Zarteef Afridi is no
more — a human rights activist in the tribal belt along the Pak-Afghan
border was shot dead last week by some extremist groups allegedly. He had
been receiving threats from the extremists for the past many months.
Zarteef had at least 20
years of experience of working with Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
in Khyber Agency. A tireless human rights defender, Zarteef dedicated his
life to promoting human rights, tolerance and peace in a region beset with
Repeated threats to his
life had failed to deter him from his work. Zarteef, survived by four
daughters and two sons, was well known because of his tremendous efforts
for education, peace and women rights. He was instrumental in organising a
local jirga this year where he urged the elders to struggle against
He was one of the very
few people in the area who went with their whole family, including women,
to cast vote in the general elections, an area where women rights are
A few months ago, he had
managed to arrange as many as three million rupees in Peshawar for the
education of displaced children of Khyber Agency who were living in
refugee camps in Peshawar. Zarteef is one of the latest sad incidents
where human rights defenders have been targeted.
The annual observatory
report (2011) for the protection of human rights defenders titled,
“Steadfast in Protest” jointly compiled by International Federation
for Human Rights (FIDH) and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT),
reveals that the interferences and attempts to criminalise and repress
human rights defenders in many parts of the world were one of the most
prominent features of attempt to control civil society.
“The interference into
the right to peaceful assembly in different regions of the world remained
a particularly serious challenge throughout the year,” the report
summery reads. The “control” approach manifests itself in the legal
framework and judicial practice in all regions of the world covered by
In 2011, human rights
defenders were killed, subjected to assaults and threats. Such killings
and assaults were not limited to a particular continent or region. HRCP
launched this report in Pakistan, highlighting the problems faced by human
rights defenders, especially in Pakistan. In Pakistan, the province of
Balochistan and northern tribal area are the biggest security risk for
activists and journalists
Throughout 2010 and the
beginning of 2011, the government failed to provide a safe and enabling
environment for human rights activists, who continued to be victims of
killings and abductions, in particular, in areas that fall outside of its
effective control, such as the provinces of Balochistan and Khyber
violations against human rights defenders were rarely brought to justice,
and impunity remained widespread throughout the country. Extra judicial
killings and enforced disappearances remained rampant, particularly in
Balochistan, creating an extremely high-risk environment for human rights
The judicial process in
both the Supreme Court and high courts is unnecessarily lengthy,
contributing to a feeling of impunity. A high number of cases of enforced
disappearances remained unresolved. Torture remained widespread this year,
with security forces and other law enforcement agencies enjoying almost
complete lack of accountability. Acts of torture committed in military
custody or in detention centres run by the intelligence services were also
endemic. Conditions of detention remained poor in all parts of the
Members of religious
minorities remained particularly vulnerable. In particular, members of the
Ahmadiyah religious minority faced threats, discrimination and violent
attacks, as illustrated by the attack of two Ahmadi mosques on May 28,
2010, killing at least 70 members of the community. The Shia community was
also victim of targeted killings, particularly in Balochistan.
In January and March
2011 respectively, the governor of the Punjab province and the Federal
Minister for Minority Affairs were assassinated for opposing the blasphemy
law. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that these
high-profile killings were “symptomatic of pervasive violence against
religious minorities in Pakistan and a lack of protection for their places
Freedom of expression
remained under attack by both government and non-state actors. Reportedly,
20 journalists and media workers were killed in 2010, making Pakistan one
of the deadliest countries for journalists in the world. Widespread
impunity surrounded the killing of journalists and other media workers, as
reportedly not a single conviction was obtained during 2010 for killings
Human rights activists
also continued facing threats and attacks from non-state actors in
Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. NGOs working in the
health and education sectors, or those seeking to promote human rights,
were often branded as “promoting obscenity” or “undermining
Islam”. In addition, international organisations were required to seek
“No Objection Certificates” (NoC) from the government, which hampered
their freedom of movement outside Quetta in Balochistan, as well as in
parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Incidents of targeted
killing and abduction for ransom forced international humanitarian NGOs to
curtail their activities in Balochistan and the KP province as several of
them closed down their offices or reduced fieldwork to prevent harm to
their staff. On February 18, 2010, unidentified armed men abducted four
employees of the international humanitarian NGO Mercy Corps in the Shankai
area of Qilla Saifullah district, Balochistan, on their way to the main
regional office of Mercy Corps in Pakistan. The abducted team members were
working with local district health officials in Balochistan to implement
HRCP Secretary General,
I A Rehman, demands a certain mechanism of security for activists and
journalists working on human rights issues, especially in the conflict-hit
areas. “At least 40 percent journalists have left FATA because of
security risk,” he says, adding, “There is no liberty and security in
the country.” In 2011, till now, 16 journalists have been killed and
many human rights defenders have ‘disappeared’.
security and lack of a conducive environment for human rights defenders
continued to significantly impact the work of activists throughout the
region (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand).
