another independence day?
the ‘dead wood’
in the story
Pointing to a loophole
Polio and governance failures
The incidence of polio cases should be enough cause of alarm for the federal and provincial
By Raza Rumi
As if there were
not enough challenges for the Pakistani state, it faces a Herculean task
of eradicating Polio virus which has resurged in the recent years and now
endangers millions of children in the country. Since the 1990s when the
Polio vaccination campaigns were introduced Pakistan made substantial
progress and reduced the incidence of Polio in the country.
Millions of children
were vaccinated during the past decade and a half; however, given the
state of our governance and service delivery, complete immunisation has
not happened. Until 2005, there were merely 28 cases of polio reported
compared to 20,000 cases per year during the 1990s. However, since 2010,
the incidence of polio has increased with hundreds of cases reported
countrywide by government agencies as well as the international aid
Of the three types of
Polio virus, Type 3 as per the technical experts exists in Barra tehsil of
Khyber Agency and the northern part of Nigeria. The third country where
polio is endemic happens to be Afghanistan. It is a pity that we have
displayed utter negligence towards our children and accorded the least
priority to something that should be at the top of our development policy
agenda i.e human security.
Not that Pakistani state
was most efficient two decades ago. However, its capacity to reach
children was greater in the 1980s and 1990s. Over the last decade, the
state either through its own volition or as a result of the growing power
of non-state actors has lost its writ in several parts of Pakistan.
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and adjoining areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
province, Balochistan and Karachi — the three zones of polio
transmission — are also the ones where formal state structures have
either become dysfunctional or collapsed.
The dwindling writ of
state systems of immunisation, healthcare and outreach has disastrous
consequences for the future of children now. The present government is
managing the polio emergency but once the short-term phase is over there
is a need to instill medium to long term state building measures to create
an institutional architecture which enables effective primary healthcare
at the local level.
Other than the lack of
investments in the health sector for decades, the pursuit of a foreign
policy, which bypasses citizen interest, has also been a major cause of
the present alarming situation. The monster of extremism — manifested
from the mosque-madrassa axis to mainstream television shows — is now
there to haunt the ruling elites as the local cleric or a militant leader
term immunisation process unIslamic.
Polio vaccine has been
called as one that leads to infertility, is an Indian product and a
conspiracy of the West. All of these uninformed attitudes come as a result
of giving greater space to extremist groups, which are aligned to
Pakistan’s long term policy goals.
policy misadventures such as tolerating and reportedly nurturing militant
groups in FATA and elsewhere has also resulted in giving these groups
getting greater leverage and control over social policy. Thus, polio
vaccine has also been resisted under the guise of anti-US sentiments
particularly the illegal drone strikes that have been taking place in
North and South Waziristan agencies of FATA.
establishment of Pakistan is now completely against drone strikes after
the initial (almost a decade long) policy of letting the attacks happen as
a “US transgression”. There is some evidence to suggest that
Pakistan’s President and the Army Chief both were endorsing the drone
The most startling
revelation was made in early 2011 when General Officer Commanding
7-Division Maj-Gen Ghayur Mehmood in a briefing said: “Myths and rumours
about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a
reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore
elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners…Yes there are a few
civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those
eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements.” (DAWN,
March 9, 2011). Hundreds of Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Filipinos and
Moroccans among others according to media reports have been killed through
The government of
Pakistan has undertaken a policy review in late 2011 and has taken a clear
position on drones saying that these are unacceptable under all
circumstances. But now the Taliban and their patrons in Al Qaeda are
preventing polio vaccination stating that until these drone strikes must
end before the local health workers are allowed to immunize children. In
FATA, foreign policy obsessions, extremism (some home grown and some
nurtured) and virtual absence of citizen rights are manifesting in the
shape of this grave polio emergency among other alarming signs.
The second hub of Polio
virus happens to be Karachi. In part this is related to the migration of
tribal Pakhtuns to Karachi but that is just a slice of the reality.
Karachi is another place where lapsed state building has resulted in a
huge city being controlled by all sorts of non-state actors.
There are ethnicity
based political factions, criminal mafias, militant groups among other
powerful actors that have impeded the outreach of state services.
Immunisation and primary healthcare in all successfully developing
countries require state presence and functional institutions. The local
governments in Karachi – a megapolis – were undone in 2008 after they
barely came into their own.
There is of course a
bitter history of how Karachi grew as a city and how it has always been
viewed as an extractive space for a predatory state. The dynamism,
entrepreneurship and self-help groups of Karachi have bloomed in spite of
the state absence and which is a larger story of the in-built resilience
of communities and groups that survive in Pakistan against all odds. But
to achieve decent sanitation, set up systems of sewerage and basic civic
services, the role of the state is paramount.
various pronouncements by the provincial governments, petitions in the
Supreme Court there is currently no local government system at work. The
2001 model of local governance is in suspension and bits and pieces of the
1979 bureaucratic model are in operation, which basically means that
provincial government rules Karachi.
context, reaching out to the families for full coverage of immunisation
becomes a daunting challenge. In Karachi, the initially negative media
messages about the polio vaccine and traveled attitudes are among other
reasons, compounding the situation.
This is why
on July 20, the murder of a Union Council Polio Worker was an ominous sign
of how the government’s emergency nationwide eradication campaign
remains threatened by forces of extremism.
Balochistan, the situation is even more complex. We know that the city of
Quetta and district Pishin remain repositories of polio virus. But there
is a general collapse of civilian administration as the province faces the
major challenges of insurgency and a highly unsafe area for health workers
to operate. The districts in the south of the province are not even
accessible so reporting from these areas also remains unclear.
numbers of polio cases in Balochistan illustrate a subset of a larger
governance failure in the province, which is accentuated by Pakistan’s
strategic concerns. Balochistan is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran and
has the second port of Gwadar and thus the state’s focus has been more
on how to crush the insurgent Baloch groups, fight the real and imagined
foreign elements than prioritize social services in the province.
Eradicating polio in an ungoverned zone like FATA is going to be a
While the larger issues
of governance will require medium term measures such as resolving the
federal question and implementing the 18th Amendment to the fullest, in
the short term polio emergency has to be tackled.
The federal government
has turned the corner through its National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP)
prepared by Prime Minister’s Monitoring and Coordination Cell for Polio
Eradication, under the guidance of a competent Minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali.
