Hunger, thy name is failure
Pakistan fails to decrease, let alone eliminate, hunger. The reasons lie in wrong policies and a disregard of the country's international commitments
By Mustafa Talpur
Hunger is increasing in Pakistan with a quarter of the population's right to food denied. The denial of the right to food increases in the existing circumstances where freedom is in chains and everything else including poverty free. This situation compromises the poor's abilities to achieve their rights.

60 ways to make peace around the world
A book marking Unesco's anniversary raises all the important questions pertinent to our age
By Atle Hetland
60 Women Contributing to the 60 Years of UNESCO
Constructing the Foundations for Peace
Edited by Ingeborg Breines and Hans dŽOrville
Price: $ 20
As one of the most important organisation of the United Nations celebrates its 60th anniversary, there are a number of reasons to be upbeat its future. First, Unesco (United Nations Education, scientific, and Cultural Organization) is possibly one of the most important multilateral organisation that the international community now has and secondly it was established by men but many women have played a key role in its evolution. It has many women working as members of its national commissions and serving at top posts at its country offices, though not yet at its headquarters in Paris, France.

The country and the territory
As a remedy to cure all ills that afflict FATA, tribal areas need to be made a part of the national mainstream
By Iftikhar Durrani
Pakistan emerged as an independent country in August 14, 1947, following the division of India. The country comprised five different ethnic groups/nationalities namely Bengali, Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi and Pakhtun. Bengalis seceded to found Bangladesh in 1971. Currently the rest of the four nationalities live in the four provinces that are Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and North West Frontier Province. All these ethnic groups have their peculiar traditional structures.

The city as public space
The problems that cities in Pakistan suffer from are more political than technical. Their solution also requires a political vision which treats urban centres as places to bring people together across the boundaries of class and social status
By Dr Noman Ahmed
During the last week of January 2007 alone, 20 people were reported to have been killed in different traffic accidents in just one city -- Karachi. This is a very sad reflection on the affairs of traffic management. But this is not all. A few weeks ago, several firefighters lost their lives while trying to extinguish a factory fire. Poor equipment support and lack of proper safety measures led to this unnecessary loss of life. The other sectors of public domain in Karachi as well as other cities in Pakistan show an equally poor performance.

Bloc or blockade
South Asia needs to emulate examples from the rest of the world to enhance commercial and economic cooperation as a way to promote regional peace and prosperity. Where war has failed, trade may prevail
By Hussain H Zaidi
Given the mutual mistrust and hostility that have characterised relations between India and Pakistan with the attendant enormous economic and social costs, even a small move towards improving their relations needs to be welcomed. The recent visit of India's external affairs minister Parnab Mukherjee to Islamabad, during which the two sides agreed to give momentum to the peace process, is one such step.

Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi
The President's man
Benazir Bhutto sent Ehsanul Haq Piracha to me to accept a PPP ticket as a brotherly gesture. Otherwise, there is no following of the party in my constituency. People in my constituency, in fact, hate PPP
Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi was born on January 1, 1946 in Mianwali district. He did his degree in medicine from the Nishtar Medical College, Multan, in 1968.



Hunger, thy name is failure

Pakistan fails to decrease, let alone eliminate, hunger. The reasons lie in wrong policies and a disregard of the country's international commitments

By Mustafa Talpur

Hunger is increasing in Pakistan with a quarter of the population's right to food denied. The denial of the right to food increases in the existing circumstances where freedom is in chains and everything else including poverty free. This situation compromises the poor's abilities to achieve their rights.

Numerous statistics reveal a dismal picture of food security in Pakistan. They also show how the government has failed to address the issues of hunger despite claims of better economic performance and several international commitments of the state. There has been no progress, for instance, in the last 15 years to reduce the proportion of undernourished population. United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 24 per cent of people in Pakistan were undernourished in 1990-92 and 23 per cent in 2001-03. Though latest figures are not available, the improvement of one percentage between 1990 and 2003 somewhat masks another important reality. The number of malnourished people, in fact, went up from 27.8 million in 1990-92 to 35.2 million in 2001-03.

Progress towards reducing child malnutrition is also not encouraging. Both the FAO and government of Pakistan estimate that the proportion of underweight children was 40 per cent in 1990 and 38 percent in 2004. These numbers are still higher for women and girls due to the dominance of patriarchy and gender-based discrimination.

This is a fundamental responsibility of state to recognise, protect and fulfill people's right to food. The Article 38 (d) of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan guarantees this right. The article makes it binding for the state to do the following for the promotion of social and economic well-being of the people:

"(The state shall) provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment."

The right to food was first recognised in the universal declaration of human rights, which stated that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care (UDHR, 1948). Later, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) adopted in 1966 and General Comment 12, adopted in 1999 by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, provide a commonly used definition of food as a human right. The core elements of the right to food are:

"Fundamental right to be free from hunger; Right associated with standard of living including housing; Availability of food in sufficient quantity and quality."

The World Food Summit in 1996 reaffirmed the right to food: "We, the Heads of State and Government ... reaffirm the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger."

At different international forums, Pakistan has committed itself to fulfill this right. In addition to the World Food Summit, government of Pakistan along with other countries has committed itself to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The second target under the first MDG says "to halve, between, 1990 to 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger".

Despite all the constitutional guarantees and commitments, the availability of per capita calories in take declined in last ten years from 2522 kcal/day in 1996-97 to 2466 kcal/day in 2002-3. Similarly the availability of wheat, main staple food item, has declined from 130.85 kg/per capita in 1996-97 to 116.31 kg/per capita in 2002-3. A joint study by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and the World Food Programme (WFP) found that out of 120 districts the two organisations had surveyed, 74 (62 per cent) were found food deficit. On the basis of three factors -- that is, food availability, economic access to food and effective biological utilisation, the study concluded that 80 per cent of the rural Pakistan was food insecure.

There is persistent hunger in Pakistan but its effects are not equally divided. Some groups are more vulnerable and food insecure than others. These are women farmers and households headed by women, landless peasants, people living in persistent drought areas including Thar and Balochistan, small farmers and farmers having land on tail ends of distributaries and canals, nomads and indigenous communities who are solely dependents on flows of the river Indus, fisherfolk whose right to fish has been denied through contract system and deep sea fishing trawlers and daily wage earners and the Urban poor.

The performance of Pakistan towards achieving freedom from hunger and meeting international commitments as well as constitutional obligations towards citizens for healthy and happy life has been murky. There is little connection between the rhetoric and reality. The targets set under medium term development framework or Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper seem to be unachievable if the over all policy environment and characteristics of state institutions, inequity in resources distribution and power imbalances between the rich and the poor and between men and women are not corrected. To compound the situation, the quarter century experience of trade liberalisation, deregulation, privatisation, fiscal management, reduction in agriculture support and reduction in social spending has resulted in rising poverty, unemployment, jobless growth, inequity in income and resources distribution, indebtness, food insecurity, hunger and impoverishment.

Multiple factors in Pakistan are impeding efforts to eliminate hunger, such as population growth rate, skewed land ownership pattern, inequity in distribution of economic gains, elitist characteristics of the state, lack of democracy, erratic water flows, degradation of soil, low crop yields, reduced public spending on social welfare, lack of political commitment and international factors such as increasing debt payment, elimination of support/subsidies to small farmers and international trade regime.

The policy drive to grow for export has ended up in the cultivation of more cotton and less food crops. The area under cultivation for wheat has grown only 3.9 per cent in the last fourteen years -- from 1991-92 to 2003-04. But the area under cotton cultivation for the same period has increased 12.3 per cent. This rising trend in the cultivation of cotton, which is a cash crop and earns foreign exchange, has clearly demonstrated the shifting cropping pattern.

