than a war of words
Who will solve the mystery?
Benazir Bhutto's first death anniversary is marked by unanswered questions
By Nadeem Iqbal
"We Pakistanis are not fools. We know for a fact that international committees and commissions such as those of the United Nations are merely an eyewash and meant to hush up matters," says Ashraf Wada, 60, admittedly the founder member of Pakistan People's Party.
Soon after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the killing of 22 others -- due to a subsequent bomb blast -- on Dec 27 last year, Ashraf set up a stall at the gate of Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi, where the tragic incident happened. He sells Benazir's photos and posters to the devotees of the deceased PPP leader.
Over the past one year, those who have visited the spot include the relatives of the killed and the injured. Majority of them, claims Ashraf, have already been financially compensated by the PPP government.
Ashraf rejects the investigations conducted by foreign teams, such as that of Scotland Yard, saying that the roots of the conspiracy should be traced beyond the Indo-Pak border. He also compares BB's killing to that of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
It could be a classic case of the notoriety of an alleged killer being proportionate to the popularity of the murdered political leader. But so far, no group or individual has been singled out in the murder case of a leader as big as Benazir Bhutto. Basically for want of certain 'specifications', the UN seems lost as to who, where and what to investigate.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is trying not to compromise its sovereignty while approaching the international community for help in the investigations.
Interestingly, the PPP-led federal government, which came into power two months after Benazir's murder, has been deprived of the comfort to blame Pervez Musharraf for going slow on the investigations or for hiding 'related' facts. The demand for a UN investigation on the lines of Rafik Hariri's case was part of PPP's election campaign.
After coming into power, PPP has had to deliver on these promises, albeit half-heartedly. However, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has stated that the United Nations will not conduct any investigations into Benazir's assassination, but a fact-finding body (commission) will be formulated to look into the case.
The probing commission shall reportedly cost the United Nations $40 million, and the world body will have to generate the amount through its own resources. The question arises whether the UN is ready to spend that much money. It has already bestowed Benazir Bhutto with the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, posthumously.
However, the fact that Ban Ki-moon recently skipped Pakistan during his South Asia tour, led many to believe that he was avoiding any queries related to the formation of the commission.
Apparently, as a salve to the public hurt and anger, the then President Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf pronounced Baitullah Mehsud as the chief suspect, on the basis of an intercepted telephone call between Mehsud, who runs a terrorist network in FATA, and one of his followers.
Furthermore, Musharraf invited Scotland Yard to start a fresh probe into the murder but gave the foreign team a very limited scope to work in. Scotland Yard was only required to assist the local authorities in establishing the cause and circumstances of Benazir's death. The responsibility of hunting down the culprit lay entirely with the Pakistani authorities.
According to the Scotland Yard report, Bhutto died of a severe head injury she got from the impact of the bomb blast and not the gunfire. This did not soothe the anger of the people; the absence of an autopsy report and the hasty washing up of the site raised doubts as to the findings of the investigation.
The report claimed that high explosives of a type used in the said device were detonated at a velocity ranging between 6,000 and 9,000 metres per second. It means that considering the amount of explosives and distances involved, such a blast would generate a force greater than what would be needed to cause the damage that followed.
The report also said that Benazir's vehicle had been fitted in with a 'b6 grade armour', designed to withstand gunfire and bomb blasts.
The report added that the roof escape hatch had been wrongly referred to as a 'sunroof' whereas it was actually a means of emergency escape.
As per the report, "The detailed analysis of the media footage provides supporting evidence. Ms Bhutto's head did not completely disappear from view until 0.6 seconds before the blast."
It said that Benazir could be seen moving forwards and to the right after ducking into the vehicle. While her exact head position at the time of the detonation can never be ascertained, the logical conclusion is that she did not succeed in getting her head entirely below the lid of the escape hatch when the explosion occurred.
The report said that the footage, when considered with the findings of the forensic explosive expert, showed that the bombing suspect was within two metres of the vehicle towards its rear and with no person or other obstruction between him and the vehicle, all of which strongly suggested that the bomber and the gunman were at the same position.