Past and present human
rights violations, including acts of torture, ill-treatment and
extrajudicial killings, remained unpunished during 2010-2011, while public
confidence and trust in the judiciary continued to erode in most Asian
countries throughout the reporting period (Cambodia, Iran, Malaysia, Viet
“It is time to
establish enabling domestic legal frameworks for human rights defenders,
to undertake a systematic overhaul and repeal of legislation that unduly
limits civil society and human rights defenders and, importantly,
guarantee accountability for assaults on human rights defenders. More than
that, however, it is vital to strengthen public repudiation of attacks on
human rights defenders and move human rights defenders back into the
centre of society,” the report says.
Haji Shad Muhammad is a
49-year old who owns 60 acres of land in Peshawar. His dream of providing
quality education to his children rests on his ability to extract copious
quantities of crops from this finite resource. Such a dream can only be
realised if he is able to pump out enough irrigation water from below the
surface of the earth to satiate the crops. But the water table in the area
has steadily receded till it is over 300 feet beneath the surface. The
pump Shad uses as part of his tubewell setup has continued to guzzle
expensive electricity yet its output has tapered off.
Shad was contacted by
two field agents who conducted a rigorous audit of his pump and reported
that the efficiency of the device was a pathetic 39.9 percent. Under the
guidance of these agents, Shad was supplied with a higher performance
motor pump set, starter panel and capacitor. The efficiency of the system
surged to 55.5 percent and wheat, cotton and sugar-cane blossomed on the
land. Shad has seen his annual income increase by Rs84,000.
Shad is not the only one
experiencing a fairy-tale ending. There are over 1,550 such success
stories across Pakistan with many more to come. Credit for this
transformation goes to the Tubewell Efficiency Improvement Program (TWEIP)
funded by USAID. It is one of six initiatives announced by American
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in October 2009 to mitigate
Pakistan’s gaping power shortage that is rapidly exceeding 5,000 MW.
The programme targets
the improvement of energy efficiency in the agricultural sector which
contributes a fifth of our GDP. Pakistan remains the fourth largest
consumer of underground water for irrigation purposes in the world. Any
attempt to better manage underground water thus has potentially high
impact on the economy.
“When you scrutinise
the life cycle of a pump, you realise that your capital expenditure is
trivial relative to the operational and maintenance cost which is about 84
percent of the total,” explains Omer Malik who is heading up the
project. “Yet, consumers only focus on the capital expenditure when
making their purchasing decision, neglecting the savings available by
picking an efficient product.”
TWEIP adds value by
arranging field visits that result in accurate audits of the performance
of existing tubewell infrastructure. It has also forged partnerships with
several quality pump providers, including KSB, MAK, Peco, Flo Pak,
Victoria, Peco and HMA that are committed to providing state-of-the art
pumps that deliver efficiency enhancements of 20 percent or more without
compromising on the quantity of water output. TWEIP also facilitates the
process of obtaining these expensive pumps.
Under the existing
scheme, the consumers pay just 50 percent upon purchase while the
remaining amount is covered by TWEIP upon the understanding that the pump
supplier will guarantee the agreed upon performance parameters. This
subsidy helps to allay the cost of a major capital expenditure which will
allow the consumer to reap benefits for many years to come.
TWEIP is in the process
of launching a major nationwide advertising campaign under the banner of
“Bijli Pani Week”. A special two-episode docu-drama is being telecast
on both Sunday 18th and 25th December on major television channels. The
protagonist of this drama is the Brand Ambassador Mr. Karmu who will
demonstrate the social and economic benefits of such a programme through a
In addition to the
visual media, “Bijli Pani Week” involves the distribution of
informational brochures, kiosks, wall paintings and utility bill
advertising. The objective is to reach out to consumers who can benefit
from the product but are not aware of it.
It is expected that
following this awareness building stage, interested consumers may get in
touch with the programme agents by phone. The agents will build a
relationship with interested parties and help them navigate through the
steps involved in getting their outdated equipment replaced. “The
purpose of this campaign is to introduce the concept of energy efficiency
and allow people to take ownership of this concept,” explains Samia
Mehdi, who is managing Communications and Outreach for the group. “The
marketing campaigns have been designed to show rather than tell people how
energy savings can be achieved.”