However, Pakistan is a populous and diverse country and without the active
support of the provinces the aims of this plan will not be fully achieved.
especially that of KP province, are investing more funds in the polio
eradication campaign and the international agencies. The National Task
Force presided by the Prime Minister is providing oversight at the
district, province, and national levels and is concentrating on highest
risk areas and populations. Similar structures for provinces are also in
operation, which will take stock of this emergency. The larger question is
that in the election year with hot political contests battled in the
courts and on the streets the ruling political parties stay the course and
do not neglect this vital campaign.
Perhaps the most
critical area of attention remains the implementation of wide ranging
communications programme, which raises awareness among the citizenry as
well as engages with communities and households and creates demand for
immunisation. All children remain vulnerable and as was the case some
years ago in China even adults are vulnerable to the polio virus.
The most promising sign
is that the government at all levels is engaging with religious leaders in
FATA and elsewhere and this augurs well for the future of the eradication
efforts. This is a critical moment for Pakistan and its vulnerable
The writer is the
Director Policy at Jinnah Institute, Islamabad. The views expressed here
are his own. His writings are archived at
Experience is the name
everyone gives to their mistakes.
Both Islamabad and Kabul
are concerned about Afghan refugees, but in different ways; Islamabad —
will they go back? and Kabul — what will happen if they come back? Since
2002, 5.7 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan and still
3.0 million registered Afghans living in exile and around 1.7 million
registered Afghan refugees are residing in Pakistan — a staggering 56.6
percent of all Afghan refugees.
No one exactly knows
their number, hence the first prerequisite for a comprehensive
repatriation program is missing. Majority of the refugees melted down
mostly in Pashtun dominated areas of Pakistan be it the Northern Province
or southern Karachi. According to official estimates, around 800,000
Afghans have been residing in the KPK province without legal documents.
The provincial capital houses over 400,000 illegal Afghans.
To start with the term
“refugee” did not reflect the actual legal status of the Afghans
living in Pakistan. There are two legal statuses on refuges; The
Foreigners Act 1946 — ended in 2001 and second in the Tripartite
Agreement between UNHCR, Government of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
As per legal framework
the asylum seekers or refugees could not be a citizen of Pakistan, worth
noting that the basis of providing space to migrants was not legal but
‘humanitarian’. Consequentially, the well off refugees had purchased
the citizenship of Pakistan long ago and only those who are poor are
living with PoR— down but not out in the streets of Karachi, Pindi,
Peshawar, Islamabad and other towns of Pakistan.
The repatriation of
registered Afghan Refugees is supposed to be completed by December 2012.
The repatriation drive, already haunted by uncertainties, cannot be seen
in a narrow refugees’ context alone, as it rests on following major
1. Perception of
refugees about the security, livelihood and provision of basic facilities
back home (Afghanistan)
2. The Pakistani State
foreign policy towards Afghanistan
3. The push factors in
the host country
4. Factors and level of
assimilation and differentiation in host country (Pakistan)
5. The historical
transnational characteristics of Afghans as exhibited in cross border
movements and economic ties.
Perception of Refugees:
Several respondents, of
a recently conducted research on the factors that
assimilates/differentiates urban Afghan refugees in host country figured
out that they have no aspiration to move back to Afghanistan due to the
reason of uncertainty there, loss of dwellings and businesses, electricity
problems and insecure conditions. They wish to stay here in order to save
their siblings from negative environment and violence.
They consider themselves
well-settled here and tend to benefit from better amenities of life in
comparative terms. Imagining of post-NATO Afghanistan is marked with the
apprehension of déjà vu. Out of 1000 respondents in Peshawar and
Karachi, 61.79 percent respondents in Karachi claimed that they migrated
for urban areas of Afghanistan while 69.42 percent in Peshawar maintained
that they are from the city areas.
“Though I migrated 16
years back from Mazar but I will not go back to Mazar. Instead, I will go
to Kandahar. It’s a mater of ‘ghairat’, because I don’t know what
the situation would be and if I get killed in Kandahar, then at least it
would not be a matter of ‘beizzati’ for my family, as nobody will know
us in Kandahar”, opined Allah Dad in July 2012, in Karachi.
Nevertheless, the desire
of migration greatly depends on current financial standing of the migrants
in Pakistan. People who have well-settled business here and own certain
property desire to stay in Pakistan.
However, migrants with
poor or low working capacities seem to find new opportunities in
Afghanistan. A few place this matter as conditional on basis of future
security conditions and facilities there. “We are happy here and
Pakistanis treat us well, we are more settled here and there is nothing
back in Afghanistan. It feels like home here. We are listening to
Pakistani music. I like Nusrat Fateh Ali khan, Mehdi Hassan, etc.”, says
Meer Mohammad Omer of Peshawar. Also, their new generation has aligned
itself with global culture, rooted in Pakistani society with little or no
familiarity with Afghanistan.
Pakistani State foreign
policy towards Afghanistan:
Going through the
literature, having interviews with Afghan Refugees and local host
communities in Pakistan and working 5 years in Afghanistan for relief and
rehabilitation, the author concludes that the current drive for
repatriation is a result of shift in global political paradigms for the
regions and the change of political players in the region.
For Afghanistan, the
global emphasis was to give USSR its Vietnam back and now it’s to make
the world a safe place to live in. This change in paradigm results in a
different typology of stakeholders who are forging new alliances and cause
changed set of concerns in Islamabad, Delhi, Beijing and Tehran.
Resultantly, Afghans once again become tools and hostage to the foreign
policies of regional and global powers. “In my opinion, refugees status
should be changed from tools of policy to partners of policy”, mentioned
one of the respondents. The wisdom says that the socio-economical
realities of a country should direct its foreign policy and international
relations and not the other way around. Pakistan needs to make its foreign
policy on it feet, instead of its head.
The push factors in the
In the 1980s they were
brothers in struggle against an infidel USSR. In 2000s they are jihiadis
and resource suckers — a burden on an already crumbling Pakistani
economy. In 2009, a report on Afghan refugees by the Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated that official and popular perceptions
of refugees have changed in response to altered geo-political realities.
And now from official perspective, the Afghan refuges issue is not just a
human right issue but also a national security issue for the government of
Pakistan. Officials maintained that presence of Afghans was the main
reason of increase in crime rate in the region as they had overburdened
It’s a prevalent
perception in host country that migration of Afghans in Pakistan has
increased criminal activities which cause many difficulties for them,
including ethical issues. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they are
perceived to be involved in militancy, robberies, drugs selling and
dealing, veiled and unveiled forms of prostitution, religious extremism,
human trafficking, smuggling of cars and spare parts, fake currency
business. “Initially, those refugees were very poor and were involved in
rag picking and other menial tasks. They were supported by rich Afghans
and later get involved in ammunition, prostitution and drug business. Now
they are quite rich”, says Syed Latif in Karachi.