It is virtually inconceivable that anyone who was where the gunman stood could have survived the blast and managed to escape.
The Scotland Yard said there was a single attacker who had fired the shot at close range and, seconds later, detonated the bomb. However, the British investigators could not solve the puzzle of how the attacker managed to con the security cover around Benazir Bhutto and went so close to her with explosives and a gun.
Benazir had earlier experienced a lapse of security at her welcome reception in Karachi, in Oct 2007, which killed over 150 people. Later, in her book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy & the West, she expressed her feelings in the following words:
"I had become aware, through messages sent by Gen Musharraf that suicide squads might be sent from NWFP and FATA to try to assassinate me immediately on my return. I had actually received from a sympathetic Muslim foreign government, the names and cell phone numbers of designated assassins. Gen Musharraf's regime knew of the specific threats against me, including the names of others -- including those in his own inner circle and in his party -- who we believed were conspiring. Despite our requests, we received no reports on what actions were taken before my arrival on the material provided as a follow up to these warnings."
At present, an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi is trying the five accused -- Sher Zaman Abdul Rasheed, Aitzaz Shah (a juvenile), Rafaqat Hussain and Hasnain Gul -- in plotting the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Five other accused in the case -- Baitullah Mehsud, Ikramullah, Abadur Rehman, Abdullah alias Saddam, and Faiz Mohammad alias Kaskat were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.
On the occasion of the first anniversary of Benazir Bhutto's death, when passions are not running as high (as before), it is only pertinent to say that instead of wasting its resources on international investigations or indulging in blame games, the government should seek to assess the facts objectively. It should also answer the two main queries: How come such a security lapse happened? Who ordered the site at the crime scene to be washed?
A different take on Mumbai attacks
By Aarti Shah
The Time Out Mumbai of Nov 28-Dec 11 2008 has become a collector's edition, as if Vesuvius has just erupted and covered a Pompeii of culture in ash. And the magazine itself has, as its editor wryly pointed out, several hundred fewer subscriptions, at least for the time being.
The edition went to print before the attacks started on Nov 26, listing concerts that would get postponed (Jethro Tull and Anoushka Shankar) or cancelled (Live Earth) and films that would not launch as scheduled (The President is Coming), the press screening having barely started when reports of the shooting started lighting up the mobile phones of those attending it. The opening of artist Nyela Saeed's first exhibition, ironically entitled 'Naissance', took place earlier in the evening itself, in an airy, beamed top-floor space at Kitab Mahal, 192 DN Road (out of the lift and up a spiral staircase). Those familiar with Mumbai will realise how close this is to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The exposition will re-open some other time.
Girish Shahane, Time Out's opinion columnist, compares the 2004 Indian general election with the recent US presidential vote: "a sign that voices recommending moderation and tolerance are not always drowned out by the bellicose shouting of right-wingers exploiting wedge issues to stir anger, hatred and fear."
Moderation and tolerance had their brains blown out by the bellicose shooting that engulfed Colaba and Fort at the end of November.
The liberalisation of the Indian media and the pervasive nature of the Internet and mobiles (networks permitting) meant that the news -- or rather live video and emotional and, at times, misleading 'reporting' -- was immediately available. Even when cable television was switched off from south Mumbai to Bandra, to stop the attackers from being able to watch the rescue operations, terrestrial TV and websites continued to show live images.
During this time, at least one foreign channel questioned the role of the media during such an event.
In the days following the siege, there were candlelit vigils, demonstrations, messages not to pay taxes and countless articles perpetuating a certain anger. Jethro Tull and Anoushka Shankar rescheduled their performance and waived their fees, and the profits benefited a charity that has sprung from the attacks; I felt uncharacteristically nervous each time late attendees walked down the aisles of the auditorium. I went to a suburban cinema twice within ten days of the attacks, ending to see a mainstream Indian movie in its third week and the latest Coen Brothers film during the first weekend of its release. On both occasions, the cinema, and the shopping centre in which it is housed, were unusually empty, though I hear that a major cineplex in south Mumbai was packed.
