presence may deepen food crisis, farmers claim
Abbasi: martyr for freedom
In a permanent state of disrepair
One can only wonder why is it that despite all the development work the city has seen in the past couple of years, there is little attention to the city looking neat and tidy. Look around you -- everywhere there is debris and rubble, girders and building material strewn on footpaths. Who is responsible for this and why is no one paying attention to cleaning up the city?
By Rafay Mahmood
Being a metropolitan city, Karachi is continuously in a state of transition. One can see the city playing host to ample development work ranging from flyovers to underpasses. Unfortunately, this also means that it is host to king-sized cement mixers and other machinery left lying on the roadsides for seemingly no reason as well as debris and rubble, causing traffic jams and numerous problems for motorists and pedestrians.
The machinery kept on the road sides leave narrow passage for vehicles to pass eventually resulting in accidents. This in turn cause traffic jams in the streets creating parking issues for residents of the area.
Here the question is not only why such a state is allowed to exist but who is responsible for it. Why does the city have such an unmade look despite the fact that billions are being spent on these projects? Who is supposed to clean up and why are they not doing it? Why does the city look like a construction site all the time?
After a visit to the Works and Services Department, City District Government karachi (CDGK), Kolachi learnt that there is always some logic for machinery lying abandoned on the roads. "It is usually because of shortage of funds that machines can be seen even in places where there is no work in progress," explained an official of the department. "Workers are given funds for a specific task, but when they arrive at the site, they often find a damaged pipeline that won't allow the work to proceed."
The official told Kolachi that in such a case, the funds set aside are used to first repair the offending obstructions. In the meantime, as the clock ticks by there is not enough time, fuel, or money to remove the machines meant for the original work. Thus, these are only taken back when the job has been completed. However, as the official pointed out, traffic problems arise when while all this repair work is in progress, as workers must dig up the roads. "There is always work in progress, even if people cannot see it," stressed the official. "Either that, or lack of funds can halt the developmental work."
Development is one thing, cleaning up is another. And who is held to task for this? "Cleaning up the work site on the written date is part of the contract," Ahmad Shahzad, a private contractor told Kolachi. "As penalty, there is a deduction in the 10 per cent security money, and if the project does not bring results, there is a deduction in the payment."
Observers want to know how many contractors have been penalised for letting their material lie around in public areas and why no effort is made to adopt safety measures such as proper detours and disposal of construction waste. This concept, say some, is alien to builders in the city. Not so, say others.
In the case of the Defence Housing Authority, contractors are made to clean up the mess they create. This is done as part of their contract, officials say. What is more important, is that this is enforced.
This however, is not followed by the CDGK. Shahzad added that the main problem arises if deadlines are not met. If this happens, whoever the contractor is working for analyses the work in progress and reduces the security money accordingly. On the contrary, if both the work and machinery are abandoned because the contractor is having difficulties, neither security money nor earnest amount is returned and all the machinery is confiscated, although, the contractor can take a legal action.
Digging will be the death of us all!
By Rabia Ali
It has been more than a year since the Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti Road in Union Council 5, Mehmoodabad, Jamshed Town was dug up by a utility company for repair work. From time to time, the road was constructed and then dug up by other departments, adding to the miseries faced by the residents of the area.
"Ever since the main road was dug up several months ago, we have been forced to use our back gate," Aamra Javed, a resident complains to Kolachi. "During the rains, our cars couldn't enter the house because the back gate was too narrow. We had to leave them out on the road, where they were flooded when the whole dug-up road turned into a large swimming pool. My house got flooded, too. It was a nightmare." She adds that workers had also uprooted a number of trees in the area, all of which were planted 20 years ago. Despite submitting numerous applications and contacting officials for the road to be built again, all pleas have gone unnoticed.
The utilities blame each other. "For the past three months, the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) has been shifting its utilities in the area and is responsible for digging up the road," explains Abdul Rasheed Mughal, Executive District Officer (EDO) of the Works and Services Department, CDGK. The KESC Director Corporate Communications was unavailable for comment despite contacting several times, but the EDO promises that the ongoing work will be completed soon.
This situation raises a big question: is there any coordination between the various utilities and government departments? And why does the taxpayer have to bear the brunt of ill planning between the departments? An official explains how utility departments and the Work and Service Department synchronise with one another.
