Beef it up!
Something of a miracle
This is the time to think beyond the survival-in-office argument and look at the areas where the major political parties failed in the recent past
By Raza Rumi
Is Pakistan’s democratic transition on track? It is somewhat miraculous that the current government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its allies has survived for four years in power. Given the recent history of Pakistan, this fact alone cannot be underestimated. The two PPP governments under Benazir Bhutto were dismissed for charges of corruption and incompetence during the 1990s. Nawaz Sharif, who had bigger majorities in the Parliament (some say due to the patronage he received from the military-intelligence complex), met the same fate and his second tenure ended with a direct military coup when almost everyone had written off the possibility of another coup d’ etat in Pakistan.
Zardari-Gilani duo, therefore, has crossed a milestone and have survived difficult times such as the ongoing ‘war on terror’ in the region, global economic meltdown, and unprecedented natural disasters. If anything, Zardari has outlived every prediction of his early ouster. However, a civilian government’s survival might not be enough to give it credence and a certificate of good performance.
The federal as well as the provincial governments’ record in office has not met the expectations of most Pakistanis. There is widespread discontent in the cities and among the younger population, which has not seen a marked improvement in areas such as economic opportunities, education and security, vital to their future. However, it would be important to look at the wider context of Pakistan’s recent democratic transition before an assessment is made.
Since 2007, Pakistan has witnessed a bumpy and sometimes violent transition to democracy. Gen Musharraf, with his flawed decision to oust the Chief Justice of Pakistan, sparked a countrywide movement against his 8 year reign which was a hybrid authoritarian-quasi-democratic model entailing a robust local government system.
Musharraf found partners from within Pakistan’s pliable, bankrupt political elites to elongate his rule while keeping the two major parties and its leaders out of the picture. The lawyers’ movement provided the opportunity for the comeback of PPP and Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N). By the end of 2007, the leaders were back, an election was announced but the recalcitrant Chief Justice and his brother judges were still under house arrest.
The judges’ factor, therefore, became a central issue in the process of transition; and when the election took place sans Benazir Bhutto, the PPP (which assumed power in March 2008) dragged its feet over the restoration of judges. This led to the splintering of the PPP-PMLN coalition and when the judges were finally restored, a new dynamic entered into the process of transition i.e., the space for Judiciary in state power. After decades of playing a subordinate role to the executive, the military to be specific, the judges had emerged as relatively independent stakeholders in the power game.
The failure of PPP to take stock of this new reality has continued to haunt its governance. The Court has been proactive, some say intrusive, and the civilian government has also not shied away from resisting the judicial diktat. The current case of Prime Minister’s alleged contempt of the court is a clear example of this trend. Consequently, instead of focusing on policy and reform, the Zardari-Gilani duo have invested much of their time in how to counter the judicial orders or pre-empt another judicial strike. On their part the judges have also not shown much restraint as their penchant to foray into areas of strict executive domain — price fixing, law and order, energy policy etc — and have wittingly or unwittingly contributed to the policy chaos that we witness today.
But that is just a segment of the larger picture. Despite the tension with the judiciary and the Army, which continues to influence (to the extent of setting) foreign and security policies, the government has been able to achieve a consensus on 18th, 19th and 20thConstitutional amendments. These three amendments, limited as they might be in their actual impact on short-term delivery of services are promising developments in Pakistan’s democratic evolution.
By dint of achieving an agreement on the distribution of public resources via a national finance commission (NFC) award and increasing the powers of the provinces, much needed headway has been made. Similarly, the cumulative effect of 18th Amendment has been to restore the primacy of the elected Cabinet over the governance institutions as well as ensuring that military adventurers face a clear and strong resistance via the constitutional provisions. The 19th Amendment came in the wake of a Supreme Court order which wanted revisions to the increased role of parliamentary oversight in the appointment of judges. Again, transparency has increased in the process and overtime conventions might strengthen to ensure that judicial discretion is minimized in the same manner as executive discretion is curtailed through parliamentary and judicial checks.
The most recent i.e. 20th Amendment leads to rule-based and more inclusive arrangements for a fair election. Despite the hostility and bitterness of PPP and PMLN against each other, they have cooperated for systemic stability learning how unelected arms of the state intervene in times of political standoffs. These changes to the architecture of governance bode well for the future. But are these enough?
This is where the de facto reality of Pakistan’s governance comes into play. The plain fact that the military continues to be the most powerful institution is well known. The military establishment comprising a coterie of a dozen or so generals set the directions of Pakistan’s foreign policy and also the domestic security framework. This is where the PPP and the opposition have failed to achieve a consensus. In part, it has to do with the tough situation that the military finds itself in a US dominated region. However, the political elites still consider the Army as an important lever vis-as-vis their political opponents and hence they have tried to outdo each other in being ‘patriotic’ or blind embrace of the military’s worldview of national security being the paramount definition of nationalism.
The civilian government has on multiple occasions been the target of the powerful ISI. The most recent case of the ‘memo affair’ is a case in point. Similarly, the military also foiled the assertions of Zardari to make peace with India when he assumed power. Most recently, the granting of most favoured nation (MFN) status to India has also been resisted by the military and its proxies such as the Pakistan Defence Council, a coalition of pro-military religious groups and a few prominent individuals. Most importantly, the complete control of Pakistan’s largest province, i.e, Balochistan in the hands of the military has minimised the space for civilian initiatives. The situation is not too different in the northwest of the country where the civilian inputs into anti-insurgency strategy has been next to nothing.
However, the political elites cannot absolve themselves of the blame of not reaching a consensus on the thorny issues of civil-military relations. Twice the federal government tried to make minor changes into the operational structure of ISI and on both the occasions the opposition and even its allies such as the ANP and MQM did not support these initiatives. Another opportunity to hold the military accountable was lost after the killing of OBL by US marines in May 2011. The PPP caved in thinking it would benefit from supporting the Army but the memo affair case proved its short-sighted decision.