The anti-government mood in Mumbai has been well publicised. Yet this is from the same populace that is hardly aware of its own neighbours, that pays lip service to political and police accountability and civic responsibility. India does not know what to do with its poor, its farmers, its caste system, its hundreds of millions of young people, its frogs looking to jump out of wells. Even its text-book graduates, who lack initiative and command of English (despite whatever you might read), who are exploited by the firms that employ them, are finding the global economic slowdown is starting to affect them, showing up their shallow experience.
The country does not know how to plan a modern city, as testified by the growing number of apartment buildings in an already-overcrowded Mumbai and the anticipation of the one lakh rupee car. 'Microphone' laws prohibit loud noise after a certain time at night, but nobody stops the endless hooting which itself is a result of lawless driving. (The signs in Mumbai asking for traffic discipline, helmets and the rest are all in English, which most drivers probably cannot read.) Society rules prevent you from drilling holes to put up pictures inside your home between two and four in the afternoon, but road-building can take place at one in the morning.
Nor does it know how to treat foreigners. By demanding that we submit several documents, photographs, a fee and ourselves at the Foreign Office every year, India will always feel transitory. A colleague holding a UK passport, but of Bangladeshi descent, had to spend nearly eight months at the Taj Mahal Hotel while waiting for her residence and work permit. The journalist visa of a Canadian national whose father was born in India, but migrated to Pakistan, was only renewed for six months in mid-2008. Unwilling to plead for it to be extended again, he left the country the day before it expired, just over a week after the Mumbai siege ended. The worst crime is to leave a man's hand empty, to quote Derek Walcott. Especially when it leaves him disillusioned.
"While migration continues to be the hottest debate around," comments David de Souza in the back page of Time Out Mumbai of Nov 28-Dec 11, "we all conveniently forget that each and every one of us on the planet -- including 16, 19 or 22 million (we do not even know how many we are) Mumbaikers -- is a product of a migration and some or other religious conversion."
No amount of candle-lighting and refusal to pay taxes can compensate for the city's residents acknowledging this and breaking down existing boundaries. It might require more effort and be less televisual. But it will surely be easier than wondering how to control ten (or twenty or even thirty) loose gunmen.
The writer is the business manager of a company in Mumbai and likes to travel to places of historical, natural and culinary significance).
The appointment of chief justice Lahore High Court as the acting governer Punjab will only add to the tension between PPP and PML-N
By Waqar Gillani
With the appointment of Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Syed Zahid Hussain as acting governor of Punjab in the absence of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer on Dec 16, 2008, the ongoing tug of 'cold war' between the PPP and the PML-N has entered a new phase.
The relationship between governor Salmaan Taseer and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has been rocky at best, since the day of the appointment of Taseer as governer. The prompt reaction of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, PML-N leader opposition leader in the National Assembly, at the announcement of Taseer as designate-governor set the tone of Punjab politics. That started a war of words that has continued to this day.
The PPP-PML-N confrontation increased soon after the presidential election result on Sep 6, 2008. The PML-N fielded its own candidate Justice (r) Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui against Asif Ali Zardari. After the election of Asif Zardari as president, Taseer openly started giving anti-PML-N statements which caused the PML-N to react. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, about a month back, circulated some personal photographs of the governor's family, portraying them as being against the tradition of an Islamic Pakistani society.
More recently, when Governor Taseer was on a private trip to the United Arab Emirates for a couple of days, Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Muhammad Iqbal, who was acting governor, signed the notifications of the appointment of Punjab Ombudsman and Punjab Services Tribunal chief. Governor Taseer strongly reacted to this alleged "over-exercise" of authority by the acting governor. He termed it a "political raid" by the PML-N and also alleged that the acting governor tried to "break into" his office in search of some particular official files and documents, which was beyond his official ambit.
The PML-N maintains that acting governor has full constitutional authority to sign an appointment notification. "According to the Constitution, the acting governor can take up any matter except dissolving the assembly," said PML-N leader and advisor to Punjab chief minister Sardar Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan Khosa in a press conference.
Khosa, talking to TNS, termed the appointment of LHC Chief Justice Hussain as the acting governor 'illegal.' "According to the 1997 judgment of Supreme Court of Pakistan, no person of executive or judiciary can take oath as acting governor," he said, adding, "the PML-N will properly take up this issue with its coalition partner the PPP."
