come from Shashi Tharoor. Saudi Arabia can play a role in Kashmir. We welcome it," Farooq mentioned.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq recently has also held talks with Saudi officials in Jeddah. His visit to Saudi Arabia came close on the heels of a visit by the Indian Prime Minister Singh.
"We feel that Saudi Arabia of course has a long and close relationship with Pakistan but that makes Saudi Arabia an even more valuable interlocutor for us," he was quoted by the Indian media as saying at the end of March. Farooq is also planning to send a delegation of Kashmiri leaders to Saudi Arabia within a month to hold talks with the Saudi officials.
Together with a purpose.
Dilip D’Souza and Beena Sarwar continue their correspondence, attempting to share thoughts honestly, without fear and hostility, exploring what divides our countries, and seeking ways to bridge the divide
.April 1 2010
OK, so perhaps we are agreed that we should find a way to take forward the idea of a joint war memorial and/or peace parks on the borders. We should ask about your view that a serving soldier cannot openly support such an idea. I cannot imagine that doing so would be equated to refusing to serve and being called a conscientious objector. Perhaps we can write a letter to senior officers in both our countries, suggesting such memorials, and see where it goes. I’ll draft one and let’s discuss it.
Meanwhile: the trouble about this exchange is, as I’ve alluded to before, is that there are so many trails I’d like to pursue. For now, I’d like to return to one that I think about a lot, that has come up in passing already but I’d like to take it further.
This goes back to a conversation I remember having with a thoughtful Pakistani man over coffee during the conference we both attended in Lahore in 1995. He said something that has stuck in my mind all these years: "I feel so sad urging that Kashmir be allowed to choose if they want to join us. Because I really believe they’d be far better off in India, or even independent, than in Pakistan. But your Government has messed up the situation there so badly that so many Kashmiris don’t want to remain in India!"
What could I say? Like it or not, and I didn’t like it, what really was my defense against this? (Should I have been defending it?)
It’s like this, Beena. A lot of us in India believe that even if we’ve made occasional mistakes, we’ve generally tried to do the right thing in our relationship with Pakistan, in how we’ve approached Kashmir. We believe it is Pakistan that is the villain, that Pakistan has been nefarious in its dealings. So it’s sobering — putting it mildly — to find that Pakistanis think it’s we who have screwed up badly.
What are your thoughts on this? Is this how you view us? Earlier, you told me about Indian attitudes that annoyed you. Can you expand on that and try to explain the general Pakistani perception of India’s approach to our relationship: is it condescending? Bullying? Fair? Self-righteous? What?
And what do you think we Indians will need to change in our approach if we are to find peace?
One final thought about that conversation over coffee in Lahore. While I was left spluttering and annoyed, as time went by I also began to see frankness like that as far more promising of peace than anything else. This was no wishy-washy feel-good stuff, yet nor was it outright hostility. The man’s goodwill was tinged with a hard edge, and that made sense to me. I appreciated it.
April 2, 2010
Sure, please go ahead and draft a letter about a joint war memorial. I’ll be happy to be proved wrong if serving officers in the Pakistan armed forces at least openly support it. Meanwhile, I’ll contact my friend Anna and the Asiapeace people about the peace park idea and see where it takes us.
I was surprised at your initial response to the Pakistani man’s comment about Kashmir. Surprised because Pakistanis aren’t the only ones who think India has messed up in Kashmir (and other places, but we can go into that another time). Many Indians themselves have courageously investigated and documented the Indian government’s maladministration and suppression of human rights in Kashmir, not to mention the downright abuse perpetrated by the security forces – all the things that add up to the Indian government messing up so badly there, that many Kashmiris want nothing to do with India.
As for Pakistan, well there’s no denying that ‘we’ have messed up too. But then we tend to be more self-critical and less ‘nationalistic’ than our Indian counterparts (perhaps because we have had more of an adversarial relationship with the state in general than Indians).