The Tubewell Efficiency
Program is described as a demand side energy management programme since it
reduces peak energy consumption. It is estimated that the success of the
programme to date has saved our nation 10.5 MW of installed power capacity
which translates into some $12 million dollars that can be spent on an
But the programme is
positioned to result in even more cost savings as its footprint expands.
The goal is to save over 45 MW of installed capacity and the associated
annual operational costs for 115.5 GWh over the coming years. With
feasible alternative energy solutions like solar tubewells still a pipe
dream, perhaps this is the infrastructure to invest in today to reap rich
The huge banking/rate
spread — the difference between the average rates of returns on deposits
and the average rate of interest on loans — in the country may have
helped increase the incomes of banks but it surely is one of the biggest
reasons of the stalled industrial/business growth and below capacity
production in industries that result in increased joblessness. It also
leads to less saving, less investment and unjust income distribution.
Despite enhanced net
income — after tax income of banks which was minus Rs2.8bn in 2000 rose
to Rs54.5bn by 2009 — banks are reluctant to increase the rates of
return on deposits as high rate spread is also one of the main tools of
profitability for banks.
According to a bank
manager at the national bank, who wished not to be named, the average
deposit rate is 5 percent against 15 percent average rate of interest in
While the average rate
spread is around 3-5 percent in most countries, it is much higher in
Pakistan. According to the SBP data, it was 4.63 per cent in June 2003 but
increased to 8.90 percent in July, 2011, which means that the lending rate
is greater by that extent from the rate of deposits.
If high rate-spread
indicates lack of efficiency and competitiveness in the banking system on
the one hand, it also signifies the failure of regulatory authority —
the State bank of Pakistan.
The SBP, which is
authorised under the SBP Act, the Banking Companies Ordinance and some
other laws to make sure that banks do not exploit the depositors or the
borrowers and earn profits through legitimate business practices, needs to
review the existing rate spread and bring it down to a normal range.
governors, including Dr Muhammad Yaqoob and Shamshad Akhtar, while
acknowledging that depositors were getting negative returns, had also
urged large banks to increase the return on deposits or the State Bank
would intervene to get results.
According to one
estimate, interest rate in Pakistan is highest in the region. With
business and industries already hit hard by terrorism and energy shortage,
lending rates need to be brought down to a single digit to save them from
bankruptcy, encourage private loans demand and spur economic growth in the
But if the banks reduce
the rate of interest on loans but simultaneously cut down the deposit
rates as well or increase both the rates of interests and rates of return
on deposits by the same amount, the spread rate will practically remain
high. So, any effort to slash the spread not only requires cutting down
the lending rate but also increasing rates on deposits.
Despite inflation of
around three percent, the United States decreased interest rates to almost
zero percent and the European Union to just above one percent to push
growth and create jobs.
High rate of interest,
the main factor for huge rate spread on the back of small returns on
deposits, is one of the main reasons for the rising loan defaults, below
capacity working of industries, job cuts and surging non-performing loans
calculated at Rs630bn in September 2011.
The high cost of funds
is not only leading to industrial closures and defaults, the government,
taking huge loans from commercial banks, is also drastically affected by
the trend and is compelled to slash development funds, increasingly rely
on borrowing and printing of new currency to meet its fiscal needs.
The difference in the
interest rate being paid by the government for the domestic and external
loans will illustrate the point. At the current rate of interest (14-15
percent), the government’s debt servicing costs stand at $10bn on
domestic loans of$80bn. Conversely, it has to spend only around $2bn on
external loans of $61bn given at an average rate of three per cent.
It is worth asking that
when some local entrepreneurs in Mardan could offer as much as 50 percent
net profit per annum through their investment schemes, why banks can’t
increase the amount of profit on deposits for the depositors, the lifeline
of the banking system in any society?
“One thought that
privatisation of banks would entail better services at reduced cost for
most of the customers, but it has, conversely, made banking costlier,
exploitative and anti-poor,” argues a lecturer of economics, wishing
“Commercial banks are
earning huge sums of money due to high interest rate on the one hand and
giving less profit on deposits on the other. Why would people go for
depositing their money in banks when they could reap comparatively higher
returns on their savings by spending them in real assets like investment
in real estates, transport and other businesses?,” he asks.
While the banks have
reduced rate of returns and increased lending rates to augment their
financial gains, the poor consumers have been the real losers. High rate
of inflation of over 15 percent per year for the last several years has
aggravated the problem.
negative returns on savings when the rate of return on savings is less
than the rate of inflation. For example, if consumers are given 5 percent
of returns on their savings and inflation rate is 15 percent, savers will
annually lose 10 percent of the purchasing power of their bank deposits.0
Commercial banks, both
public and private, are believed to have deprived the depositors of around
Rs1100 billion profit during the last 10 years by only avoiding the
inflation rate formula of 2001 applied to fix the profit rate, says a
The absence of a genuine
investment opportunities or ignorance thereof on part of the people
notwithstanding, people have but to keep their savings in these less
attractive bank accounts.