About the allegations of Iqbal "breaking into" the governor's office, Khosa, who has also been a former governor of the Punjab, said that this impression was totally wrong and based on propaganda. "The acting governor did not exceed his constitutional and official limits and exercised them properly," he said. Khosa further added that the issue of PPP power-sharing in the Punjab government and getting its due share has nothing to do with the governor office. "The governor office, constitutionally, has nothing to do with politics. The PPP has appointed Raja Riaz as senior minister of Punjab and the PML-N is fully cooperating with him and he is also satisfied with the working of the coalition in Punjab."
On the other hand, a local PPP leader Aurangzeb Burki has moved LHC against the appointments made by the acting governor.
"We believe everything should be according to the rules and regulations," PPP Punjab president Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan told TNS. "Governer Taseer has not done anything against the Constitution since the day of his appointment." He added that if someone considers delaying appointments "unconstitutional," the person must challenge it before a competent authority. He invited the PML-N to challenge any doubtful act of the governor before the federal government or President Zardari. "They can take up the issues before the office of the president."
About the appointment of LHC chief justice as acting governor, he said, "the PML-N must get the message." About the challenging of the appointment of Punjab Ombudsman and Punjab Services Tribunal chief, he said it was not a party decision but an act by an individual.
Aftab hoped that all matters would be resolved amicably. "The ultimate solution is to sit down, have proper dialogue, and apply a mutually agreed power-sharing formula and to avoid differences."
Analysts believe it is not easy for PPP to topple Shahbaz Sharif's government with the help of PML-Q because this could also adversely affect the party's position in the centre. They also term this uneasiness as more of a 'personality clash'.
Earlier, there were some solid efforts after the presidential elections in September to reconcile the differences between PML-N and the PPP. A committee comprising Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, PML-N, PPP senior minister and parliamentary leader, Raja Riaz, and Finance Minister Tanveer Ashraf Kaira was also formed to improve working-relationship and co-ordination.
Interestingly, the majority of the PPP wants to continue its alliance with the PML-N in Punjab. President Zardari also asked Governor Taseer to stop giving anti-PML-N statements to save the PPP-PML-N coalition.
By Shoaib Hashmi
I'd hate to sound ungrateful, but thank god it is over and we can take up our lives again. You see, on Eid day, there are small notices on the front pages of all the papers saying how their offices will be closed for the holidays, and so, there will be no newspaper for the next two days! So what are we supposed to do while we tuck into our post-Eid egg and toast and the cup of tea that goes with it? Where do you find the crossword?
It is a ritual observed all over the world, this thing about reading the newspaper while eating breakfast, which is why I have never understood eveningers. What are they for? To read with lunch? Or maybe one should save them until dinner?
It is obvious that breakfast time is for reading the newspaper. You cannot read a book, it is no good reading yesterday's paper, you already know what is in it, except for the dull bits which you left out deliberately. The crossword is already done, in any case what is the point. The headlines are full of statements by some bigwig, or by some visiting under-secretary of the US, which is meant to put the fear of god in you, or someone else by saying we are great friends.
About one third of the paper is full of sports news from all over the world. Now no one minds those pretty pictures of Sharapova, or the dozens of delectable young ladies the Russians seem to keep throwing up. I guess everyone is interested in the doings of Tendulkar and Yousaf, but there seem to be a dozen different matches being played every single day in Zimbabwe or Bangladesh and who wants to keep track of all of them?
That is not all. In the international news there are long lists of unknown Spanish, German and Italian clubs and their standings in the European Junior Liga. Who wants to know? There are long accounts of who is doing what in the Professional Golf Association of Bavaria. A few hundred people in the country play golf, or understand it, and I am pretty certain they have not the least interest in what is happening on the links in Bavaria.
The rest of the paper seems to be full of business news, interminable analysis of how many points the FTSE has gone up or the DAX has gone down, as if everyone is supposed to know what either is. And there is always news of how the market for pork bellies is behaving! I am a practising economist and I haven't the foggiest idea what the heck pork bellies are or why they are so crucial! So you might as well wonder why I was waiting for the papers so impatiently!