There are people on both sides who believe they have the ‘theka’ (monopoly) on patriotism, and brand any dissent as treason. It is these people who are the common enemy. The Taliban are just one manifestation of such hyper-nationalist, ‘religious’ ideology – you have your own versions, in the ‘saffron brigade’ that is on the rampage in many parts of the country. But because India has deeper democratic traditions, there are stronger counters to such elements.
Plus, remember Pakistan’s geographical location and its army’s interference in politics over the years, which have led to these elements being treated as ‘strategic assets’.
Indians tend to turn a blind eye to these issues and blame Pakistan for the transgressions of a few. Why don’t they see that these policies were made by military regimes that the people of Pakistan had no influence or control over? Why can’t they see the fight the current government is engaged in, having turned away from previous policies at great cost?
India is the bigger country. Shouldn’t it have a larger heart and take the lead in supporting Pakistanis in what I believe is our joint struggle against terrorism? Why doesn’t it reassure Pakistan that India will never harm it? Take the water issue – India is suffering from a water crisis. So is Pakistan. But as the upper riparian, India is in a position of power. Why don’t Indians at least acknowledge the fear in Pakistan, that if India wants, it can block Pakistan’s water with devastating implications for our agriculture, economy and indeed our very lives?
Ciao for now,
Why is there silence?
One would think that those at the helm of the state
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Two months ago the vice-chancellor of the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) in Islamabad was forced to resign in the face of significant public pressure following his thrashing of a professor who had dared to criticise the role of army men in Pakistan’s public life. That the vice-chancellor was a retired brigadier himself is only part of the story; a large number of administrators at the university are retired military officers, including the Registrar who has subsequently refused to follow normal procedures for the official inquiry into the incident.
As a result, instead of being treated as victims should be, the professor who took a beating in broad daylight was issued a show-cause notice and is now subject to harassment and intimidation. The Registrar and his loyal band of retired army officers seem hell-bent on taking ‘revenge’ on behalf of the disgraced vice-chancellor. And so, lo and behold, yet another case of the guardians of the state vs. the bloody civilians is unfolding before our very eyes.
Given how much attention the case originally garnered, it is unfortunate that there has been no follow-up on the part of the elected government to ensure that a proper inquiry is completed and all those complicit with the offending vice-chancellor are punished. It might be argued that other more pressing concerns have been occupying our elected representatives, none more so than the proposed 18th amendment which looks to have been finalized in recent days amidst much fanfare. But the fact of the matter is that epic pieces of legislation count for little if the day-to-day working of state affairs remains in the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats and self-righteous men in khaki.
It is even more frustrating that examples are not made out of offenders such as the NUML military brigade given the ranting and raving of major political parties about curbing the abuse of power when they are out of government. For much of the Musharraf period, high-profile leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) were at the forefront of campaigns against unaccountable military land allotments, the deployment of security forces to suppress populations demanding their rights, and use of the state machinery to issue personal favours. In government these same parties have toned down their criticisms (or abandon the cause entirely).
Part of the problem is that many of our political leaders are deeply implicated in the shenanigans of bureaucrats, civil and military alike. More often than not the complex relationship between politicians and state functionaries is misunderstood under the guise of slogans such as ‘all politicians are corrupt’, or, conversely ‘Asif Zardari’s alone is corrupt’. Despite the insistence of some of our media outlets and much of our urban middle class on magnifying Asif Zardari’s doings, the problem is much more systemic. If politicians’ excesses are the easiest to expose, civil and military bureaucrats are much more deeply entrenched and unaccountable, while everyone else, including the lowest of the low, are also encouraged to try and dip their finger into the pie rather than becoming part of a critical mass that can evolve an alternative system of political and economic resource-allocation.
To return to NUML, universities too are afflicted with the same culture of mediocrity, cynicism and nepotism that exists within the institutions of the state and in society more generally. While too many of our higher education institutions were dragged further into the mire during the Musharraf years on account of serving and retired military men being made vice-chancellors and given various other positions of administrative and academic importance, things were already bad before the influx of khakis started.
