analysis
Of the people, minus the military
The practice of politician-bashing needs to give way to making principled demand of our political parties, to both bring about a change within themselves and establish the kind of government that we want
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Pakistan is front-page news across the world again, for the umpteenth time over the past few months. The Sharif brothers are seen smiling on TV screens triumphantly amidst celebrations outside the Supreme Court. There are yet more epic pronouncements that the higher judiciary has freed itself from the shackles of administrative dominance. And one can only make a guess at just how acute the level of discomfort is inside the General Headquarters (GHQ).


Newswatch
Power and money are kissing cousins
By Kaleem Omar
Lord Acton said, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But what does the lack of power do? Turn people into saints, or what? Hardly. Sometimes, the powerless can be just as corrupt as the powerful. The only difference is that the powerful have far more opportunity to be corrupt than the powerless. The term 'robber baron' sums this up perfectly. Barons had power. That's why they could rob the powerless with impunity.

crisis
Tumbling down!
Despite being responsible for 62 percent of the country's total exports, the textile sector is faced with new challenges
By Hamid Waleed

Pakistan's textile sector is passing through the worst ever crisis of its history. Even repeated efforts by the government -- starting with the State Bank of Pakistan's Circular BPD-29 at the very outset of Musharraf regime to six per cent fund for research and development (R&D) in 2004 and a relief package of Rs 29 billion in 2005 -- have failed to take this sector out of the crisis. No doubt these measures have provided a significant support to the woven and knit garments' industry, but still it is more of a 'survival of the fittest' sort of situation as the weaker ones have failed to survive.

Bleak future ahead?
The recent US legislation linking provision of aid to Pakistan with presidential certification has to be analysed objectively
By Shafqat Munir

Electoral speeches by potential candidates in the United States and Pakistan, coupled with signing by President George W Bush into law of the Bill on Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, seem to cast a dark shadow on the existing relations between the two countries.

No free lunch
For the US, Pakistan's moderate credentials are far more important than its democratic credentials
By Hussain H. Zaidi

The recent passage in the US of counter-terrorism legislation, which incorporates recommendations of an independent inquiry into the infamous 9/11 attacks, has significant implications for Pakistan. To understand these implications, one may begin by looking at the relevant provisions of the legislation.

Threat to cities
Without sound and performing institutions, no amount of investment will be able to generate any worthwhile outcome
By Dr Noman Ahmed
In a recently conducted mega moot in Sweden, experts from Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) warned about the rising ocean level and corresponding threats to human habitat. It was agreed that urban planners shall have to come up with locational options for settlements. For these familiar with Pakistani context, these warnings have not come up as a surprise. The southern and central part of the country faced tremendous problems due to torrential rains and flooding.

Part III
Reform education
The third part of the series explores the link between extremism and lack of education
By R Khan

The case of Pakistan is unique because here educational institutions and academia have, in fact, contributed to the phenomenon of extremism and militancy.

firstperson
Saint of diplomacy
By Farah Zia and Aoun Sahi
The News on Sunday: What do you think of Pakistan? Where does it stand economically, politically and culturally?

Protest time
The affectees of Taunsa remodelling project demand formation of an inquiry commission to probe a project that caused loss of livelihood and shelter, closure of canals and river erosion
By Noreen Haider

The peaceful protest by the affectees of Taunsa Barrage Remodelling Project is still going strong. The affectees are demanding their rights, adequate compensation and the formation of an inquiry commission to launch a probe into the project that caused loss of livelihood and shelter, closure of canals, river erosion, and displacement in the name of resettlement.



analysis
Of the people, minus the military
The practice of politician-bashing needs to give way to making principled demand of our political parties, to both bring about a change within themselves and establish the kind of government that we want

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

Pakistan is front-page news across the world again, for the umpteenth time over the past few months. The Sharif brothers are seen smiling on TV screens triumphantly amidst celebrations outside the Supreme Court. There are yet more epic pronouncements that the higher judiciary has freed itself from the shackles of administrative dominance. And one can only make a guess at just how acute the level of discomfort is inside the General Headquarters (GHQ).

There can be no doubt that the edifice of military rule is crumbling all around us. It is now virtually a foregone conclusion that the political leadership that the Musharraf junta so unerringly sidelined upon coming to power eight years ago is, or soon will be, occupying the centrestage again. It is only a matter of time before both the Sharif brothers and Ms. Benazir Bhutto are back in Pakistan (regardless of how they have secured their respective returns) and, as the saying goes, 'doodh ka doodh aur pani ka pani ho jaye ga'.

It is a measure of the manner in which the political discourse has evolved in Pakistan that even those political parties that have historically been close to the military, in particular the Jamaat-e-Islami, are now clamouring to prove their anti-dictatorship credentials. The military's fall from grace has precipitated a remarkable shift in the political mainstream. From competing with one another to secure the military's largesse, political leaderships of various denominations are now trying to be seen as the least susceptible to cooption by the GHQ, while asserting their commitment to a political process finally free from the military's machinations.

This is an unequivocally good thing. Though one should not be under any delusions about why this has happened. The leadership of our mainstream political parties remains more or less the same as it was before General Pervez Musharraf came to power. The recent frenzy over the awarding of electoral tickets has underlined that internal party dynamics remain as problematic as before, while the de facto principle of patronage is still heavily entrenched in our political culture.

Having said this, it is imperative to identify exactly why political parties in particular and politics in general have been subject to the kind of degeneration that has taken place over the past few decades. Simply put, the military's position as the undisputed arbiter in Pakistani politics has led to an erosion of what little autonomy political parties did enjoy until the Zia dictatorship. The state of political parties is but a reflection of the kind of politics that was foisted onto our society during the dark years after the ouster of the Bhutto government in 1977.

Arguably the most crucial aspect of the military's political engineering project has been the demeaning of politics and politicians. Politician-bashing remains a favourite pastime of commentators and ordinary people alike and this suits the military very well, because when politicians are viewed as inept and self-obsessed, the military's mythical role as saviour of the nation is reinforced.

This is why the current conjuncture is an intriguing one in the sense that the military's pristine image has undergone an unprecedented battering -- it is no longer people's undisputed choice to run the country; for the time being, it is not even being considered as the second-best option.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the novelty value that is derived from prolonged exclusion from power sharing, the existing Pakistani political leaders, including Ms. Bhutto and the Sharifs, still suffer from a trust deficit on account of their past performances (though it has already been pointed out that their less-than-perfect images are explained to a significant extent by the systematic projection of their supposed incompetence).

The religio-political parties, who for so long have harped on about the righteousness of their cause, have now been in power for long enough to be seen as another tried-and-tested option. Besides, the religio-political parties represented in the parliament have suffered an unmistakable loss in popularity in recent times in favour of the more radical, and often violent, religio-political movements operating across the country, particularly in the wake of the Lal Masjid fiasco.

In the midst of what might be called a 'crisis of leadership' within the country, people have started to pin more hopes on those entities that have seemingly played an unambiguously pro-people role in recent times. On top of this list, of course, is the Supreme Court. Then there is the legal fraternity, which maintains that its agenda has only been partially completed. Finally the electronic media has won plaudits from a cross-section of people for its role in facilitating the political and judicial activism witnessed during the past few months.