"Before a project is launched by the CDGK, such as building a new road or a bridge or a flyover, etc., the area is studied and surveyed by an engineer, after which a request is made and a letter sent for approval," says the official. "Then all the utilities, such as the KESC, the National Telecommunication Cooperation, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), fibre optic utilities, and commercial agencies, are informed about the construction." All these utilities are then told that if any repair work is to be done, they may now do so.
"Since the city is expanding, and new residential projects are being constructed, fresh connections for telephone lines, water pipes, electricity lines, and gas pipelines are frequently being laid in different parts of the metropolis, which requires road digging and cutting," official explains. In the event of a new project by the CDGK, the staff from the relevant department examines the area, but in many cases nobody is informed where lines and pipes exactly lies, which lead to much damage during excavation. "The CDGK is eventually blamed," says the official. "Also, during development work a diversion zone is created, but because of the dense population and lack of ideal conditions, we have to halt the traffic many times."
At the same time, if a utility department launches a project, the CDGK is informed of the requirements, after which a team is sent to inspect the area to minimise damage to the roads. "We measure the area and the liaison committee counter-checks to ensure road-cutting is minimum. Then the approved plan is stamped and copies are sent to all the utility departments (which is in fact the duty of the utility department concerned to send it to all)."
When the utility departments are finished with their project, it is the duty of the Works and Service Department to remove the debris, and have the roads rebuilt, although there are cases where the utility department itself repairs the roads according to set standards. According to EDO Mughal, since the utility departments are separate bodies, the Works and Service Department does not interfere with their working methods.
"There is coordination between every department, but when a utility department's lines, cables or pipes develop faults, they have to be repaired. In such a case, we must give permission for a road to be dug up. If we do not, the public will suffer. The fault actually lies within the utility – why do their lines and cables need to be repaired again and again?"
However, Jamal Abdul Nasir, RGM STR-IV (RGM-III) of PTCL, says that the question of coordination is debatable, while Inayat Ismail, Deputy Chief Manager, Media Relations SSGC, denies that there is no coordination at all between departments. "Just few days back, a gas pipeline was damaged near Nagan Chowrangi where another department was busy in their construction, causing a leakage of gas," he points out. "Our staff immediately reached the area and took control of the situation. Meanwhile, two weeks ago in Mehmoodabad, the KWSB damaged a sewerage line. We repaired gas lines at our own expense even when it was not our fault."
Meanwhile, the chief engineer of the KWSB explains to Kolachi why the KWSB lines need to be repaired quite often. "Water pipes are laid four feet below the ground," he says. "In the case of a place like Tariq Road, for instance, the pipes are laid with ease, but if the soil is loose, the land caves in. The pipes are damaged again and again and need to be repaired. On the other hand, wherever the land is hard, a jackhammer is used to break the hard rock. Thus the soil conditions affect the depth of the pipes."
Mughal believes that so far, there is no permanent solution. "The need to cut roads will rise again and again as long as utility departments need to repair their faults or put in new lines," he predicts. "Around the globe, utility ducts are used, but since we cannot afford them here in Pakistan, we have to deal with such conditions."
Debris here forever
Unattended debris lying in the Momin Ground for quite some time now has shattered the dreams of many youngsters of having a clean playing field
By Saad Hasan
For 24-year-old Faraz Khan and his friends, playing cricket is a passion. For years they bowled in narrow lanes, stormed down makeshift wickets, fielded in dusty grounds and struck sixes in night matches under streetlights.
But all that has changed with the changing landscape of Karachi. Grounds have become either encroached upon or turned into family parks, and the few that remain are in dilapidated condition, much like the Momin Ground near NIPA Chowrangi. The ground was once host to numerous cricket tournaments for young men like Khan, but for two years, it has been a pile of debris.
The contractor hired to build a flyover at Gulshan Chowrangi had been allowed to use Momin Ground to prepare construction material, but the contract with the city government dissolved midway. Two years on, mounds of sand, cement-mixing machines, girders, and other construction material, are still strewn across the ground. "Momin Ground was used because it was the only available space closest to the construction site," says Wasay Jalil, Town Nazim, Gulshan-e-Iqbal. "It is time-consuming and expensive to bring construction material from far away."