Quite a few people in
the country, under the urge to avoid Riba (fixed return on savings) keep
their savings in current accounts with no interests thereon. But banks are
free to use their amounts any way they want and even earn money over these
amounts by lending it to others.
According to a news
report, bank deposits increased by 269 percent from 2001 to 2010, bank
assets by 268 percent whereas growth in pre-tax profit has been 9,991
percent. He said banks earned Rs1.1 billion in 2001 which rose to Rs111bn
in 2010 but the real average rate of return (minus rate of inflation)
which was 3 per cent positive in 2001 came down to minus 6.5 percent in
are deprived of their due profit share because of the policy of writing
off loans to the influential.
Banks, apparently, are
more interested in interest profit than affording genuine and high
rewarding investment chances to their consumers. And why would the banks
increase the deposit rates and decrease interest on loans in the backdrop
of excessive government borrowing which could help it overcome the low
demand from the private sector.
frequent withdrawal by the deposit holders from their accounts, less fixed
deposits, concessional loans, high rate of inflation and incessant
devaluation of currency etc hinder banks from decreasing the spread,”
says the manager.
Low-cost loans are
opposed for reasons that they trigger inflation that’s why the SBP
followed a tight monetary policy that kept the policy rate high. But the
question is did this policy succeed? Could inflation be controlled and
After an interlude
stretching over a little less than two decades, a bus service in the
public sector has been launched in the provincial metropolis of Lahore for
providing, as stated by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, comfortable and
affordable transport facilities to the people.
Modern CNG buses have
been imported from a leading Chinese company for this project. The
provincial government of Punjab has also entered into an agreement with
another company for importing 575 new buses. Besides Lahore, these buses
would be used for providing transport facilities in other big cities of
the province. In addition to new buses, some 300 old buses are being
refurbished and about 75 refurbished vehicles would start plying, on
various routes, in Lahore by the end of the current month, reports say.
efficient, comfortable, affordable and dependable mass transit
infrastructure in major urban centres can minimise the difficulties and
risks faced by road users. A simple example can illustrate how good mass
transit systems can eliminate traffic chaos. Let us say a minor traffic
jam in the morning consists of 60 cars at a signal and each car has on
average two people in it, so there are a total of 120 people traveling in
60 cars. On the other hand, three large buses can accommodate about 120
people on seats alone and take up a maximum area of only 18 cars. This
means that the same road which shrinks in the presence of 60 cars can be
more than enough even if these 120 people travel on three or four
Despite being a capital
territory and a newly-built city, even Islamabad lacks proper public
transport system. Non-availability of efficient and dependable public
transport compels the people to use private vehicles. As a result, the
number of cars has been growing in the country, which is neither good for
the environment nor recommendable in terms of financial expenditures and
heavy drain on the country’s precious foreign exchange resources.
To minimise traffic
hazards, the developed countries focus on building and developing mass
transit systems and adopting policies that discourage people to bring
their cars on roads during peak traffic hours. Even many developing
countries have successfully followed the more advanced countries of the
world to solve the problems of traffic jams and environment degradation.
One may quote here the
example of Brazil and Colombia, which have turned their two main cities
into model cities for effective public transportation. The success of
these cities in overcoming traffic jams and making road journey safer and
easier is now being copied by many other developing countries.
For instance, till the
end of the 20th century, the traffic situation in Bogota (Colombia) was
not different from the one obtaining in Pakistan. However, when Enrique Peñalosa
became mayor of Bogotá in 1998, he asked a question that is changing the
way the global community now thinks about cities: “In Bogotá, where 85
percent of the people do not use cars for their daily transport, is it
fair that cars occupy most of the space on the streets?”
The answers he came up
with have reshaped Bogotá, home to seven million people, into a city so
easy to negotiate by public transportation that people actually voted in
favour of outlawing cars in the city, during rush hour, by 2015. In just a
few short years, the metropolis has become a success story that
enlightened city fathers around the world are now aiming to copy.
For decades Bogotá was
inundated by urban problems typical of a major city in a developing
country. Pollution from cars and buses shrouded the city, much of it
trapped by the surrounding mountains. The city’s population boomed —
more than 140,000 people move to Bogotá each year. About half of them
immigrated from the countryside, many displaced by Colombia’s civil
strife. Rampant crime and corruption had hampered past reform efforts.