Unfortunately for all concerned, none of these entities is charged with the responsibility of bringing about a political change in the country. They can be part of a larger process of democratisation, play their role in holding political actors accountable for their actions and non-actions, and promote a vibrant political culture, but ultimately it is political parties that must spearhead the challenge to dictatorship.

The good news is that the regeneration of an organic politics 'from below' should, in principle, impact the composition and internal working of political parties. As suggested above, it has been the dramatic change in the tone and tenor of public discourse that has forced the mainstream parties to change their slogans, even if not their method of political engagement. Rest assured that if popular pressure increases in the coming months, the nature of political parties' engagement with the military will also undergo a marked shift.

Nevertheless, there is a long way to go yet. Both mainstream parties and ordinary people have internalised a ruthlessly cynical political culture. While recent events have made clear that the space for people-centred politics based on a programme of change exists, it will take time for such politics to materialise and for a representative political party to emerge that can garner popular support accordingly.

It should be borne in mind that arguably the most dynamic period in Pakistan's political history was that between 1967 and 1977. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of those early years, as well as others active at that time like the National Awami Party (NAP), were organically linked with the people; so the politics was about change rather than patronage. This was a direct result of popular participation and the existence of autonomous people's organisations, such as trade unions and student fronts, that made it incumbent upon PPP, NAP and other political parties to articulate the people's sentiment.

While it may not be inaccurate to say that Pakistan is currently facing a 'crisis of leadership', it is also unreasonable to attribute all of the country's problems to this crisis. The refrain that "Should Musharraf go, who would replace him?" is heard far too often across the country. Expecting a leader or two to dramatically appear on the scene, pull a Houdini act and transform Pakistan into a huge success story overnight is naivete of the highest order.

The regeneration of the political process will take time, given the way the society has been brutalised during the Zia years and afterwards. In the meantime, the practice of politician-bashing needs to give way to making principled demand of our political parties, to both bring about a change within themselves and establish the kind of government that we want. The movement that followed the events of March 9 has rekindled hope that this is possible. What we need now is to build upon the victories of the past few weeks, eschew shortcuts and rebuild a culture of politics -- of the people, minus the military!

Newswatch
Power and money are kissing cousins
By Kaleem Omar

Lord Acton said, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But what does the lack of power do? Turn people into saints, or what? Hardly. Sometimes, the powerless can be just as corrupt as the powerful. The only difference is that the powerful have far more opportunity to be corrupt than the powerless. The term 'robber baron' sums this up perfectly. Barons had power. That's why they could rob the powerless with impunity.

When it comes to robbery, however, there is also another point of view. Asked why he robbed banks, the American bank robber Willie Sutton said, "Because that's where the money is." His morality may have been questionable, but his logic was irrefutable. Banks, indeed, are where the money is, or, in our case, what's left of it after all the billions of rupees in bad loans have been written off.

Bad loans and power are closely related, in the sense that the more power you have the more bad loans you can obtain and get written off. Back in the mid-1990s, a powerful Pakistani politician even got a loan approved from a state-owned bank running into tens of millions of rupees to import, of all things, a machine for "making grass" -- not artificial turf, mind you, but the real stuff that's fed to cows. I kid you not.

The loan was only stopped at the last minute because a conscientious young economist working for the bank in question raised a hue and cry and leaked the story to the press (I know this for a fact because I was the one he leaked it to). The sum involved was 70 million rupees. It must have been some grass-making machine! Small wonder it is said that power and money are kissing cousins.

Henry Kissinger was a man of power when he was US Secretary of State back in the early 1970s. Even today, he sometimes tends to speak as if he is still a man of power -- berating US foreign policymakers about where they are going wrong. Let us not forget, though, that this is the same Kissinger who once infamously remarked, "The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer."

It's that sort of attitude that has made Kissinger a favourite of the Bush administration, and helps to explain why President George W. Bush nominated him to co-chair the commission set up to investigate US intelligence failures during the period leading to the 9/11 attacks. Conflict of interest allegations eventually forced Kissinger to decline the job because he refused to divulge the names of the clients of his public relations firm, which were said to include several Middle Eastern governments.

In American politician George M. Reedy's view, "isolation from reality is inseparable from the exercise of power." We see this same isolation from reality in Bush. Only a few days ago, he again claimed (for the umpteenth time) that the war in Iraq was "going well".

This brings me to a quick rundown on some laws of power.

Law 1: Despise the free lunch. More often than not, what is offered for free is dangerous -- it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. Greedy fish are the dot.con artist's bread and butter. Lured by the bait of easy money, they swallow the ruse hook, line and sinker. That's why it is said there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Law 2: Control the options -- get others to play with the cards you deal. The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice. Give people options that come out in your favour whichever one they chose. Put them on the horns of a dilemma. They are gored wherever they turn.

Law 3:  Words like 'freedom', 'options' and 'choice' evoke a power of possibility far beyond the reality of the benefits they entail. When examined closely, the choices we have -- in the marketplace, in elections, in our jobs -- tend to have noticeable limitations. They are often a matter of a choice simply between A and B, with the rest of the alphabet out of the picture. In much the same vein is a piece of verse titled 'Alphabet for the Atomic Age'. This is how it goes: "A is for Atom, / And when it's let loose / The rest of the letters / Will be of no use."

Law 4: Alter the playing field. In the 1860s, John D. Rockefeller -- one of America's first robber barons -- set out to create an oil monopoly. If he had tried to buy up the smaller oil companies, they would have figured out what he was doing and fought back. Instead, he began secretly buying up the railway companies that transported the oil. When he then attempted to take over a particular oil company, and met with resistance, he reminded them of their dependence on the rails. Raising their freight rates could ruin their business. So the only option the small oil producers had was to sell out to him.

Law 5: Play to people's fantasies. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses. But fantasy can never operate alone. It requires the backdrop of the humdrum and the mundane. It is the oppressiveness of reality that allows fantasy to take root and blossom.

Shakespeare said that the poet's role was "to lend to airy nothings a local habitation and a name." It's this juxtaposition of the humdrum and the fantastical that gives poetry much of its power.

For all that, however, poets are not usually counted among the ranks of the powerful -- at least not in the conventional sense. But then, of course, it was Shakespeare, again, who said, of his own immortal verse, "Not marbled palaces nor the gilded monuments of princes / Shall outlive this powerful rhyme."

As it turned out, he was spot-on about that. So, in the end, it all depends, I suppose, on what one means by power.

crisis
Tumbling down!
Despite being responsible for 62 percent of the country's total exports, the textile sector is faced with new challenges

By Hamid Waleed

Pakistan's textile sector is passing through the worst ever crisis of its history. Even repeated efforts by the government -- starting with the State Bank of Pakistan's Circular BPD-29 at the very outset of Musharraf regime to six per cent fund for research and development (R&D) in 2004 and a relief package of Rs 29 billion in 2005 -- have failed to take this sector out of the crisis. No doubt these measures have provided a significant support to the woven and knit garments' industry, but still it is more of a 'survival of the fittest' sort of situation as the weaker ones have failed to survive.

The textile sector contributes 11 percent of the GDP and employs 40 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector. It is responsible for 62 per cent of the country's total exports. The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) was formed way back in 1952 and since then has been the foremost association concerning the textile sector in the country.