According to Jalil, the contracting firm has been sent several letters to clear up the area, but none have been heeded. "The government decided to do away with the contract since substandard inputs were being used, but the case is in court and there is little we can do about it," he adds.
Over the past two years, numerous roads and bridges have been built to ease traffic congestion, but during the construction phase, the material for bridges such as girders and cement is prepared in public grounds or along roads for as long as work continues – a trend that Jalil admits is dangerous. "Elsewhere in the world, like in Dubai, construction material is made outside the city limits. Unfortunately, we don't have big trailers to transport the girders."
But for youngsters like Khan, losing a playground is a great loss. "Many of my friends and I have gained experience in these grounds," says Khan. "For those of us who cannot afford to enroll in expensive sports clubs, they are our only hope of ever playing cricket professionally."
Khan is not the only person with such a view. Sirajul Islam Bukhari, Secretary, Karachi City Cricket Association, points out, "Cricket legends like Hanif Mohammad were discovered in these grounds." In the past, Jehangir Park, Nishtar Park and the Polo Ground used to be launching pads for many young boys who went on to play cricket for Pakistan. "Look at their condition now," says Bukhari. "A building is being constructed on Polo Ground, Nishtar Park has turned into an only-political platform. The city government has built new grounds, like the one in Landhi, but the authorities must maintain them."
With diminishing grounds and the advent of the internet, an increasing number of boys have turned away from cricket towards online games. Saturday nights are spent in snooker clubs, with the result that where these open spaces were once recruiting grounds for professional cricket, there are now rarely enough boys to line up a full 11-member team.
Fermenting fundamentalism in the garb of education
In light of the recent violence against Christians in Gojra, Punjab, which was allegedly perpetrated by students of nearby seminaries, Indus Watch takes a look at the factors which have led to a mushroom growth of unregistered Madressahs in the country, focusing on district Khairpur, Sindh
By Imtiaz Hussain
Ninety-three seminaries (Madressahs) out of 117 in Khairpur are unregistered. As many as 5,000 students are enrolled at these seminaries, which exist in urban and rural areas of district Khairpur. Sixteen of these 117 seminaries belong to the Shia sect, 36 are run by Barelvis, 64 are managed by Deobandis, and one seminary belongs to the Ahl-e-Hadith sect.
Moreover, eight new seminaries are under construction. Residents of Khairpur who Indus Watch spoke to expressed grave concern over the increase in the construction of seminaries in the district, and feared a Swat-like situation at their doorsteps if this phenomenon goes unchecked.
Is this legal?
The previous regime, under Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf had ordered the owners of all seminaries to register their institutions with the government, or face crackdowns. Moreover, unregistered Madressahs were supposed to be declared illegal.
The owners of most seminaries, however, had blatantly thumbed their noses at these orders, and had refused to register their institutions. No crackdown was launched against them, nor were they declared illegal, even on paper.
Even now, the district police and the district administration, Khairpur, are not monitoring the activities of the seminaries, nor are they implementing the directives of the past regime, which, according to official sources, were also carried forward by the present government.
Social and economic compulsions
According to a survey conducted by Indus Watch, approximately 5,000 students are enrolled at these seminaries. These institutions bear the boarding and food expenses of students, thus encouraging many poverty-stricken families from the area to enrol their children at these institutions, instead of sending them to government schools and colleges.
Meanwhile, reports show that the number of seminaries beside the National Highway and the Khairpur bypass is mushrooming. These are protected by influential people, who, backed by religio-political parties and other religious groups, occupy government- and private-owned plots of land, and construct seminaries on them.
Fear of persecution on "religious grounds", as well as prosecution under various extreme Articles under the law, ensures that these usurpers get no resistance from either the government or the private owners of the illegally-seized land.
Funding for the Madressahs
The Sindh government's Zakaat and Ushr department funds registered seminaries, but the rest run on the "donations" obtained through various means. Students of many of these Madressahs go door to door, collecting money and getting food for their institutions. These seminaries are also funded by various philanthropists, as well as vested interests.
'Blame the government'
Poverty is among the main reasons why families from the lower-income strata prefer to enrol their children at religious seminaries, instead of government-run schools.
Ghulam Hyder, a citizen of Khairpur, said that he has five children. Three of them are enrolled at a Madressah. "I don't have to worry about their fees, boarding costs and books. The Madressah takes care of all of those. I'm a poor man. Had it not been for this Madressah, my children would have had no education at all," he told Indus Watch.