A substantial proportion of the academic staff has historically been hired along ideological grounds (Zia-ul-Haq’s legacy) or on the basis of personal contacts. The administrative staff has long been conducting affairs not on any professional basis but to meet the needs of patrons and thus to improve their own prospects for advancement. Finally instead of developing their critical faculties, students have focused on refining their rote learning skills and imbibed the sifarish culture to get by.
One would think that those at the helm of the state would be concerned with this state of affairs in our universities given that universities have functioned as breeding grounds for movements of systemic change throughout history. Statespersons we lack, but a ruling class we definitely possess; rather than promoting intellectual independence and dissent, our ruling class is keen on preventing the reemergence of universities — and educational institutions more generally — as hubs of innovation and political mobilization.
Hence long after the departure of the military dictator, the men in khaki are doing their level best to make NUML look like a cantonment rather than a university campus, Karachi University remains a barren wasteland, punctuated with incidents of violence between parochial ethnic and sectarian gangs, Punjab University is still the fiefdom of the Islami Jamia’t-e-Tulaba (IJT) and Balochistan University is periodically shaken by clashes between Pakhtuns and Baloch. The long-awaited government notification on the holding of student union elections has not materialized, and the general state of disrepair in education has not been arrested.
None is doubting that the few serious reformers in government have their hands full, but one wonders why the NUML beating was not taken up despite it being an opportunity to produce a domino effect that could have awoken students and faculty members alike from their slumber. For the record, NUML students did react in a big way to the beating of their professor; it was the students that were perhaps the single biggest reason for the vice-chancellor’s eventual resignation. Similarly, students — even if only a small percentage of them — were surprise participants in the anti-emergency movement that was the precursor to Pervez Musharraf’s demise.
As I have insisted on these pages week after week, democratization of state and society is a long and arduous process and requires the active participation of ordinary people. Our elected government, or at the very least those within it who actually possess a vision for change, must engage those segments of society that can help us move beyond the shenanigans of bureaucrats, generals, judges and complicit politicians. If obvious and necessary support is not offered to those who give meaning to the word democracy, those who claim to be the biggest democrats of all will have only themselves to blame if and when they go under.
Shrinking space for home
Katchi abadis have been evolving eversince
By Dr Noman Ahmed
The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements organised the World Urban Forum from 22 to 26 March 2010 at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Experts and stakeholders deliberated on the issues relating to cities. Previous resolutions were reviewed and new drafts deliberated upon to facilitate practical actions in these domains. One of the matters that were focused in these discussions was the evolving phenomenon of ‘endless cities’.
Experts define these city systems as sprawling urban corridors capable of accommodating even 100 million inhabitants. There are many negative outcomes that have already begun impacting settlements and corresponding regions. Loss of precious farmlands for food production, escalating energy consumption in transport, and commuting, gradual depletion of bio-diversity and regional environmental assets and extraordinary problems in urban management in such regions are core matters that have caught the attention of stakeholders across the globe.
Most of these issues possess enormous relevance in the context of Pakistani cities and settlements. The anomalous rise in the population of mega cities and other large urban settlements has generated complex problems of rights and privileges. In addition, the country also faces many local problems pertinent to urbanisation within her territorial folds. With limited resources and opportunities, the scenario has become grave and requires appropriate strategies to be developed and applied without delay.
National socio-economic indicators show many alarming trends in poverty level which could be articulated after the much-awaited population and housing census. The capacity to build any monetary asset to acquire shelter of even the basic kind is simply non-existing. These people survive either as nomads or dwell in the wilderness terrains of various regions. The landless artisans and labourers do not find sustainable access to land for housing. They keep moving from place to place or flock towards large urban centres.
Natural calamities, disasters and security hazard have uprooted thousands of people from their native habitat. Pakistan’s continued participation in the war on terror has caused sizable displacements. No wonder that the country is in the grip of deadliest of violence all across the territory apparently due to socially-uprooted and psychologically-disturbed people who exist in large numbers.