Then there are some push
factors at work as well. Interviews with refugees revealed that
discriminatory attitude is adopted towards them and locals tend to bracket
all Afghans when it comes to conflict. They think they are granted less
respect and fewer growth opportunities. Refugees believe that are not
fully accepted by the state and the local population yet and they are
still termed as ‘mohajirs’ (migrants). Police and law enforcement
agencies adopt a discriminatory behaviour towards the migrants even when
they possess refugee cards. They identify their faces and harass them.
They do not allow letting them go even in severe emergencies and stop them
on check posts. If they have a Pakistani spouse they are relatively
protected but even then they are monitored.
They are exploited in
property dealings and rental businesses as well and are charged additional
amounts due to their refugee status.
Now they face insecurity and fear due to law and order situation
but are eventually getting used to it. Culture of intolerance, prevalent
poverty and poor living conditions are other problems frequently faced by
The role of organised
political groups cannot be ignored here. Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMP)
conditionally accepts the Durand Line and thinks that it is unnatural
division and cannot be accepted. “Pashtuns should be allowed to move
freely across the border as a lot many tribes like Shinwaris, Afridis and
Mohmands live on both sides of the border”, says Arbab Aamir Jamal of
PKMP in Peshawar.
Factors and level of
assimilation and differentiation in host country:
As per Census of
Afghans, conducted in 2005, 548,105 Afghan families, constituting
3,049,268 individuals were residing in Pakistan. It showed that 62 percent
of Afghans lived in KPK (the then NWFP) with 25 percent in Balochistan, 7
percent in Punjab and 4 percent in Sindh.
Some 58 percent of the
population was living outside camps while 42 percent was in UNHCR assisted
camps. Further, 62 percent of the Afghans living in Pakistan originated
from six provinces in Afghanistan, 17 percent from Nangarhar, 11 percent
from Kabul, 10 percent from Kandahar and 8 percent from Kunduz, while the
remaining 16 percent hailed from Paktiya and Baghlan.
According to the census,
there is a 3-percent growth rate among refugees. Some 19.4 percent of all
Afghans are children under the age of five. The most interesting part is
that 16 percent of Afghans (more than the cumulative migrant population of
Punjab and Sindh) are reported to be Kuchis, who are seasonal migrants and
truly possess the transnational characteristics.
And it is not only the
Kuthis that have this distinctiveness. Traditionally the market for
Jalalabad was Peshawar and Quetta for Kandahar and Afghans operated for
free shuttling between these towns. The ‘hawala’ method for
transferring money is also a stark reminder of the fact that trust worthy
connections exists on both sides of the border. And above all, over the
last 30 years, increasing number of Afghans, particularly those who are
associated with transport business have renovated/established their humble
residential and commercial setups in Afghanistan, with main centers and
dwellings in Pakistan as well. These are Afghans on wheels and enjoy the
reasonable of the two worlds.
Then there is an
economic integration as well. In
1984, it was reported that 30 percent of Peshawar’s economy is run by
Afghan settlers. A visit to Peshawar and Karachi’s main commercial
center indicates that Afghan refuges have stolen the show and made major
investments in Chawala Market, Hyderi, Clifton in Karachi and Arbab Road
and Hyatabad in Peshawar.
The change is too
apparent; from grocery shops to restaurant and smuggled item dealings to
hotels. They are more willing to work in hard conditions than the locals.
This has perturbed the local wage-workers whose demand in the market has
fallen due to the immense availability of hardy and tough Afghans.
Many Afghans have
succeeded in integrating into local society in cities, sometimes marrying
into local families and gaining an education at top-notch colleges.
Despite the challenges, many Afghan refugees have managed to create a
niche for themselves in their new home. After all, many of them were born
and raised in Pakistan.
Keeping Farsi Bans
(Persian speaking), as they are popularly referred, aside, culturally and
socially there are more similarities between Afghan migrants and local
Pashtuns, as majority of them belong to a common lineage with common faith
and almost similar language and culture. Both observe Pakhtunwali code,
Jirga system of decision making customs, religious practices, similar
dressing styles and share some common dietary habits too.
Both the groups are
product of tribal system. Their wedding ceremonies are almost similar too.
There is also a positive adaptation of each other’s life styles these
days, including the acceptability towards their food, dress and music,
etc. On the other hand, religious activism and use of weapons are also
commonly observed among both. Generally, they observe a limited role of
women in society and provide a narrow access to female education as per
The tripartite agreement
for repatriation has already carried out some deportations, albeit on a
much smaller scale. Between December 2010 and February 2011, some 1,400
Afghan families were sent home from Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal
belt. It is also realised that Afghanistan doesn’t have the capacity to
absorb so many people. It doesn’t have the resources in terms of
schools, clinics and especially jobs.
And in Pakistan it is
well accepted that current practices as related to the Afghan citizens are
both oppressive and inhumane. It is also a fact that the government does
not recognise proof of registration cards (PoR) as valid identity
documents for the purpose of engaging in transactions that require
identity documents. The authorities remained in oblivion of the
requirement that institutional mechanisms for dissemination of information
on policy changes with respect to registered Afghans needs to be
strengthened before any repatriation program is trumpeted as a success
story. “I do not know about the centers of repatriation in
Afghanistan”, opines Allah Dad in Karachi in the month of July 2012.
And above all, the
repatriation needs to be seen in the context of reintegration. Keeping in
mind that large portions of Afghans who have lived outside the country for
more than 25 years and majority of them would be repatriates are young put
an additional dimension of orientation of Afghanistan to the new entrants.
How to make them part of the political process is another question.
depends on the establishing of quick social, political and economical
networks of the repatriates and the absence of those may help them to
rethink their decision and they probably will come back to Pakistan.
According to UNHCR (Kabul) late last year statement that 40 percent of the
returnees it helped, since 2002 “are not all integrated”. The question
for those at the driving seat is, Is history going to repeat its self?
As we prepare to
commemorate the sixty fifth independence day, many core questions crop in
front of us to be addressed. Whether the bulk of our population has
qualified from the status of subjects to citizens? Have the state and its
institutions developed the capacity to treat all the citizens with the
provisions of the constitution (as it exists)? And whether the nascent
status of independence alone is a potent sign of hope to stimulate masses
towards individual progress and collective action?
The dawn of independence
in August 1947 granted many important rights to the people of Pakistan.
One such attribute was the change of status from ‘subjects of the
British crown’ to ‘equal citizens of an independent state’.