"According to the Constitution of 1973, the State is responsible for providing resources and security to every citizen. The State, however, is doing nothing of the sort. We have no job security or social security. The standard of education at government schools will not ensure my children a decent job. At the Madressah, they are at least getting religious education, and I don't have to worry about the financial aspect of their studies," Hyder maintained.
"People who can afford it spend millions of rupees for the education of their children at the best possible private schools, and professional colleges, but even that does not ensure them a decent job, because the State doesn't care. I'm satisfied with the education that my children are getting, and I hope that they will survive," he said.
What is the State apparatus doing?
Moderate citizens of Khairpur fear that the strengthening of "religious" groups will lead to a confrontation with the secular culture of the area. They said that the writ of the government is non-existence if Madressahs are allowed to flout rules so flagrantly.
Moreover, the representatives of various groups that manage these seminaries "get what they want" by blackmailing the provincial administration. In Khairpur alone, there have been several instances of conflict between opposing "religious groups", which have paralyzed the trade and communication activities of the district.
The law-enforcement agencies, however, instead of adopting a strict policy and ensuring the writ of the law, bow down before these groups, requesting them to cooperate with the police, who will, in return, accept their demands.
"This attitude of the law-enforcement agencies and the rulers minimise the popularity of the government, which is losing credibility anyway," another resident of Khairpur told Indus Watch.
"The government should adopt strict policies and ensure the writ of the law. Factors which are promoting fundamentalism should be defused at the earliest," a local resident whose children study at a nearby Madressah said.
Reports regarding the lease of land in districts Larkana, Sanghar and parts of Dadu to foreign investors, most of whom belong to Gulf countries, is a cause for consternation for the local community, which is aware of the negative effects of corporate farming
By Jan Khaskheli
The introduction of "corporate farming" in Pakistan may create food insecurity for the farmers' community, which is already facing poverty. Traditional growers prefer to cultivate indigenous grain crops such as wheat, paddy, maize and pulses and cash crops such as sugarcane and cotton. While the priorities set by multinational companies investing as the newly-emerged corporate farming sector are uncertain, they however, prefer to grow grasses, instead of grains.
'Against farmers' interests'
The government believes that corporate farming will bring a radical change in Pakistan and help fight the poverty of the farming community, which deserves better return of their hard labour. Undoubtedly, the investing companies have more resources and modern machines, farmers told Indus Watch. They added, however, that they are strongly opposed to this mode of agriculture because it is "against their interest".
Sindh Small Growers Association President Hassan Askari said the corporations have their own set targets. "They have no interest in the country, nor do they have anything to do with local farmers, who will definitely be the main victims of this new advancement," he said.
Askari, whose organisation had launched a campaign against a Korean company which hired land on contract and initiated a cultivation project in Naoabad, district Sanghar, said that this trend will lead to mass unemployment in the province, because the agriculture sector provides jobs directly or indirectly to thousands of families of peasants. All of them will be left high and dry if corporations are awarded land here, he maintained.
Unemployment, idle minds, law-and-order
Sindh is facing a serious law-and-order situation, with tribal clashes and other disputes over petty issues within various stakeholders, Askari said. Mass unemployment will worsen these issues, which the government does not have the resources to control.
"While inviting foreign investors, the government does not consider how to accommodate the local workforce. These are people who will be the direct victims of this move," he said. "Secondly, there is no clear stance about where the production will be marketed. Will it be sold locally or internationally? Foreign companies involved in this sector have almost introduced 'strange strategies' to grow grasses and after processing it, they market the products in the international market. This neither benefits the local community, nor does it benefit the government."
Moreover, the investors do not grow cash crops and grains, and produce grasses only, which will create food shortage and joblessness in the country, he said.
No labour laws for corporate farm workers
Even though the government claims to have formed labour laws to protect the rights of local farmers, nothing is being implemented on the ground, Askari said.
For instance, growers say that a large number of women are engaged in cotton-picking and men operate ginning factories and work in the cotton fields. Corporations, however, avoid producing cotton, which will cause an explosion of unemployment. Livestock is a major source of earning for the rural communities, because they produce ghee, meat and dairy products. Cattle, however, need traditional grazing fields. The growth of the corporate sector will therefore destroy the existing dairy industry.