A forgotten episode
It is about time we re-examined the events of 1971 rather than erase them from our collective national memory
By Ammar Ali Jan
Dec 16 went almost unnoticed. Yet, this is the day when Jinnah's Pakistan was dismembered and thousands of Pakistani soldiers were captured by the Indian security forces. Rather than taking a dispassionate view of the incident, we have made sure that the horrific event is erased from our collective national memory.
It is now clear that the primary reason for the fall of Dhaka was the economic exploitation of our Eastern wing, alongside of course the lack of democracy and military's interference in politics. However, the biggest tragedy of our historiography is that many important events exist as unresolved mysteries. For example, the murders of Liaquat Ali Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir Bhutto or even the May 12, 2007 carnage were never investigated. Similarly, what actually happened in Dhaka has remained one of the biggest mysteries for Pakistanis. In order to find out what exactly proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the Pakistani federation, it is important to re-examine the events of 1971.
Different scholars and world bodies have exposed the unimaginable crimes of the armed forces stationed in East Pakistan, yet our 'scholars' are adamant about their claim that the allegations are nothing more than a Hindu propaganda. Our analysts need to come out of this state of denial and take into account the vast amount of literature now available that proves the atrocities committed against the Bengali people.
Operation Searchlight was launched on March 25, 1971 with the sense among the military high command that the Bengalis won't be able to resist for long. The Bengali resistance, however, surprised them which finally resulted in their defeat less than nine months later. The Hamood ur Rehman Commission report put the figure of civilian casualties at twenty six thousand. The first Bengali government claimed three million people had been killed. The number three million had actually been taken from the then president Yahya Khan's interview with journalist Robert Payne on Feb 22, 1971 in which he had said: "Kill three million of them, and the rest will eat out of our hands."
The UN figures claim that eight to ten million people had fled as refugees, a figure that is hardly disputed and that showed how Bengalis preferred to leave for India rather than stay back in 'Pakistani-occupied' Bengal. Rudolph Rummel, an expert on war crimes, puts the number of the Bengali 'democide' to be at 1.5 million people and believes that it could be more. Of course, this would make sense when we look at General Tikka Khan's (known as Bengal's butcher around the world) comment when he was heading the operations in the Eastern wing who said: "I am not concerned with the people, only with the land."
A systematic plan to wipe out the Bengali intelligentsia was also launched when Al-Badr and Al-Shams brigades were formed with the main cadre coming from the Jamaat-e-Islami. A New York Times report of Dec 1971 claimed that at least three hundred intellectuals were murdered in Dhaka while the number for university students would be much higher.
The violence against women is even more disturbing. Academics and feminists like Susan Brownmiller and Nilima Ibrahim have acknowledged the instance of rape in huge numbers. In the Hamood-ur-Rahman Commission report, the Pakistani government accepted that incidents of rape had occurred, but claimed the number was much lower.
On Dec 16, 2002, the George Washington University's National Security Archive released declassified documents concerning the conflict in East Pakistan. According to the documents,the US officials working in diplomatic institutions used the term "selective genocide" to describe the the actions of the Pakistani army. However, Nixon asked his intelligence apparatus to downplay the Pakistani atrocities because he feared India's close ties to the USSR.
Up until Dec 15, 1971, the state-controlled media was reporting "heroic" victories for the men in uniform. This lack of critical analyses by the intelligentsia meant that the entire nation was caught up in a war hysteria. The news of defeat on the 16th of December was unexpected and devastating for the people in West Pakistan.
This does not mean that there were no voices of dissent in the Western part of the country. Renowned scholar Eqbal Ahmad wrote a series of letters in The New York Times in 1971 to condemn the barbaric operation in the Eastern wing. Eqbal Ahmad was very critical of India and some of the atrocities of Mukti Bahni against Biharis (Eqbal Ahmad was himself a Bihari) but he categorically stated that the responsibility of the violence lies on the Pakistani establishment for ignoring Bengali demands for two decades and launching a brutal operation to crush dissent.