The land ownership pattern is another hurdle. A large portion of the total land in Pakistan is controlled by a small percentage of people, who tend to grow cash crops. Government policies as well as market signals are favourable for them. These trends are affecting overall domestic food production, pushing the landless and the rural poor into a situation of food insecurity.

With the recognition that Pakistan had become a food deficit country at the turn of the last century, position paper of Pakistan government in the World Food Summit had highlighted the agenda of the then government which embarked upon achieving a minimum growth rate not less than 7 per cent, making agriculture a profitable profession, achieving self-sufficiency, alleviation of rural poverty and generating employment at the grassroots level. The paper also recognised the fact that agriculture, despite being an important sector, has suffered a reduced investment over the years.

But all the policy prescriptions suggested in the summit were wrongly directed, not hitting the causes of food insecurity, rather touching their symptoms. Also the official analysis was based predominantly on the foundation of neo-liberal market ideology. Pakistan followed the path of neo-liberal market ideology in the early 1980s which is clearly mentioned in the country paper for the food summit with pride. The reduced budgetary allocation for agriculture was a part of that ideology to correct the market inefficiencies in agriculture, improve fiscal monitoring by narrowing down the budget deficit and allow market forces to control agriculture markets.

Pakistan's economy was in good shape during 1980s. Economic growth was above 5 per cent due to several reasons (though they had little to with the structural features of the economy and depended on foreign aid due to geo-political reasons. But the agriculture sector, despite being backbone of the economy, was given little importance. The allocation for agriculture as a percentage of annual development plans both for federal government and the provincial governments was reduced substantially.

The paper further claimed that Pakistan's economic reforms, including privatisation of public enterprises, phasing out of producer subsidies, reduction in protectionist policies under the structural adjustment programme started in 1980s, were still going on. This was a clear indication that the government of Pakistan had been in the process of reducing and then eliminating agriculture subsidies under the policy prescription of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) under structural adjustment programmes, even before the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the global trade talks.

Projects funded by the Asian Development Bank such as Agriculture Sector Reform Project, Agribusiness Development Project and now technical assistance for the preparation of agriculture policy have targeted public sector institutions and the traditional way of producing food crops. These projects are basically driving agriculture sector policies. A well-thought out policy prescription under the agriculture sector reform project was to shut down public sector seed organisations (Sindh Seed Corporation was closed but later re-opened), close provincial food departments, privatise public sector fertilizer companies, downsize Pakistan Agriculture Research Council and National Agriculture Research Council, strictly prohibit the opening of new public sector seed organisation and privatise public sector research organisations (for example, Ayub Research College in Faisalabad is being privatised). These are other similar anti-small farmers and market oriented policies, which aim to reduce and then eliminate the role of public sector organisation in agriculture. They will have serious future consequences on the food security in Pakistan.

Another problem with these policies is that they address the symptoms rather than the disease. Elimination of hunger from Pakistan, on the other hand, requires addressing its root causes. There are multiple factors both domestic and international which impede efforts to eliminate the hunger.

First, poor people, women and excluded people are losing access to and control over productive resources including land, water, forest, fish and seeds by different mechanism of control which favour the rich through privatisation, commercialisation and in the name of efficiency as well as market-oriented production system. There is a need to reverse this trend and recognise community control over resources. Second, agriculture development policies to support small growers, such as agriculture subsidies, better marketing facilities, soil conservation, protection of bio-diversity, improved extension services, support to organic and ecological agriculture and small scale water conservation and use techniques, have been undermined. Third, the state has been unable to implement policies which address adequately to the most vulnerable groups like the setting up public food storage and distribution system, guaranteed minimum wage, right to work, protection of livelihood sources and just employment policies. Fourth, land concentration in few hands and wider injustice in resource distribution have also contributed to the current state of affairs. Land concentration is supporting agro-industrial development model rather than growing food for self-consumption. Fifth, macro-economic factors such as rising inequity, increased inflation, jobless growth, reduced agriculture output and growth, increased debt payment and reduced social spending have also had a role to play. Sixth, international constraints such as unfair trade rules which are causing dumping in international markets, unrestricted and unregulated operation of multinational corporations and their control on seeds, purchasing and selling of food items, reduced national policy spaces by the loan conditionalities of international financial institutions are the last but not the least important factor in the country's inability to eliminate hunger.


60 ways to make peace around the world

A book marking Unesco's anniversary raises all the important questions pertinent to our age


By Atle Hetland

60 Women Contributing to the 60 Years of UNESCO

Constructing the Foundations for Peace

Edited by Ingeborg Breines and Hans dŽOrville

Price: $ 20

As one of the most important organisation of the United Nations celebrates its 60th anniversary, there are a number of reasons to be upbeat its future. First, Unesco (United Nations Education, scientific, and Cultural Organization) is possibly one of the most important multilateral organisation that the international community now has and secondly it was established by men but many women have played a key role in its evolution. It has many women working as members of its national commissions and serving at top posts at its country offices, though not yet at its headquarters in Paris, France.

In this context, finding women who have a shared experience of working with Unesco in various capacities and make them sit together and work together should be highly rewarding in intellectual term. This is what the book under review does.

Imagine having sixty women writing one book together -- or sixty men for that matter! To many people, this may appear as a very chaotic exercise with uncertain results. But the book under review is an altogether different product.

The sixty women that have come together to write it are mandated to explore various facets of peace and other key issues related to Unesco's mandate.

The book is edited by Ingeborg Breines, the legendary director of Unesco in Pakistan until the middle of 2004, and Hans dŽOrville, only the second man in the crowd that has contributed to this excellent book. The other man in the company is Unesco's Director-General Koichiro Matsuura who has written the foreword.

Breines is now working as director of Unesco's Geneva office and dŽOrville is the organisation's policy director and also thew right hand man to the director-general.

In the foreword, Matsuura underlines the importance of the book: "This book is an inspiration to Unesco, both for the historical perspective and rich testimonials it presents, as for its many forward-looking suggestions and recommendations. I hope it will make a substantial contribution to realizing women's aspirations, to developing ways of improving gender equality, not least in Unesco, and to fortifying hopes for a peaceful future at local, national and international levels, drawing on and integrating the full potential of women."

The book is written by women and it is mainly about women. But it is also about men and 'men's issues', especially peace issues. These issues have always been seen as a field were men have the leading role and where the world has not had much success. In the preamble to the book Attiya Inayatullah, currently a Pakistani Senator and a former executive board chairperson of Unesco, says: "Since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed."

Today, it may be difficult to understand that when Unesco was planned in San Francisco, United States, after the Second World War in 1945, it was done by 535 men and only 14 women. Its foremost goal was to make people of all walks of life, especially intellectuals, researchers, students, artists, newspaper men (and women) and others come together and discuss issues so that wars would never happen again. Its founding meeting was held in London in November 1945 and Unesco came into being in early 1946.

These issues have been highlighted by Torild Skard, a former Unicef director in West Africa, director-general in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and president of the Norwegian Parliament's Upper House. She calls Unesco "my mother's organization", who was the first Norwegian professor of psychology in Norway, and was a staunch supporter of Unesco from the founding meetings throughout her life.

Another prominent retired woman politician and Unesco supporter is Ingrid Eide, who is today the leader of the 'No to Nuclear Arms Campaign of Norway'. In her young years she was the co-founder of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo and a director of a Unesco research project entitled 'Students as links between cultures' in the 1960s.