Rising incomes led to more cars (about 70,000 new cars hit the roads in
Bogota every year) and more gridlock.
After taking office, Peñalosa
implemented a number of measures designed to make living in the city
easier. He built schools, paved roads, ran sewers to poor neighbourhoods,
repaired parks, and instituted policies to restrict automobiles. At first,
he was almost impeached for getting cars off sidewalks. But Peñalosa
pressed ahead with his transportation reforms.
And as the city became
easier to navigate, support for his efforts grew. The city built 70 miles
of bicycle routes and prohibited entry of cars in several streets,
converting them into pedestrian malls. More drastically, the city began to
restrict car use during rush hours, banning each car in the city from the
downtown area two days a week, based on the license plate number. The
results were dramatic: the average commute time dropped by 21 minutes, and
pollution reduced significantly.
And then came the
TransMilenio. The city had been debating a multi-billion dollar subway
system for decades. But, Peñalosa decided to copy the significantly
cheaper r apid transit bus system that had turned Curitiba (Brazil) into a
model city for effective public transportation. With an initial
expenditure of $350 million, 38 kilometer TransMilenio system was up and
running in less than two years. The buses, running in separate lanes down
the center of the city’s main arteries, are able to carry 780,000 people
a day at an average speed of 26 kilometers per hour — considerably
outpacing cars and private buses. Estimates have found that the system
saves people an average of 300 hours of commuting time annually.
Unlike expensive subways
or elevated trains, the TransMilenio runs at a profit. And the city plans
to add a number of new lines to the system by 2015, so that 85 percent of
residents live within 500 meters of a bus station.
Now, it is not only
easier to travel around Bogotá, Peñalosa’s reforms have helped make
the city considerably safer. Since 1998, crime rates have also dropped
Since the growth of
population in cities has outpaced all attempts to provide for roads, mass
transit and other forms of public transport, the transformation in Bogotá
is providing important cues for other cities around the world. There are
about 300 cities in the developing world with populations of more than a
million. These cities are not only saddled with the problem of how to move
their people around, but also how to reduce transport generated air
Peñalosa could succeed
in Bogotá by focusing on improving the lot of people, not their cars. But
a majority of the mega cities in the developing world, including Pakistan,
continue to face the problem because their resources are being used to
help the affluent avoid traffic jams rather than mobilizing the entire
population and help people save hundreds of commuting hours annually and
the country’s precious foreign exchange, which is being spent on the
import of petrol and diesel.
writer is a freelance columnist based at Islamabad.
Bilateral and regional
trade agreements — collectively called preferential trading arrangements
(PTAs) — are arguably the most remarkable characteristic of
international trade. Between 1950 and 1990, about 70 PTAs were in force.
By 2010, the number had increased to 300. With the exception of Mongolia,
all members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are a signatory to at
least one bilateral or regional trading arrangement.
At present, Pakistan is
a member of quite a few PTAs both regional and bilateral. The regional
PTAs of Pakistan are the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (Safta) and ECO
Trade Agreement (Ecota). The bilateral PTAs of Pakistan include FTAs with
China, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka and preferential trade agreements with Iran
In addition to Pakistan,
Safta consists of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nepal,
Bhutan and Afghanistan. The agreement, which came into force on January 1,
2006 provides that members will reduce their tariffs between 0 and 5
percent by December 31, 2015 on all traded goods except those placed in
their sensitive lists.
The products placed on
the sensitive list are exempted from tariff reduction. Safta is yet to
come of age as intra-Saarc trade accounts for less than 5 percent of the
global trade of the eight member countries. In 2011, Pakistan’s total
trade with Safta countries was $3.49 billion, including exports of $1.61
billion and imports of $1.88 billion, which accounts for merely 5.36
percent of Pakistan’s global trade.
The major reason for low
intra-Safta trade is the low volume of trade between Pakistan and India,
the largest economies and trading nations in the region. Though formal
Pak-India trade (the two countries have informal trade of more than $3
billion a year) has increased from $236 million in 2001-2002 to $2 billion
in 2010-11, it still constitutes less than 1 percent of the global trade
of the two countries.
India maintains high
tariffs and non-tariff barriers on products of export interest to
Pakistan. More than any other factor, the volatile character of Pak-India
political relations makes one skeptical about the success of Safta. The
recent decision of Pakistan to grant MFN status to India is a welcome move
and if implemented may prove instrumental in pushing up the bilateral and
intra Saarc trade.
Ecota was signed in 2003
by five out of 10 countries of the ECO region namely Pakistan, Iran,
Turkey, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It provides that members shall bring
down tariffs on nearly 80 percent of traded goods in eight years. However,
tariff preferences under Ecota have yet to take effect even after passage
of eight years.