Tariq Ali, another activist, led rallies in both Dhaka and Rawalpindi to oppose the military operation. In his book The Street Fighting Years, Tariq Ali states how he was termed a "traitor" by the right-wing elements and threatened with death due to his opposition to the operation. Ahmad Saleem, a Punjabi poet, was jailed for his anti-war poetry. Prohna Shah, a Hawaldar in the Pakistan army, was court martialled due to his refusal to take part in the Bengali genocide. Today, he works as a guard in an office and feels honoured about his refusal to kill.
All these voices of dissent were silenced. For a national security state, patriotism only meant aligning oneself with the security apparatus.
Rather than learning a lesson from the defeat in Dhaka, the Pakistani state became more obsessed with the idea of national security. Only two years after 1971, another military operation was launched by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto against the people of Balochistan and NWFP. The operation was led by the infamous General Tikka Khan who had by then become an expert of crushing insurgencies. Three years later, the military intervened in politics by overthrowing Bhutto and imposed another martial law. As Marx said, history repeats itself first as a tragedy, then as a farce!
Those who thought that defeat in Dhaka would knock some sense into the heads of the military high command proved to be naive. Gen. 'Tiger' Niazi, the man who boasted on Dec 14, 1971 that India will have to roll a tank over his body to win the war, surrendered to the same Indian army on Dec 16. The picture of his surrender to Gen. Aurora graced the front pages of all newspaper throughout the world. One would assume that such a man would would never show his face in public, and better still, tried by the Pakistani state. Instead, a year before his death, General Niazi held a press conference to talk about his published memoirs. The disgraced General confidently stated: "Bhutto was responsible for the defeat. I would have never surrendered and would have defeated the Indians if given proper backing. Even at the age of 85, if I am given command of a batallion, I will liberate Srinagar from the Indians."
Some people have no shame!
We must re-view our past honestly so that we can put the present in perspective and plan for the future. If we continue to live in a state of denial, we may never be able to correct our mistakes. Considering the atrocities carried out in Bengal, one gets horrified thinking about what is happening in Balochistan or NWFP for the last few years, especially since the media is not allowed to report in the troubled areas, much like it was censored in 1971.
Sugarcane farmers face problems selling their crop
By Aoun Sahi
On Thursday, Dec 4, Faqeer Hussain, a 45-year-old sugarcane grower was standing outside Ashraf Sugar Mills in district Bahawalpur with a trolley full of sugarcane. Hussain, who comes from chak 117-DB, tehsil Yazman had been waiting for the last four days for his turn to sell his sugarcane to the mill, owned by Zaka Ashraf, senior PPP leader and President Zarai Taraqiati Bank Ltd.
"My village is 40 kilometres from the mill. I have been spending more than Rs200 daily on food and tea," he told TNS. This is not the only loss that Hussain has had to suffer. "With every passing day, 1-3 maund moisture evaporates from every trolley of sugarcane and that is why the millers use delaying tactics," he said. Faqeer Hussain fears that his produce has lost at least six maunds of weight so far. "These are crucial days for us, because this is the time to sow wheat, while we and our tractors are stuck here."
Hussain was just one out of hundreds of sugarcane growers standing outside the mill with their produce.
"This is a traditional practice and we have to face it every year," said Muhammad Javed, another sugarcane grower, who had come from Chak61-EB, tehsil Yazman, situated some 50 km away from the mill. He reached with his produce on Dec 2, but so far none of the mill officials had contacted him for his turn. "It may take 4-5 days before my turn comes," he said.
The situation is almost similar in every sugar mill of the region. According to sugarcane producers, mill owners do not facilitate their stay and food or offer safe places for them to park their trolleys. "We have to stay near our trolleys the whole day in the sun and during the cold nights as well. The yard that has been provided by the mill for parking our trolleys is totally open and unsafe," said Imran Ali, a farmer from chak 2-DNB, situated some 40 km from the mill. Besides, open yards "cause more moisture to evaporate from the sugarcane."