It strikes us when reading the many interesting and often personal reflections in the book that many of the women the editors have included in the book were pioneers in their fields, such as Yasmeen Lari, the first woman architect in Pakistan and India. She writes about culture, especially preservation of countries' cultural heritage as seen in buildings and environments. She is critical of Unesco's neglect in giving attention to helping Pakistan in preserving its rich heritage in Kashmir and the northern areas of the country after the devastating earthquake of October 8, 2005.

Let us add, too, that an organisation like Unesco, with a wide, complicated and often political mandate, is used to being criticised, sometimes to such an extent that some countries have pulled out of the organisation. This happened in 1985 when the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore pulled out at a time when right-wing governments ruled these countries. This was during the Cold War and these countries had reacted to Unesco's support to an increased role of the state, especially in the mass media sector. But there were probably also other 'hidden agendas', such as boosting the World Bank's role.

Unesco, being based in Paris, France, in many ways represents a different and strong culture of its own, and it is an intellectual organisation, not a donor agency. This is often forgotten. It is Unesco's task to raise questions and put issues on the agenda. But it is not bound to giving answers, since answers must be found by the member states themselves, collectively, in groups or individually. And Unesco's mandate is also such that often there are no clear-cut and simple answers. It is interesting to note that before the 9/11 tragedies in New York and Washington, Unesco had a few months earlier held several conferences about dialogue between cultures, multiculturalism, and related issues, which today have become more topical than ever.

Unesco plays important roles in countries like Pakistan in the fields of monitoring the implementation of 'Education for All' (EFA) programme, which is planned to be achieved by 2015. Unesco is also the coordinator of the 'United Nations Literacy Decade' (2003-2012). In both fields, a lot has to be done, especially for girls and women.

Unesco is supported in these endeavours by the United Nations headquarters through the activities related to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) to reach the girls' education goals through the UNGEI programme. In the filed of human rights fields, which also fall under Unesco's domain, the organisation is assisted by other UN agencies. Unesco's human rights campaign is headed by former chief of Amnesty International, Pierre Sanne, who is now in charge of social and human sciences in Unesco. In other fields, such as environment, human settlement, forced migration, human trafficking and refugees, there are other UN organisations handling much of the policy, planning and implementation work to help Unesco.

As many of the women show in this anniversary book of the organisation, many issues they have written about are interdisciplinary and inter-organisational. For example, when it comes to refugees and emergency education, it is shown that over half of all 130 million out-of-school children have been affected by conflicts and wars. Thus, this is not an issue for the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, alone, but indeed for Unesco as well.

In the years to come, organisations like Unesco are likely to see a renaissance since the world has become more complicated and also smaller. We often say we live in a global village. But in this global village there are differences among people, differences that must be overcome so that people can live peacefully together in respect, tolerance and understanding, even if they don't always agree. These were the reasons for establishing Unesco and these are main issues of the present time and the near future.

We should be grateful to the sixty women for reminding us of so many of these issues in so many different ways in the current book. We are all in one boat, though the articles in the collection have been written by women from very different backgrounds, and many of them have privileged positions, including royalty. But at the end, we are all equal -- men and women, rich and poor, white or black.

The book has already been reprinted, just a couple of months after its release, and it is being translated to some other languages, but not Urdu. So we will have to use the English version in Pakistan.

Atle Hetland is an international consultant currently based in Islamabad.



The country and the territory

As a remedy to cure all ills that afflict FATA, tribal areas need to be made a part of the national mainstream

By Iftikhar Durrani

Pakistan emerged as an independent country in August 14, 1947, following the division of India. The country comprised five different ethnic groups/nationalities namely Bengali, Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi and Pakhtun. Bengalis seceded to found Bangladesh in 1971. Currently the rest of the four nationalities live in the four provinces that are Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and North West Frontier Province. All these ethnic groups have their peculiar traditional structures.

Punjabis have their traditional elders as Chaudhris and Panchayat as their traditional institution. Sindhis in the rural Sindh are still dominated by the traditional elders called the Waderas. Balochs have their traditional elders called the Sardars. And, Pakhtuns have Malik Khans as their traditional elders. Jirga is their traditional institution and Pakhtunwali as their traditional code of life.

The jirga/traditional institutions' members are mostly illiterate and are not adequately trained to undertake the overall affairs of the community, ranging from dispensation of justice to looking after local development.

Abject poverty in rural areas is a great hurdle in generation of required financial resources. The traditional structure and institutions are not an integral part of local governance, thus, they are not consulted regarding local community issues.

Traditional institutions mostly rely on age-old customs and traditions which do not necessarily cater to the needs and demands of the present times. Various factors such as rural and urban migration within and out of the country, globalisation, emergence of newly moneyed classes and emergence of modern democratic and bureaucratic structure have weakened the traditional structures to a great degree.

Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)

As its name implies, the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) are a political construct defined by its unique structure of governance and its demography.

It is a direct legacy of the British Raj which regarded this part of the frontier with Afghanistan as a buffer zone and imposed political control over it without providing public services or integrating it into the political structures, then prevailing in the rest of the India. It is divided into seven tribal agencies namely Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orakzai, and North and South Waziristan and five Frontier Regions (FR) namely FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Tank, FR Banuu and FR D I Khan. The main towns include Miram Shah, Razmak, Bajaur, Darra Bazzar and Wana. Each of these agencies is subject to the direct authority of a political agent appointed by the president.

The Fata's relations with the Government of Pakistan have not been cordial since independence as the government accorded it second class status and for decades undertook virtually no development activity in the region. Some officials regarded the people of the area primitive, wild and fractious. There were few and at times no opportunities for the locals to participate in national political. Large areas of the FATA, located mainly on the Afghan border, were considered 'inaccessible' until several years ago and received no service or attention from the government at all.

As with the British, the Government of Pakistan often viewed FATA as a buffer zone and part of Pakistan only in the sense that it was not part of Afghanistan. In fact, FATA maintains close economic and cultural relation with the people on the Afghan side of the border. The writ of Afghanistan's government in the border provinces has never been strong and this situation continues even today. This means that FATA is contiguous with a much larger area that is essentially uncovered.


The FATA covers an area of 16,900 square miles, it is roughly 280 miles long and 118 miles wide at its widest point. It is bounded on the west side by Afghanistan, on the east by the settled areas of Pakistan, on the north by the northern areas and on the south by Balochistan. It's located between 31 and 35 degrees latitude in the northern hemisphere.

The geographical arrangement of the seven tribal areas in order from north to south is: Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Kurram, North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Orakazi. The geographical arrangement of the five frontier regions in order from north to south is: Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Tank, Khan.

The total population of FATA was estimated in 2000 to be about 3,341,070 people, or roughly 2 per cent of Pakistan's population. Only 3.1 per cent of the population resides in established townships. It is thus the most rural administrative unit in Pakistan.

The current scenario

(i) Economic indicators

There are almost no economic statistics for the FATA. Most of the people living in FATA have not benefited from the few development activities that have been undertaken there since independence. Those who remain in the area practice simple agriculture.

A huge portion of the income generated in the area has been traditionally derived from growing and in some cases refining opium. Also considerable income is derived from the transit trade. Tribes commonly impose transit fees on goods passing through their territories.

The conditions that normally encourage economic activity are missing here. The are no roads, electric power, enabling laws, literacy, skilled populace and agricultural inputs. The entire system is subject to the decision of the political agent which may be arbitrary. There are few major connecting farm-to-market roads and those that do exist have often been build to serve political interests or the needs of border security.