Poor land management has given rise to many informal activities. The urban centres face the challenge of squatter settlements as an acute issue. These settlements have been evolving eversince independence due to inadequate state response to the need of housing for the poor. As state land was abundant, many katchi abadis sprang up on these loosely guarded territories. The land lords of peri-urban locations also contributed in the promotion of katchi abadis for their own benefits.
It is a well-known fact that moving to Karachi from various disadvantaged regions is still continuing at a very high pace. Much of this population is absorbed in the confines of existing katchi abadies. In reference to one interpretation, katchi abadis can be called as the shock absorbers for the city because there would have been mass scale riots if the low income groups had an absolute denial of housing rights. It is also true that one cannot ignore the squalor and dilapidated conditions that currently prevail in these locations. This fact demands a people-friendly approach.
Scarcity of shelter options is not only affecting the low income groups but also middle income stakeholders. The low and lower middle income groups constitute around two-thirds of the total population. However, these groups face an acute shortage of housing choices. With very limited financial means, they find it extremely difficult to sustain their white collar lifestyles For example, an apartment measuring 1200 sq. ft. in Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Karachi, which had a price tag of Rs. 2 million about a year ago, is now being sold at Rs. 3.5 million.
Similarly, land supply and development is mostly done in high income areas where the property market is experiencing a meteoric rise. Undeveloped land is being rated at Rs. 20000-30000 per sq. yd. The rapid speculations in land and property markets are acting as a catalyst in these processes. There has been no new scheme that was launched for low-income groups since 1979 in Karachi despite phenomenal rise in their numbers.
Land supply is the foremost consideration that has an impact on habitat. Due to its unique nature, land was traditionally considered a social asset. Now it is treated as a saleable commodity. Another major change is the growing incapacity of the government to influence what is now termed as land market. Since the decisions related to land supply and transactions involve a spread out cadre of stake holders, the mechanics of land delivery for housing and other functions are governed in proportion to the relative influence exercised by each category of stakeholders.
Thus the armed forces, their foundations and countless enterprises; real estate investors from the country and abroad; international financial institutions; political groups; ethnic and religious lobbies; transporters and civilian bureaucracy are some prominent categories of stakeholders that directly affect the decision-making pertinent to land. It is obvious that neither the poor nor their well-wishers/sympathizers show up in any of these categories.
Effective checks must be applied to the snow-balling rise in real estate development. Appropriate changes must be introduced in the zoning and building regulations to promote mixed land use in an effective manner. The old principle of cross subsidy must be re-introduced where land and housing prices may be augmented by the levies on real estate enterprises. It must be remembered that no urban and regional security and prosperity can be achieved in contexts where more than half of the folks are denied the right to access a decent roof on their heads.
Going in every direction.
Increased market access in developed countries is vital
By Hussain H. Zaidi
Of the total 153 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), an overwhelmingly majority are developing countries. To help these countries secure a share in global trade commensurate with their development needs is one of the objectives of the WTO.
The principal way by which the multilateral trading system can contribute to development is to throw up enhanced export promotion opportunities for developing countries. However, to date, there has been at best only modest progress in enhancing market access for developing countries. Though trade among developing countries - also called south-south trade - is on the increase, developed countries continue to be the major markets for exports originating in developing countries.
Therefore, increased market access in developed countries is vital to the promotion of developing country exports. However, high levels of protection continue to be applied in the markets of developed countries against those products which are of special interest to developing countries, such as labour-intensive manufactures (e.g. textile and clothing) and primary commodities.
This indicates bias against export opportunities for developing countries. Also important is the difference in tariffs applied on labour-intensive manufactures and non labour intensive manufactures exported by developing countries. For instance, while average weighted average tariff on non-labour intensive manufactures is less than 1 percent that on labour intensive manufactures is about 10 percent.