We are in a situation where much of urban Pakistan is revolting against the current system of governance and the kind of compromises, bargains that a democracy entails. The ‘rise’ of Imran Khan comes in the wake of the younger population looking for ‘change’ in the way Pakistan is governed. Such clamour for change is driven by globalisation, the Internet as well as the deep distrust of dynastic politics in a society which is not merit-based to begin with. However, the main issue with the urban middle class’ visioning of Pakistan’s future is that it is being driven by decades of a soft radicalisation that has taken place through our education system and a popular anti-democracy discourse. Imran Khan is, therefore, more of a messiah, a clean powerful leader who will ‘fix’ all that is wrong and set up an ‘Islamic welfare state’. Sadly, Imran Khan’s promises are based on such simplifications and his agenda is neither concrete nor clear.
Pakistan’s state institutions have also been radicalised over the years. Extremist groups mainly our foreign policy instruments have over-grown and acquired far greater autonomy than the military had envisioned in the first place. The societal challenges, therefore, make the future of democracy — in terms of a Westminster parliamentary mode — uncertain.
Furthermore, the monumental failure of the PPP and PMLN to introduce a local government system has further eroded the public trust in the state as well as the national-provincial political structure. Non-delivery of basic services such as health, education, justice and security have led to public disaffection and the ‘system’ is blamed. Thus far, other than the radical groups or the Imran Khan model of leader-centric ‘fix’, there are few alternatives being offered to the new Pakistan, which comprises a large urban population, a growing middle class as well as the poor who are migrating to urban centres in large numbers to escape poverty, unemployment and militancy.
Deepening of Pakistan’s democracy, therefore, hinges on how serious the political elites are in strengthening institutions, providing effective local governance and creating jobs through sound economic policies. In the last four years, the record on these fronts has been mixed at best. In terms of managing the economy, the federal and provincial governments have not displayed the kind of vision and decision making which is urgently required. True, rural incomes have increased and expenditures on social protection have also increased three or four times, yet increasing inequality and collapsing social services remain huge challenges for the future.
Democratic transition in Pakistan is far from over. It has barely started and faces an uncertain future trajectory. This is the time to think beyond the survival-in-office argument and look at the areas where the major political parties failed in the recent past. As key players of the democratic system their responsibility to reflect and learn from mistakes, remains paramount.
author’s writings are archived at www.razarumi.com
As a state, some of Kashmir is in Pakistan and the rest of it is in India. There is the question of whether Kashmir should be reunited and in what form; whether the whole issue can be thought of in terms of a porous boundary, which would allow people to move freely from one side to the other. So we would have reunited
Dr Balveer Arora was professor of Political Science at Jawaharlal Nehru University (1987-2010), and is currently Chairman, Centre for Multilevel Federalism at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. He read history and political science at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, the Sorbonne, Paris, and Sciences-Po, Paris, before obtaining his doctorate in 1972 from Paris I (Pantheon — Sorbonne).
He joined the JNU as assistant professor in the Centre for Political Studies in 1973, and was Chairman of the Centre for two terms (1989-91 & 1995-97) He was subsequently Rector and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University (2002-05).
He has written extensively on India’s federal system, its political parties and policy processes, notably Multiple Identities in a Single State: Indian Federalism in Comparative Perspective; Federalism in India: Origins and Development; and The Changing Role of the All India Services. His current research is on questions of identity and diversity, institutions of multilevel governance, federalisation of India’s party system and the functioning of federal coalitions.
This soft-spoken Lahore-born authority on federalism was in Lahore recently to participate in an international conference ‘Federalism in Pakistan after 18th Amendment’ arranged by LUMS where TNS had a chance to chat with him.
The News on Sunday (TNS): It is nice to see you in Lahore. How has your visit been so far?
Balveer Arora (BA): Lahore has a special place in my heart because I was born here, at the Lady Aitchison Hospital, and my family used to live in Sant Nagar. I went there yesterday and saw a park with a swing, and I thought I must have played here as a small child. So it is really a homecoming for me and I am overwhelmed by the warmth, hospitality and affection which I have encountered here. It is something special and these memories I will always cherish.
TNS: India is a federation but it calls itself a ‘union’. What is the difference and why call it a union?
BA: I think there are two reasons. First, in the changed context in which the Constituent Assembly was debating the word federation, a number of people associated the word federation with fragmentation, with the weakening of India, and they felt that the need was rather to consolidate and strengthen. So it was partly to placate them; and partly it was a play on words because even in the US constitution it is the United States, it is nowhere explicitly a federation. The word is not used and yet the fact is there. So it was very clear that what was being designed was a federation, but it was easier to have it accepted with the word union. I think it was a very clever move on the part of the constitution-makers to package it as a union, but actually it was clearly designed as a federation.
TNS: In 1935 the provinces were given powers but they were withdrawn in 1947 in the first Constitution of India, perhaps because the mindset of Nehru was more centralist?
BA: In fact the federal plan of the 1935 Act never really took off, but the blueprint was there. The overall design was there, but when the question was reconsidered, the mood in the Constituent Assembly had changed. It was even questioning whether it was now necessary, under the new circumstances, to have such a federal scheme. I have elsewhere called Nehru a ‘reluctant federalist’, in the sense that he was more committed to pluralism and democracy than he was to federalism as such. Because of his commitment to pluralism, he understood that some form of federal arrangement was necessary to hold India together. That is how he came to federalism.