(ii) Socio-economic

indicators: The literacy rate rate in FATA is just 17 per cent, well below the 45 per cent in Pakistan as a whole. Only three percent of the females receive any education. There is one hospital bed for every 2,327 people in the FATA, compared to one in 1,450 in Pakistan as a whole. Furthermore, there is only one doctor for every 8,189 people. It's total irrigated land is roughly 1,000 square kilometers. Only 43 per cent of its people have access to clean drinking water. 30 per cent of FATA is inaccessible both politically and administratively.

(iii) Political environment

The region is only nominally controlled by the central government of Pakistan. The mainly Pashtun tribes that inhabit the areas are fiercely independent. These tribes are governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) introduced under the British Raj. They are represented in both the lower and upper house of Pakistan parliament. Previously, tribal candidates had no party affiliations and could contest as independents because the Political Parties Act had not extended to the tribal areas. However, the tribesmen were given right to vote in 1997 general elections despite the absence of Political Parties Act.

Political setup

The head of each tribal agency is the political agent who wields extensive powers. Each agency depending on its size has about 2 to 3 assistant political agents, about 3 to 4 tehsildars and 4 to 9 naib tehsildars with the requisite supporting staff. Each FR is headed by the DC/DCO (like for FR Peshawar DC/DCO Peshawar and so on) and under his supervision there are one assistant political agent and about 1 or 2 tehsildars and naib tehsildars and requisite supporting staff. The tehisldar and staff assist the political agent in performance of his functions. Each agency has roughly two to three thousand khasadars and levies and five to nine wings of FC for maintenance of law and order in the agency and border security.

Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR)

The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) comprises a set of laws enforced by British Raj in the Pakhtun inhabited areas. They were specially devised to counter the fierce opposition of the Pakhtoons to the British rule, and their main objective was to protect the interests of the British. The FCR dates back to the occupation of the six Pakhtoon-inhabited Frontier districts by the British in 1848. The regulation was re-enacted in 1873 and again in 1876, with minor modifications.

With the passage of time, the regulation was found to be inadequate and new acts and offences were added to it to extend its scope. This was done through promulgation of the Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901. The FCR advocates collective punishment and many human rights activists argue it promotes human rights abuse.

According to the FCR, despite the presence of popularly elected tribal representatives, parliament can play no role in the affairs of the area. Article 247 of the constitution of Pakistan provides that no act of parliament applies to FATA, unless the president so desires. Only the president is authorised to amend laws and promulgate ordinances for the tribal areas.

Governance factors

The FATA is a unique political space. It is a part of Pakistan but apart from Pakistan. The Durand Line that became the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was drawn by the British in 1893. The border was drawn without reference to the boundaries of tribal and clan lands, resulting in tribes having holdings, relatives and interests on both sides of the border. People move freely back and forth between what maps tell us are two separate countries. This right of unfettered movement was confirmed in Loya Jirga (Council) shortly after Pakistan's independence and has remained in force ever since.

Traditionally power in tribal matters is exercised by elders and Maliks, quasi-traditional leaders whom the British alleviated to positions of authority higher than those enjoyed by political agents. In contrast to hierarchal tribal leadership amongst the neighbouring Balochs, Pashtoons regulate there affairs on the basis of consensus amongst the male members of the community. Punishment for offence of all sorts is meted out by these men and reflects their particular customs. Property and other inter-clan disputes are also adjudicated by these leaders. In recent years, tribal councils have been created to give tribal people a semblance of local government. For those who wish to work in the tribal areas, these councils offer a conduit to the communities.

FATA Secretariat: The Government of Pakistan administers the FATA through the FATA Secretariat (FS) which reports directly to the Governor of NWFP who is himself appointed by the president. The FS is mandated both to deliver regular public services and to undertake development projects, including drafting and implementing the FATA sustainable development plan (FSDP). The FS also oversees social programmes in the FATA. Neither the FS nor any other government entity has the ability to raise taxes, and all budgets come in the form of monetary transfers from the federal government.

FATA Development Authority: The FATA development Authority is in the final stages of creation. The mandate of this body will be to manage infrastructure, irrigation and water, hydroelectricity, mineral extraction and skills development. It will be managed by a public/private board of directors and is mandated to act independently.

Local good governance

criteria: The criteria for good governance in terms of traditional structure revolves around a few broader principles:

i) It must ensure security of life and property first.

ii) It must give respect and dignity to common people rather than despising them.

iii) It must provide quick and inexpensive justice to the people ensuring:

That arrest can only be made for a cause.

That defendants be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

That the accused are entitled to pre-trial freedom to aid in their own defense.

That the allegations of wrongdoing must be submitted to the truth

and so on

To expect all these minimum requirements to avail justice in FATA is nothing more than a dream devoid of any temporal reality. How does the system work for the poor tribesmen is just any body's conjecture.

Good governance

evaluation: i-- Citizen's Participation in Decision-Making: Traditional jirga institution in Pakhtun society ensures full participation of, at least, adult male members in all community affairs. The validity of the jirga decisions is based on the participation of each household. They participate in this process as a duty. The modern state institutions provide opportunities for participation of the people through local government institutions, which is nearest to jirga.

ii-- The role of identifiable groups to participate and take decisions

Under the operative local government system in District Councils of the NWFP, 33 three per cent seats are reserved for women, five percent for workers/peasants, and five percent for minorities. In the same proportion, seats are also reserved for the above mentioned category of people in Tehsil and Union Councils. Provision to reserve seats for elders, youth, disabled and immigrants is also there in local government system in the NWFP, or Pakistan. Though huge population of Afghan refugees has been living both in the settled districts and FATA, no representation was granted to them in either traditional jirga or local government. In fact, they were denied the right to vote.

In the non-elected agency council of FATA, there are 70 per cent general seats, whereas 30 per cent seats are reserved for elders, religious leaders (ulema), women, technocrats and minorities without specifying their percentage.



Most of the traditional leaders as members of the parliament side with both the military and civil governments according to their interests. Barring few exceptions, they frequently change their party loyalties to promote their personal interests and to avoid persecution. Though most of the traditional leaders have stakes in the existing non-democratic and authoritarian system of administration, especially in FATA, still some of them have been raising voices in favor of introducing adult franchise, elected local government system, extension of Political Parties Act, representation in the NWFP Assembly, or creation of an independent province, or to have an elected FATA Council for the tribal people. The federal government has already conceded to some of these demands such as the right of adult franchise for the elections of National Assembly members in 1996, introduction of nominated agency council and establishment of Governor's FATA Secretariat in 2004.

Separation of judiciary from executive

Equality before law and the right to fair trial, the hallmarks of modern democratic setups, is ensured by separating judiciary from the executive in settled districts. Traditional leaders have a limited role to play in the resolution of disputes, outside the courts, however, in FATA there is no concept of separation of powers.

The political agent is the chief judicial officer besides an executive head. Under the FCR 1901, all disputes are usually referred to a jirga appointed by the political agent, whose findings are not binding on him as mentioned earlier. Traditional leaders prefer these institutions and practices instead of independent judiciary and the rule of law which do not serve their individual parochial interests. In a transparent, fair, and accountable system, traditional leaders cannot exert their undue influence to get favorable decisions.


The frequent use of force both by the state and the foreign militants has exponentially increased people's anxiety and restlessness. The people at the grassroots level should be given a chance to speak for once. Referendum should be held to know how people want to improve their existing situation. Eager to support reforms and representation to administer their own affairs, they express through inter and intra-tribal organisations and welfare associations, as political activities and formation of political parties are prohibited in FATA.

The common masses comprise farmers, landless peasants, share croppers, artisans, and workers in business, transport, as well as service sector. They suffer from ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, and means of economic scarcity. The fact that FATA is tax free area does not mean that the common man does not have to bear any burden of direct and indirect taxes. They have to buy permits and pay rahdaries on most incoming and outgoing consumer goods in an agency.