Intra-ECO trade accounts
for only 7 percent of the total trade of the members. In 2011,
Pakistan’s total trade with ECO countries was $4.42 billion, including
exports of $3.43 billion and imports of 0.992 billion, which accounts for
only 6.78 percent of Pakistan’s global trade. Besides, only two
countries i.e., Iran and Afghanistan account for 83 percent of
Pakistan’s total trade with ECO countries.
On bilateral level,
Pakistan has inked FTAs with China (operational since July 1, 2007
building on an Early Harvest Programme (EHP) of January 2006), Sri Lanka
(operational since June 2005), and Malaysia (operational since January
2008). Pakistan has also PTAs with Iran (operational since September
2006), and Mauritius (operational since November 2007).
In the wake of EHP/FTA
with China, Pakistan’s exports have more than quadrupled from $354
million in 2004-05 to $ 1.63 billion in 2010-11. During the same period,
Pakistan’s imports from China have more than tripled from $1.84 billion
to $ 5.78 billion. The total Pak-China bilateral trade has reached $7.42
billion, which constitutes 11.4 percent of Pakistan’s global trade.
In the wake of FTA with
Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s exports have more than doubled from $156 million
in 2004-05 to $332 million in 2010-11. During the same period,
Pakistan’s imports from Sri Lanka have increased from $45 million to $57
million by 27 percent. The total Pak-Sri Lanka bilateral trade has reached
$389 million, which constitutes only 0.6 percent of Pakistan’s global
Pakistan’s exports to
Malaysia have gone up from $124.4 million in 2008-09 to $165.7 million in
2010-11 by 33 percent. During the same period, Pakistan’s imports from
Malaysia have increased from $1.6 billion to $2.5 billion by 56 per cent.
The total Pak-Malaysia bilateral trade has reached $389 million, which
constitutes 4 percent of Pakistan’s global trade.
Pak-Iran PTA has been
marginally instrumental in pushing up Pakistan’s exports from $147
million in 2004-05 to US$ 162 million in 2010-11 by 10 percent. However,
during the same period, Pakistan’s imports from Iran have increased from
$ 242 million to $ 572 million by 136 percent. The total Pak-Iran
bilateral trade has reached $734.3 million, which constitutes only 1
percent of Pakistan’s global trade.
In the wake of PTA with
Mauritius, Pakistan’s exports have gone down from $42.5 million in
2007-08 to $ 35 million in 2010-11 by 17 percent. During the same period,
Pakistan’s imports from Mauritius have increased from $ 0.4 million to
$3.7 million. The total Pak-Mauritius bilateral trade has reached $38.6
million, which constitutes only 0.06 per cent of Pakistan’s global
Thus, though on the
whole Pakistan’s bilateral PTAs have contributed to increase in exports,
imports have also gone up and in case of Malaysia and Iran by a much
higher margin. Besides, the cumulative share of Pakistan’s PTA partners
in the country’s trade is only 29 percent, which means more than
two-thirds of Pakistan’s trade is still conducted on MFN basis, i.e.
with countries with which it does not have a bilateral or regional trading
One may, therefore, draw
the conclusion that PTAs have not benefited Pakistan either because RTAs (Safta
and ECO), of which Pakistan is a member, are not vibrant or because of
supply-side constraints, exporters have not been able to make ample use of
the enhanced market access.
This underscores that
preferential or even duty free market access cannot be of much use in
driving up exports significantly unless the supply-side situation is
improved. Pakistan has to broaden and upgrade its industrial base, which
means moving up the value chain from low technology and low value added
products as well as pushing up its overall competitiveness. It may be
mentioned that Pakistan occupies a low ranking on the Global
Competitiveness Index: 118 out of 142 countries, which means the country
has to cover a lot of ground on the road to competitiveness.
I am writing this column
on 16 December, forty years to the day since the surrender of Pakistani
forces in Dhaka and the formal christening of the state of Bangladesh. It
is striking that there has been virtually no discussion this year — let
alone organised events — on what Pakistanis like to call ‘Suqoot-e-Dhaka’.
Presumably, this is because we are preoccupied with other more important
concerns, such as Memogate and the president’s (temporary) sojourn in
Dubai. Whatever the reasons, the silence of our intelligentsia and
political elite on what has to be one of the most significant events of
the post WWII period is deafening.
preparations for the fortieth anniversary of independence have been
ongoing for some months in Bangladesh. It is true that all the people of
the Indian subcontinent waged a struggle for freedom from British rule,
and, in this sense alone, 1947 represents the culmination of the
anti-colonial movement. But whether we like it or not, Bangladeshis will
always look on the period between 1947 and 1971 as one of gestation before
they achieved their final national liberation. For them, Pakistan was
exposed as a lie very soon after the British departure, a new colonialism
which was in many ways more insidious than the Raj.