Ultimately, ancient identities had to be politically recognised. Nehru was committed to pluralism and therefore recognised that for a country as large and diverse as India it would not be possible to rule it from one point in a centralised way. He thus allowed himself to be persuaded by Ambedkar, who had the American federal system as the model, which is where he had studied his constitutional law. Actually Nehru did not need too much persuasion and Ambedkar also did some very astute things. He packaged the proposals before the assembly, saying that in times of difficulty it will function as a unitary state; in normal times it will function as a federal state. So he created a consensus so that those who were scared also said alright it can be centralised and those who were for pluralism were also happy. It was necessary to be federal, so it required a lot of political savoir faire; it had to be put forward as a proposal which could gather a consensus in its favour.
TNS: Do you think the carving of new states always works well or does it create more problems then it resolves? In fact, there have been regrets expressed in some instances.
BA: The carving out of new states is something that has been dictated by the political and electoral process. In India there has been no very clear design that we shall have this kind of state only. These decisions have been responses to popular movements and can be explained by the logic of electoral democracy.
When political mobilisation takes place, you either suppress it by force or you find a way of accommodating it through democratic channels. And India’s whole approach had been to see if it can be accommodated, provided the group does not want to actually leave the union. That is where they draw the line, but short of that whatever they want can be considered.
Fortunately, constitutional flexibility is there, because initially the Constituent Assembly was unable to tackle this problem immediately and resolve it. They therefore deliberately kept a very flexible arrangement for the reorganisation of states and that finally turned to be a blessing in disguise. A simple law is sufficient, constitutional amendment is not necessary.
TNS: Don’t you think the thinking of centralist leaders like Nehru led to the problems of Tamil Nadu and later on Punjab.
BA: Yes, in the case of Tamil Nadu, Nehru gave the assurance that the official language, Hindi, would not be imposed on them unless they agreed. That formula was worked out during his life time itself. The constitutional deadline came in 1965, and English was declared a co-official language without any time limit for its replacement.
In the case of the Punjab, the problem was a little more difficult. The problem was difficult because, after Partition, the creation of territorial units on the basis of cultural identity was considered acceptable, but the framework that was adopted for the Indian union was that of a secular state. The creation of territorial units on the basis of religious affiliation was therefore considered not acceptable. Unfortunately, the Punjabi Suba movement, led by the Akali Dal, put it forward as a religious identity issue. It was only much later, when it was packaged as a language demand for the Punjabi speaking people, that finally it was seriously considered and accepted in 1966. It sought to separate Punjab from the Hindi speaking people of Haryana, and also to safeguard the Gurkmukhi script. The shift in emphasis from religion to language removed what was in fact the main obstacle that took it so long to be accepted, even though the two were very closely connected.
TNS: So the founders of the Indian union did not foresee that the Sikh problem will arise from the religious point of view?
BA: Once Punjab was created in 1966, the demand for having a separate state for Punjabi speaking people, both Sikhs and Hindus, was satisfied. As you know, in the same family there are Sikhs and Hindus, and there was no question of enmity between the two. Later on, much later in the 1980s, came up this so-called movement for Khalistan, talking of independence for a Sikh state, and of course that was dealt very differently because the union of India has a very firm attitude towards secessionist movements.
TNS: On what basis were new states created in India, language, culture or territory? A lot of states have been created after 1947.
BA: Yes, the creation of states has continued. In 1956, fourteen states were created after states’ reorganisation and that essentially concerned the south, where the linguistic principle was adopted. In so far as the other states were concerned, there was the separation of Maharashtra from Gujrat in 1960, and then there was the separation of Punjab and Haryana, the Punjabi and the Hindi speaking areas in 1966.
Subsequently, further reorganisation of states, because today there are 28 states, was based on different criteria. In 1971, there was a major restructuring of the North East, where there were small communities, and where ethnicity was the basis for creation of new states. The Naga state had been created earlier, in 1963 and Mizoram where the Mizos live. There were also distinct units which already existed, Manipur and Tripura, which were already constituted entities even though they were federally administrated, as union territories. They were upgraded basically to statehood. They were not carved out afresh; in fact it was basically a question of raising their status from a federally administrated territory to a full fledged state.
The last reorganisation, which took us from 25 to 28 states, took place in 2000. It involved the creation of three states, which are essentially inhabited by the tribal populations, in Madhya Pradesh and in Bihar. The people living at the foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttar Pradesh, were given Uttarakhand. Jharkhand was carved out from Bihar and Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh. In these cases there were two factors which are at play; one is that they have distinctive geographical features, forests in the case of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, and mountains in the case of Uttarakhand. And the second is that they were all three relatively neglected and relatively under developed, so development was also a criterion.
The idea was that if they were detached from the larger state, their development would be faster. The most successful earlier example was that of Punjab and Haryana. After they were separated, both their economies took off and both prospered in a remarkable way. So it is possible, but however it does not always work that way. It depends on the resources available, how the people are, how hardworking they are, and the leadership.
TNS: Do you think the carving out of these new states has always worked well or has it created more problems sometimes than resolving them?
BA: As I said, there is no magic formula, no sure recipe for success. Carving out of new states has been dictated by electoral considerations too and by democratic processes. In India, there has been no very clear design always, that we shall have this and we shall not have this. These have often been responses to popular, often militant, movements and because of the logic of elected democracy when mobilisation takes place you either suppress it by force or you find a way of accommodating it through democratic channels. And India’s whole approach has been that it should be accommodated, provided the group does not want to leave the union, which is where they draw the line. But short of that extreme step, constitutional flexibility fortunately is there for accommodation. By a historical accident, because they initially were not able to tackle this problem immediately, so they kept a very flexible arrangement for creating new states and that finally turned out to a blessing in disguise.
TNS: Being an expert on federalism, how do you look at the Indian federation or union and what are the challenges it faces today?