The global textile trade is currently estimated to be around US$ 300 billion. Industry experts predict that by 2014 the facilities in the West would close down and developed countries would source out their textiles to more efficient areas of the world, resulting in the trade volume of around US$ 800 billion. Pakistan's share of the current trade volume is around three percent. If we are to maintain our current share of this larger pie, our textile exports alone are potentially targeted to reach US$ 24 billion.

The textile sector has witnessed an investment of over $5 billion since 2000 and plans for further investment worth $6.3 billion in the next five years are under way to increase value addition, without giving up on the markets created for basic textiles.

The post-quota regime has brought many challenges for the textile sector of Pakistan in particular and of the region in general. Relocation of textile business to Asia from Europe has not only opened up new opportunities, but also exposed the textile sector to new challenges. The Textile Vision 2005, prepared by the sector's gurus in the late 1990s, was implemented successfully and the textile sector, particularly the basic one, witnessed huge investment of $5 billion.

But according to Shahzad Azam, former chairperson of the Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers' Association, the Textile Vision 2005 ignored the value-added sector altogether; therefore, it was hit hard in the post-quota regime. A large number of ready-made garments and hosiery units were closed down across the country and the government had no option but to announce six per cent R&D fund to support the sector.

The major portion of the $5 billion investment, on the other hand, took place between 2001 and 2005. It was the period when the country was flooded with unprecedented inflow of remittances in the backdrop of 9/11 attacks. Many inexperienced investors jumped in the textile sector and set up industrial units, particularly in spinning and weaving sectors. Since heavy remittances were pouring in the banks of the country, the mark up rates were cut down drastically and investors were able to borrow heavy amounts to set up these units.

Meanwhile, the European Union had also offered the Generalised Preferential System (GPS), dealing with increase in quota of certain categories, besides duty free entry to Pakistani textile garments in 2002 to deal with economic pressures arising out of the 9/11 attacks that pushed the sector's production levels unimaginably.

However, once the honeymoon period was over (on withdrawal of the GSP and imposition of anti-dumping duty on Pakistani bed-linen), the sector started feeling the pinch. Increase in the mark up rate by the government to control inflation added fuel to the fire and the industry entered the red zone.

In the last two years, Pakistan's textile manufacturing industry, especially the spinning sector, has been in deep crisis due to the disproportionate increases in cost of production. Gas prices have increased by 38 per cent from Rs 172 to Rs 238 per mmbtu; electricity cost has gone up by 10 percent with constant load-shedding; and due to the increase in fuel prices, transportation costs have almost doubled. Besides these, the banks have also raised their mark-up rate to 14 per cent, an increase of almost 300 per cent.

On the other hand, our regional competitors like China, India and Bangladesh give massive subsidies to their industries -- lower mark-up rates, rebates, export refinance, etc. China even gives free land and housing colonies to industries besides discounts on utilities for export-based industries.

In India, a $6 billion Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme has been designed that offers textile investors a five per cent discount on their long-term borrowing for processing mills. Also, there is another 10 percent capital subsidy over and above this.

Bangladesh encourages local production of yarn and fabric by giving garment mills a five per cent subsidy on local procurement of yarn. it has now attained a capacity of over five million spindles despite the fact that there is no indigenous cotton and no man-made fibre production.

The emergence of China as a burgeoning force in world textiles is also a cause for concern in a number of sub-sectors. Dr Salman Shah, advisor to the prime minister on Finance, on the other hand, is of the view that the industry is not competitive enough to bring down its cost of doing business. He also criticised the industry for not developing any brand internationally despite being one of the oldest one in the country.

Not only Dr Shah, but also a good number of textile sector gurus are of the view that many new entrants to the industry have no idea as how to make their products competitive. Therefore, they view, the sector would not suffer heavily even if more units get closed down across the country. However, the weaker ones are not ready for it -- they have not only parted their ways with the APTMA, but also held a protest demonstration in front of the parliament in June 2006. It seems that they have entered the last round of a lost battle and would close down sooner or later.

The textile industrialists have also axed their feet by getting involved in the real estate business over the last few years. Bank loans, which actually were borrowed for the textile sector, were used for the real estate business. Hype in the business of real estate sector attracted many among the textile sector and they started investing blindly at the cost of their textile business.

It was also learnt on good authority that many leading businesspersons in ready-made garments had closed down their units and shifted all their investments to the real estate business. This not only created an artificial hype in the real estate sector, but also ruined the textile sector. Many big names of the textile sector formally announced housing schemes and are involved in this business till today.

It is also a fact that most of the textile units have failed in upgrading themselves in accordance with the present day needs. An exercise of balancing, modernisation and rehabilitation (BMR) was done in 2003-04, but it was restricted to limited units in basic textile and the value-added sector. A vast majority of the units missed the opportunity and failed to modernise themselves.

The textile sector is at the crossroads of its journey towards bright future in the region. Being one of the top cotton producing countries in the world, Pakistan can be at the centre stage of textile business in the region. The National Textile Strategy Committee, led by Tariq Saeed Saigol, has already made a comprehensive proposal for the revival of textile sector in Pakistan. There is no doubt that the sector is faced with the high cost of doing business and there is an urgent need to make necessary improvements in it. The Saigol Committee has made some very practical recommendations, which if implemented would put the industry back on track. So the government should take it up immediately to save the tumbling down textile sector in the country.

 

Bleak future ahead?
The recent US legislation linking provision of aid to Pakistan with presidential certification has to be analysed objectively

By Shafqat Munir  

Electoral speeches by potential candidates in the United States and Pakistan, coupled with signing by President George W Bush into law of the Bill on Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, seem to cast a dark shadow on the existing relations between the two countries.

Pakistan's Foreign Office expressed its disappointment with the references relating to terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation, while the US Embassy in Islamabad said the legislation had not been conceived by US lawmakers as a punishment for or a sanction against Pakistan.

The legislation signed by Bush on August 3 requires him to certify that Islamabad is making progress in combatting al-Qaeda and Taliban elements within its territory, in controlling nuclear proliferation networks, and in promoting democracy, rule of law and freedom of the media before the US gives aid to Pakistan. This year Pakistan is receiving about $700 million in economic and military assistance from the US, while the next year it is expected to receive more than $800 million.

Reacting to the recent US legislation, Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said: "Regardless of the fact that the bill emphasises the importance attached by the US to long-term strategic relationship with Pakistan, it is disappointing from Pakistan's point of view that references under section on Pakistan relating to terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation verge on allegations of existence of so-called terrorist 'safe haven' or 'proliferation networks'. Such allegations are unsubstantiated and have been rejected by Pakistan."

Describing the legislation as reminiscent of the Pressler Amendment of 1985, which had blocked the sale of F-16s to Pakistan due to its nuclear programme, she maintained that Pakistan expected understanding and support, instead of "pronouncements and impositions", in dealing with the militant threat.

When contacted for comments, US Embassy Spokesperson Dr Elizabeth O Colton told TNS: "The legislation (HR-1) emphasises specific challenges to the US and to Pakistan that have long been at the centre of our bilateral relationship. We remain committed to working with Pakistan on those challenges in a spirit of respect and cooperation, in the interests of both our countries. Pakistan right now is our most indispensable partner in the fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups."