The founders of Pakistan
were categorical on this count and minced no words while elucidating the
entitlements of this vital attainment. Mr Jinnah, in his famous address on
August 11, 1947, gave this firm assurance to all citizens — especially
those from minorities — that all Pakistanis shall possess equal rights
On another occasion, in
February 1948, he dispelled the viewpoints of various critics about the
expected overbearing role of religious leadership in the business of
state. Mr Jinnah said, “……… Islam and its idealism have taught us
democracy. It has taught equality of men, justice and fair play to
everybody ………. Pakistan is not going to be theocratic state – to
be run by priests with a divine mission. We have many non – Muslims —
Hindus, Christians and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will
enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play
their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan”.
To the utmost
disappointment of those who believed and followed this noble vision, the
Pakistan state and society were deeply marred by overt and covert forces
that caused irreparable schism in the polity. Rise of sectarianism was an
early outcome of the handiwork of groups professing orthodoxy.
The riots in mid 1950s
around one religious group and its eventual declaration as minority in
1974 are a case in point. Threats to the equality of citizenship rights in
Pakistan have been caused due to several reasons.
Political culture in
Pakistan was soon overwhelmed by agitational tactics adopted by various
interest groups — most notable being religio–political factions.
Despite limited electoral support, such groups were very successful in
mobilising likeminded workers for street agitations.
The regimes resorted to
varied tactics from the use of brute force to total submission to
irrational demands. The rights and basic privileges of vulnerable citizens
were greatly jeopardized. The so called mass movement launched by
opposition parties under the banner of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) in
1977 is a vivid example of this approach.
The chain of events led
to a confounded scenario which eventually gave birth to a martial law
where common civil rights were totally denied to a vast number of people.
Writers, journalists, political activists, minorities, women and students
suffered the most.
The right of
association, congregation, speech, publication and broadcast were put
under the heavy arm of censorship and state repression. The culture of
social and religious intolerance that was promoted in the sugar coated
dose of Islamisation evolved into a monster that we have not been able to
tame so far.
After Jinnah and Liaquat
Ali Khan, the reigns of government went into the hands of
military–bureaucracy nexus which maintained a façade of democracy for
some time. The people of East Pakistan, who were apparently more
politically conscious, voted out the ruling Muslim League party in the
1954 elections to East Pakistan Legislative Assembly due to its
inefficiency and high handedness. Instead of respecting the mandate of
citizens of an independent country, the successive regimes cast an eye of
suspicion and contempt on East Pakistani proletariat. The rejection of
populist demands eventually culminated into secession of that province in
People of Balochistan,
FATA and marginal communities across the country have to face decisions
and actions that have no trace of their collective voices into it.
continue to haunt the disenfranchised sections of the society.
Cold-blooded assassination of Governor Salman Taseer and Minister Shahbaz
Bhatti are glaring examples. The recently released report by the Jinnah
Institute reveals the sorry state in which the minorities in the country
dwell in the present times.
Inability of state
apparatus to check the spread of arms and drugs has caused virtual
breakdown of law and order. Parallel flints of governance can be observed
running under the patronage of crime syndicates, politically supported
criminal elements or tribal factions. Peace, rule of law and a trustworthy
mechanism of justice are the pre-requisites for democracy.
Freedom of enterprise
consolidates the fabric of the society, including the tenets of
citizenship. Common citizens in Pakistan have been deprived of their
rights to institute legitimate enterprises. Unabated rent seeking by power
wielders in every regime has been one reason.
Whereas an ordinary
citizen is prosecuted against default on loans worth a few thousand
rupees, political and social elites conveniently bungle more unpaid loans
That the top forty
richest Pakistanis, as reported by alternative media sources, remain
unaffected by changing state policies comes as no surprise. A law abiding
citizen who regularly pays all utility charges gets the worst level of
service as against those influential who pay peanuts to obtain the best of
Only three million folks
pay income tax in a country of over 180 million people. Inappropriate
setting of bench marks and erroneous procedure of tax monitoring has made
big fishes early escape from tax nets. If only the state decides to
enforce a proportionate income tax on the owners of properties, luxury
automobiles, and invisible investors in the capital markets, perhaps the
government would not need harsh packages from donor agencies that make
life of ordinary folks miserable.
To restore citizenship
and trust of the common men (and women) in the apparatus of state, many
tough decisions shall have to be taken. A credible strategy to sweep away
illegal arms and ammunition is the first step. Our society will not be
able to realise its full potential in a situation where it is periodically
held hostage by gun totting thugs and their clandestine masters.
Extension of the writ of
law on evil practices such as honour killings, acid attacks is another
vital need of the hour. This is a vital test for a society to prove its
capacity to tolerate. A peaceful life can only come with the achievement
of baseline prosperity to all.
“People of the
same trade seldom gather together, whether for merriment or diversion, but
the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or some
contrivance to raise prices”, Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations (1879).
Bread manufacturers in
South Africa in the recent past gathered together to fix prices and
allocate territories to the disadvantage of the public. They were caught
by the competition authority and penalised.
Bread is the staple food
of the rich and the poor, and like salt which is consumed by all and
sundry. This was perhaps not the first time that bakers have come together
to not to discuss the weather but how to screw consumers. One of the first
ever cases taken up by the Peruvian competition authority when it began
its operations in 1990s was to break up a bread cartel and thus earn
applauses from the poor.
Last month, a large
number of competition authorities gathered in a conference at Geneva under
the auspices of UNCTAD. They did not speak about conspiring against
consumers but how to protect them from colluding businesses, and to find
ways of how to deal with a large number of anticompetitive practices which
result in their exploitation.
The parlays resulted in
a coordinated action by the competition authorities to target cartel
activities which impact the poor. This would include running an
international campaign in December, 2012, so as to educate consumers about
the pernicious effects of cartels.
Cartels are considered
the most egregious of anti-competitive practices. As always, it is the
poor who suffer the most. In many countries, cartelisation or collusion is
treated as a criminal activity under the law. While companies have paid
heavy fines, senior executives have even undergone jail sentences.
Besides, cartels don’t
only relate to price fixing but also division of business, territory,
restriction on output, coordinated actions, etc. Further, consumers do not
have access to and cannot freely select the quality and variety of goods
and services they desire at reasonable prices, and especially if they do
not have a choice. The only option is to not to buy, but when it comes to
essential items like food or fuel, boycott is not an option.
The fixing of a price of
a product harms the whole society. The bread cases are living examples of
how an unjust economy can further impoverish poor consumers, and destroy
opportunities for small businesses, especially those that serve the poor.