What was experienced by
those who lived in what we called east Pakistan is now no longer subject
to serious dispute, at least as far as serious historians are concerned.
There has been some debate in recent times about the accuracy of accounts
of Pakistani army atrocities during the nine month civil war, and the
reciprocal violence of the local population against non-Bengalis. It is
important to reach a consensus on these brutal facts for the sake of
posterity. But I am wary of those amongst us in Pakistan making a meal of
the ‘misrepresentation’ of facts vis a vis 1971 — for 24 years prior
to the eventual secession of the eastern wing, Bengalis were subject to
systematic discrimination and occasional violence. While the violence
against non-Bengalis in period March-December 1971 must be acknowledged,
the far greater violence (structural and physical) perpetrated by the
Pakistani state is the most important fact of all.
And this is why 16
December should be such an important day to us, at least as important as
all the other days on which we pat ourselves on the back for being proud
and independent country. To designate this day as the ‘Suqoot-e-Dhaka’
is an exercise in denial; what we should be doing is trying to understand,
and teach our children, why it is that Pakistan is the only example in
history of a majority (53 percent) seceding from a minority (47 percent).
It is, indeed,
staggering that so few of us Pakistanis know very much about what happened
in 1971 or about the relationship between Karachi/Islamabad and Dhaka in
the 24 years between 1947 and 1971. We have satisfied ourselves with a
series of caricatures and a plethora of selective evidence. Perhaps most
damningly, many (then west) Pakistanis had very little exposure to the
Bengali way of life, and, therefore, were content in the knowledge that
the stereotypes peddled by the official propaganda machine were an
appropriate reflection of Bengali society.
The parallels with the
contemporary estrangement of the Baloch people are remarkable. A large
majority of Pakistanis have never been to Balochistan and have very little
grasp of what constitutes daily life for an ordinary person in that
province. Indeed, many of us still do not realise that the term Balochi is
used to refer to the culture and language of the Baloch people — that
is, it is not correct to speak of Balochi people. Additionally, Baloch
society is widely believed to be tribal, which is only partially true, and
increasingly less so with urbanisation and the emergence of an educated
and quite assertive middle-class. Perhaps the most unfortunate similarity
in the way we perceive the Baloch and how we used to perceive the Bengali
people is the association of both movements for autonomy/rights with
If there is one thing
that we have been taught about 1971, and which remains our abiding memory
of the secession of east Pakistan, it is that India fomented the
‘break-up’ of Pakistan. I must emphasise again how our official
narrative of mourning and grief is so different from the narrative of
national liberation proferred by Bangladeshis. The latter will acknowledge
that India had a role in bringing the war to an end, but it is sheer
madness to claim or even imply that those who fought against the Pakistani
army in that war were all Indian agents or worse to ignore that more than
two decades of neglect and outright exploitation preceded the very
decision to take on the Pakistani state.
The same perverse
thinking afflicts us when it comes to Balochistan. Presumably, the only
explanation for the insurgency that rages across many parts of the
province is India’s depraved desire to dismember Pakistan. There is no
question that the Baloch people — or at least a segment of Baloch
society — is genuinely aggrieved by the action of the Pakistani state,
and military in particular. Indeed, it is easy to make India the bogeyman
because this means that we are not forced to think about the alienation of
our very own people from the state that is supposed to represent them.
What really troubles me,
however, is the suspicion with which ordinary Baloch — like Bengalis
before them — are viewed in the heartlands of Pakistan. It seems to me
that racist attitudes run quite deep in our society, and that some of the
polemic that was employed by the colonial state has been internalised
quite deeply by many within society. So, for example, some Pakistanis
clearly believe that they are more loyal, or martial, or even better
Muslims, than others. Let us not forget that General Ayub Khan openly
declared that Bengalis were prone to being disloyal because their
‘Muslimness’ was suspect, or to put it differently, that they were
still under the influence of Hinduism.
This 16 December we are
as absorbed in talk about conspiracies against our holy land as we were
forty years ago when Bangladesh came into being as an independent state.
It would appear, sadly, as if very little has changed. And indeed very
little will change until and unless the young people who will shape this
country’s future in years to come are exposed to the real facts about 16
December, and the years leading up to that day. We cannot continue to
decry history as a conspiracy against an incorruptible Pakistan. We must
own up to the reality of what Pakistan is if we are to make Pakistan into
what it should be.