BA: I think the Indian Union has successfully managed to meet the demands of most of the groups which have asked for the recognition of their identity. There are some demands for more autonomy which are still pending; they are mainly in the Northeast. There is the demand of the Nagas, who already have their own state, but they still have claims over some of the territories in the adjoining areas. You know Naga tribes cut across states; they are even in Burma (Myanmar). So some are in Manipur and there are some in other adjoining states. So that demand is there, but it is very difficult to see how you can cut off a portion of the neighboring state because you have a few Naga tribes living there, so it remains a contentious issue. Otherwise the identity issues in the Northeast are now settled, though in Manipur they have some demands.
And of course there are autonomy demands as well from Jammu and Kashmir. It is a composite state so Jammu has its own personality; Kashmir has its own personality. So these are some of the challenges that the Indian Union still faces.
TNS: Since you have mentioned Kashmir, India has still not been able to resolve the Kashmir issue?
BA: Yes the problem is very much there, and it gets worse from time to time and some times the responses from either side complicate the issue. But the problem basically is that there are demands for the restoration of greater autonomy, going back to what the autonomy of Kashmir was and it is basically question of renegotiation of the terms of accession to the union. I think on these issues there are a number of efforts: a report of the Team of Interlocutors was recently submitted to the central government, and if some negotiated settlement could be found, it would go a long way in bringing back peace and harmony in Kashmir.
TNS: Still a long way to go, but what are the relations between the two states?
BA: It is a different question. As a state, some of Kashmir is in Pakistan and the rest of it is in India. There is the question of whether Kashmir should be reunited and in what form? The question is whether the whole issue can be thought of in terms of a porous boundary, which would allow people to move freely from one side to the other. So we would have reunited families, since families are now divided. And the other thing of course is to work out a status which would be acceptable to all parties.
TNS: Do you expect any public good from the market system?
BA: Well it is the system that seems to have gained global currency; even our erstwhile socialist friends have invented their own variants of it, even in China. Of course, Russia has gone the capitalist way. So it does seem that the future lies in reforming capitalism, in the direction of injecting more concerns of socialism into it. We need to think of ways, given the global penetration and integration which is here to stay.
TNS: Do you think capitalism is going towards socialism?
BA: Not capitalism going towards socialism because that would be unrealistic. Capitalism being tamed and corrected and regulated in the interest of societies is what we can work for. State capitalism is one way, and China has a developing model where they are still trying to inject democracy. State capitalism is also in evidence when one tries to intervene through the inclusive growth model. It is also on the lines of harmonious growth, in the sense that the state does not forget its obligations to the poor. The state may also have no heart, but it has to have its interest in mind, and if it is a democracy it knows that it has to have some heart to stay in power through elections.
TNS: How do you see at the challenge of religious extremism in India?
BA: Religious extremism in not a major threat in India. The religious extremists of Hindu kind are broadly included in their political formation, support the Bhartia Janta Party (BJP) which is a responsible electoral party that competes. Of course there is a problem of communal harmony and from that point of view Indian state is very vigilant to make sure that nothing happens. As for the other groups, as far as we know they remain a very small minority. The extremist movement, some groups have penetrated, infiltrated but I don’t think by and large that is reached to any significant proportion.
Pakistan has probably a much bigger level. I was looking at the figures presented yesterday for the budget for public order of federal government and I was explained that the large allocation was due to fighting terrorists.
TNS: Now, as an expert on federalism and from India, how do you look at Pakistan? You must have heard about the division of provinces, particularly Punjab. They say that is the panacea of all ills. How do you look at it?
BA: I have actually come here to learn. This seems to be a very crucial and formative stage in the development of federalism in Pakistan; a lot of changes have taken place, thanks to the 18th Amendment which we have been discussing in the conference and its possible consequences. And it is as if a new federal system is being born in Pakistan. Now what are its features, what are its strengths, what are its weaknesses? What are its chances of survival? Whether state reorganisation is part of the agenda or whether it is something that has been brought in which is not necessary for federalism? These are things which I am also trying to understand.
TNS: How do you look at the level of scholarship in Pakistan?
BA: I have been very impressed by the quality of the interventions and the papers that have been presented in this conference. And I think that the scholars here have a very complete understanding and awareness of how these systems work, not just here but elsewhere too. They have been following what is happening in India also and so I think that it is through this comparing of experiences. We will try to find some ways to power.
TNS: Don’t you think there should be more traffic of scholars and students between each others educational institutions. There should be easy visa regime between India and Pakistan?
BA: I think yes, most definitely, that is an absolute must. People to people level contacts must be there, and more facility of exchange, easier visas, because the present regime is so cumbersome that it discourages scholars. There is uncertainty whether they would be granted a visa or not so nobody plans with that element of uncertainty. It is unfortunate. I think there should be separate treatment for scholars and researchers, to allow them to move freely from one side to the other.
TNS: Don’t you think India being a big power should take more and more initiatives to normalise relationship with its neighbours?
BA: Yes that has been the effort, but things don’t always move as we wish. The doctrine which was spelt out by Indian Prime Minister Gujral, that India should take the initiative with its smaller neighbours, remains relevant. India has been taking initiatives, but I get the impression that whenever things appear to be moving smoothly, and there have been occasions when things have been moving towards a better relationship, some incident or the other is created, on one side or the other, which totally spoils the atmosphere and spoils the mood. And then there is a setback, from which it takes time to recover.
Ideally the leadership should not allow itself to be deflected from their main goal by these incidents on both sides. An easier regime for visas and more exchanges of people and scholars would help in building up a favorable climate for the success of these initiatives. I am truly happy to be here in Lahore, it is such a beautiful city. Thank you for this opportunity to express myself on so many issues.
