call for civil society''s role
Time to go
The nation should not forget Musharraf''s past before advocating a future role for him
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
In the aftermath of Feb 18, when the Pakistani people resoundingly rejected the military-dominated dispensation symbolised by Pervez Musharraf, calls have emerged from various quarters suggesting that the general and the military should be congratulated for ''allowing'' the electoral process to unfold. Some even argue that Musharraf deserves continued support as a civilian president, given that he has ''gracefully'' accepted the election result.
One wonders where those who are taking such positions have been over the past few months. Are our collective memories so fleeting that we cannot recall the brutal terror that was unleashed by Musharraf and his government against thousands of Pakistanis following the imposition of emergency on November 3 last year? Indeed, in an interview with a foreign newspaper printed on the election day, the retired general was quoted as saying that he should have dealt more forcefully with the lawyers before the movement for the restoration of the Chief Justice worked up a head of steam.
This is the same Pervez Musharraf who celebrated the violence perpetrated by the MQM and its goons in Karachi on May 12, 2007, triumphantly suggesting that this was the only way to deal with those who dissented against his government''s dictates. This is the same Pervez Musharraf who openly incited violence against one of the most senior and well-respected journalists in Pakistan in a public address during his recent visit to London. And this is the same Pervez Musharraf who is kidnapping Baloch nationalists and subjecting many to gruesome torture -- including ex-Chief Minister of the province, Akhtar Mengal.
Is Javed Hashmi ready to accept Pervez Musharraf, after having been jailed by the latter for four years because he questioned the military''s right to run Pakistan as a personal estate? Is Muneer A Malik ready to accept Pervez Musharraf, his kidneys only now beginning to recover after he was deliberately denied necessary medical treatment on being illegally jailed following the imposition of emergency? And of course, most importantly, are the tens of millions of Pakistani voters who cast their ballot against Musharraf and his Q-League willing to accept that after eight-and-a-half long years, the nation has to put up with the same man for countless more?
The problem with democracy for individuals like Pervez Musharraf is that it produces results that do not suit them. There should be no mistaking that the people of Pakistan went to the polls on February 18 to say no to Pervez Musharraf. If the small dose of optimism that was infused into the country when the election results started trickling in is not to turn very quickly into yet more disillusionment and alienation, all political forces worth their name must recognise the huge symbolism associated with Musharraf''s departure.
Of course the only reason the man is still around is because Uncle Sam has not demanded he leave yet. Indeed without Washington''s support Musharraf would have been history a long time ago. In the aftermath of the election disaster, the only card that Musharraf and Washington have left, indeed the one that has kept them together, will once again be played, namely that Musharraf is the Americans'' most steadfast partner in the so-called ''war on terror'' and that he will continue to enjoy the support of the ''free world''.
It is worth paying attention to the statement issued by caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz immediately after the elections, in which he claimed that the scourge of terrorism had been almost completely wiped out from across the country. Recall that in the lead-up to the elections, ''terrorism'' was at its peak but it has now suddenly and quite magically been crushed. One is reminded of the rhetoric that explained the imposition of emergency -- the acute terrorist threat facing Pakistan -- which then gave way to claims that Swat had been dramatically cleared of terrorists the second day after the emergency was lifted.
Just as ''terrorism'' is the bogey that the Bush administration invokes in the United States to explain and justify just about everything, it appears that the Musharraf regime is also still relying on ''terrorism'' to keep itself in power. The problem for both Musharraf and Bush is that on February 18 people rejected the ''terrorism'' bogey quite emphatically. Given that both Musharraf and Bush claim to be principled democrats, there is no way that the election results can now be twisted to produce a favourable outcome. And so, for the first time in many years, the ball is no longer in Musharraf''s, or by extension, Bush''s court.
Now the question arises whether the election victors have it in them to articulate a position vis-a-vis the so-called ''terrorists'' that reflects the people''s desires rather than that of the Bush White House. This, undoubtedly, is going to be difficult. But the best way to start is to respond to the people''s demands to get rid of Musharraf. It is true that this cannot happen overnight or through outright confrontation, because this will simply induce yet more extra-constitutional encroachments by either Musharraf or, more likely, the new army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. But if and when the PPP, the PML-N and the ANP manage to remove Musharraf, the task of reconfiguring the conflict with ''terrorists'' will be made easier.
In any case, the vote was not just against Musharraf, but also against American imperialistic interventions in Pakistan. Political forces that have been so weak for so long now admittedly have a lot on their plate, but they must display maturity and courage that befits the situation. What they have going for them is that society -- including, most importantly, Punjab -- is much more politicised than during the period 1988-99 and, therefore, wary of the possible manipulations of the military establishment.
So unless they undermine themselves, political forces will have the support of society in the coming phase of the struggle for democracy. Their best bet is to be honest by admitting what is beyond them and urging the greatest possible participation of ordinary Pakistanis in the political process, so as to make it untenable for the military to start its machinations. And we will all be ever more willing to participate in this process if Musharraf goes, because this will prove that our collective efforts since March 9 last year have borne fruit.
Against American imperialism
The Clash of Civilisations theory was promoted intentionally.
By Raza Khan
Dr Mansur Umar Khan is the son of a German national of Pakistani origin. His father originally hails from Peshawar, while his mother is a German. He got his early education from a German elementary school and then took admission in an American school in Germany. Later, he received his bachelor''s degree in Government and Politics from Maryland University, the United States. Next, he got his master''s degree in International Relations from Boston University, the US. Finally, he did his doctorate on the Gulf War from Kassel University in Germany.