It is important to
remember that price fixing and cartel activity takes place in an
environment of rising energy prices, food shortage, high interest rates
and chronic poverty. The significant increase in the price of basic food
stuffs, such as bread, milk, etc, particularly affects those at the lower
end of the socio-economic strata.
In Peru, other than
tackling bakers, the competition authority, INDECOPI, initiated a suo motu
investigation in the poultry market. This was based on preliminary
findings that local poultry producers had engaged in price-fixing. During
the enquiry, it was revealed that the defendants entered into a series of
anticompetitive agreements to curb overproduction of live chicken. Among
others, it was shown that the parties had agreed on the reduction of
stocks, the standardisation of chicken weight and size, and the joint
disposal of overstock.
INDECOPI decided against
the defendants and, taking into consideration the harm caused to the
consumers and competitors, the nature and duration of the practices that
were undertaken, etc, imposed fines of up to US$1 million and ordered
criminal prosecution of the cartel members.
“Cartels are a
crime” was the slogan of Brazil’s Anti Cartels Enforcement Day on
October, 8, 2008, when huge amount of outreach was done by the Ministry of
Justice to raise awareness about cartels throughout the country. President
Lula launched the campaign, and this has been going on since then.
In 2009 the campaign was
geared up by issuing numerous press releases, organising public events,
publishing and distributing posters, handbills, booklets on price fixing,
leniency, bid rigging, etc. The ministry also sent out over 1000 letters
to CEOs of business houses to promote consciousness about the issues.
Comic books were also produced to help ordinary persons to understand
about the issues in a simple manner.
These issues were
discussed during the UNCTAD’s 12th Intergovernmental Experts Group
meeting organised in July, 2012 to review the progress of the UN Set on
Competition Policy. On 5th December, 1980, the United Nations had adopted
the international standard for competition laws under what is called the
“United Nations Set of Multilateral Principles and Rules for the Control
of Restrictive Business Practices”, better known in the international
community as the UN Set on Competition Policy.
This Set has guided a
large number of developing countries to draft and adopt new competition
laws. From about 30 countries in 1995, today over 120 countries have
adopted a new law or improved their existing competition law, and few more
are in the queue.
During the review
conference, a proposal was mooted to observe 5th December as the World
Competition Day by the International Network of Civil Society on
Competition (INCSOC), an international coalition of 164 competition
practitioners, civil society organisations, researchers and legislators
spread across 66 countries.
Large number of
delegates at the conference supported the idea and have agreed to
celebrate the World Competition Day in their own countries on 05 December,
such as Philippines, Pakistan, Russia, Kenya, Botswana, etc.
countries are already celebrating National Competition Days, such as
European Union member states, Brazil, Zambia, Colombia, etc. In fact,
Philippines government has decided to observe 5th December as its National
Competition Day also.
The assembly also agreed
that the Day be used to raise awareness and rally common people around the
issue of cartels which have been causing serious harm to poor consumers
and the economy.
The writer is Secretary
General, CUTS International. Udai Mehta of CUTS contributed to this
government has conceded before the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC)
of the Cabinet that collection of Rs1881 billion by the Federal Board of
Revenue (FBR), which is Rs71 billion less than Rs1952 target fixed for the
fiscal year 2011-12, is a major factor for rise of fiscal deficit to
nearly 8 percent of GDP. So, many argue that the time is ripe to apply the
Peter Principle to this ailing organisation.
ECC was informed that
during fiscal year 2011-12, total net collection of direct taxes was Rs.
731.9 billion against Rs. 602.5 billion in 2010-11. Sales tax at Rs803.9
— showing highest growth of 27.8 percent — was mainly because of
increase in prices of oil products and other commodities. Federal Excise
Duty (FED) registered decrease of 11.2 percent—collection was Rs. 122
billion against Rs. 137 billion in 2010-11. Collection of customs duty was
Rs. 218.2 billion, showing 18 percent growth over Rs. 184.9 billion in
The persistent failure
of FBR to meet assigned targets has widened the fiscal deficit to an
alarming level. Massive shortfall of Rs71 billion in collection has not
only led to fiscal deficit of nearly Rs. 1.8 trillion, but has pushed
millions below the poverty line, besides aggravating the already ailing
economy due to overemphasis on indirect taxes — about 71% of total
collection—that are regressive and detrimental for economic growth.
It is shocking that only
a few thousand individuals declare income exceeding one million rupees out
of a population of 180 million or even more. Nine million rich individuals
of Pakistan—comprising about 5 percent of total population—alone
should be paying income tax of at least Rs. 3 trillion. FBR receives total
returns of about 1.2 million! FBR’s failure is evident from the fact
that less than 600,000 business returns are received, whereas total number
of commercial and industrial connections alone is four million, and all of
them are subjected to compulsory withholding taxes along with electricity
This failure in meeting
targets has very serious repercussions; due to burgeoning fiscal gap, the
government is forced to borrow more and more both from domestic and
foreign sources. In a written reply, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh informed the
National Assembly on 25 July 2012 that as on April 2012, foreign loan
stood at $ 53.74 billion, including payment of $ 8.07 billion due to the
Domestic loan is now
over $ 77 billion. In the budget 2012-13, amount earmarked as interest
payable on domestic debt is Rs. 845 billion. Then, large repayments are
due on foreign loans this year, including $1.2 billion to the IMF. This
will further deteriorate the fiscal scene. The government would be forced
to borrow more to meet the huge gap of Rs. 1.8 trillion! More borrowing
means need for more funds for debt servicing—it is a never ending
vicious circle frustrating the cherished dream of attaining self-reliance.
As admitted by the
government, the main fault lies with FBR that has during the last two
decades been headed by “political favourites”– incompetent men
lacking leadership qualities and knowledge of running revenue
administration. The result is persistent failure to meet assigned targets,
what to talk of tapping the real tax potential which is not less than Rs.
According to Press
reports, the government is now considering to fill four posts of members
lying vacant by appointing people from the private sector at MP-1 through
open competition. This decision is reportedly being resisted by existing
members. They are opposing the move on the ground that it would create
distortion within the tax collection machinery as they would get normal
pay and package under the service rules while private sector members would
get hefty salary packages.
regime, four of five members were appointed from private sector, initially
on MP-2 scales but later upgraded to MP-1. After continuous resistance
from tax bureaucrats and failure of private members to deliver, their
services were terminated by not renewing the contracts.