Pakistan, with 15 new Wild Poliovirus (WPV) cases in the first three months of 2012 still faces a serious challenge to cope with the threat of polio, mainly in its far flung areas.
The discontinuity of the federal health ministry after the 18th Amendment, there is no provincial level budgeting, policy and mechanism on how to deal with such issues which were under the federal government prior to devolving of ministries. Experts fear that lack of proper policy and mechanism at the provincial level might cause spread of polio this year.
Though a cell has been created in the Prime Minister Secretariat to monitor polio eradication but actually the cell has no authority to intervene into policy issues without the consent of the provinces. Also, the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Pakistani authorities, has helped in chalking out an emergency plan to counter polio in Pakistan this year but the results of the cell are yet to be seen.
The number of polio cases in Pakistan, by the end of March, has gone to 15, which include six in tribal areas (five in Khyber Agency and one in North Waziristan), four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwah (one each in Lukki Marwat, Dera Ismael Khan, Kohat and Peshawar), two in Balochistan in Quetta, two in Sindh (one each in Hyderabad and Mirpur Khas) and one in Punjab in Jhang, according to the officially available figures.
“These all 15 cases are type one which is wild and acute poliovirus according to WHO definition,” Dr Tariq Bhutta, Chairman National Polio Eradication Committee and a noted pediatrician tells The News on Sunday. There were 198 cases of polio identified in 2011 against 144 in 2010. “These WPV cases have been reported from different districts across the country and, moreover, WPV-1 has also been isolated from environmental samples collected from the five major cities indicating the continued circulation of poliovirus in 2012.”
The WHO figures say that in 2011, 196 cases were type-one acute cases from 60 different towns, cities, tribal areas, while, now, the data indicates more than one genetic cluster is circulating in the country. FATA and associated areas of KP contribute 41 percent of the caseload in the country in 2011 and seven cases in 2012 so far. North western Balochistan reported 27 percent of polio cases in the country in 2011 and two cases in 2012. Karachi has reported nine polio cases from six towns in 2011 while isolation of poliovirus in environmental samples continued in 2012.
In fact, more than 70 percent of polio cases in 2011 were either reported from these transmission zones. “Pakistan has entered the low transmission season with quite intensive WPV circulation which contributes a significant challenge. Importantly, the recent cases from Khyber Agency have a long chain on genetic tree, indicating gaps in the area in both vaccination and surveillance activities,” Dr Bhutta says. He adds that localised and target vaccination can immediately interrupt this stereotype.
Recently held fifth meeting of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of WHO for polio eradication regarded the poliovirus circulation in Nigeria and Pakistan to be the most potent threat to the possibility of global eradication. However, the board appreciated that Pakistan, despite having deep problems, has recently strengthened its approach and improvised its programme in recent months under its emergency action plan, revitalising its energy and sense of meaningful accountability.
Balochistan and Sindh provinces have suffered from ineffective management. The board appreciated that the programme has acted decisively by revising the supervisory tier. The board referred to strong performance in Punjab which leapt more energetically than other provinces into implementing last year’s National Emergency Action Plan and advised to systematically work through the obstacles that are preventing the number of cases from becoming zero.
The board recognised that a challenging security situation is preventing access to tens of thousands of children. The IMB recognised the dedication of those working in these difficult circumstances. This is a challenge that the programme needs to find stronger ways around if transmission is to be stopped. Security is not the only concern as cases are still arising in areas of FATA and KP where access is not a problem. The challenge for the management is to focus on inaccessibility, whilst not allowing it to be an excuse for suboptimal performance in other domains.
Although the challenge is highly concentrated in a small number of areas, this is not to say that the rest of the country is clear. Environmental surveillance continues to detect polio transmission in all major cities in all provinces.
The recently started action plan is greater cause for hope. The hard work started must be sustained and must show results. The IBM intended that it needs to see clear evidence of a step-up in vaccination coverage, and a meaningful drop in case numbers.
“The National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) for polio eradication has major focus on the campaign quality at the Union Council level,” says Altaf Bosan, a key person in the Prime Minister’s Monitoring cell for Polio Eradication. “We believe that the situation will be improving this year in terms of campaign quality. We need the quality to be more than 95 percent this year.”
He says that the emergency plan aims to focus more on monitoring district management’s role. “Accountability is the main feature to oversee the activities,” he says, adding, “Inaccessibility is not that big an issue now as many transit points have been formed to vaccinate children and also there has been a special focus on Jalozai Camp of displaced persons.”
Dr Bhutta adds that the major reasons of polio’s resurgence are incomplete routine vaccinations, absence of security, mismanagement, lack of effective monitoring, corruption, propaganda against vaccination, and lack of accountability. According to him, provinces have no mechanism to deal with polio separately and they have no budgetary allocations for this year too which is making international agencies confused.
According to the estimates, except Punjab, there is no other province which has the capacity and nothing can be done until the next budget. He says the WHO definition of polio outbreak is just having one case in an area which can affect at large scale requiring the vaccination for the whole related population.
Pakistan’s first target to eradicate polio was in 1998 that was later extended to the year 2000 and then 2002. While the neighbouring India is polio free.
Ensuring food security is the responsibility of governments all over the world and efforts are made everywhere to cater to the dietary needs of rising populations. Of late, a new dimension of ensuring food safety has also been added to the task list of governments, asking of them to ensure that food available to people is of certain quality.
Pakistan is one such country where a large percentage of population is undernourished and financially unable to have a hand on healthy food. The number of people who consume high protein products like meat is even smaller with prices rising day by day.
Perennial shortage of livestock due to smuggling live animals to countries like Iran and Afghanistan, absence of breeds meant for meat production, loss of millions of cattle-head due to floods and diseases among them are termed main reasons for less than desired supply in the country.