Dr Mansur Umar Khan has written several books, mostly while in Germany, including The Secret History of Americas Wars and The Iraq Plot and Three Gulf Wars Toward World Hegemony. Dr. Mansur was invited by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to come to Pakistan as foreign faculty. For the last one year, he has been teaching at the International Relations Department of the University of Peshawar. The News on Sunday recently talked to him on various current issues in global politics, particularly the ''war on terror''. Excerpts follow:
The News on
Sunday: Is the so-called Clash of
Mansur Umar Khan: It is definitely not inevitable. I believe that this clash has basically been forced upon humanity. When I was studying in the United States back in the 1980s, terrorism was not an issue at that time. Instead, the issues of bipolarity, relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis, poverty, and the relationship between the First World and the Third World were the real issues. But the articles and research papers by high-ranking scholars and authorities for some years in the US have been claiming that terrorism is a big thing coming up. I am amazed how these people can say so. Keep it in mind that the US has a big military-industrial complex and ever since the Second World War economists have been saying that it cannot sustain itself without this huge military-industrial complex.
Such an establishment was doing fine as long as the arms race with the Soviets continued, as its perpetrators had a ''genuine'' reason for getting sanctioned huge amount of funds -- almost to the tune of $400 billion every year. When the Soviet Union dismembered, many quarters said there was no justification any longer for such a big military-industrial complex and it was time to get the peace dividend. They also thought that it was an opportunity to build up their civil society. This debate was raging and before it could lead to any conclusion, suddenly on August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait and all of a sudden everything reversed, especially in the US.
The people of the business community and the military-industrial complex started saying that they had told all along that you never know where the next threat would come from -- we are living in a dangerous world. So we have to increase the defence spending or at least maintain the Cold war defence allocation levels. Intellectually, one also has to keep in perspective what the so-called writers were writing at the time. When the Cold War ended in 1989, Francis Fukayama, who worked in the State Department, wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine contending that the history has come to an end.
He then published his famous books The End of History and The Last Man, in both of which he argued that we had reached the apex of humanity and capitalism; and democracy is the fate of the world from now onwards. But this euphoria did not last long. Out of this emerged a pessimistic era of outlook, and journalists and so-called scholars started arguing that terrorism or fundamentalist Islam is a problem and even a threat to the Western world. In 1993, Samuel Huntington wrote in the Foreign Policy magazine a paper entitled the Clash of Civilisations.
TNS: Does it mean that this theory was promoted intentionally?
MUK: Yes, the Clash of Civilisations theory was promoted intentionally. I have done some research on the issue and I believe that there was some active plan to replace the threat of Soviet Communist with the new bogey of international terrorism, with Muslim countries being presented as its main perpetrators. I think that a country like the US needs a permanent enemy, so that there always remains a ''need'' for its military-industrial complex that requires an enormous amount of funding. It also demands that the image of a common enemy be kept alive. The Salman Rushdie episode, in which he was encouraged to write The Satanic Verses, was a part of this plan. I mean the ground was well prepared for this Clash of Civilisations theory. I read in one book that Allan Dallas, a former head of the American Central Investigation Agency (CIA), approached Huntington to write such a book in the 1980s.
I believe that it is not only the big businesses and the military-industrial complex that need an active threat for the US, but also the neo-conservatives. When the 9/11 incident happened, the American economy was experiencing a recession. It is interesting to note that whenever there is a recession or depression in the US, it usually resort to an arms build up and war to bring the economy out of the woods. In a nutshell, there is a coterie or clique within the US that is interested in keeping alive the Clash of Civilisations theory and keeping the image of a common threat alive. A major reason for this is to keep the attention diverted from the domestic problems in which the US abounds -- drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, use of fire arms in public, decline in general morality and economic recession to name a few.
TNS: It is true that this coterie or clique has captured not only America but the whole world. But how?
MUK: It is all due to the fact that the mass media is so pervasive and has such a strong influence on the viewers that we have become a kind of ''audio-visual hostages''. They paint different security situations differently, and it never goes green. They have really made people fearful and submissive. Even Bush''s first occupation of presidency was made to appear legitimate and legal by the conservative mass media, but it was not so.
TNS: Do you see an end to the Bush-initiated ''war on terror'' or will it last forever?
MUK: It was Dick Cheney, believed to be the secret ''prime minister'' of the US who had even more control than Bush, who said after the 9/11 incidents that it was going to be a very long war -- it may not end in our generation and might take two more generations to be completed. He actually came up with a list of some 60 countries that were seen as a threat to the US on account of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or promoting terrorism. In this context, one can easily be pessimistic. Coming back to your question, obviously the ''war on terror'' does not have to be ongoing.
TNS: Why there has not been a strong response from the rest of the world to policies of the neo-conservatives?
MUK: It is difficult for the world to respond in a strong manner, due to the fact that the US is still a super power and has a military might that no other nation can rival, probably except Russia. Also, the US has by far the biggest economy in the world. But there have been strong diplomatic and political responses by allies of the US in its ''war on terror''. Germany and France, in particular, have been very critical of Bush''s policies. These countries -- as well as others like China and Russia -- had signed agreements and contracts with Iraq that once the international sanctions were lifted, their oil companies would come in and do lucrative business. Then the US created the bogey of Saddam Hussein and keep on frightening the rest of the world besides justifying its arms build up. Between the first Gulf War and the second in 2003, arms worth almost $400 billion were sold to the countries under threat from Saddam Hussein.
But there must be an end to the ''war on terror''. We are having a constellation of powers coming up with changes in power configuration globally. For instance, China is fast emerging as the next economic power house. According to the World Bank''s statistics, by 2035 the Chinese economy would surpass that of the US. That is why Samuel Huntington wrote so apprehensively about the threat of Confucius civilisation besides the Islamic one. But the fact is that the US cannot survive without trade with China. In fact, since the Reagan years in 1984, the statistics show that from being a lender nation the US has become the number one debtor of the world, as it has been living beyond its means. In fact, Bush has squandered almost $500 billion saved as trade surplus during the Clinton years. Once China becomes a power to reckon with, this so-called ''war on terror'' would become insignificant.