Talking about the reporting back by the US president to Congress on progress by Pakistan under this legislation, she said: "This is not a unique example of the US Congress requesting for presidential 'certification' that progress is being made by international partners on crucial issues. The process of presidential certification does not automatically or necessarily imply criticism or hostility. Nor does the legislation 'restrict', 'limit' or 'bar' US assistance to Pakistan. The language of the legislation does imply that the core issues of the bilateral strategic partnership between the US and Pakistan are serious and that they merit special attention by the US Congress."

The debate over the recent US legislation continues in political circles and the media, but mostly without an objective analysis. Some analysts are trying to draw a parallel between the Pressler Amendment and the recent legislation. It should be borne in mind that the Pressler Amendment was Pakistan-specific in nature, while the recent legislation has "multiple options, actions, reactions and security measures meant purely to provide security to US interests, people and targets". As a matter of record, only five of the 285-page bill relate to Pakistan.

Going by the original text of the bill, Section 2042 relates to Pakistan. It has been further divided into six major sub-sections. The first part is about US Congress' findings on relations between the two countries. It reiterates that a democratic, stable and prosperous Pakistan is vital for the US in its 'war against terrorism'. It duly recognises Pakistan's critical role as an ally in combatting al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It also recognises the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in this regard, in terms of loss of lives of hundreds of security personnel and civilians.

In the first part, following areas have been identified as a point of close agreement between Pakistan and the US:

• Curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology;

• Combatting poverty and corruption;

• Enabling effective government institutions, including public education;

• Promoting democracy and the rule of law, particularly at the national level;

• Addressing the continued presence of the Taliban and other violent extremist forces throughout the country;

• Maintaining the authority of the Government of Pakistan in all parts of its national territory;

• Securing the borders of Pakistan to prevent the movement of militants and terrorists into other countries and territories; and

• Effectively dealing with violent extremism.

The second part of the section explains the policy of the US to maintain and deepen its friendship and long-term strategic relations with Pakistan. It also calls for facilitating a just resolution of the dispute over the territory of Kashmir, to the extent that such facilitation is invited and welcomed by the Governments of Pakistan and India and by the people of Kashmir.

The third part of section of the legislation describes the strategy of the US Congress relating to Pakistan. This sub-section calls for ensuring a reporting mechanism from the US president on the progress of the implementation process. Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this act, the president shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that describes the long-term strategy of the US to engage with the Government of Pakistan to achieve the goals of combatting al-Qaeda, the Taliban and nuclear proliferation networks; and promoting democracy and rule of law before US aid is given to Pakistan.

There are basically three conditions -- nuclear non-proliferation, democracy and rule of law, and combatting al-Qaeda and the Taliban -- set for reporting by the US president on progress by Pakistan. We need to analyse these conditions objectively if we want to progress on the path of tolerance, freedom of speech, democracy and rule of law.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist. Email [email protected]

The recent passage in the US of counter-terrorism legislation, which incorporates recommendations of an independent inquiry into the infamous 9/11 attacks, has significant implications for Pakistan. To understand these implications, one may begin by looking at the relevant provisions of the legislation.

Provisions relating to Pakistan are contained in Section 1442, which is entitled 'Pakistan'. The Section begins with a statement of 'facts'. In the first place, the role of Pakistan as "an important partner" of the US in removing the Taliban regime and combating international terrorism is acknowledged. However, that compliment is followed by the warning that several critical issues threaten to 'disrupt' Pak-US relations, "undermine national security, and destabilise Pakistan." These issues, whose list is not exhaustive, include: curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapon technology; combating poverty and corruption, building effective public institutions, especially secular public schools; promoting democracy and rule of law; addressing the continued presence of the Taliban and other extremist forces in Pakistan, maintaining the authority of the Pakistan government in all parts of the country; securing the borders of Pakistan to prevent the movement of militants and terrorists into other countries; and effectively dealing with 'Islamic terrorism'.

The statement of facts is followed by a statement of policy. The policy framework imposes a set of four obligations on the US government: One, to work with its Pakistani counterpart to combat international terrorism "and to end the use of Pakistan as a safe haven for forces associated with the Taliban." Two, to establish a 'long-term strategic' partnership with Pakistan to address the above mentioned 'critical issues'. Three, to 'dramatically' increase funding for Pakistan to help it address these issues. However, the increased funding is subject to the condition that Pakistan "demonstrates a commitment to building a moderate democratic state" including steps towards free and fair elections in 2007. Four, to help resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Having established the basic policy framework, the legislation goes on to describe the limitations on US security related assistance to Pakistan. US assistance may not be provided to Pakistan for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 until 15 days after the date on which President certifies to Congress that Pakistan is 'making all possible efforts' to prevent the Taliban from operating in its territory. However, that limitation may be waived for a fiscal year if the president certifies to congress that such a waiver is in US security interest. The limitations shall be removed if the president certifies to congress that the Taliban or any related organisation "has ceased to exist as an organization capable of conducting military, insurgent, or terrorist activities in Afghanistan from Pakistan."

There is also a statement of 'facts' regarding nuclear proliferation, which underscores that "Pakistan's maintenance of a network for the proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies" would be inconsistent with Pakistan being considered a US ally; and that the American security interest would best be served if US works with Pakistan to "stop nuclear proliferation."

An analysis of the foregoing provisions must take into account the fact that the purpose of the legislation is to shore up the counter-terrorism capability of the US government. The fact that the legislation contains a separate section on Pakistan only bears out the high importance Washington attaches to Pakistan in its counter-terrorism efforts. Since Pakistan's importance primarily consists in its anti-terrorism role, the legislation also seeks to strengthen that role.

Hence, the legislation promises increased US assistance to Pakistan provided the country demonstrates the commitment to fight religious extremism. And the commitment has to measure up to US standards, because it will be for the US president to certify that the level of commitment demonstrated by Islamabad is such as to warrant American assistance. That limitation may be waived but only if it is deemed to be in US interest. It is this conditionality that has irked some quarters in Pakistan. However, this conditionality is only logical, because the enhanced aid aims at increasing the capability of the Pakistan government to fight terrorism. From American standpoint, aid is the means and counter-terrorism is the end. If the end is not achieved, the means are of little avail.

The policy framework established by the legislation will result in increased US engagement with Pakistan. This means that Islamabad will be under increased pressure to crackdown on militants, especially in the areas bordering Afghanistan. This also means greater US interest, as well as interference, in political developments in Pakistan as presidential and parliamentary elections draw closer.

The war against terrorism is a drawn-out one. A relationship which is based on this war should also be long-term. Hence, the legislation exhorts the US administration to establish a strategic, long-term partnership with Pakistan. The relationship will be instrumental in achieving common objectives all of which relate to curbing religious extremism, the breeding ground of terrorism in Pakistan, and making Pakistan a moderate democratic state.

Ideally the US will want both democratic and moderate forces in Pakistan to get stronger. Hence, it will push for a marriage of convenience of these forces. Yet to the US, Pakistan's moderate credentials are far more important than its democratic credentials, because the former is more relevant than the latter to Pakistan's role as a frontline state against international terrorism. Hence, if forced to choose between a democratic and a moderate Pakistan, Washington will invariably prefer the latter -- a fact difficult for democratic forces to accept. But how the US views Pakistan is dictated by its own interests rather than those of Pakistan. And American interests require a Pakistan government fully committed to and capable of taking on forces of extremism. The civilian or military character of the government is of secondary importance.