Ashraf Sugar Mills officials confirmed to TNS that the purchasing process was slow in the mill before Eid. "It was due to some technical reasons, but the situation has changed now," said Falak Sher, manager cane, Ashraf Sugar Mills. According to him, farmers are also responsible for the delay in the purchasing process. "We issue permits to every farmer which mention the date the farmer is supposed to bring his produce to the mill, but most of the time they do not observe this and come to the mill as soon as they harvest their produce, which creates problems not only for them but also for other farmers and for the mill," he said.
The farmers also face problems because of delays in receiving payment. "We never receive payment of our produce before three months. This has been happening for many years," said Faqir Hussain. At the time of selling the sugarcane, millers issue Cane Procurement Receipts (CPRs) mentioning the price of the produce and the date on which it will have to be paid. "But millers never respect the CPRs. Last year, the mill offered us sugar instead of cash at the market rate and that too after two months. The farmers had no choice but to take the sugar, while outside, the mill brokers were sitting and purchasing the same sugar from farmers on decreased rates. We had to sell the sugar to them because we needed money," he said.
Falak Sher admitted that last time they gave sugar to some farmers instead of money. "Mills can only give payments to farmers once the sugar has started selling in the market, otherwise we have to make such arrangements," and added "this year we are paying cash to most of the farmers."
Farmers disagree. "I loaded off the first trolley of my cane to the mill on Dec 1, but so far, I have not been paid for that and now I have been informed that my payment will be transferred to the bank in one or two weeks," said Imran Ali.
Interestingly, according to Cane Commissioner, Punjab, Shahid Hussain, CPRs are not a bargaining documents which means that farmers have no legal right to go to the police or the court if millers fail to pay them the price of their produce at the date mentioned on the CPR.
According to the rules and regulations, millers have to pay farmers the price of their produce within 15 days and if they fail to do so, millers are bound to pay mark-up to farmers with every passing day, "but they never observe rules and regulations," said Chairman Agriforum Pakistan, Ibrahim Mughal. "If the government cannot ensure mark-ups for farmers on CPR after the due date, it should make sure that farmers are provided with cheques instead of CPRs".
Shahid Hussain told TNS that the summary to change CPR with some bargaining documents (such as cheques) has been moved since long, "but so far it has not been implemented because these sugar millers are very powerful," he said. Secretary All Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, K. Ali Qizilbash was of the view that there is a provision of giving mark-ups to farmers, "but we never accept this provision. Every sugar mill have to tackle thousands of cane farmers, they cannot arrange everything in time for all them."
Shahid Hussain also admitted that millers under the rules are bound to pay mark-up with every passing day, "It is correct that millers never pay mark-up to farmers and in the past they used to pay them after several months, but believe me, farmers also show no interest to get the mark-up. I have never received a claim for a mark-up from any farmer for the last two years". Hussain added that farmers do not file claims because they have to sell their produce to the same millers. "They fear to get involved in any kind of legal battle with millers because they are much more influential."
The JuD and ordinary Pakistanis
By Omar R. Quraishi
In case readers didn't know -- and there is an acute shortage of facts on this issue -- the Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned by the Pakistan government in 2002. This happened following an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 by what India later claimed were members of the LeT and the Jaish-e-Mohammad. One calls it a claim because the people who were later prosecuted and convicted of the attack have always claimed their innocence and sections of the Indian media and many Indian rights groups and activists have themselves said that the cases against these people were weak at best.
However, this is not to say that the LeT or for that matter its affiliate the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) are completely innocent of the terrorist acts that they have been accused of. And again, since facts are in short supply when one discusses such issues, one will take recourse to the organisation's website -- which carries several commentaries post Mumbai.