Also, if Germany and France do form a real European community they would move away from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). The only problem is that the European Union does not have a single foreign policy. Latin America currently is also witnessing a very interesting phenomenon. The presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia have gone their own way. In fact, they have reverted to the approach of the 1960s when Che Guvera was waging a struggle against the American imperialism. So the world is responding in a somewhat assertive way to stop the US from behaving in a hegemonic manner.
TNS: Do you think that the democratisation of countries like Pakistan could deprive the US of its important allies in the ''war on terror''?
MUK: It is convenient for the US to make claims about promoting democracy in the world. But if the Cold War is any testimony, the US supported many dictatorial regimes as long as they could serve its interests. We should not forget the Algerian example, where an anti-US political party won elections genuinely but was denied power. It is ironic that democratisation could backfire for the Americans, as democratic governments mostly assume an anti-US posture after coming to power.
TNS: How did the ''war on terror'' affect Pakistan and what are the foreseeable repercussions?
MUK: The consequences of the ''war on terror'' can be witnessed on an almost daily basis, like bombing in Waziristan under the American pressure. This is a dangerous situation for Pakistan. The ''war on terror'' is going to radicalise the whole situation, because we would only get more extremists and this would polarise the society. The best way obviously would be to stop the ''war on terror'' immediately. The problems for Pakistan, of course, are compounded by the fact that it does have nuclear weapons.
TNS: Is the threat of Pakistani nukes falling into the hands of extremists real?
MUK: No, I do not think that it is a real threat. Moreover, I do not think that the security would be so poor to allow such a thing happen.
TNS: What are your views on Pakistan''s education system?
MUK: I think that there is a lot of room for improvement. Though the HEC is doing its best, but there is a need to do a lot more. In particular, the libraries have to be updated with latest books and journals. Also, more qualified people have to be inducted in the faculty of universities. Above all, both quality and quantity of research needs to be enhanced.
A ''right'' decision?
By not taking part in the elections, the boycotting parties have helped opponents of Musharraf win more seats
By Sibtain Raza Khan
The recent elections have thrown many surprises and some of these can be attributed to the boycott call by a few political parties. The issue that needs to be discussed is whether the boycott call failed to attract the masses; and if it did, whom did this favour? Since the announcement of the general elections, the opposition parties had been sceptical about the government''s intentions and had expressed concerns regarding possible rigging in them. Initially, many political parties -- including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) -- indicated that they would boycott the elections. However, as the elections drew closer, only Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and some other smaller parties in the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) stuck to this stance. Though these parties were not poised to win a lot of seats in the elections, their boycott call did have at least an indirect impact on the results.
By not taking part in the elections, these parties basically favoured not themselves but other political parties. The elections, unexpectedly, were quite transparent and all the major political parties have accepted their results. The public has given its verdict against the policies of the outgoing government through the power of its vote. The negative public sentiment against the King''s Party, coupled with the vacuum created by the absence of the boycotting parties, led to a shift of vote bank in favour of the PML-N, the Pakistan People''s Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP).
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) swept the 2002 general elections in the NWFP and Balochistan, and also got 45 seats in the National Assembly. The JI, one of the main component parties of the MMA, decided to boycott the recent elections. On the other hand, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) contested the elections from the MMA''s platform in the belief that it had a major vote bank. However, the election results propped the ANP and the PPP as the leading parties in the NWFP, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) in Balochistan. On the other hand, the MMA secured only nine seats in the NWFP and seven seats in Balochistan. In the 2002 elections, the party got 48 seats in the NWFP and 13 seats in Balochistan.
It appears that, in the absence of the JI, the MMA''s vote bank has shifted to other political parties. This has left the MMA in a lurch, also because the turnout remained almost the same in the two provinces as it was in the 2002 elections. This implies that the MMA''s voters in the 2002 elections, other than the staunch supporters, did not boycott the elections and chose to cast their votes in the favour of some other political party. One wonders had the JI participated in the elections, would the outcome been any different.
The other political party that boycotted the elections -- the PTI -- has been very vocal against the establishment in the recent past and is a staunch supporter of judicial activism. According to some analysts, the PTI would have been able to win a few seats had it taken part in the elections -- since the voting pattern in the recent elections has mainly been anti-establishment. The PTI''s absence from the election scene has favoured the PML-N the most. Also, the party draws its support mainly from the youth and women. During the recent elections, the participation of youth and women was much higher than in any of the previous elections. This would have certainly favoured the PTI had it participated in the elections.
The election boycott call proved to be the most effective in Balochistan. Almost all the regional and nationalist parties -- including the Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) -- boycotted the elections. The voters of these boycotting parties also protested against the establishment and, following the line of their parties, remained away from the polls. However, the areas that have been the PML-Q''s stronghold saw an even greater voter turnout. Nonetheless, there have been some rigging allegations in these constituencies and also in other remote areas, which according to some people resulted in a relatively higher voter turnout in the province.
The high voter turnout -- 45.67 per cent -- has been one of the major surprises of the recent elections. Since the 1990 elections, when the turnout was 45.46 per cent, the number of people casting their votes in elections has gradually decreased -- with the lowest of 35.42 per cent in the 1997 elections. In the 2002 elections, it was 41.74 per cent. In this backdrop, the turnout in the recent elections has come as a surprise to many. It has also demonstrated the public belief in democratic processes.
What appears from the post-election scenario is that the boycott politics has not worked, at least not in the favour of the parties pursuing it. The election boycott has isolated the component parties of the APDM, particularly the smaller regional parties. They could have achieved their political goals and furthered their political agendas by participating in the elections, and by getting a mandate from the public. The new parliament would not have any representation from these regional or nationalist parties, and they are left with no platform to voice their opinions and reservations. Hence, by denouncing the democratic process, these parties have clouded their own political career.