Displacement of peasant families, destruction of environment
The displacement of peasant families residing at their farmlands will also create another problem. The government should therefore avoid awarding lands to the corporate sector and provide facilities to traditional growers to produce indigenous crops according to the local environment, farmers told Indus Watch. Omar Khan, a grower belonging to Jhol, Sanghar, said that the government intends to lease out lands to foreign companies to invest in Achhro Thar, district Sanghar. He said that the companies invest millions of rupees, "greasing the palms of corrupt government officials to divert the directions of watercourses and canals". They may have access to seek water from the old Nara Canal, which definitely will affect the local farmers, by depriving them of their share of water.
He said that at present, Achhro Thar (White desert) provides access to traditional cattle farmers and herdsmen to use grazing fields for their livestock, especially in the rainy season. Hundreds of families rely on this region for the purpose. They will be displaced after corporations occupy the natural grazing sites of their cattle.
'Support indigenous farmers instead'
Khan, a traditional grower, suggested that instead of awarding lands and facilities to foreign investors, the government should support indigenous farmers. For example, he said, the government should announce favourable packages for local farmers, give subsidies to them on the purchase of tractors and other machinery, fertilisers and seeds.
He said that the fact that local farmers are not facilitated thus shows a lack of interest from the government to encourage indigenous farmers. "The government should stop supporting foreign companies who will exploit the local economic resources," he said.
By Zabe Azkar Hussain
Shaheed Bhagat Singh's words, "It is easy to kill individuals but not ideas," definitely hold true in the context of the life and sacrifices of young Nazeer Abbasi, a student leader who was arrested, tortured and killed by the Ziaul Haq regime. The detention of Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) leader Nazeer Abbasi and his comrades during Gen. Ziaul Haq's era was perhaps among the earlier cases of missing persons in the country. At the time, however, no court of law took action against this infringement of fundamental rights by the then-dictator, despite the fact that the apex court had an authority to take suo moto action and exercise its power under Article 184 (3) to investigate this 'missing persons' case.
Abbasi was picked up by the "secret agencies" of the State on July 30, 1980, for alleged 'anti-State' articles in "Surkh Parcham" (Red Flag), the main organ of the CPP. During interrogation, he was brutally tortured until he died on August 9, 1980. The mainstream media were directed by the then-military dictators not to disclose the fact that Abbasi and other leaders of the CPP had been arrested until Abbasi's murder in custody.
Publications such as "Surkh Parcham" projected the ideology of progressive sections of society, which rejected the then-dictatorship and undemocratic political values and class system in Pakistan. The viewpoint of the detainees was to reject imperialism, social, political and economic contradictions in society, and to support the leadership of the working class -- a socialist set up. The materials published in their pamphlets and magazines showed that they were very critical towards the class structure exploiting the lower classes -- especially the workers and the peasants -- of the country.
The Ziaul Haq regime had emerged after the forced and illegal removal of Z.A Bhutto's democratically-elected government, and therefore feared strong opposition from the masses. In such a situation, the dictators were not ready to spare any voice or force or party which resisted the military regime. Of course, the manifestos of the small progressive groups and parties had nothing to do with the actual political system of the country as they were not in a position to take part in elections. Instead, they believed in 'qualitative change' by inspiring and motivating the working class sections of society. It was obvious, therefore, that they would never support the cause of the military regime headed by Ziaul Haq.
Nazeer Abbasi and his comrades -- leaders of the CPP -- were against the dictatorship and the execution of Z.A Bhutto as well. In other words, they were arrested and targeted due to political reasons and not because their ideology "was a threat to the integrity of the State".
Ideas live on
It may be mentioned here that during Ayub Khan's dictatorship, Hassan Nasir, another leader of the CPP was picked up illegally and tortured to death. Contrary what the State hoped, however, both Nasir and Abbasi continued, even posthumously, to be ideals and heroes of progressive youth, political parties and groups in the country.
To this day, Nasir, Abbasi, and many others like them are considered the heroes of commitment for the cause of the down-trodden classes in Pakistan. His martyrdom is commemorated every year on August 9, and visits are paid to the Sakhi Hasan graveyard in Karachi, where Abbasi was laid to rest.