With an ex-officer of
Customs (junior to all members) as Chairman now, the appointments from
private sector are bound to trigger animosities within FBR. New Chairman,
it is reported, is of the view that “paradigm shift cannot be made
without bringing in private sector experts”. Improvement in the
tax-to-GDP ratio, currently one of the lowest in the world, Mr. Hakeem
says, is not possible “with the existing lethargic bureaucratic
We asked an experienced,
retired member of FBR, who opted to be anonymous, to comment on the
proposal for hiring members from private sector. His response is:
“First, the concept of
hiring private sector persons as senior officers of the FBR is not new. It
has been often brought forward, private sector economists and chartered
accountants hired, and then relieved on equally forceful reasoning, i.e.,
inadequate performance. Second, over the years, FBR or for that matter the
government has not focused in appropriately training its officers for top
management to shoulder the onerous assignment of managing tax collections
— the consequence: you don’t have the right people to hold the senior
positions both at the policy and enforcement levels.
Third, there is no
consistent and formal policy for recruitment, training, performance
evaluation, career path, and accountability of tax officials. Everything
is ad hoc — once again you look for short term policy options, and of
course that doesn’t work. Four, Is the Government really serious in revamping the tax
system and the enforcement machinery?
I have strong doubts —
appointment of present chairman FBR is sufficient evidence. Five, I was
the key-person in developing the 2001 Task Force on Tax Administration
Report which laid the basis for major changes in the Tax Enforcement
System. Eleven years and millions of dollars spent and what are the
results—several hundred officials’ visits to Europe and North America,
most modern office facilities, large payments to consultants, low to
moderate level of improvement in audit skills, no data warehousing for
matching of third party information with the taxpayers’
reported/declared transactions, declining Tax/GDP ratio over the 11
Mr. Abid Shaban, an
experienced tax consultant of Karachi, sent us an interesting news item a
few days back that might be useful for the new Chairman FBR. It reads as
under: “Government to remove “Dead Wood” Babus to prevent “Peter
The government of India
has issued a letter dated 28.06.2012 by which a detailed scheme for
removal of “dead wood” amongst government servants has been
formulated. The letter points out that a few members of the All-India
Services do become mere passengers in their post.
They become either stale
or listless; they do not exhibit any creativity or innovativeness; and
they do not achieve results. This results in the operation of the “Peter
Principle” (every man rises to the level of his incompetence from where
he can go no higher) and one must guard against this says the letter. The
scheme provides for the identification and compulsory retirement of such
employees so that the cost to the exchequer is saved”.
announced by the Indian government, is available and anybody, including
the Chairman FBR, can obtain a copy! The removal of ‘dead wood” in FBR
and elsewhere in bureaucracy has become inevitable. The main reason of low
revenue collection is weak fiscal management, corruption, inefficiency and
policies of appeasement towards tax evaders. It is thus, imperative to
remove ‘dead wood’ and make FBR an autonomous body on the pattern of
State Bank of Pakistan, headed by competent and efficient managers.
The writers, tax
lawyers, are Adjunct Professors at Lahore University of Management
livestock contributed approximately 11.6 percent to the national GDP; and
is growing at an annual growth rate of 3.70 percent. According to Economic
Survey of Pakistan 2011-12, around 40 million of the total 60 percent
rural population derives its livelihoods from this.
Total animal population
in our country including cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, camels and horses
is 167.5 million, whereas, milk producing animals are more than 50 million
and the annual milk yield they give is 45 billion.
has been the subsistence sector dominated by small holders to meet their
needs of milk, ensure food security and daily cash income. Therefore,
livestock is considered the more secure source of income for the small
farmers and landless poor; and also is a source of employment generation
at the rural level.
It also helps to reduce
income variability, especially in cases of crop failure due to a variety
of cases like disaster or flood. It can uplift the socioeconomic condition
of Pakistan’s rural masses.
In the world’s top
milk producing countries, India’s number is first, China is second, the
US is third and Pakistan comes on fourth number.
After the 18th
Constitutional Amendment, the subject of animal health and production has
been delegated to the provinces. The Ministry of National Food Security
and Research created a “Livestock Wing”, delegating these roles,
co-ordination of foreign aid and technical assistance in the livestock
sector and related fields, animal quarantine department, veterinary drugs,
vaccines and animal feed additives, livestock and poultry products.
related products, especially meat has found new export markets and there
is a lot of potential to tap halal meat market for Muslims living all over
the world. This may put pressure on the local supply, so it is essential
that more and more efforts are put into increasing the local supply of
meat and milk.
In this context certain
steps will have to be taken. First of all, breed improvement is a
challenge. Pakistan is home to the well-known Sahiwal breed of dairy
cattle but, unfortunately, the breed has degenerated over the years.
The reason is that
livestock sector mainly uses nondescript breeds for animal reproduction
and relatively unskilled animal husbandry methods. Rural families raise
livestock mainly on marginal lands, which does not allow high level of
production that are needed to meet the increasing demand of the human
population, estimated to be growing at a rate of 1.573 percent annually.
Our two provinces Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab are more fertile and conducive to cattle farming
and producing good quality of meat and more milk due to its suitable
lands, soil, sweet water and atmospheric conditions.
Dr. Israr Hussain
director communication livestock and dairy development Punjab informed The
News on Sunday that Punjab livestock is performing its role in
strengthening the economy through achieving its goal in different
projects. However, he says, farmers need to be encouraged to invest in
Three years ago, he
says, the wheat price set by government was Rs450 per 40 kg which was
increased by more than double to Rs950 per kg. Our farmers cultivated
wheat on every inch of their land and paid less attention towards their
He suggests the
government should secure lower cost of production instead of increasing
minimum prices of any commodity which does not do economy any good.
Besides, he says the government of Punjab has decreased the annual
development budget of livestock. It was Rs2500 million for the last fiscal
year but now it is Rs1650 millions for 2012-13. It has become very
difficult for them to keep running the existing development projects and
starting new ones. In India, the farmers are given free electricity,
fodder (Wanda) and tractor facilities on easy installments where as there
is no such provision in Pakistan.
Dr. Israr explains that
every district government fixes meat and dairy products’ prices at the
district level. This helps stop profiteering but to bring the prices to
affordable level, the supply of livestock products has to be increased.
Just like chicken’s rate, beef and mutton rates should fluctuate
He tells TNS the
government of Punjab has taken some steps for increasing meat production;
two of them are “Save the Calf” and “Feed Lot Fattening” projects.
Assistant Director, Punjab Livestock and Dairy Development (PL&DD)
tells TNS the demand and supply law control prices of every commodity but
some steps should be taken to keep them within the reach of common man. Dr
Najeeb says the export rule of any country is that first it should give
priority to basic needs of its people and then export the remaining
quantity. There should be annual consensus on federal and provincial level
which explains the estimated average production of every commodity.