The question of future is irrelevant, absurd and vague for them. They have no political and human rights, therefore, they are neither confident of their traditional leaders, nor satisfied with their existing political and administrative set-up. The use of violence, coercion and clean up operations have made life a heavy burden for powerless and voiceless people, especially in FATA.


As noted, FATA's isolation and strong tribal culture as well as its limited economic potential means there has been a historic tendency on the part of the ruling governments to ignore the issues confronting the FATA. The role of traditional structure in FATA has been mostly confined to the provision of justice and maintenance of law and order through jirga. This traditional institution could only deal with the needs and demands of the simple life, not complex issues, such as state security, provision of justice, socioeconomic development and political participation, generally considered to be the domain of modern state institutions.

Moreover, the intermediary role between the state and the people, the domain of the traditional leaders, has increasingly been performed by civil society organizations, such as right groups, professional and welfare associations and NGOs involved in advocacy as well as socioeconomic development.

The challenge is to synchronise the functioning of jirga to cater to the needs and wants of modern times in terms of protecting human rights, especially women rights, managing natural resources and planning, implementing and monitoring developmental schemes at local level. In this way, the transformation of the internal structures, the functions and roles of traditional administration in local governance and developmental may have a mix of both modern and traditional. It requires change in the composition of jirga in terms of introducing new, educated and professional leadership, inclusion of women, marginalised sections besides the traditional leaders.

Moreover, the legitimacy of traditional leadership based on age, family, and kinship has become increasingly irrelevant in the face of formidable changes in the field of education, information technology, economics, culture, urbanisation, migration, social mobilisation and rise in democratic values. This demands new legitimacy based on principles of representation through elections, professional competence, merit, transparency and inclusiveness to transform their traditional institutions. It will unleash the creative energy of people and strengthen their resolve for better quality of life and empowerment.

The city as public space

The problems that cities in Pakistan suffer from are more political than technical. Their solution also requires a political vision which treats urban centres as places to bring people together across the boundaries of class and social status

By Dr Noman Ahmed

During the last week of January 2007 alone, 20 people were reported to have been killed in different traffic accidents in just one city -- Karachi. This is a very sad reflection on the affairs of traffic management. But this is not all. A few weeks ago, several firefighters lost their lives while trying to extinguish a factory fire. Poor equipment support and lack of proper safety measures led to this unnecessary loss of life. The other sectors of public domain in Karachi as well as other cities in Pakistan show an equally poor performance.

This is because large and medium-sized cities in Pakistan are experiencing various kinds of crises. Breakdowns in civic infrastructure, unavailability of proper and decent public transport, lack of affordable housing for the needy groups, social and psychological stresses, increasing crime rates, pollution, traffic jams, absence of appropriate recreational spaces for children and youth are just the few of the issues that are faced by the urban centres in Pakistan.

When local government reforms were introduced by the current regime in 2001-02, it was promised that the cities and localities shall experience visible transformations within a very short span of time. It did not happen. The problems seem to persist making many people believe that change will not happen at least in their life times. In other words, hopelessness has overtaken optimism, self-belief and faith in people's capacity for self-improvement through hard work. To turn this sorry state of affairs around, people need inspiration and leadership. Examples from history and other countries inform us that true dedication to the society coupled with befitting action can still bring about monumental changes in some of the most difficult contexts. The tale of Bogota's turn-around under its former mayor Enrique Penalosa is one such example.

Those of us who have any idea about Latin American cities, especially Bogota in Colombia, would imagine crime, chaos, corruption and mafia dens all over the place. That may be one part of the reality but there is more to it. Bogota possesses an energetic and well meaning citizenry that has been eager for self-improvement and enhancement of public life. This potential was intelligently utilised by mayor Penalosa during his three-year tenure in 1998-2001. In 36 odd months, he changed the city in more than one ways through his leadership, foresight and application. Development of a working land reform system; enactment of an efficient bus-based transit system; revitalisation of city centre spaces and activities; creation of more than a hundred facilities for children, with allocation of corresponding resources for their working; raise in children enrolment in schools by 34 per cent; sharp reduction in the number of street children; improvement in public libraries and student centres; plantation and upkeep of more than 100,000 trees; planning and development of bicycle tracks and pedestrian paths to the tune of 300 kilometers; development of around 1200 parks; creation of a car-free day and reduction of peak hour car movement were some of his key achievements in a chaotic city of seven million residents. These feats appear to be impressive and apparently account for sound performance indicators from any reference point.

But Enrique Penalosa considered them as part of a larger process. Social equity has been the ultimate objective that his committed urban management aimed for. According to him, "the premise of a new city system is that we want a society to be as egalitarian as possible. For this purpose, quality of life distribution is more important than income distribution. (And quality of life includes) a living environment as free of motor vehicles as possible. In our view, a dream city is the one criss-crossed by large pedestrian avenues, shaded by tropical trees, acting as the axes of life of those cities. God made us walking animals -- pedestrians. As a fish needs to swim, a bird to fly, a deer to run, we need to walk, not in order to survive, but to be happy".

What Penalosa did was the desire of the silent and weak majority of Bogota. The oligarchy of the city tried to dislodge him several times. But he continued with his public oriented vision and eventually made a difference. One can learn many lessons from the Bogota experiment.

The approach to regulate automobiles holds a great deal of merit for developing cities. Automobiles eventually become the objects of social divide. One finds luxury cars whizzing away on the same streets where dozens of commuters are packed in buses and mini-buses. The divide acquires a nasty proportion when the masses invest all their energies and resources in acquiring automobiles as a symbol of status and domestic achievement. The fact of the matter is that not everybody is able to acquire cars. Thus the wedge of divide deepens fast. One of the most negative outcome pertinent to extraordinary focus on cars is the spending of almost the entire municipal budget on making them function. The city planning is reduced to an exercise that resolves problems of traffic jams, expanded need of parking spaces, production and assembly lines, workshops and repair yards, retails and distribution. Instead of becoming part of the solution, the automobiles become the most acute part of the problem in such contexts.

The next casualty is the public space. Rising demand of cars ultimately exerts pressure on city managers for expansion of roads, creation of by-passes and ring roads, grade separated turnings and crossings and the like. Each of these undertakings consumes precious urban space as a consequence. The problems continue to multiply due to increasing volume of traffic. The resultants are socially and culturally undesirable. Added velocities, where-ever achieved, create a direct handicap for pedestrian movement. In contexts where traffic management is primitive and driving attitudes hostile, the pedestrians are the ultimate losers. Worst-hit people include women, children and the elderly. Over-zealous municipal administrations tend to disregard populist concerns and move ahead with what they think as technically viable.

Visionaries such as Penalosa regard urban transport as a political issue, and not a technical matter as most pseudo-experts make us believe. The reason is simple. It is a political decision to enact a certain type of transport system benefiting a select type of people. If common people are to benefit, one can always choose from a wide range of solutions that are available in the contemporary times.

In the prevailing circumstances, public space in cities is facing threats of land-use conversion. Nascent market practices have exerted a direct pressure on it. Parks, playgrounds, fair grounds, public beaches, side walks and city centres are locations which make rich and poor co-exits and interact at least to a minimum extent. Societies where rich and poor have certain commonality in activities and a capacity to interact are able to sustain and progress. Entertainment and recreation are the domains which often attract the rich and poor alike to the same type of activities. Cycling, jogging, walking and organising festivals are few example. Where rich and poor get divided with segregation of culture and pastime, the outcomes are generally disastrous. Whereas the residential and the commercial spaces need to be separate, efforts must be made to create commonly utilisable public spaces.