However, this is not to suggest that war against extremism is not in Pakistan's national interest. Rather religious extremism is a potent threat to the stability, security and development of Pakistan. And therefore, it is the foremost duty of the government in Pakistan to stem the rising tide of religious extremism. And since it is the point where American and Pakistani interests converge, the pressure as well as assistance from Washington is likely to be instrumental in shoring up Islamabad's campaign against religious extremism.

The future of Pak-US relations including capital inflows from Washington is contingent upon how well Islamabad plays its counter-terrorism role. Both politically and economically this relationship is important for Pakistan. The US is already Pakistan's single largest export market -- accounting for 25 per cent of Pakistan's global export receipts -- and one of its largest sources of foreign direct investment. On the other hand, Pakistan is also very important for the US, because without the former's active role, the latter cannot achieve its principal foreign policy objective, which is to dismantle terrorist networks.

E-mail: [email protected]  


Threat to cities
Without sound and performing institutions, no amount of investment will be able to generate any worthwhile outcome
By Dr Noman Ahmed

In a recently conducted mega moot in Sweden, experts from Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) warned about the rising ocean level and corresponding threats to human habitat. It was agreed that urban planners shall have to come up with locational options for settlements. For these familiar with Pakistani context, these warnings have not come up as a surprise. The southern and central part of the country faced tremendous problems due to torrential rains and flooding.

According to an estimate, around 0.4 million people are still homeless and living without even basic means of survival. The worst aspect is that the governmental organs -- instead of responding to these fundamental needs -- are focussing attention on market driven projects that shall affect urban sustainability in various manners.

In Lahore, the administration has planned to develop Lahore Sports City on 32000 acres of agricultural land. This project is likely to cause evictions to a population no less than 400,000 in number. The livelihoods and social linkages of this population are also under threat. Karachi City Nazim has announced that the work on controversial Karachi Elevated Expressway (KEE) will soon begin. He has also informed the citizens that a large scale sewerage treatment also plant will be built for Karachi at a cost of Rs8 billion.

Many other controversial schemes of development are also overtly and covertly pursued. Kalabagh dam, which is likely to inundate and eventually wipe out the city of Nowshera, is very much on the cards of the regime. Proposals regarding port and industrial development in Sonmiani have further raised the scale of anxiety amongst locals Baloch people.

Environmentalists fear that the New Murree Project might be revived under cover despite the threat of soil erosion and localised impact on climate. Almost all these proposals have been formulated without giving the slightest of consideration to the sustainability of respective cities/settlements, larger environmental conditions, impact on the natural resources, wishes and choices of people as well as legality of the initiatives. The situation demands objective analysis of many core matters without delay.

Pakistan is a fast urbanising country. This urbanisation is taking place largely due to compulsion and push factors without the willingness of several stakeholder groups. Poorly initiated development practices have pushed a vast chunk of population into cities -- especially megapolises such as Karachi -- which are not prepared to take any further load of population. If one analyses the current trends in urbanisation, several magnets of urban growth can be clearly identified. The expanding urban agglomeration in and around Karachi; rising urban stretch of Lahore; Rawalpindi-Islamabad complex; ribbon development along major corridors of movement (such as inter city roads in Punjab); Peshawar and its environs and Quetta region are prominent locations.

Burgeoning population movement towards these areas is due to inadequate means of livelihood in their native locations; lack of opportunities in respect of education, healthcare and social mobility dynamics; totally collapsed status of essential infrastructure such as drinking water supply, sewerage and electricity and run down urban institutions.

What is required is a balanced approach to consolidate population at native settlements; introduction of small and medium scale projects under an overall regional planning framework and discouraging population concentration in already saturated urban nuclei. Whereas the forthcoming population and housing census may unveil the true and accurate picture of this issue, the trends are too obvious to be ignored. When the already overcrowded locations shall be focused for unnecessary additional development, the natural habitat and environmental assets will be damaged beyond remedy.

At present, Pakistan has over 500 cities and towns with a population range of 25,000 people or more. Each one of them possesses different potentials and constraints. However there are certain threads that run common amongst most of the small and medium sized cities. The existence of decent and proportional opportunities of employment is severely diminished. Social infrastructure is far below the desirable standards. Possibilities of setting up economic enterprises are hampered due to unpredictable status of physical infrastructure. Severe dearth of human resources and precarious law and order conditions are also important problems. The breakdown in the capacity of local administration to maintain order and uphold normal life is severely limited.

Hub and Nooriabad and examples from Balochistan and Sindh respectively where industrial and trading estates were set up by the government. However the investors are facing acute problems to maintain a usual pace of production activities. The trust of entrepreneurs is shattered to set up work locations in smaller urban centres.

The most intriguing aspect is the lack of initiative on the part of area influentials, landlords, neo-merchant cum industrialist class and the clergy (wherever they matter). Despite attraction the urban centres are a numerical minority in terms of representation. The political landscape of the country still tilts in the favour of hinterland and small settlements. Due to overall population concentration, the rural and semi-urban locations have a majority presence in the national and provincial assemblies. After the implementation of devolution plan, the nazims and their councils also represent the extension of ruling influential oligarchy. However it is deplorable to note that they have been ineffective in launching plans and programmes capable to promote productivity, economic upliftment and prosperity of masses.

Tentacles of caste/biradari systems, petty rivalries amongst clans, selfish motives of representatives and a conscious attempt to block the spread of education and entrepreneurship skills amongst masses are some key reasons behind this stagnating impasse. The fear of losing control over political clout, much of which draws from the limited capacities and de-mobilised status of people, does not allow small towns and cities to grow and prosper. The only example that can be cited from the medium range cities is that of Sialkot which has been able to progress due to an enterprising artisan/businessmen class. From the status of a guild town, it has been able to remarkably improve in productivity. From the onset, it is evident that the city is likely to prosper more in the near future.

In contrast, the town of Hala in Sindh has not waken up from its sleepy status. Despite potential in craftsmanship in pottery making and other allied enterprises, it has yet to show the strength and promise of a modern small scale production town.

As prime pre-requisite to regional planning, small and medium cities have infrastructural requirements at five distinct levels. The economic infrastructure that could transform and add value to the local produce is the first category. Workshops for agricultural machinery, repair yards for tools and plants in local use, rental outlets for machinery and equipment and stores/shops for production ingredients in the locality refer to the first typology.

Catalytical infrastructure to stabilize or upscale production comprise the second type. Network of credit and financial institutions, advisory services related to production and service and collection centres for produce are included in this lot. Social infrastructure comprising health, education and social welfare facilities is the third type of infrastructure. It is essentially needed to redeem, transform and upgrade the local communities on a continuous basis.

Physical infrastructure is the fourth category that includes water supply, drainage, sewerage, power supply and fuel as the dominant components.

And local institutional infrastructure is the fifth and probably the most important category in this reference. It is a collective of traditional, cultural (and even religious), state and community based institutions that are in control of the above cited assets. In places where there is harmony of action, consensus on objectives and motivation to progress, the settlements are able to utilise their full potentials. Conversely, where the various institutional positions are at conflict with the objectives, the settlements disintegrate.