He claims private
slaughter houses are mainly responsible in increasing meat prices. Our
government allowed exporters to start slaughter houses on the condition
that they would also establish their own cattle farms. They had committed
that they would provide more quantity of meat in the local market and then
export the remaining meat to other countries. But there is no
implementation on that and our department has no law to check the private
Another disturbing fact
is that 2.5 millions live animals estimated worth of US$ 13.95 million are
crossing our borders annually. This undocumented drainage of livestock
could be a source of huge export earnings through value-addition. This
loss is further exaggerated by slaughtering or death because of starvation
of 6 to 7 million male calves during infancy. “Save the Calf” is a
programme which convinces farmers not to slaughter male calves at young
age and only sell them for meat when they attain optimum weight around the
age of one year.
has recently unveiled trade policy framework 2012-15. The policy sets an
ambitious target of increasing country’s exports to US$100 billion in
three years. This policy is an extension of similar three-year trade
policy framework 2009-12 that ended in June 30, 2012. Earlier, Pakistan
was following annual trade policy framework that had inherent
inconsistencies and conflicting signals to the market that it contains.
The new three-year
framework is a paradigm shift from the earlier practice of the annual
trade targeting and has come up with a new idea, among others, of
projecting export targets for three years.
The proposed policy
focuses on 12 areas to improve export promotion from the country. It will
revise the export and Import orders to address issues of overlapping and
redundancies in regulations and will attempt to simplify them for
facilitating the business community. The issues related to quality,
standards, regulations, trade disputes and enforcement will be tackled on
Among the positive and
welcoming aspects of the new strategic thinking the government would
introduce new initiatives during the next policy cycle to promote exports
of agro-processed products, especially in the region. Similarly, schemes
to exploit potential of exports, such as Balochistan, KP, Gilgit Baltistan
and interior of Sindh will also be part of this new trade thinking.
These regions have
comparative advantages in many products but due to disadvantages, such as
under-developed processing facilities, poor trade facilitation, lower
level of access capital and technology the export potential of these
regions is far less exploited.
Added emphasis on
promoting services sector and a plan to establish suitable institutional
arrangements for doubling export of services from Pakistan during the next
three years will have positive results. This is particularly important as
the contribution of services sector in Pakistan’s economy is around 54
per cent while market share in the global trade of services is dismal.
Promotion of regional
trade as major policy objectives for the next three years is a much
awaited measure. The new policy gives high priority to China, Iran and
Afghanistan and will double the exports to these countries. Special
incentives to encourage investment in the export oriented industries, and
new investment packages for setting special economic zones are also
important and useful features.
The new plan focuses on
introducing a number of initiatives for increasing exports to Asia from 46
per cent to 60 per cent during the next three years.
Pakistan is one of those
rare countries where exporting is more expensive than importing.
Considering the factor the policy attaches high priority to this aspect
and would ensure at the end of three years, exporting is less expensive
than importing. This factor will make the country more competitive in
The analysis does not
present a good picture as the trade deficit grew in the last fifteen years
with the exception of few years due to incentives offered by global
partners during earthquake and flash floods of 2010. This raises
fundamental questions to the overall thinking, planning, decision-making,
coordination and vision and its relevance to the overall economic
We also need to touch
certain concomitant issues like the depth of reforms and the likelihood of
their sustainability. A sound public policy edifice is a necessary
pre-requisite for good governance. The quality of policy, in all its
aspects, from formulation to decision-making, is a vital determinant of a
government’s ability to deliver. While the policy decision process in
Pakistan is well understood, and adequately backed with the required
statutory provisions, the policy-making process is less so. Equally hazy
is the post-decision process: implementation, evaluation, and review of
policy as it has evolved over the last more than a decade provides a good
case study. The examination of how trade policy is formulated — and by
whom — brings out the capacity issues, both of making policy and
First and foremost is
the aspect of overall thinking in policy formulation. Pakistan’s trade
reform process, initiated in earnest in the late 1980s, intensified during
the last fifteen years, especially the early years of 90s, that coincided
with the ‘actualisation’ of WTO obligations and the IMF programme
The space provided by
debt rescheduling and enhanced capital inflows in the wake of 9/11 and
certain policy adjustments facilitated this intensification as the
traditional revenue and balance of payments arguments against trade
liberalisation lost some of their urgency.
The annual trade policy
was the successor to the annual Import Policy that was a major policy
instrument at a time when imports were strictly controlled. Once imports
started to get liberalised (with the switch from the ‘positive list’
what could be imported and under what conditions — to the ‘negative
list’ everything importable except prohibited or regulated) the annual
Import Policy lost its rationale and the government chose to substitute it
with the annual targeting on trade to reflect the shift in focus from
import substitution to export enhancement.
This ‘annual trade
policy’ ritual had served some facilitation and export promotional
purposes but it was difficult to lay claim to the kind of institutional
and wider policy reform that a genuine trade policy ought to seek. Such
short term policy thinking also had problems of implementation and
challenges of inter-ministerial ‘power game’ as well as capacity.
During all these years
trade policy, both institutionally and in terms of priorities, has not
dominated Pakistan’s policy agenda. Those who do believe in trade
reforms come across a severe lack of commitment on the part of the
evidence-based link between trade liberalisation and public
welfare-growth, poverty reduction, income equality—is not easy to
establish in the case of Pakistan that is exposed to several simultaneous
The prevalent street
perception is that trade liberalisation is inimical to national
aspirations. It is viewed as a surrogate for globalisation, which in turn
is perceived as the new variant of imperialism. In any political setting
the slogan of self-sufficiency — and therefore import substitution and
therefore protectionism — is
almost certain to attract more votaries.
No serious effort has
been made to educate the public. It is often forgotten that trade policy
is much more than trade liberalisation. If anything, a good trade policy
can serve to check the costs of globalisation while capitalising on the
opportunities. All these factors contribute to trade policy being
relegated to a low position in the government’s policy making pantheon.
Trade policy making and
execution weaknesses are unlikely to be corrected without a realisation of
their virtuous effect on the other policies and strategies, and how,
together, they can impact public welfare.
The cause of trade
policy will be better served by restoring it to the general policy matrix
rather than letting it languish within the narrow confines of WTO
compliance and export growth. Its importance is more likely to be accepted
when it is seen as an agent of change, contributing to transparency,
consistency and predictability of policies.