This shortage exists despite the reason that Pakistan has the 4th largest livestock population in the world. Besides, the rate of increase among human population is 2.9 percent per annum whereas livestock is increasing at 4.2 per cent per annum. In this scenario, there is an urgent need to identify reasons for shortage of meat supply in the country and taking measures to bring it to desirable levels.
To start with, the issue of livestock smuggling to Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian States has resulted in increase in prices of meat. According to reports, around a million animals are smuggled into these countries every year. There are ways to regulate live animal export to neighbouring countries and permits are issued for this purpose. But what happens is that the permit holders export animals in much larger number than allowed by bribing border officials or hoodwinking them.
Besides, livestock losses in floods, high breeding and nourishing costs, increased transportation charges, the role of middlemen in the sale and supply of animals, and increased government/contractor levies are affecting livestock farmers as well as the common men.
Dr Asif Sahi, Senior Manager, Meat Production, Pakistan Agriculture and Meat Company (PAMCO) laments the fact that no concrete efforts have been made in the past to develop cattle breeds for meat procurement purposes. What happens is that only animals at the end of their lifespan are brought to slaughterhouses.
Explaining his point, he tells TNS that cows and buffalos who can no longer give milk and bulls unable to breed, plough or pull carts due to old age are slaughtered. Another tragedy, he says, is that around 5 million male calves are slaughtered before the age of one month as farmers think they are a burden for them.
To address this issue, he says the Punjab government has launched “Save the Calf Programme” which persuades farmers to grow buffalo calf till the age of around 10 months. At this age, a calf attains ideal weight and gives optimum meat output. “Our pilot project has been very successful in Gawala Colony, Lahore where not a single person is ready to sell a calf.”
PAMCO is a Punjab government-owned, non-profit Research & Development (R&D) organisation, duly incorporated and registered under section 42 of Companies Ordinance, 1984. The company has aimed at formalising horticulture and meat sector through interventions at each tier of value chain, i.e., production, processing and marketing.
The “Save the Calf” programme will promote consumption of buffalo meat. It has been scientifically proven that buffalo meat carries 32 percent less cholesterol and 55 percent less calories as compared to cow’s meat and, therefore, has a ready market.
Under this programme, registered farmers are being provided subsidies worth Rs 3200 per calf for six months so that they don’t feel rearing a male calf is a burden on them. Previously, they would rear only females as they would give milk to farmers. A registered farm must have at least 10 calves and at the maximum 100 whose age must not be more than three weeks at the time of registration.
Breed improvement is another means to increase meat supply. Though various breeds exist in the country, none of them is meant for production of genetically superior beef and mutton breeds. Genetic improvement of local livestock species, fattening farms and reproductive efficiency of animals are some of the ways to meet the demand of mutton and beef in the country.
“There is a need to develop breeds high on meat to bone ratio by importing quality semen from abroad and PAMCO is working on this option as well,” shares Dr Sahi with TNS.
Export and smuggling of live animals is another major reason for meat shortage in the country. “Though it is hard to check this practice it is not impossible”, says Dr Hamid Jalil, CEO, PAMCO. He tells TNS that a way to check this practice is to set up internationally certified slaughter houses all over the country, especially in cities from where most animals are sent across the border. He says this will help formalise the trade and save by-products like skin, hair and intestines consumed by dozens of industries as raw material. “The slaughter house in Shahpur Kaanjran Lahore has been set up with partial financial contribution of Iran, which intends to import quality meat from Pakistan. This would definitely lead to fall in number of live animals smuggled to Iran”, he hopes.
Despite living in an environment of ‘free media’ journalists in Pakistan put their lives at risk on a daily basis while reporting on ‘sensitive matters’ — issues that allegedly bring a bad name to the country’s institutions. The brutal murder of Saleem Shahzad, to give an example, blows the lid off claims that media persons in Pakistan can work and move freely in performing their duties.
Understandably, the unfortunate pattern of journalists being eliminated and the voice of truth strangulated not only saddens but also infuriates media persons, as well as the rest of the civil society, against such gruesome acts of torture and murder. Besides protests, one expression of their anguish is the compilation of books and reports about blatant attacks on the freedom of expression.
“Attacks on Journalists and Media Freedom”, an overview of what happens to the journalists in Pakistan while uncovering the story behind the story is an eye-opener which also serves as ready reference on the state of media freedom in Pakistan.
More specifically, the Media Commission-Pakistan, country chapter of South Asia Media Commission, organised a number of activities from October to December 2011 across Pakistan to assess the dangers journalists face in Pakistan in the pursuit of getting to the facts.
This authentic and verifiable compilation documents the conference held in Islamabad and participated by senior journalists and media activists, including, Khaled Ahmed, Ayaz Amir, Nusrat Javeed, Imtiaz Alam, Husain Naqi, and Ghazi Salahuddin, among many others, followed up by conferences in Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta and Peshawar in December.
The report rightly states that the conclusion out of the activities forms a major part of the booklet which serves “as a peg for advocacy for media freedom”.
The declaration adopted by the conference throws ample light on the state of media freedom in Pakistan, or the absence of it, and recommends various steps to the government and its law enforcement agencies that can be taken to ensure free access to information and safety of journalists working in various conditions.
The document also carries an executive summary of the report of the judicial commission on Saleem Shahzad murder case. After holding discussions in the conference and analysing evidence from various parts of the country, the document comes to the harsh conclusion that “reporting has become harder and more dangerous than ever”.
The booklet also points to lack of training of reporters for covering conflict areas and lack of knowledge about safety measures is making the job even harder for reporters.