Pakistani cities, unfortunately represent the latter situation. Whereas it is quite usual to have different interest groups, there is no just mechanism to resolve internal conflicts and enforce the commonly beneficial code of conduct. The city capacity and infrastructure simply gets destroyed and the developmental investments are not able to generate results worth the value of money.

No wonder that successive governments have invested billions of rupees in fancy development schemes but the general condition of cities largely appears dismal and unsustainable. Non-consensus and self centred decisions of power wielders create neither the ripple effect for production (leading to common people's prosperity) nor the local capacity needed to make use of threshold investments. Thus mega or medium range programmes or projects become a sinking hole of precious and scarce resources.

Few steps are extremely vital. Pattern of urbanisation and its relationship to hinterlands must be studied for its present and future trends. The obvious negative trend of overconcentrated mega cities must be regulated by opening up new options through state support and initiative. The natural ecological assets must be safeguarded through a regional planning attempt in order to ensure the sustainability of cities. Thoughtless projects such as Beach Development in Karachi or Margalla Highway in Islamabad (after cutting thousands of trees) must be prevented. And attempts must be made to ensure the creation of relevant infrastructural assets to add value to the local production potentials.

Through documentation of local issues, analysis, consultation and consensus, the institutional infrastructure must be revived and built upon. Without sound and performing institutions, no amount of investment will be able to generate any worthwhile outcome.

The case of Pakistan is unique because here educational institutions and academia have, in fact, contributed to the phenomenon of extremism and militancy.

As far as the role of educational institutes in disseminating and diffusing knowledge in the society is concerned it has left a lot to be desired. Firstly, never in the history of this country has the rate of literacy crossed the 40 per cent mark (current). The situation in past decades has been pathetic -- both in terms of literacy levels as well as condition of learning centres.

Throwing light on the linkage between education and extremism Imtiaz Gillani, Vice Chancellor of NWFP University of Engineering and Technology and has served as province's education minister, said: "Due to the standard of education and the state of government-run educational system, more and more people started putting their children into madrasas. But we should remember that we had the problem of budgetary constraints in public sector. We have been spending two per cent of the GDP which should have been raised to four per cent long ago."

"One of the disservices the policy makers did was to brag that education would be free for the poor. Education cannot be free because then you have to compromise on standard. People sensing this education of no value started sending children to madrasas that provided at least comparatively more facilities. Though the standard of education in madrasas is no good either, though the clerics managed to get funds from foreign sources.

"On the other hand those policy makers vowing to provide free education to the poor chose expensive schools for their children because even they knew that education of public schools of no value. This itself is a sort of extremism -- creating an educational apartheid," Gillani said.

If we want educational institutions to play their role in countering extremism and militancy, then we have to elevate the conditions of our schools and colleges. Only quality education could off-set negative trends, but you ought to spend reasonably on such education.

Educational centres themselves became hubs of extremism and militancy. In this connection madrasas -- particularly those cropped up under Genera Zia and afterwards and receiving funding from Arab countries -- have been instrumental in fanning such flames. Nowhere in the world have the centres established in the name of education become nurseries of extremism. In fact, madrasas in Pakistan triggered a societal level extremist trend in Afghanistan in the shape of emergence of Taliban, who not only got hold of power but established a novel extremist structure based on violence and forceful submission of masses. The Talibanisation phenomenon, fundamentally a product of Pakistani madrasas, gripped North Western Pakistan and gradually squeezing more and more conservative sections of population is encroaching upon the rest of the country.

As liberal education involving long years and hard-earned money during the last so many decades became no guarantee for getting a decent or any employment, this has had a negative impact on social psychology.

Pareshan Khattak, who remained head of the University Grants Commission, a predecessor body of HEC and Vice chancellor Azad Kashmir University said, "Yes a lot of madrasas cropped up during Zia's era but it was a reaction to the Soviet aggression; it were only the madrasa people who resisted the Soviets in Afghanistan." Khattak who also occupied important posts in country's education administration under Zia said, "Then the government had no other option but to fall back upon the madrasas but mind you then madrasas were also very dear to the US. At that time they did not create any fuss for Pakistan."

Khattak did not agree with the argument that the seeds of present wave of extremism were sowed during Zia's era in these madrasas. "The problem is that then we used the madrasas very appropriately but now we are not making any use of these," Khattak said.

However, the thinking which has been prevalent within Pakistani establishment of considering madrasas and clerics as a 'strategic asset' is criticised by many as one of the causes of extremism in Pakistan.

Universities and colleges instead of playing their social role of educating the society through its graduates and curriculum have been politically divided. Various political parties and the establishment supported groups during Zia's Martial Law not only undercut the capacity of institutes of higher learning to play their part for which they were established but, in fact, turned them into seats of extremism like ethnic and sectarian strife and schisms even militancy. The fact of the matter is that well before madrasas in Pakistan became hubs of military training and extremism, universities and colleges had already became dens of arms and ammunition and violence if not of military training. The example of the Punjab University is a vivid one where a student group associated with Jamaat-e-Islami for decades had turned the institute into its virtual fort dictating its radical agenda.

The final question is: whether educational institutions can play any role in reversing those negative trends. If yes how and if no why.

Now for making best use of educational institutes to counter terrorism and militancy the government ought to build the capacity of the educational institutions on war footing. In this connection large-scale changes are required in the curricula particularly of schools, imparting special trainings to the teachers giving them result-oriented time-bound tasks. The fight against extremism from educational institutions as a short term objectives have to be launched from universities. For this universities have to be given complete independence of debate, discussion and research rather sponsoring such initiatives.

If at the policy making level it is ensured that the funding which is channel to madrasas from abroad is diverted to the mainstream education system, it would definitely go a long way in strengthening the public educational system. Moreover, it would help government better monitor and supervise the outside funding and increase budgetary allocation.

Gillani is of the view that educational institutions definitely have a big role -- rather social responsibility -- in these tumultuous times to educate society about the menace of extremism. "I think we should do what President Musharraf has said recently that the message should go from the academics to students and from them to general public that extremism and suicide bombing is neither ethically nor morally nor religiously sanctioned."

He said, "It is time we started an open debate about extremism and militancy in our educational institutions and try to dispel the impression that extremism has anything to do with our religion or society. Moreover, we should include in our curricula topics tracing the roots of extremism and militancy."

Foreign donors may do best to direct their resources at reform of Pakistan public education sector, as it is the most effective and least controversial means of reversing the influence of extremists and their threat to Pakistani stability. But for this the government and the educationists also have to show their commitment.

It was not a US foreign policy statement that one was looking for when the request for an interview with the Principal Officer at Lahore’s US Consulate was posted. It was driven more by a curiosity to watch closely the individual called Bryan Hunt and to know what he thinks about the Pakistani society. His visits to shrines, his knowledge of madrasas, his preference for shalwar kameez and the traditional finger-rings only adding up to the curiosity. 


The 10-minute security clearance outside the Consulate was indeed a reality check and a reminder that this was serious business. Rarely, if ever, does an interviewee arrange for a parallel recording of the interview. We instantly managed to review the order of questions. 