An efficient mode of public transport is also a premise for public interaction. This is obvious in most of the efficient services across the developed and developing cities. London underground moves more than five million commuters every day. Passengers of all ages, ranks, profiles and orientations travel together. Train stations also become contexts of intense public activity this way.

But it is the sheer level of efficiency which makes even the affluent travel by this mode of transportation. The rest is adjusted by innovative management techniques. Car-free zones (to facilitate trams or long-range buses), peak hour controls and privileged passage for public transport are few of the examples applied in all the well managed cities across the world.

As peoples and custodians of our cities, city managers will have to take certain decisions based on rationality and common sense. If we intend to live in healthy, equitable and culturally tolerant urban centres, public transport is the first building block of the cities that we need. The choice and type of mode makes a secondary question. This will automatically bring about a positive change among our divided and dilapidated cities. And the safeguard, development and maintenance of public spaces should be made a top priority agenda in urban management. The points made in this article may appear mere common sense to many, but they shall surely generate far reaching results if somebody wants to implement them. Example from cities like Bogota serve as an important context to highlight why they are important and how best something can be done about them.


Bloc or blockade

South Asia needs to emulate examples from the rest of the world to enhance commercial and economic cooperation as a way to promote regional peace and prosperity. Where war has failed, trade may prevail

By Hussain H Zaidi

Given the mutual mistrust and hostility that have characterised relations between India and Pakistan with the attendant enormous economic and social costs, even a small move towards improving their relations needs to be welcomed. The recent visit of India's external affairs minister Parnab Mukherjee to Islamabad, during which the two sides agreed to give momentum to the peace process, is one such step.

Pakistan and India being the largest economies and the only nuclear powers in South Asia, establishment of at least normal relations between the two countries holds the key to peace and development in the region. The South Asian region is mired in poverty, under-development, inter-state strife and mistrust as well as ethnic violence. Its twin problems are instability and backwardness. The region's 1.5 billion people constitute more than 23 per cent of the total population of the world. But the region's gross domestic product (GDP) constitutes only 2.2 per cent of the world's GDP, the region's exports constitute only 1.1 per cent of global exports and the region's total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows account for only 1 per cent of global FDI inflows. Four of the seven countries in South Asia -- Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives and Bhutan -- are counted among the least developed countries (LDCs). The region's per capita income is only $ 684, with more than 400 million people living below poverty line. Life expectancy is 63 years lower than the world average of 67 years. Lack of indigenous resources has made the regional economies heavily dependent on external assistance. The total external debt of all the countries in South Asia is about $ 180 billion, which is more than 22 per cent of the region's gross national income.

Not only is the share of South Asian countries in global trade small, intra-region trade is also low. Trade within the member countries of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), in fact, accounts for less than 4 per cent of the total trade by all the seven countries in the region.

Intra-Saarc trade depends in large measures on Pakistan-India trade. The volume of this trade, however, is extremely small. The trade between the two countries is about 1 per cent of their global trade. Of this, Pakistan's exports to India are 0.70 per cent of the county's global exports; Indian exports to Pakistan are 0.37 per cent of its total exports. Similarly, Pakistan's imports from India are 1.38 per cent of its global imports and Indian imports from Pakistan are only 0.14 per cent of its global imports.

India accounts for 65-70 per cent of the total regional trade. But its trade with other Saarc countries constitutes less than 3 per cent of its global trade. Of this, Indian exports to the region are nearly 4 per cent of its total exports, while imports are less than 1 per cent of its global imports. Pakistan's share in total South Asian trade is nearly 15 per cent. As in the case of India, Pakistan's intra-Saarc trade is very low. The country's exports to the region are nearly 3 per cent of its global exports and imports are nearly 2 per cent of its global imports. No Saarc nation is Pakistan's major trading partner.

South Asia's poverty and backwardness are reflected by socio-economic indicators of Pakistan and India, the region's largest economies. In case of Pakistan, per capita income is $ 720.1; about 40 per cent of the population lives below poverty line and 55 per cent of the population is illiterate. Pakistan's external debt stands at $ 35 billion, while external debt-GDP ratio is nearly 28 per cent. Health and education expenditure taken together account for only 1.5 per cent of GDP. Life expectancy is only 63 years.

India's position is hardly any better. Its external debt stands at about $ 117 billion. Per capita income in India is $ 720.5 but the number of poor people living in that country is 300 million, about two-thirds of the total poor living in the whole of South Asia. More than 40 per cent of the population in India is still illiterate and life expectancy is 64 years. Though the economies of both India and Pakistan are growing at a fast pace, the effects of this growth are yet to trickle down.

The problem in the case of India and Pakistan is that not only are the resources scarce, they are also mis-allocated. Too much is spent by both countries on military goods and services -- in the case of India military expenditure accounts for 2.5 per cent of GDP while in the case of Pakistan the ratio is 4.90 per cent. After debt servicing and meeting administrative expenditure, this leaves a very small amount of money for capital formation and human resource and social sector development. The vicious cycle of poverty and debt in the two countries can end only if their meager resources are optimally utilised -- for capital formation and human resource and social sector development. This will also increase their attractiveness as markets for foreign direct investment.

Trade relations between India and Pakistan are a classic example of the impact of politics on economics. Political relations between the two South Asian neighbours have for the greater part of their history been estranged and the two countries have remained involved in a zero-sum game: a bomb for a bomb, a missile for a missile. The two countries have gone to war thrice. Clashes between their border security forces have been frequent and both countries often blame each other for their internal security problems.

Pakistan's standpoint has been that conflict resolution is a sine qua non for promoting trade relations with India. That is why Pakistan has not yet granted the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, though New Delhi has given Islamabad this status in compliance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) regime.

A landmark achievement of the 12th Saarc summit in 2004 was the signing of the South Asia Free Trade Area (Safta) agreement. The aim of Safta is to integrate the economies of the member states of the organisation by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers and providing greater market access to the exports of member countries. The agreement, if put into effect, may usher in an era of development and prosperity in the region. The success of Safta, however, largely depends on the normalisation of Pakistan-India relations. In case the relations between the two countries do not normalise, Safta's fate will be no different from that of its predecessor, South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (Sapta).

In view of the high stakes involved in Pakistan-India deŽtente -- promotion of investment, trade and tourism in the region, capital accumulation and human resource development, and poverty and debt reduction -- it is necessary that the efforts for peace get momentum. In the past as well, the two countries had expressed their commitment to thrash out and resolve their disputes. The historic Simla Agreement concluded in July 1972 is one such example. The opening paragraph of the agreement reads: "The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan are resolved that the two countries put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have hitherto marred their relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and the establishment of durable peace in the sub-continent, so that both countries may henceforth devote their resources and energies to the pressing task of advancing the welfare of their people."

However, conflict and confrontation continued to mar Pakistan-India ties even after the signing of the agreement, and their meager resources remained devoted to warfare rather than to the welfare of their people. Later, Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi, Nawaz Sharif and I K Gujral, Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Pervez Musharraf and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and now Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh expressed such commitments in their bilateral one-on-one meetings. But after most of these meetings, the process of peace got stalled and the bilateral relations worsened instead of improving. It is high time the two countries learnt from the past and worked for mechanisms and methods which ensure that the peace process becomes sustained and sustainable and results in development in the region.