Neither can boycotting elections serve democratic interests nor can it favour the parties pursuing it. The policy adopted by other major political parties -- the PPP and the PML-N -- of voicing their concerns regarding government intentions and yet participating in the elections has proved to be more successful. Their participation has not only brought about a change, but has also helped these parties to achieve their goals. The elections have also provided the public with an opportunity to explicitly demonstrate its choice and opinion. The recent elections have showed that isolation from the mainstream politics cannot contribute to the national well being and the solution lies only in participating in a democratic process.
Politics of loan write-offs
It comes as a surprise that in a country where the poor even fail to get bank loans, the rich can easily get away with not returning them at all
By Huzaima Bukhari and Dr Ikramul Haq
According to media reports, bank loans worth about Rs 125 billion were written off in the seven years between 2000 and 2006. Most of these loans were written off under the State Bank of Pakistan''s (SBP''s) Circular No 29/2002, of which the major beneficiaries have been politicians and industrialists. Interestingly, this amount is more than four times more than the total bank loans written off in the period between 1985 and 1999, when the supposedly ''corrupt'' elected governments were in power.
Bank loans worth Rs 30.18 billion were written off during the terms of Muhammad Khan Junejo, Benazir Bhutto (two) and Mian Nawaz Sharif (two) as prime ministers. Almost three-fourths (74 per cent) of these loans -- Rs 22.35 billion -- were written off during the two terms of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister -- the first extending from 1990 to 1993 and the second from 1997 to 1999. In his first term, bank loans worth Rs 2.39 billion were written off; while in his second term, this figure went up to a staggering Rs 19.96 billion. During the two terms of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister, bank loans worth Rs 7.23 billion were written off, constituting almost 24 per cent of the total -- Rs 494.97 million in her first term (1988-1990) and Rs 6.74 billion in the second (1993-1996).
In the wake of the recent general elections, the people of Pakistan will require a genuine leadership that gives respect to their mandate by removing an unconstitutional president, restoring deposed judges of the superior judiciary and recovering the written-off bank loans worth billions of rupees. It goes without saying that the people in power loot the public money without impunity. A number of media reports reveal how the public money lying in the banks was plundered. The criminal culpability of successive governments in this regard has brought Pakistan to a stage where the international community perceives the country as a haven for the corrupt, plunderers, criminals and tax-evaders.
An unholy alliance of bankers, businesspeople-cum-politicians and bureaucrats that managed to plunder the public money is now using the clergy for the elimination of ''riba'', which according to them is exploitative. What about sanctity of a contract under the Quranic injunctions? What about plundering of the public money? Who exploited the banking system in Pakistan? Who promoted the culture of kickbacks in sanctioning of bank loans? Who engineered default in the most skillful manner to get the benefit of loan write-offs, while the personal wealth of these companies'' directors kept on increasing?
During the so-called ''transparent'' era of Pervez Musharraf and his cronies, the bank loan write-offs in only seven years (2000-2006) crossed the figure of Rs 125 billion; while in the much-publicised ''corrupt'' eras of the elected governments (1985-1999), they were only Rs 30 billion. This comparison speaks for itself and does not require further comment. The total non-performing advances of the country''s five leading banks in selected years between 1982 and 2006, as per the published Annual Accounts, were: 1982 (Year): Rs 8 billion (Quantum); 1983: Rs 39 billion; 1993: Rs 62 billion; 1998: Rs 118 billion; 1999: Rs 164 billion; 2000; Rs 171 billion; 2001: Rs 185 billion; 2002: Rs 229 billion; 2004: Rs 241 billion; 2005: Rs 255 billion; and Rs 2006: Rs 265 billion.
There are, however, strong reasons to believe that the quantum of non-performing loans is much higher than that has been reported above. The politics of writing-off of loans in Pakistan requires proper investigation and study, as it will unveil may big names that are responsible for corruption and the failure of democratic process in the country. The fact that billions of rupees of the public money were lost on account of the written-off bank loans also added to the increasing miseries of the poor in the country. The cases relating to plundering of public money to the tune of billions, and the blatant abuse of power by the rulers and their cronies, pose a serious threat to Pakistan''s fledgling democratic culture.
The following passage, from the Audit Report Volume III B: Income Tax Receipts and Workers'' Welfare Fund, 1988-89, published by the Auditor General of Pakistan, is an eye-opener in this regard:
"Loss of revenue due to irregular allowance for bad debts: Three nationalised banks claimed, in their computations of income, deductions on account of bad debts. Bad debts claimed as above were allowed by the income tax officer, not on the basis of his own findings, as required under Section 23(1)(x) of the Income Tax Ordinance, but on the basis of a certificate issued by the SBP, as instructed by the Central Board of Revenue (CBR) in its confidential circular letter C No 1(48) IT-1/82, dated 3.8.1983 and addressed to the income tax commissioners of Karachi and Lahore. It was instructed that ''in case of an assessee being a bank wholly-owned by the Government of Pakistan, production of certificate from the SBP to the effect that provision of bad debt as specified therein has been approved by it should be treated as sufficient evidence. In such cases, the claims may be accepted on the basis of the said certificate without further investigations. The instructions would apply to assessments for the financial year 1983-84 onwards.''
"On account of the illegal instructions issued by the CBR (now the Federal Board of Revenue - FBR), the government suffered a huge loss of revenue. It was not possible for audit to make an accurate estimate of this loss of revenue. Bad debts are incidental to money lending business to some extent. Technically speaking, the income tax officer, if left to himself and not restrained in the illegal manner, would have allowed / disallowed either in full or in part the claim of bad debts after scrutinising the accounts of the assessee banks. However, evidence placed on the assessment records suggests that the debtors had furnished substantial securities to the creditor banks, so that the loans could have been recovered by taking legal action. The banks took no such recovery action. It could thus be very reasonably said that the income tax officer would have disallowed the bulk of the claims of bad debts. The government might well have suffered a staggering tax loss in the instances noted above. The matter was taken up with the concerned commissioner of income tax, who tried to defend the action of the CBR''s top bosses and their subordinate staff. However, he has not offered any tangible comments on the validity of the CBR''s action. The audit requires justification for the said action involving huge loss to the government."