The stage was set for the interview with the Principal Officer, which turned out to be a careful rendition of US policies in an equally careful diplomatic language. The ‘I’ we were hoping to hear was substituted with ‘we’. His “we remain ‘relatively’ optimistic about Pakistan’s future” and “Pakistan is moving ‘relatively’ rapidly in the positive direction” did not let us gauge what exactly he meant by what he said. Diplomacy at its ‘relative’ best, indeed. 


Bryan Hunt partially redeemed his persona by saying that he liked Lahore more than Islamabad and endeared himself by admitting that shalwar kameez “facilitates access”

The News on Sunday: What do you think of Pakistan? Where does it stand economically, politically and culturally?

Bryan Hunt: Pakistan is a country in transition. We see Pakistan moving relatively rapidly in the positive direction, particularly in the economic growth front from 1999 to the present. We also have seen very positive movement on the law and order front, particularly in combatting domestic sectarian extremist groups and terrorist organisations. And we continue to see some relatively positive movement on the political front. You have now much stronger democratic institutions -- legislatures, political parties, courts, election commission -- than a few years ago. So from the United States' perspective, we remain relatively optimistic about Pakistan's future and see this as a country that's moving in a fundamentally positive direction.

TNS: Interaction with the community is a part of your job. Do you see a disconnect between how the state of Pakistan deals with the US and how the people of Pakistan feel?

BH: No, not particularly. I think the two countries have tried hard to build a solid bilateral relationship. It's not without its difficulties and disagreements, but we are fundamentally moving in the right direction. When I talk with the people here, I find that they have overall a positive impression of the US; they may disagree with certain aspects of American foreign policy. Most of them have a positive view of the tremendous relationship that's being built and the progress we have had in a host of fields over the last few years. I hope that's going to continue.

TNS: You have partly answered that, but aren't you worried about the anti-Americanism depicted on the streets in this country and don't you think that it is increasing?

BH: I won't say it's increasing. My sense is that much of it is not based on anti-Americanism as it is on difference with American foreign policy.

TNS: Do you distinguish between the two?

BH: Absolutely. There's a tremendous difference. There are lots of people who have fundamental difference with American foreign policy who very much admire and respect much of what America stands for. I see the two as very distinct. In Pakistan there are lots of people who have intellectual objections to American foreign policy. That's fine. It's their right to encourage a healthy debate and we welcome discussing alternate viewpoints with them, but I don't have sense that an average Pakistani hates the US as a whole or dislikes the American people.

TNS: Won't you agree then that the US needs to alter or improve its foreign policy?

BH: I think the US needs to do a much better job in explaining the reality of what its foreign policy actually is. We have allowed particularly in Pakistan political figures or religious figures or the media to portray as American foreign policy -- particularly that part which prompts a lot of disagreement -- something that does not actually exist. I think we need to do a better job of defining for Pakistanis what American foreign policy is as opposed to what it is perceived as by certain political leaders in this country who have their own objectives.

TNS: Talking of the two countries moving in the right direction, how do you view the legislation regarding Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission?

BH: The Congress is relatively clear that it thinks Pakistan has made tremendous progress since 2001 on the question of terrorism and extremism. Much of the language in the bill is actually very praiseworthy of what the Pakistani government and people have done and shows great recognition for the sacrifices that have been made in combatting these menaces. Our legislative branch for its own reasons believes that we need to make an annual certification for Pakistan to continue to move in the positive direction. I can tell you -- based on where we are -- that President Bush is going to make an annual certification. It is not an uncommon requirement by our legislative branch that the executive has to certify various things about various countries. So it's nothing particularly out of the ordinary. This is how our Congress does business. Nor is it an impediment for the administration with reference to Pakistan.

TNS: How important is aid for the development of a country? From the American perspective, what's the yardstick to judge which country needs it more than others?

BH: There is no question that financial resources are critical for development. It's very difficult to create viable economic, health and education systems if you are unable to mobilise all of the potential resources that your country can take advantage of. Foreign assistance, whether it's from the US or any other country, is very important for a developing country and I think it'll be foolhardy of developing countries not to take full advantage of that resource. Foreign assistance is not the end of development nor is it the only type of resource out there. A developing country also has to take advantage of its own domestic capital market, foreign business community and domestic business community, as well as to develop its own tax base to move forward in a sustainable manner. But I think foreign assistance can be and should be a part of that equation.

As for the criteria we use in determining the extent of foreign assistance, it's somewhat complex and there isn't an absolute yardstick. Like any country all of our foreign policy -- whether it's assistance or political interaction -- is driven by our national interest. The importance of that foreign country's stability to the US certainly factors into our aid decisions. The depth of need in a given country also matters. A lot of our aid programme is humanitarian and relief-oriented, and is driven almost exclusively by need, whether it's famine or floods or earthquake or other forms of natural or man-made disasters.

So it's a combination of how we perceive our national interest, the relative importance of a given country's stability to the US and humanitarian need in that country; and of course our own domestic resource limitation. The need for foreign assistance is far greater than the amount of money the US Congress appropriates for that purpose every year. So we have to make decisions accordingly.

TNS: At this point in time, what are the priority areas for the US to engage with in Pakistan?

BH: All of our objectives, including counter-terrorism, democratisation, education, economic growth and humanitarian assistance; and then what we refer to in our policy documents as 'mutual understanding', which is the public diplomacy aspect of the relationship.

TNS: How do you propose to engage with Pakistan in the tribal areas?

BH: The final development plan that was laid out by the Pakistani government after much debate, negotiation and engagement with the people in the tribal as well as the settled areas will be the roadmap that we are going to support. We may commit $150 million annually to support the Government of Pakistan's plan that covers a host of things -- infrastructure development, support to emerging industry, healthcare, clean water, sanitation and improvements in the education sector. All of these are areas where we are going to be working with the Government of Pakistan to try and help improve the situation in tribal areas. The government plans to develop the tribal areas in socio-economic terms and integrate them with the rest of Pakistan, and ensure that the writ of the government is fully accepted there. This plan is well-evolved and debated by Pakistanis, and that's where we are going to draw our direction from.

TNS: You and the government seem to be looking at it as a socio-economic problem. What about the law and order side of it?

BH: President Musharraf has clearly said that the strategy is to engage more fully with the Frontier Corps and the tribal levies to improve the law and order situation. We've been approached for assistance to the Frontier Corps. We've already given some of that assistance over the years to our International Narcotics Law Enforcement programme. We hope to be able to continue to engage with those. Certainly law and order has been historically a problem there. A lot of it, we recognise, is linked with the socio-economic development of those areas.

TNS: You've been visiting a lot of madrasas in Pakistan. Do you see them as part of the problem of extremism? Do you have any views about how to introduce reforms there?

BH: Broadly speaking, I think of madrasas very much as I think of any private educational institution in Pakistan. The purpose of those schools, like the Catholic schools in the US, is to provide quality education in both secular and religious subjects. And the very best of madrasas in Pakistan do exactly that -- impart quality education in both secular and religious subjects; and prepare graduates who can go out, get higher education, obtain jobs and be well-rounded people. The objective of a government in the education sector is to make sure that the curriculum that is being taught is sufficient to meet what it considers to be the base standards for a qualified graduate in the country.

There's a lot that's being made out about madrasas promoting sectarianism, hatred and violence. I've been told that there are such madrasas that have these problems, but my experience is that's not the problem with the majority of the madrasas out there. Many of the madrasas are trying, some with greater success than others, to genuinely prepare graduates who have a background in religious and modern education.