Besides the main conference in Islamabad and the follow-ups, a number of missions were also undertaken to Karachi and Interior Sindh, Balochistan, tribal areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Islamabad and Punjab. All the missions analyse the working condition of journalists and have given important and timely recommendations about the safety of journalists, improvement in their working conditions, and proper investigations to bring the culprits to book, etc.
Khaled Ahmed’s comment in the document says, “It was known from the start that the Commission will not be able to nail the killer. A number of cases where an intelligence agency was accused by the journalist victims of physical torture and thrashing had come to nothing in the past”.
Imtiaz Alam, Secretary General, South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), agrees with Ahmed when he says that “both the commissions had shown their helplessness. The commission on the disappeared persons, for example, and the Commission on Saleem Shahzad had also shown their complete helplessness. The National Assembly and Senate passed resolutions condemning Saleem Shahzad’s murder, the former recommending forming an eight member special committee to monitor progress in this regard.”
Alam can still see a ray of hope when he says that “it will take some for the people and the institution of civil society in general to see their voice leaving the desired impact. The parliament should respond the feelings of the civil society.” The report also gives various useful sets of safety codes for journalists, especially those working in conflict areas.
There are thousands of people like me in Pakistan — people from reasonably well-off backgrounds, privileged enough to receive an education, their future in their hands. We are unfettered by the various social circumstances which affect the majority of Pakistan’s populace and isolated, to an extent from the real world — a place where women are not considered worthy of education, or, as Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar winning documentary, the harrowing but brilliant “Saving Face” showed, of functional organs.
Let’s make a clarification. Pakistan is not a country destined for failure. It is not a country with a looming expiration date. It is, however, a country divided — by something far more dangerous than geography; it is divided along class lines and mindsets.
In today’s world, where countries like America are being rocked by protests against exponential income inequality and corporate culture, these sorts of divisions are proving increasingly toxic to societies all across the world.
In Pakistan, people are most likely to be subjugated if they are women, or if they are poor. Combine the two and you get a segment of the population alarmingly vulnerable to some of the most grievous human rights violations in the world.
Acid attacks, the focus of Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary, are only one such instance. Female mutilation takes place among the Bohra community in Sindh as a matter of honour and tradition, its prohibition contingent not on constitutional edict but on tribal law. This sort of persecution takes place in the “urban” areas, as well. The poor, desperate to earn a living, and unable to do so, turn to mafias, who use these impoverished individuals as a part of their organized criminal operations. We’ve all heard of people being maimed so that they look more destitute and helpless while begging on the street; men and women, once in the business, have no way to get out without putting their families at great risk.
Most of us, however, tend not to process the implications of this information. Instead of empathising with these people, we treat them like nuisances, unworthy of attention. Even the most educated of people have no idea or choose to ignore what the common Pakistani goes through; for them, living in a vacuum is preferable.
People like Obaid-Chinoy and Dr. Jawad (the plastic surgeon treating the acid victims in the documentary), are few and far between, perhaps because they’ve been away from Pakistan so long, they haven’t taken anything for granted. Those of us still living in Pakistan, however, and living at a higher standard than the rest of the population, have taken too many things for granted — most of all, our country.
People within our social sphere have been coming up with initiatives — Kashf Foundation, which gives loans to women to start small businesses, organisations like CARE and TCF which have been successful, to an extent, in expanding rural and urban educational infrastructure. Hina Jilani’s AGHS Legal Aid Cell provides free legal assistance to women who have been abused. These initiatives must happen on a much larger scale, with a greater investment than just money.
There needs to be hands-on participation, especially from the youth. As a young adult myself, I don’t want my education to be useless; by this, I don’t mean useless to myself, but useless to the society of which I am a part. Altruism, or something like it, is painfully missing, or, if not missing, then distressingly scarce, from Pakistan’s social make-up.
We, the youth, look at our future as a matter of self-interest; it’s not. Our future is interminably intertwined with that of our country, and the rest of the population. Initiatives like Kashf, CARE and TCF, even if they are limited in scope and scale, are important. Internships and volunteer work with such organisations should be made mandatory within schools so that, even if that altruistic, good Samaritan sentiment is missing, it can be created and cultivated.
That sense of civic responsibility, which is so rare in Pakistan, needs to be synthesised. This can only be done by taking actions necessary to remodel the structure of our social institutions. It’s startling that there are so few pro bono law firms and organisations operating in Pakistan; considering there is such a great need for them. We need to bring organisations working on a global scale into Pakistan. Organisations like Penal Reform International, which help governments and NGOs, improve the criminal justice system and human rights situation need to be introduced in a country which is starved for such reform.
All in all, our people need to mobilise, magnify the scope of humanitarian initiatives and to use a cliché, truly give back to Pakistan. This is important, as mentioned earlier, especially among my own generation; we are at the stage where we are both old enough to be taken seriously and handle ourselves appropriately, and young enough to relate to people younger than us so that a connection is made from generation to generation. Pakistan can only begin to gain recognition on a regular basis, when other people like Chinoy, start to take the lead. I maintain hope for Pakistan, and that is something everyone else, especially our educated class needs to do. Ultimately, prosperity is more easily gleaned out of hope and initiative, than out of cynicism and lethargy.
It is nearly four years since the present PPP government took office. Before we look at the economic performance of the government, it seems in order to outline the state of the economy when it was installed. The last five years of the Musharraf era are generally touted as a period of economic boom characterised by robust economic growth, stabilisation of the exchange rate and record increase in workers’ remittances and foreign direct investment (FDI).
Between Fiscal Year 2004 and 2008, the economy grew at 7 percent per annum on average — though during the FY08, growth rate fell significantly to 3.7 per cent. Exchange rate remained relatively stable — although, again, the second half of FY08 saw sharp depreciation of the rupee. The country on average received FDI inflows of $3.25 billion a year and both during FY07 and FY08, FDI crossed $5 billion mark.