The government, the SBP and the FBR never took this audit paragraph seriously. Had this special immunity not been granted, the loss to the public exchequer of more than Rs 125 billion could have been averted. Instead, the CBR -- even in the presence of this audit report -- issued another set of instructions on Feb 4, 1993, vide its letter No 13(26)/IT-1/79, giving further concessions to the banks. One hopes that the next government will give a free hand to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to unearth the process using which the banks, unscrupulous businesspeople, government officials and politicians joined hands to deprive the nation of billion of rupees.
The big bosses of the SBP and the FBR should be taken to task, and asked to explain who had ordered them to issue ''administrative instructions'' in gross violation of the law for bank loan write-offs. The inquiry into loan write-offs will reveal the modus operandi through which the public money is siphoned off, as well as who are the real beneficiaries. If we want to establish a true democracy in Pakistan, the public money looted by these criminals should be recovered and the government officials who joined hands with them should be punished.
(The writers are leading tax advisers.
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Living in darkness
The country has experienced an unprecedented load shedding in this winter season and the future does not bode well
By Syed Asad Hussain
This article is not about the controversial Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) under which many judges of the superior courts refused to take oath on November 3 last year; rather, it is about the ''power-cut-off''. For the first time in Pakistan''s history, urban areas, including the country''s capital, are experiencing load shedding of four to five hours in a day and that too in the winter season. The situation in rural areas is even worse, as they are experiencing load shedding of eight to 12 hours in a day.
One wonders why there has been a need for load shedding when air conditioners and fans are switched off due to the cold weather; hence demand for power has been reduced greatly. Experts reckon that by 2010 the gap between demand and supply of power will reach around 5,000 megawatts, with no significant addition to the country''s existing generation capacity. So, the worse is yet to come. Having faced many crises in the recent past, the nation is now thrown before a new monster.
Considering the present scenario, load shedding of six to seven hours in a day in the urban areas and of 13 to 14 hours in a day in the rural areas is on the cards in the coming summer season. It seems that we are now being trained, by our ''masters'' in the establishment, to learn to live like the people of the Stone Ages.
The government has put the onus on public and the underlying message appears to be that the people should make their own arrangements, like generators, for power and stop relying on the government in this regard. The policy-makers are of the view that if people can afford private security guards for their protection, why cannot they make their own arrangements for power.
We all should, therefore, rush to build up stocks of candles, emergency lights, gas lights, kerosene oil, diesel, etc, in our backyards before the summer season starts, because these items will be short in supply at that time. In short, another crisis will surface soon. The establishment knows the potential of this nation. It knows that the people of Pakistan are capable of facing multiple crises -- sugar, wheat / flour, cement, power, gas, water, judicial, political, you name it -- and will stand the test of time again.
It seems that the establishment''s job is to create crises and our job is to learn to live with them. It is also true that most of us were born or grew up under emergency or martial law, but the multiple crises created by the Musharraf regime have made life really tough for the common people of Pakistan. The nation has been put through a real commando training.
Coming back to the ''PCO'', it is very likely that in the coming summer season, the country earns the unique distinction of becoming the land of candles. Due to the ''PCO'', our streets, homes and offices will remain in darkness for most of the time, and have to be lit up with candles. One feels that the festival of Basant should also be replaced with a festival of candles.
Our universities, schools, and colleges will likely run on emergency lights, demonstrating to the world that Pakistan has declared an ''emergency'' on education also. Officers of both private and public organisations will wear short dresses to beat the heat and to show to the world that Pakistan is fast becoming a modern country in the true sense of the word -- thanks to the ''PCO''. The establishment will be happy to learn that -- at least one of the objectives of the so-called ''war on terror'' will be met without losing any Pakistani troop.
In future, there will be ex-servicemen''s crisis too. Why? For the simple reason that they are worried about the lucrative jobs they used to get after retirement in the past. This is due to the fact that one retired general has recently been assigned the duty to deal with the wheat / flour crisis, which undermines the abilities of our ex-servicemen. Mind you, they are not born to deal with such petty issues.
And there is another crisis looming on the horizon -- that of land. As the size of the army increases to help fight the so-called ''war on terror'', the number of Defence Housing Societies / Authorities will increase accordingly to accommodate the large number of retired army officers. Land holding will increase further and price of land will shoot up; poor civilians will face another crisis on this count in the days to come.
Therefore, if any civilian finds any unclaimed land now, he or she is advised to just grasp it. God willing, you will be a paid handsome amount during the land crisis. The list of crises can be stretched to the roof, but I think I should wind up my piece here as it is ''PCO'' time and my computer needs to be shifted onto a UPS.
(The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance writer.
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IDS is producing a wide range of weapons systems
By Kaleem Omar
Integrated Defence Systems (IDS), formerly known as the National Development Complex, is a state-owned defence industry set up jointly by the Pakistan army, navy and air force near Islamabad. IDS'' products have been attracting considerable interest amongst foreign buyers and could become a useful earner of foreign exchange for the country.
A key component of Pakistan''s growing and increasingly sophisticated defence industry, IDS has made remarkable progress in recent years in developing and producing a wide range of tactical weapons systems and other defence-related products, including anti-armour bombs, cluster bombs, missile systems, launchers, initiatory devices, telemetry systems, energetic materials and propellants.