For instance, in a post dated Dec 11, the JuD website says that 'Saffron terrorist groups' belonging to the Sangh Parivar were behind the recent Mumbai attacks. It said that a 'Hindu suicide squad' called the 'Atma Ghataki Pathak' was trained by a former three-star general (who served as the GOC of the Indian Army's western command) Premnath Hoon, who had after retirement become the head of the Shiv Sena's military wing. It also blamed this 'suicide squad' for the attack on the Sabarmati Express in 2002 -- which then led to the Gujarat riots and massacre. It also says that a retired colonel of the Indian Army by the name of Jayant Chitale and an accomplice were in fact arrested in Nov 2002 for running a 'training camp' for suicide attackers but were 'later released at the intervention of RAW'. It claims that the attacks had several aims, one of which was to eliminate Hemant Karkare, the Indian police official who was investigating involvement by elements of the Sangh Parivar and military officers allied with them in the Samjhota Express bombing and the Malegaon blasts. The JuD post also claimed that Karkare has previously been posted the Indian embassy in Vienna as an undercover officer for RAW and that this was meant to indicate that he knew of the agency's inner workings.
Although the JuD would have said all this on its website to throw off the blame that has come on it and the LeT for involvement in the Mumbai attacks, the fact is even within the Indian media there remains confusion as to how Karkare actually died. While it is now presented that he died, along with two other officers, outside a hospital, several websites, including CNN-IBN, still have news reports saying that he was killed in an encounter with the attacks outside the Taj hotel. However, Ajmal Kasab's confession suggests that Karkare was killed outside the Cama Hospital.
Other posts included one dated Nov 14, 2006, and titled 'Woman: The honouring of Islam and the humiliation of West'. The article was obsessed with showing readers how superior Islam is to other religions and how superior Muslim societies are with respect to the rights of women compared to other communities. It gives numerous examples -- and one isn't sure of their veracity -- from the west and 'ancient India' to show that in Islam, women have rights like in no other community, society or faith. Consider the following from the said article and readers can judge for themselves whether women by and large are in such a predicament in the west: "As for contemporary woman in Europe, America and other industrial nations, she is a creature which is degraded and abused for commercial purposes. She is a feature of advertising campaigns and things have reached a stage where she takes off her clothes in order to advertise products on posters, and sells and displays her body according to systems devised by men, so that she is no more than an object of pleasure for them in every place... When she becomes old and cannot give any more, society -- individuals and institutions -- forsakes her and she lives alone in her house or in a mental hospital." Clearly, 'traditions' like karo kari, vani, swara and watta satta and the ways in which women's rights were suppressed under the Hudood Laws and the status of women in Pakistan today are all issues conveniently ignored.
Regrettably, this tendency to act superior than the rest of the world, ignore one's own warts and what not and to blame the rest of the world for all that ills the Islamic world is something that is found in many ordinary Pakistanis as well. Whether they have been influenced by organisations such as the JuD or whether the organisations have been influenced by the society that they have grown up in is not the issue but rather that the value system and worldview of the JuD and the LeT is in fact something that a lot of Pakistanis share -- particularly the view that a Hindu/Zionist/American conspiracy of sorts has been put in motion to annihilate the Muslim world. Another post is devoted to Mother's Day, or rather to equating it more or less with paganism. In fact, another post is on how Muslims should beware of doing actions that make them equal to kaafirs -- such as celebrating their holy days and festivals. Also, it is clearly mentioned that non-Muslims are kaafirs and should not be even befriended.
Clearly, the JuD promotes hatred and intolerance and this is surely not something that Pakistanis -- or in fact anyone regardless of their nationality -- would condone or encourage. This is also not to say that most Pakistanis are active supporters of the JuD but by the organisations own admission it serves thousands of poor people every day spending millions in the process -- so surely this money comes from somewhere. Having said that, it would be fair to say that an increasing proportion of Pakistanis agree with some of the things that are written on the JuD website and hence the sharp reaction perhaps to the ban placed on it.
To say that the JuD is involved in charitable work and hence a ban on it is wrong is to miss the point. It is a pretty much like saying that the Shiv Sena or the RSS is involved in charitable work and in helping the poor -- which they claim that they do in fact -- and hence that somehow mitigates the hatred and intolerance that they preach. If we want to ask for a ban on the RSS, the Shiv Sena or the Bajrang Dal -- or at least remind others that India has such extremists groups and outfits in its own midst -- then we also need to acknowledge that we too have (more than) our fair share of such organisations and that the biggest sufferers and victims of their excesses and indoctrination have been our own people.
The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.
Email: [email protected]