All said and done, Kashmir remains the most contentious issue on which traditionally both countries have adopted a hard stance. It is these hard stances that have hindered attempts at settling the problem. But of late the two sides have adopted a flexible posture and expressed their commitment to resolve the problem to their mutual satisfaction. Pakistan in particular has finally realised that military solution to the Kashmir issue is not possible, and that neither the United Nations nor the big powers which control it have any intention to get the Security Council resolutions of 1950s on the disputed territory implemented. This does not mean that Islamabad no longer supports the UN resolutions on Kashmir. What it means is that it is willing to consider alternative workable solutions.

History shows that efforts to normalise relations between the two countries must continue. The search for resolving the contentious issues should go on. But these issues should not bottleneck economic cooperation in the region. China and Taiwan have a serious political dispute but that has not prevented them from enhancing bilateral economic cooperation.

We are living in the age of regionalism and commercial diplomacy in which economics take precedence over politics in shaping inter-state relations. This explains why there is so much emphasis on forming blocs and concluding agreements for economic integration and promoting trade and investment. At present, trade within regional blocs accounts for more than 50 per cent of the global trade. Intra-European Union trade accounts for 65 per cent of the total trade by the members of the European Union, while trade within North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which comprises the United States, Canada and Mexico, makes up 60 per cent of the global trade of the members of Nafta. While no one expects Saarc to match the success of the EU or Nafta, it will be unfortunate if Safta remains a non-starter.


Email: hussainhzaidi@yahoo.com

Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi

The President's man

Benazir Bhutto sent Ehsanul Haq Piracha to me to accept a PPP ticket as a brotherly gesture. Otherwise, there is no following of the party in my constituency. People in my constituency, in fact, hate PPP.

Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi was born on January 1, 1946 in Mianwali district. He did his degree in medicine from the Nishtar Medical College, Multan, in 1968.

He was always as interested in politics as he was in practising medicine and has been involved in electoral politics for close to three decades now. Between 1979 and 1986, he was a member of the district council in Mianwali. Since 1985, he has been running as a candidate for the National Assembly, winning in 1985, 1988, 1993 and 2002.

In the latest elections, he was a candidate of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) but after winning the polls, he was instrumental in the formation of what is now known as Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians Patriot, a group of PPP legislators which broke rank with their party to support President Pervez Musharraf.

In earlier elections, he never ran as an official PPP candidate, though he was always supported by the party and he, too, without fail threw his lot with it whether in the government or the opposition.

Now in his third term as a federal minister, he is known for his controversial views and abrupt statements. Working as federal minister for parliamentary affairs, he has been quite outspoken in his defence of various legal and constitutional positions taken by the Musharraf regime.

Excerpts of his interview follow:

The News on Sunday: By training you are a doctor. What was it that inspired you to become a politician?

Sher Afgan Khan Niazi: After training as an orthopedic surgeon, I became a teacher, a demonstrator, at the medical college. Later, as a medical officer, I served in many cities across Punjab before I resigned and started my private medical practice.

But it was the plight of the poor people, particularly those coming from my own caste, Wattakhel, which forced me to enter politics. These people were maltreated at the state institutions like police stations and revenue departments. Their plight was so bad that I thought it better to work for healing the society instead of curing the individuals. So, I decided to join politics.

When in 1978, General Ziaul Haq announced that elections would be held for the national and provincial assemblies, I decided to run both as a candidate for the provincial as well as the national legislature. I had submitted my nomination papers as a candidate of Tehrik-e-Istiqlal candidate but those elections never took place.

In 1979, I won local council elections. I repeated this feat in 1983 local bodies' elections. In 1985, I won both as a member of the national as well as the provincial assembly. In 1988, I again won the nation assembly seat and became state minister for parliamentary affairs. I was again made federal minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs, human rights, social welfare and special education in 1993.

TNS: Is it right to say that you are a product of the political system introduced by General Ziaul Haq?

SAKN: No. I was opposed to Zia's policies. In fact, he tried to kill me but I escaped.

TNS: It is usually said that Zia, by manipulating the constitution for his personal ends, had rendered the members of the National Assembly nothing more than union councillors. What do you think is the proper role of a member of the National Assembly?

SAKN: A member of the National Assembly should perform four functions -- to legislate on issues contained in the federal legislative list and the concurrent list; to decide on the distribution of budgetary resources among different federal ministries, provinces etc; to discuss official policies and help in their formulation; to perform quasi-judicial functions and ensure the dignity and prestige of the parliament.

TNS: Do you think that the members of the National Assembly are performing their functions properly in accordance with what you have just said? It seems most members of the National Assembly are more interested in development funds than legislation and policy debate.

SAKN: You are right. It's because of police and court culture that set the stage for realpolitik in Pakistan. But now after the devolution of power, the functions of a members of the National Assembly are getting separated from those of a member of the provincial assembly and a councilor.

TNS: Do you think people can get elected to the National Assembly if they stick to their constitutional and legal role, without indulging in local politics?

SAKN: No, (they cannot). Besides doing federal legislative functions, a member of the National Assembly has to be involved in local development.

TNS: Should it be taken to mean that for all practical purposes there is not much of a difference between a member of the National Assembly and a councillor?

SAKN: Well, I think in realpolitik a councilor is more effective than a member of the National Assembly. This is because a councilor lives where he contests elections while a member of the National Assembly works -- and sometimes lives -- far from the people he represents.

TNS: It's not just the confusion between the role of a member of the National Assembly and a councillor. In fact, this confusion is everywhere. For instance, what is it that the federal ministry of parliamentary affairs is doing in the presence of the law ministry and the parliament secretariat?

SAKN: It's not confusing. (The federal ministry of parliamentary affairs) is one of the biggest ministries in the federal government. In terms of money, it is not attractive. It's rather arid and dry. You do not have money for yourself or dole it out to others from this ministry. Otherwise, it is this ministry that coordinates with all other ministries for setting the agenda of legislation. Laws for the Election Commission as well as elections tribunals are also formulated through this ministry.

TNS: Still many people believe that the parliamentary affairs ministry has many functions that overlap with those of the law ministry as well as the Election Commission. What do you think?

SAKN: No. In fact the ministries of law, justice, human rights and parliamentary affairs used to be one ministry. I myself served as the minister of this unified ministry in 1993. It's just that the parliamentary affairs has been made a fully-fledge different ministry now.

TNS: Does it mean that, compared to your previous ministerial stint, you are now enjoying reduced powers as a minister? Can it be said that you are running a smaller ministry now than you once did?

SAKN: Absolutely not. On the contrary, I am safe from the distraction that the attraction of minting money creates. This ministry is a technical ministry and is not involved in any financial affairs.

On the floor of the Parliament, I have to be in the forefront, discussing the constitutional issues. Now I have changed the parliamentary rules and regulations and codes for the conduct of business of the parliament. These rules are going to be approved by this month. The new rules are going to be of international standards and can be compared with those of the best parliaments in the world. In addition, I am also minister in charge of cabinet and establishment divisions and (I am also involved in running the affairs of the) Prime Minister's secretariat, presidency, Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata) and other regulatory bodies like Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) and National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) etc. (So, all in all, I am doing quite a lot of work and enjoy considerable powers.)

TNS: You have twice worked as a federal minister during PPP governments. In 2002, you also won an elections on a PPP ticket. Many people think that you have deserted the party at a critical juncture?

SAKN: I did not ask for party ticket in 2002. It was rather the other way round. Benazir Bhutto sent Ehsanul Haq Piracha to me to accept a PPP ticket as a brotherly gesture. Otherwise, there is no following of the party in my constituency. People in my constituency, in fact, hate PPP, though (personally) I am all praise for (PPP's founder) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

TNS: Can it be said that your commitment with PPP made you morally bound to become a member of the PPP-Patriot instead of joining Pakistan Muslim League?