According to Dr Samar Mubarkmand, who headed the team that conducted six successful nuclear tests at Chaghai on May 28 and May 30, 1998, IDS was created with the objective of achieving the following goals: 1) to design, develop and produce state-of-the-art strategic smart weapons; and 2) to move toward self-reliance in weaponry.
IDS officials say innovation at IDS is evolutionary in its nature and solution-oriented in its process. They say it has been the goal of IDS to deliver state-of-the-art military hardware at competitive prices. According to them, the functional flexibility offered by IDS products is an added attraction for potential buyers.
In Pakistan''s push to boost export earnings through legitimate defence-related exports to friendly countries in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, IDS is expected to play a key role, along with such other key state-owned defence industries as the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (a complex of 14 factories producing a wide range of small arms and other weapons), Heavy Industries Taxila (which produces tanks, armoured personnel carriers and security vehicles) and the air force''s Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Board, Kamra (a complex of four factories: F-6 Rebuild Factory, Mirage Rebuild Factory, Aircraft Manufacturing Factory, and the Kamra Avionics and Rebuild Factory).
Initially IDS was assigned the task of developing area denial cluster bombs, fuel air explosive (FAE) bombs, H-4 digger (hard target) bomb warheads, explosive fillings for low drag bombs, pyrotechnics for weapons, and safety arming systems. Over the years, achieving self-reliance in diverse technologies relating to these areas became IDS'' primary objective.
In pursuit of this objective, IDS has developed a variety of tactical weapons that offer a high degree of functional flexibility. These include the Shaheen-I medium range surface-to-surface missile, the Shaheen-II intermediate range surface-to-surface missile (both types of missiles are only for Pakistan''s own use and not for export), the Hijara anti-armour bomb, the PSD-I area denial bomb, the FAE-1 bomb (fireball type), warheads for missiles, warheads for anti-armour and tactical applications, military fuses, and energetic materials and propellants.
Other IDS products include specialised military batteries (for power source applications), initiatory devices, telemetry systems, radar altimeters, explosive reactive armour (installed on tanks to minimise the impact of anti-tank missiles and artillery), defence electronics, safety and arming devices, and on-board computers.
In the armour and anti-armour category, IDS'' products include state-of-the-art explosive reactive armour, uni-stage shaped charges, tandem-shaped charges, demolition charges, and KE penetrator rounds. In the energetic materials and propellants category, its products include HTPB, AP, Al powder, HX752, MAPO, hydrazine and ablative material.
In the military fuses category, its products include air burst fuses, proximity fuses and chemical delay fuses. In the power source category, its products include thermal batteries, nickel cadmium cells, lithium manganese dioxide batteries, lithium thionyl batteries, zinc-silver-oxide cells and a variety of military batteries. In the initiatory devices category, its products include electric detonators, cutting charge cords, explosive bolts and igniters.
IDS'' Hijara anti-armour bomb, also known as TSD-1 (top-attack sub-munitions dispenser), is a piercing cluster bomb unit similar to the American Rockeye-II. The bomb consists of 274 live bomblets contained in a dispenser that can be carried by any aircraft capable of delivering 500-pounders. A precision mechanical time fuse controls the opening of the Hijara dispenser after its release. The bomblets spread out in the form of a blanket of high-explosive power over a wide target area. Each of the mines, armed by air-flow upon explosion, detonates upon impact on any medium- to hard-target. The encased-shaped-charge enables penetration in armour up to 200 milimeters, thereby achieving destruction of the target.
The Hijara is compatible with 14 aircraft types. The weapon can be delivered at high speeds and at altitudes between 33 metres to 83 metres in level flight. However, the pilot needs to maintain altitude only for a short duration (precise aiming is not required), thus assuring safety of the aircraft. Multiple weapon releases from the same aircraft can cause explosion chains in a large target area. The air-flow-arming of the mine-fuse ensures an inherent foolproof feature in the mine.
IDS'' explosive reactive armour (ERA) works on the following principle: the heat round jet initiates the detonation of only the hit module. The explosive charge projects a plate towards the jet, so that it is consumed and destabilised. The ERA module for a main battle tank offers increased protection equivalent to 250-300 milimeters of reinforced heavy armour against heat rounds. When a module is hit with heat rounds, the adjacent modules do not detonate or deflagrate. When subject to small arms fire, ERA modules do not detonate or deflagrate.
IDS'' facilities include a propellant and chemicals group. This group is presently engaged in the production of basic chemical ingredients of a solid propellant for rocket engines. The group is also engaged in research and development work for the further improvement of production methods and products.
In addition to producing weapons systems and other defence products, IDS offers a wide range of services. These include the ''re-lifing'' of missile systems, research and development services, and the development of software. It is also equipped to undertake turnkey defence projects, including special projects tailored to customer needs.
Integrated Defence Systems also has considerable capability in the fields of reverse engineering and complex electro-mechanical systems. It has a network of research centres, with state-of-the-art analytic and computational software for design conceptualisation, virtual prototyping analysis and performance optimisation.
An agenda for Sindh
Benazir Bhutto''s assassination has increased the sense of deprivation among the
By Nasir Ali Panhwar
According to a National Solidarity Mission report, Benazir Bhutto''s assassination has dashed the Sindhis'' hopes of a brighter future. The mission comprised of a range of civil society representatives belonging to various nationalities and regions across the country. It visited various parts of Sindh to convey the message of harmony and solidarity in the wake of Benazir''s assassination. Though the Sindhis, the report says, want the federation to remain intact, the establishment was forcing them to think otherwise. "The December 28 incident has increased the sense of deprivation among the Sindhis; and if not addressed forthwith, the outcome would be disastrous for the country," it adds.