Products of export interest for developing countries are often subject to specific tariffs, tariff peaks and tariff escalation in the markets of developed countries. Specific tariffs, which are based on quantity or volume of imports rather than their value and are generally used in case of agricultural products, target low priced exports with the level of protection increasing as world market prices fall.
Higher tariffs are not the only impediment to market access for developing country exports. Domestic support and export subsidies, particularly in agriculture, also tend to make developing country exports less competitive. Developed countries dole out billions of dollars worth farm subsidies making their farmers prosperous at the expense of those in developing countries. Developed countries' reluctance to liberalise their trade in agriculture has brought the Doha Round of negotiations to a stalemate.
Even where traditional trade barriers are low, non-traditional barriers (NTBs) make market access difficult. The NTBs include anti-dumping and countervailing duties, and health, environment and safety standards and technical regulations. Of these, technical standards and regulations are of more serious concern for developing countries. The health and safety standards are covered by two WTO agreements: the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS). The basic purpose of these standards or technical regulations is to protect human, animal and plant life as well as preserve the environment.
A country's right to apply the standards to achieve these legitimate policy objectives is indisputable. The problem arises, however, when these standards are used to distort trade. According to Unctad (Trade & Development Report 2006), the use of technical measures nearly doubled between 1994 (when negotiations leading to the birth of the WTO were completed) and 2005. While this reflects the growing concern for consumer health and environment, this also indicates that one form of protectionism is being replaced with another.
The limited export opportunities for the vast majority of developing countries are indicated by their share in global exports. Though the share of developing countries in global merchandise exports has gone up from 24.21 percent in 1990 to 37.51 percent in 2007 (Unctad Handbook of Statistics 2008), the increase in share can easily be attributed to a handful of bigger or relatively advanced economies including China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Mexico, Malaysia, India, Thailand and Brazil.
Like other developing countries, Pakistan is a victim of selective trade liberalization by developed countries. About 65 percent of Pakistan's total exports consist of textile and clothing (T&C) products, which face higher tariffs in the markets of developed countries than other industrial products, as explained below:
In case of the European Union - a 27-member trading bloc - whereas the average applied tariffs on industrial products are 4 percent, for T&C products average applied tariffs are 8 percent.
In case of the USA, the average applied tariffs on industrial products are 3.3 percent, however, in case of T&C products average applied tariffs are 8.7 percent.
In case of Canada, whereas the average applied tariffs on industrial products are 4 percent, for T&C products average applied tariffs are 11.3 percent.
In case of Japan, the average applied tariffs on industrial products are 2.5 percent, however, in case of T&C products average applied tariffs are 6.7 percent.
In case of Switzerland, whereas the average applied tariffs on industrial products are 2.1 percent, for T&C products average applied tariffs are 6.6 percent.
In case of Norway, the average applied tariffs on industrial products are 0.6 percent, however, in case of T&C products average applied tariffs are 7 percent.
Two courses are open to developing countries as they seek increased market access in developed countries: bilateralism and multilateralism. The former entails entering into free trade agreements (FTAs) with developed countries. The problem with such an option is two-fold. One, developed countries are more interested in negotiating FTAs with bigger (like China and India) or relatively advanced developing countries (like Singapore, South Korea) and generally look down upon smaller or backward countries as potential FTA partners - unless there are strong political reasons for striking trade deals.
Two, even if developed countries agree to enter into FTAs with developing countries, the latter are forced to undertake very taxing commitments, which expose their economies to the latter's firms. The recently concluded or under-negotiation FTAs of developed countries, particularly those of the EU and the USA, provide for 'deeper integration', which covers not only trade in goods but also services, investment, intellectual property rights, competition, environment and labour standards, and public procurement. Hence, these FTAs are also called comprehensive economic partnership agreements.
This leaves multilateralism, despite its slow progress, a better option for the vast majority of developing countries including Pakistan. While it may be difficult for these countries to take on developed countries individually in a bilateral arrangement; they can certainly do so collectively on the multilateral forum.
Reality on the ground: A protest against the WTO.