The trade deficit in
2010 amounted to over €15 billion, with Pakistan’s imports of over
€30.2 billion and exports of about €15 billion. This is nothing less
than a progress card on our trade policy.
would require institutional capacity, strengthening of the ministries
concerned and giving them effective authority to formulate trade policy.
Without dealing with these institutional constraints, implementation flaws
and gaps in policies the current policy framework might face the same fate
as was seen by earlier policies.
The writer is Deputy
Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global Campaigner
Nusrat Bano, 22,
works in a sports manufacturing factory in Sialkot for 10 hours a day and
gets Rs5,000 salary. “There are more than 200 women workers in the
factory but none of them gets a reasonable salary as compared to male
counterparts. None of them has a letter of appointment. They do not have
separate washroom and kitchen in the factory leave alone day care center.
There is no concept of
leave with pay even for a single day while maternity leave is out of
question. Pregnancy means removal from job. “We have the facility of
pick and drop but there is only one bus for 200 women, so we are packed in
bus like animals,” she says.
Workplace harassment is
common in the factory”, she tells The News on Sunday that there is no
forum where they can discuss the issues related to women workers of the
“Factory owners and
our male counterparts discriminate us. Not a single woman in the factory
is member of trade union. We are totally unaware of the labour laws and
accepts everything as granted”, she says.
Nusrat was among one of
24 women workers belonging to 18 trade unions from both public and private
sector participated from different parts of Punjab and KP provinces in a
12 days “Training of trainers in developing women leadership in trade
unions” held at Naran from July 28 to August 8, 2012.
All participants have
similar stories to share. Asma Shaheen, who works in a food factory at
Haripur KP also tells TNS “Our male counterparts discourage us to take
part in activities of trade union.
There is a huge
difference in the salaries of women and men doing same job. Our management
and male counterparts do not allow us to work on managerial posts. Women
are not promoted even after working for a decade on the same position”,
She says that from now
on she would try to organise women in her factory on a platform to fight
for rights. “I would ask the management to provide me HR policy of the
factory and then would also try to convince male members of the union to
include women in the organisation”, she says.
The training was
organised jointly by Pakistan Workers Federation and ILO as part of CIDA
funded project ‘Promoting Gender Equality for Decent Employment
(GE4DE)’. The focus of the project is on increasing women’s
membership, participation and leadership in trade unions.
A majority of
participants (around 80 percent) were below 30 years of age and
matriculated. The aim is to train leadership development skills and
understand the significance of labour rights and ILO conventions to
protect their rights. The workshop also aimed to create a cadre of women
master trainers who would in return train their trade union members and
act as change makers.
Social, cultural and
religious factors have reduced the number of women entering the job market
while when it comes to their representation in trade unions the number is
The ILO data shows that
in Pakistan total registered trade unions are 6,793 (2008) while only 854
trade unions submit their returns. The total number of members of these
active trade unions in 2008 was 182, 429 and the number of women members
is 4, 394 which makes 2 percent of total membership. Interestingly, in
1998 total representation of women in trade unions was 1.0 percent.
Zahida Perveen, master
trainer of the workshop who herself is employee of Islamabad Electric
Supply Company (IESCO) chairperson of women committee of Pakistan Welfare
Federation says, “There are certain issues which only affect women
workers and without their representation in trade unions they are not even
Giving a personal
example she says “I joined IESCO in 1990 and at that time there was no
separate washroom for women in IESCO. I was the first to raise voice for a
separate washroom, my female colleagues discouraged me as they thought it
would bring a bad name to women workers at IESCO. After one year of
struggle in 1992 I succeeded in getting a separate washroom for women
workers in IESCO.
We have to raise our
voice for separate washrooms and kitchen, maternity leaves, pick and drop.
And we have to raise our voice against discrimination and sexual
harassments. She says the training is meant to create awareness among
women workers about their rights which they can achieve under the present
“Pakistan is among the
countries which have rectified a maximum number of ILO conventions on
labour rights, including conventions related to freedom of association and
collective bargaining, freedom of association and protection of right to
organise conventions. The best way for women workers to get their rights
is to take part in trade unions and then get leadership role in the
unions”, she says.
Azra Shad, chairperson
of Lahore based Helpline for Women Workers tells TNS, “We receive scores
of complaints every month about workplace harassment. Most of these women
do not want to register complaint as it can cost them their jobs.
Most of the factory
owners employ young girls and they are also harassed. She says that
leaders of trade unions also need to change their attitude towards women
score on gender equality is not good. It stands on 115th position out of
146 countries on global level Gender Inequality Index. A study done by two
sociologists of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) in 2011
stated that lack of a united women’s movement is a hurdle to working
women’s struggle for their rights at workplaces.
The study read that the
representation of working women in trade unions was not proportionate with
their numbers at the industrial units. The study also revealed that women
workers were mostly given low-skill tasks and that lack of knowledge about
their rights hampered them in articulating their demands effectively.
“While those employed
at factories formed a very small part of trade unions, no mechanism was in
place for home-based women workers to organise and bargain”.
Zulfikar Shah, joint
director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)
says that trade unions in Pakistan are confined to male works. “Most
unions are being run as family businesses; most of them have the same
leadership for the last 30 years. One cannot recall other than Kaneez
Fatima’s name among the leadership of trade unions. Male workers only
discuss male oriented issues during collective bargaining. I have seen
drafts of several collective bargaining negotiations and have never seen
anything other than issues related to salaries discussed in them.
I have never seen trade
unions demanding management to allocate separate washroom and kitchen for
women, provide pick and drop facility or granting maternity leave to their
female counterparts. It is also true that salaries for women and men doing
same jobs are also different. Our constitution also ensures gender
equality. Article 25 and 34 of the Constitution clearly mentions gender
equality. We have a very good law right now on workplace harassment but
implementation is an issue,” he says.
country director ILO Pakistan says this initiative developing women
leadership in trade unionism is basically about three things — unionism,
gender equality and leadership. “The idea of putting together these
three concepts came from PWF. We feel that women participation in trade
unions and leadership is extremely weak in Pakistan. This is the first
initiative of hopefully a long series of training and other initiatives in
different areas”, he hopes.
“It is not only about
fighting for their rights and wages but also to understand historical
prospective of trade union movement in Pakistan. It is true that
Pakistan’s performance of gender inequality index is not so good but
there are some good signs like 22 percent of total parliamentarians are
“One of the five
priority strategic areas is on social justice and gender equality” he
says that ILO is not here to replace institutional strength and system in
the country. “This is up to the workers themselves to ensure that
solutions are found. What we can do is to encourage the workers to come up
and work on action plans. These plans have to be more feasible and
sustainable and doable as possible,” he says.