SAKN: No, I am not a member of PPP-Patriot. I am just giving company to my colleagues in that party.

TNS: Do you belong to any political party?

SAKN: No. I don't need to.

TNS: Can we then call you a 'President's man'?

SAKN: Yes. I am committed to President Pervez Musharraf.

TNS: Many people are arguing that for the future elections the president will be entering into some sort of an arrangement with PPP and Maulana Fazlur Rehman through Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam). What's your point of view?

SAKN: PML-Q is the President's party. Who made PML-Q? President Musharraf did. (So, he can tell to do what he needs.)

TNS: What is the possibility of a deal between the President and PPP?

SAKN: They are negotiating. Benazir Bhutto wants to have a deal but principally the President does not agree that she should come back. If she does then she has to face the law. She cannot contest the elections. Instead she will have to undergo imprisonment for three years -- a punishment awarded to her and also ratified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Still, she is ready to help the President. Maybe she will be allowed to come back after 2-3 years.

TNS: How do you see different political scenarios emerging in the future?

SAKN: The ARD (Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy) is going to disintegrate and PPP is going to contest the 2007 election regardless of the fact whether the president is re-elected by this parliament or the next. PML-N will enter into an alliance with Qazi Hussain Ahmed's Jamaat Islami and Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaf. MMA is already disintegrated and Maulana Fazalur Rehman (and his Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam) will contest elections without making an issue of president's re-lection.

Similarly, the Charter of Democracy (signed by the constituent parties of ARD) has also become redundant because both PPP and PML-N (the main parties in the alliance) had committed in that document not to talk with the government but both of them are negotiating with President Pervez Musharraf.

TNS: All this raises a fundamental question. What does democracy mean in Pakistan's context?

SAKN: It's easy (to define democracy in Pakistan's context). Every country has its own version of democracy. In our case, the 1973 constitution in fact brought in a civilian dictatorship. (The constitution made the) Prime Minister more powerful than the President. After 1985, the troika came in. It consisted of the President, the Prime Minister and the army chief. The last in this configuration was more powerful than the other two. His support for one meant that the other had to be forced out.

This troika politics devoured quite a many prime ministers and parliaments. Now a balance has been created between the powers of the President and those of the Prime Minister. In the National Security Council, which is a consultative body, a system of checks and balances has been evolved between the President, the Prime Minister and the army chief. It has brought in stability because from now on both the military and civilian readerships will be responsible for any failure. The civilian leadership will not be solely responsible for it. There is, therefore, going to be no martial law in the future.

TNS: If your belief in the efficacy of the National Security Council is so strong, then why doesn't President Pervez Musharraf resign as army chief?

SAKN: The President's uniform is only haunting some educated people. Anyhow, the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces of Pakistan. If in addition to that he also holds the office of the army chief, it does not make any difference. It rather keeps the army under discipline and prevents possibility of any coup. It's the first time in the history of the country that the national and the provincial assemblies are going to complete their stipulated terms.

TNS: Will a president-cum-army-chief continue holding the two offices even after General Pervez Musharraf bows out?

SAKN: No, not at all. This system is specific to General Pervez Musharraf. He, too, may doff off his uniform after he is elected as president for another term.

TNS: How do you view the current situation? Will President Pervez Musharraf go ahead with getting re-elected from the current parliament despite all the opposition from all the various quarters?

SAKN: Naturally. It is very simple. People don't read the constitution. The Prsident's re-election by the current parliament is in accordance with the constitution. As far as the question of morality is concerned, there is a decision by the Supreme Count in 1975 that enunciates that morals do not count before the law and the constitution.

The constitution is quite clear on that. Its clause regarding the elections of the president reads: "Election to the office of President shall be held not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of the President in office; Provided that, if the election cannot be held within the period aforesaid because the National Assembly is dissolved, it shall be held within thirty days of the general election to the Assembly."

The election of the President becomes due much before the expiry of the Parliament's term. It is only when the assembly does not exist that the President's election can be held after the general elections.

The electoral college for electing the President also needs to be mentioned. The constitutional clause governing it says: "The President to be elected...shall be elected...by the members of an electoral college consisting of: (a) the members of both Houses; and (b) the members of the Provincial Assemblies."

It does not specifically say four provincial assemblies. Therefore even if one or two provincial assemblies are missing the election to the office of the president can be held. The President took oath of office on November 16, 2002, the same day when the members of the National Assembly took oath. As per the constitution, his re-election should take place in a month's time after the expiration of his first term. But if the assemblies complete their term, the next general elections will be held by January 15, 2008. This means that the new assemblies will not even come into existence before the presidential becomes due. Therefore, the election of the President must be held before the National Assembly completes its five-year term on November 15, 2007. This also means that the presidential elections must be held between September 15, 2007 and October 15, 2007.

TNS: Do you have precedents from other countries to confirm that the same electoral college can elect the president twice?

SAKN: Well after the demise of Ziaul Haq, Ghulam Ishaq Khan became the president. Similarly after the killing of John F Kennedy in the United States, the then vice-president was made as the president of that country. What will happen if God forbid, President Pervez Musharraf meets with an accident or is incapacitated? The Senate chairman will take over as the President and then the elections for the new president will be held. Don't you want that the constitution be followed in letter and spirit? Why should the assemblies be dissolved before time to facilitate the elections of the president by the new assemblies?

TNS: You are known for throwing some political feelers and making provocative statements. Are these to gauge public opinion? Is this deliberate?

SAKN: All my statements are based on reason. Because I have been a member of the National Assembly for four times and because I have also worked as a federal minister for three times, I think sanely and make true statements.

TNS: Do you think that the parliament is really powerful and is the supreme law making body in the country?

SAKN: It is fully powerful and has been discussing all issues. But there is some misconception here. The parliament discusses policies while these are made by the respective ministries. In case of our parliament, the minority wants to dictate to the majority. This is particular because of the mullas because they are used to giving Friday sermons to a silent audience. These mullas have come to the parliament with the same attitude and are not ready to discuss (the issue in earnest).

TNS: What is your opinion of the parliament every member of which is at least a graduate?

SAKN: Member of the National Assembly belonging to MMA are not graduates. All the others are fine.

TNS: Should we expect another change in the electoral laws before the next elections? Will the graduation condition for the prospective candidates for the parliament go?

SAKN: No, there will be no change in the election-related laws.

TNS: One of the responsibility of the state is to strengthen political parties and the political system in the country by subsidising these parties. What is your comments?

SAKN: President Pervez Musharraf has taken many steps in this regards such as making the Election Commission all powerful. A code of conduct for political parties has also been enacted. It says that they should hold internal elections. It also provides for the compulsory registration of political parties and reducing the age of a voter to 18. As far as political parties' funds are concerned, they are only hiding their assets. In fact, they get huge money from different resources.

TNS: Can't you disqualify them if they hide assets from the Election Commission?

SAKN: Yes, they can be disqualified but then they will start crying foul. They will say that they are being victimised.

TNS: There is an impression that only the rich can contest elections and that the middle class is not represented in the parliament...

SAKN: No, it's wrong. I come from the middle class.

TNS: But you are rich. Aren't you?

SAKN: No, I am not rich. I don't own agriculture land or any commercial property.

TNS: Then who pays for your election expenses?

SAKN: It is done by my people themselves. They do canvassing for me.

TNS: Who in your assessment will be the next prime minister?

SAKN: I pray Shaukat Aziz continues as prime minister because the country needs an economist like him to run the government.

TNS: As a senior politician, do you think the current constitutional arrangement will last last beyond Pervez Musharraf?

SAKN: Yes, of course. Such good things as devolution of power cannot be undone.

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