As far as the question of madrasa reform goes, that's for the Government of Pakistan and the madrasa boards to answer. We are not engaged in madrasa reforms; we're not funding it. It's not a part of our assistance programme. The madrasa board leadership that I've had a chance to talk to is very clear that their intention is to regulate their schools in such a way that they are provided quality modern as well as religious education. The government too has been very clear that they want to reach out to all madrasas. We wish both sides well as they try to do that. It's very much a domestic issue.

TNS: Don't you think the government needs a lot of money to do that?

BH: Well that's their call. In my experience, quality education costs money. So money has to materialise from somewhere, but the degree of Pakistani government's involvement in funding that is a decision they have to make. And the madrasas have to decide whether they want to receive funds from the Pakistani government. But we're not funding any reforms in this area.

TNS: Are you not afraid of serving in a high-risk country with excessive security checks surrounding you?

BH: No, not really.

TNS: People are fascinated by your persona -- the way you dress up, the rings in your fingers... Is it a job requirement or do you really associate with this culture?

BH: Well certainly it's not a job requirement. I like and enjoy the Pakistani culture. I've been living here for three years now.

TNS: But it certainly helps you in your work?

BH: I think so. It facilitates access.

TNS: What do you think of Lahore as a city?

BH: It's a wonderful city. It is the right size of city that I really enjoy. There are tremendous cultural opportunities, beautiful historical sites, the people are great. I like the Pakistani people across the board.


Protest time
The affectees of Taunsa remodelling project demand formation of an inquiry commission to probe a project that caused loss of livelihood and shelter, closure of canals and river erosion
By Noreen Haider

The peaceful protest by the affectees of Taunsa Barrage Remodelling Project is still going strong. The affectees are demanding their rights, adequate compensation and the formation of an inquiry commission to launch a probe into the project that caused loss of livelihood and shelter, closure of canals, river erosion, and displacement in the name of resettlement.

On August 20, dozens of women, men and children from the affected communities -- including in-land fisherfolk, indigenous people and civil society -- got together on the banks of Indus River near the site of Taunsa Barrage Remodelling Project -- Taunsa Barrage Emergency Rehabilitation and Modernisation Project (TBERMP) -- to reiterate their demands for the rehabilitation of the displaced communities and fishing rights in Indus River.

They accused the World Bank of backtracking from its commitment to giving due compensation and providing a proper living to the communities that had been forcibly displaced. They also accused the Irrigation Department of the Government of Punjab of demanding 'bribes' from them for providing them jobs and land for resettlement.

It was their peaceful struggle that forced the World Bank and the Punjab Irrigation Department had to take notice of the grave injustice done to them through their forcible removal. Although a resettlement plan has been made now for the displaced community, it is far from being satisfactory.

Built in 1958, the Taunsa Barrage is one of the most problematic/sick barrages and its safety is at stake. The barrage has been irrigating 1.2 million hectares of fertile land in Southern Punjab.

After years of use the barrage was considered a major risk by the experts of Punjab Government and World Bank. The government conducted a feasibility study which was reviewed by a panel of independent international experts. The rehabilitation project has been approved by Executive Committee of the national Economic Council (ECNEC). According to Punjab Government, the project will not only help in alleviating poverty but will also bring economic and agricultural benefits to the area.

But there were serious criticisms and allegations on the remodelling plan with regards to its negative impact on the environment, ecology, and local population by the environmentalists and experts. Most importantly, the barrage and the canals are thought to cause massive land loss through water logging and salinity.

The Punjab department claims that the water logging issue has not been specifically caused by the rehabilitation work. The major reason for water logging is flat terrain and sandy soil resulting in water permeating from off-taking canals at the barrage which is quite natural. Moreover the off-taking channels are non-perennial. There is no bad effect on wheat (Rabi crops). Canal closure is a routine scheduled feature at both crop seasons.

But since its inception on May 10, 2005, the Taunsa remodelling project has been creating problems for the local people. For the last more than one year, Sindhu Bachao Tarla, a broader alliance of people's struggles against economically costly and ecologically disastrous river engineering, has been raising the project-related issues of the suffering communities with the World Bank (WB), Punjab Irrigation and Power Department (IPD) and DESCON Company.

Mushtaq Gadi representing Sindhu Bachao Tarla talking to TNS said: "The organisation is also questioning the technical, economic, social and environmental feasibility of a project worth $150 million."

The problems of the community multiplied manifold in January 2007 when a breach occurred in one of the coffer dams in Taunsa Barrage. "According to initial estimates, the cost of breach amounts to Rs3 billions, which is almost one third of the total project cost," informed Mushtaq Gadi. However, he said, the financial cost of breach has been ascertained in terms of machinery, material and repair work losses. Now the people will have to bear the loss causes by the breach, as it has not been incorporated.

They claimed that the Punjab government has constituted an official inquiry committee mainly comprised of irrigation officials. There is no public disclosure about the term of references (TORs) of the said committee. Moreover, the findings of an inquiry committee are reliable only when the neutrality and professional credentials of its constituent members are undisputed.

"The independence and neutrality of the inquiry committee probing into Taunsa breach is already questionable because it comprises mostly of Irrigation Department officials," Mushtaq said.

Sindhu Bachao Tarla claims that the occurrence of 90-feet breach in a cofferdam at Taunsa Barrage in January 2007, when water flow was as low as 22,000 cusecs seems nothing but a conspiracy to hide different kinds of corruption.

Another important demand of SBT is that the displaced community should be properly compensated. Punjab Irrigation department claims that it has disbursed Rs22.2 million to the persons affected by Taunsa Barrage Rehabilitation and Modernisation Project. As many as 160 households have been paid Rs9.7 million in the form of cash compensation for losses of the assets. Moreover Rs12.4 million were spent on infrastructure development which included construction of roads, pavements, community toilets, drainage, raising of ceiling level of affected persons' houses, electrification, mosque and earth filling etc.

On the other hand the affected people are still not satisfied with the compensations distributed. They claim that the figures provided by the Irrigation department are faulty and misleading. Although they were relocated to another place but the compensation doled out has been insufficient and the amount is not enough for the displaced people to build any structure or even a katcha mud house. Moreover the community latrines provided by the project are very few and it is a massive problem for the community especially the women to use the community latrines. 

The remodelling plan includes the construction of a 4,300 ft long subsidiary weir ( which is  a long concrete wall in front of the barrage erected to ensure its safety) located 1,500 feet downstream of the existing barrage to raise the tail water level and ensure proper energy dissipation at high river flows. It was ensured by the project team and the Punjab Irrigation department that there would be no damage and no disadvantages by the remodelling and the construction of the subwier. As reported by the local community the subwier or the concrete wall in fact causes large whirlpools in the river which catches any person or cattle that happen to come near its vicinity and it is literally impossible to get out of that.

It is imperative that the Punjab government must look into the matter immediately and set up an independent inquiry commission to investigate the design flaws and allegations of huge corruptions levelled against the project.

The fishing rights of the poorest of the poor community must be restored immediately so as to ensure that they are saved from the clutches of greedy contractors who are exploiting this poor fishing community for their interests.

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