The National Solidarity Mission''s report continues that no incidents of ethnic violence was reported from Sindh following Benazir Bhutto''s assassination; rather, thousands of Punjabis were treated humanly and taken care of while they were stuck in trains and buses. "The Sindhis believe that the ''power-players'' plant single-vote holders as chief minister of the province, who ultimately never take up the agenda of development and toe the line of their masters in Islamabad," the report observes. "Equitable distribution of natural resources and opportunities, true implementation of the 1940 Resolution and a comprehensive package on absolute provincial autonomy is the only way to bridge the gap between different nationalities of Pakistan and to run the country on a just basis."
The report presents startling findings at this important juncture in the country''s history and provides food for thought for the powers-that-be. Besides other aspects, the report has highlighted that a development agenda for Sindh was never pursued seriously by the outgoing regime. As the second largest province of Pakistan in terms of population, Sindh plays an important role in the country''s economic development. Also, the province''s contribution to the country''s economy is much higher than the other three provinces. For instance, 70 per cent of Pakistan''s income tax and 62 per cent of its sales tax are collected from Sindh.
On the one hand, Sindh collects almost 70 per cent of the national revenues forming the federal divisible pool; while, on the other hand, its share in revenue transfer is only 23.28 per cent. Sindh presents a sharp contrast between urban and rural life, hence it is called the land of immense contrasts and duality. The rural Sindh is only hundred of kilometers away from Karachi, but from the development perspective it is thousand of kilometers away from the cosmopolitan city.
A vast majority of Sindh''s rural population depends on agriculture and related sectors like livestock, forestry and fisheries for its livelihood. The rural inhabitants of the province, particularly the landless farmers, are passing through a difficult period because of the persistent water shortages, inadequate diversification of livelihood sources as a result of poor connectivity, and unbalanced land ownership patterns. The persistent ban on the public sector jobs has added to the number of unemployed youth in Sindh drastically. There has been a mushroom growth in recent past of both public and private sector educational institutions, including universities, in the province. As a result, each year thousands of new graduates are available in the job market but there are no employment opportunities for them.
The pace of development in Sindh over a period of time has put it much behind other provinces, especially Punjab and the NWFP. The social indicators -- poverty, unemployment, education, health, potable water, sanitation, etc -- of the province continue to decline. Both cities and towns in Sindh are devoid of master plans and hardly any principle of town panning is being followed, despite the fact that the pace of urbanisation in the province is quite high. The rural employment and development have not been accorded due attention and priority. To add to this, there currently is not a single department that caters to related needs.
After Karachi, the rural-urban migration has started to take its toll on other cities of Sindh also -- Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Nawab Shah to name a few. The mushroom growth of residential schemes in these urban areas has been achieved without taking into account the basic principles of town planning. These unplanned schemes -- in the absence of master plans, land use schemes and zoning plans -- may result into another catastrophe.
The rural Sindh has not been able to capitalise on its proximity to Karachi, mainly because of poor road connectivity. Similarly, inter- and intra-district road connectivity is also poor. Considering this, the Sehwan-Rato Dero section of Indus Highway and Thatta-Karachi section of National Highway should be completed on a priority basis. The non-operational airports, such as those in Hyderabad and Sehwan, should also be made functional at the earliest.
Considering the ongoing power crisis, any further delay in the development and exploitation of coal reserves in Thar would be detrimental to the development of Sindh in particular and the whole country in general. The restoration of the Indus delta, along with development of the tourism industry by preserving the numerous cultural and environmental sites, should also be on Sindh''s development agenda to boost the province''s economy.
The donor community has been pushing hard to work with the provincial government to bring about much needed governance reforms and improve the province''s social indicators, but it has so far failed to make much difference. Many donor-supported projects were not executed at the required pace, which frustrated them. For instance, the donors have been pumping money into the education sector for years but the required change is still forthcoming. As a result, Sindh is no more on the priority list of most. This is despite the fact that the multi-faceted problems of Sindh require special attention and consideration.
The next provincial government would have to first restore the confidence of the donors, by initiating fast track development process in multiple sectors, depoliticising the bureaucracy and reducing the widening urban-rural gap. There is a need for urgent and bold decisions to reverse the economic and social decline, as well as to bridge the social divide in the province. The next government, formed by whosoever, will have to face multiple challenges and hence would have to work hard to put the province on the path of equitable development.
The year 2006 saw the urban population exceed the rural population for the first time in human history
By Rehan Khan
The lure of attractive monetary compensation and a better quality of life are some factors that have led to an ever-increasing rate of migration from rural to urban areas. Along with many pull and push factors involved in urbanisation, the crux of the issue is that cities are fast becoming engines for economic growth. Economic power is concentrated in the mega cities that radiate knowledge and influence, thus their magnetic influence.
Pakistan, at the time of its inception, was a rural country and more than two-thirds of the country''s population was based in rural areas. The situation has changed drastically over the years. According to the Vision 2030 document, published last year by the government, Pakistan currently is the most urbanised country in South Asia.
The quality of life in the rural areas cannot be compared with that in the urban areas. The former are lagging behind the latter in all areas of life, from standard of sanitation to clean drinking water and from health to educational facilities. These low standards ultimately result in lack of jobs for the rural youth.
The natural inclination of humankind to strive at betterment is common in the rural community as well. This results in what we have come to know as ''urbanisation''. This term has been coined by Louis Wirth, a revolutionary urban sociologist, who argues that urbanism (the study of urbanisation) is a form of organisation that is harmful to culture. We will see later in the article how this applies to Pakistan.
The lure of better job opportunities is the major reason behind urban migration. Other factors that pull the rural population towards a life in the cities include better living conditions, like proper housing and shelter, and better sanitation, health and education facilities. As a result of increasing migration from the rural areas, a ''development vacuum'' has been created in the urban areas. Optimum utilisation of human resources is indeed a strength; however, succinct yet improper planning has resulted in a degradation of the quality of living of the people.