The capital city of
Islamabad was beaming with activity last week as it was house to multiple
conferences attended by delegates in a large number. To name a few, they
were the envoys’ moot, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)
conference and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute’s (SPDI’s)
annual event called Sustainable Development Conference.
While the first two were
meant for comparatively selected audience, the third one invited
participants in hordes. The conference agenda was comprehensive and
lucrative enough to attract people from different groups and backgrounds.
There were intellectuals, development practitioners, communities and
policy-makers working in or on South Asian issues, students, academia,
legislators, authors and so on.
Paradigms of Sustainable Development in South Asia,” aimed to critically
challenge the paradigm of sustainable development. “Even if the paradigm
is not dead, it has largely failed to deliver on most counts”, says SDPI
Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri. He says the aim of this year’s
Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) was to analyse how the celebrated
concept of sustainable development could not be implemented in letter and
spirit in the areas of environment, human development, economy,
eradication of poverty, gender rights, governance, food security, peace
and conflict, and energy, etc.
Explaining the point, he
says the fast-changing global scenario where Europe and the US are facing
recession, China confronting fall in economic growth rate for the first
time and inflation taking over, energy crisis worsening and all cherished
models of growth failing the need for correcting our direction is the
Suleri opines the
dilemma is that the countries once praised for their sustainable
development initiatives are fighting for the survival of the present
generation. “How will they plan for the needs of the coming generations
is still a question. Nobody is clear what will happen in times to
follow,” he adds.
It is very likely that
traditional export markets for South Asia go for protectionism and
countries start limiting flow of goods coming from there through different
measures. Similarly, there is a need to know what programme will the world
follow once the 2015 deadline for achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
lapses. There were several similar questions that emerged during the
Suleri shares with TNS
that the SDCs aim at finding questions like what worked, what didn’t,
what would and so on. This conference also defined next year’s agenda
for research for SDPI. Over the years, media has emerged as a research
partner as it no longer simply reports proceedings. The media analyses
situations and on many an occasion help us locate areas where research is
Another major event of
the conference was the Qawali Night. The organizers say they suggested
this event for the reason that it historically binds different South Asian
communities and the mystic poetry recited their calls of love for the
mankind irrespective of the cast, creed and religion.
The 30 sessions held at
the conference were equally interesting and it was very difficult for the
participants to decide which of the concurrent sessions they are going to
attend. A lot of attendants were seen hurrying from one conference room to
the other and then returning to the previous one to listen to impressive
Some of the topics
discussed there included: Livelihood Options in Conflict-Affected
Situations, Governance Challenge: Is There a Way Out?, Literature in South
Asia, Building Bridges through Fact and Fiction, Revisiting Poverty
Debate: Alternative Ways for Conceptualisation, Measurement and Targeting,
Security and Development: The Geo-politics of China-Pakistan-India
Relationship, Re-imaging South Asian Security, Climate Change: Readapting
Forest Management in South Asia and Bioenergy and Sustainability:
Exploring Renewable Energy Alternatives in South Asia. Development beyond
the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Redefining Governance through
Social Accountability in South Asia, 18th Amendment and Devolution, Indus
River Watershed: Adapting, Mitigating, and Sustaining the
Social-Ecological Change and Climate Change Concerns and their Possible
Impact on South Asian Countries were other intriguing issues that
attracted a large audience.
A couple of students
shared with TNS that participants in this conference helped them find
answers to many questions they had in their minds. They felt that being an
independent forum, free of any political or other influence, allows them
to ask questions which very few think-tanks would allow. The availability
of so many great minds under one roof is a unique opportunity that they
get only once in a year, they add.
Shafqat Munir, Editor
Infochange and Advisor for SDPI, says that live web-streaming has been
used for the first time for SDC. The idea of web TV was the brainchild of
SDPI executive editor Dr Suleri and he put up a team for this purpose.
This time over 1300 people watched the proceedings of the conference live,
including discussions and interviews conducted on the sidelines of the
Shafqat says this has
been a successful experience and liked by donors, scholars and the
audience all over the globe. Web TV streaming is no doubt a highly
cost-effective venture and more participatory.
The participants who
joined us through web-streaming were able to benefit from the gathering of
158 scholars and speakers from 13 countries and during 30 sessions on
issues ranging from climate change, food security, regional trade,
literature, to governance, education, MDGs, water, energy and agriculture.
“I feel there is a need to build bridges between research and grassroots
social movements to redefine paradigms of sustainable development,” he
says. We need to harness social capital for a people’s centric
development and governance of development.