However, other major economic indicators presented a bleak picture. Trade deficit increased to a record $20.74 billion in FY08, current account deficit exceeded $14 billion — 8.47 per cent of GDP. Fiscal deficit rose to Rs 777 billion—7.6 percent of GDP — while revenue-GDP and tax-GDP ratios fell to 13.7 percent and 9.9 percent respectively. External debt and domestic debt reached $46.16 billion (31 per cent of GDP) and Rs 3.21 trillion (32 percent of GDP) respectively. Average CPI inflation was 12 percent at the close of FY08. Investment-GDP ratio was 21.6 per cent, while savings-GDP ratio was 13.9 per cent.
This means that the economic growth during the Musharraf regime was not based on strong fundamentals and the healthy growth was largely on account of inflow of foreign capital. By October 2008, the country’s external account position had deteriorated to such an extent (foreign exchange reserves had depleted to $7.31 billion — as on October 17, 2008 — and the exchange rate had nosedived to Rs 82.37 per American dollar) that the government was forced to borrow from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The PPP government’s macro-economic policies have largely been dictated by the commitments it made with the IMF under the Standby Arrangement. In sum, these commitments required the government to significantly bring down fiscal and current account deficits, discourage government borrowing from the central bank as a source of deficit financing, maintain high interest rates with a view to reducing inflation, ensure exchange rate flexibility, increase tax-GDP ratio and remove energy subsidies.
An obvious cost of such stabilisation policies is that they slow the pace of the economy. Hence, during FY09, growth rate fell to 1.7 percent, which was one of the lowest in Pakistan’s history. Even that low growth rate was made possible by downward revision of GDP growth to 3.7 percent from the original figure of 5.8 per cent. A modest economic recovery was made in FY10 as the growth rate increased to 3.8 per cent. However, the next year (FY11), economic growth rate receded to 2.4 percent well below the 4.5 percent target. For the current fiscal year, FY12, economic growth of 4.2 percent was targeted. However, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) projections (Annual Report FY11), the growth rate is likely to be between 3 and 4 percent.
Fiscal deficit, which forms the main pillar of the edifice of the IMF-sponsored programme, was to be reduced to 4.2 percent of the GDP in FY09, and then to 3.4 percent in FY10. The FY09 target was missed as the fiscal deficit was recoded at 5.3 percent of GDP, though much lower than the 7.6 percent budget deficit during the preceding year. The FY10 fiscal deficit target was subsequently increased to 4.6 and then 4.9 percent. However, the budget deficit of 6.3 percent was recorded during that year. The fiscal deficit target for FY11 was 4 percent of GDP, which subsequently was enhanced to 4.7 percent. However, the fiscal deficit went up to 6.6 percent. For the current fiscal year, fiscal deficit target of 4 percent was set; however, it is likely to go up to 6.5 percent (SBP Annual Report FY11).
The fiscal deficit reached about Rs 532.52 billion (2.5 per cent of GDP) by the close of the first half of the current fiscal year compared with Rs 490 billion in the corresponding period of the preceding fiscal year (source: Ministry of Finance). There has been improved performance in containing the current account deficit. During FY09, the current account deficit was reduced to $9.26 billion (5.7 percent of GDP) and further to $3.50 billion (2 percent of GDP) in FY10. The current account, unusually, moved to surplus (0.1 percent of GDP) in FY11 in the main due to record levels of exports ($24.81 billion) and remittances ($11.20 billion).
During the first six months of the current fiscal year (FY12 July-December), current account deficit of $2.15 billion was recorded. In the ensuing months, the current account deficit is likely to grow faster due to increase in prices of petroleum products. During FY09, FDI fell to $3.72 billion and further to $2.20 billion in FY10 and $1.63 billion in FY11. During FY12 (July-December), FDI receipts of $532 million were registered compared with $840 million during the corresponding period of FY11. The fall in FDI is largely due to precarious law and order situation and political uncertainty.
The exchange value of the domestic currency continues to decline. At the close of FY11, the rupee-dollar parity was 85.5, which has risen close to 91 in recent days. Foreign exchange reserves have also come down from $18.24 billion at the end of FY11 to $16.77 billion (as on February 10, 2012). The reserves are likely to come under further stress as Pakistan has to pay back $1.1 billion to the IMF before the current fiscal year comes to a close.
Notwithstanding a rather restrictive monetary policy, strong inflationary pressures persist. The average inflation increased to 21 percent during FY09, declined to 12 percent in FY10 and rose again to 14 percent in FY11. The average inflation was 10.8 percent in the first seven months of the current fiscal year (July-January FY12). The major cause of inflation is the fiscal deficit and the way it is being financed (bank borrowing). Another cause is the energy crisis driven aggregate demand-supply gap.
A singular economic achievement of the present government is the institution of the 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award. Making a departure from the past, the present NFC Award has a multiple criteria. Though population remains the chief criterion, poverty/backwardness (10.3 percent), revenue collection/generation (5 percent) and inverse population density (2.7 percent) have also come into play.
The government’s singular failure in the economic sphere is its inability to widen the tax net. In FY08, revenue-GDP ratio was 13.7 percent, in FY09 it dropped to 13.2 percent and slightly increased to 13.8 percent in FY10 before falling to 11.7 percent in FY11. During the first half (H1) of FY12, revenue-GDP ratio was 5.4 percent. Tax-GDP ratio, which was 9.9 percent in FY08, came down to 9.8 percent in FY09 and slightly rose to 10 percent in FY10 before falling to 8.9 percent in FY11. During FY12 (H1), tax-GDP ratio was 4.3 percent. It was the government’s failure to undertake necessary tax reforms, particularly the introduction of the reformed GST that led to the premature termination of the IMF programme.