Countless such people can be seen living in katchi abaadis in the suburbs of big cities. These people are victims of unplanned urbanisation. Some of them, if not all, indulge in begging, prostitution and even drug trafficking. In all this hullabaloo, children, the future generation of a nation, bear the brunt of the society. The distressing situation of child immortality, child malnutrition, child abuse, child labour, child prostitution and child beggary reveals a well fed hydra that exhales deprivation. The problem of child begging has now become a matter of national concern. There are thousands of expatriate children, who are scattered in cities and beg on a routine basis for their livelihood.
An effort to curb this social evil, that cripples and erodes the conscience of the people, has been made by the Government of Punjab in the shape of Child Protection Welfare Bureau. Similarly, many organisations -- like Save the Children United Kingdom / Sweden, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, the International Organisation for Migration, the National Commission for Human Development, etc -- have been active in this area. However, these efforts can only be regarded as initial keeping in mind the proportion and nature of the problem. In order to solve any problem, correct identification of the root cause is vital. As long as this is not done, the problem keeps on afflicting various segments of the society.
There is little check, if any, on the pattern of rural to urban migration in Pakistan. Coming back to the core issue of urbanisation, and more importantly unplanned urbanisation and its negative impacts on the society, unless the government does not form an autonomous body to monitor domestic and international immigration, this problem will only become more serious in the not so distant future. In retrospect, it will have a detrimental effect on the country''s national interest, keeping in mind the economic, social and cultural dimensions.
Not just that, the pursuit of freedom and equality for all seems a far-fetched notion. A much propagated solution is providing a stream of job opportunities along with adoption of effective infrastructure development strategies. Providing soft loans for mushroom growth will also be a big step towards generating more jobs.
It is a known fact that big companies and industries use little human resource, while small- and medium-level organisations provide more job opportunities because of their much greater number. On the same note, sustainable development cries out for development of rural areas so that the main cause behind the increasing urbanisation can be assuaged.
A call for civil society''s role
There is a need to ensure greater stakeholder participation in the policy-making process
By Dr Mahmood A Khwaja
It has been acknowledged universally that broad public participation in decision-making is one of the fundamental prerequisites for sustainable development. Major public groups recognised and generally accepted so far include non-governmental organisations (NGOs), farmers, women, religious scholars, the scientific and technological communities, children and youth, indigenous peoples and their communities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, local authorities, etc.
Among others, these groups do advocacy to foster accountability, expertise, and baseline data; raise public awareness; ensure effective information dissemination; and impart formal and informal education at all levels of society. They have played an active supporting role in developing some of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) signed by their governments.
The importance of engaging major groups and stakeholders as partners has now been recognised by national governments also, as the former can help implement the latter''s programmes, especially in the developing world. In Stockholm Convention 2001, the parties agreed to promote and facilitate, within their capabilities, public participation in addressing issues, developing responses and providing inputs regarding implementation at the national level.
Similarly, ''High Level Declaration'' and ''Overarching Policy Strategy'' of the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM 2006), acknowledging the important role played by major groups, ensures their meaningful and active participation in regulatory / decision-making processes, and declares enhanced partnerships and synergies with all stakeholders.
Some of the important contributions major groups are making / could make to policy development and implementation processes include: enhancing technical support and capacity building; strengthening knowledge and information; building awareness raising, understanding and concerns on national issues; building support within multiple sectors of society for reforming policies / practices; coordinating with and developing multi-stakeholder sub-national, national, sub-regional, regional and international joint fora and networks; developing links between governments and local communities; and promoting innovative ideas.
In Pakistan, some of the ministries regularly involve major groups and stakeholders in preparing policies / plans for sustainable development. This engagement, however, tends to focus on selected organisations only and the exchange remains limited as a result. Some of these organisations also seem to monopolise the representation of major groups on different national and provincial committees / bodies, thus minimising the chances of wider participation and experience sharing. As such, they also reduce opportunities of representation / participation for relatively lesser known or new organisations.
Greater use of multi-stakeholder dialogues and consultations could be useful. Involving various stakeholders in a systematic way on specific sustainable development issues would provide opportunities to integrate their views on and expertise in specific thematic areas from the very beginning. This will not only improve the quality of policies, strategies, action plans, guidelines and standards developed, but will also impart a feeling of ownership to the beneficiaries. Clarity among the stakeholders will also facilitate effective and early implementation of various policies, strategies and action plans.
While strategising enhancement of major groups'' involvement in future, we need to take into account our own earlier success stories of stakeholder partnership in the development and implementation of national policies. Both the National Environment Standards Committee and the Clean Fuel Committee, constituted by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Council (PEPC), succeeded in meeting their objectives, as national environmental quality standards and clean fuels have since long been introduced in the country.
The following were some of the salient features of membership and working modalities of these committees:
• They were constituted by a high-level national body of stakeholders, the PEPC;
• Their chairperson, appointed by the PEPC, was a well reputed and respected individual from one of the major groups; and was not a government employee;
• They were composed of almost an equal number of representatives from the government, the private sector and a few major groups;
• A line department of the relevant government ministry and an organisation from one of the major groups worked as joint secretariat for them;
• Venues for their meetings were decided on the basis of rotation among the government, the private sector and the major groups.
• They further constituted issue-specific expert advisory sub-committees, with almost equal representation from the government, the private sector and the major groups. These sub-committees were entrusted with the responsibility of developing and submitting policy papers, strategic / action plan and guidelines to them.
• Their joint secretariat organised and held stakeholders roundtable meetings in provincial capitals for wider consultation / feedback on the draft documents developed by the expert advisory sub-committees; and
• The final drafts of these documents, after consideration by them, were recommended to the PEPC for approval and implementation in the country.
Constituting issue-specific national stakeholders committees, with composition and working modalities as above, could be a practical and effective way to enhance and strengthen real involvement of major groups for sustainable development in the country. The following steps will further enhance and improve the role of major groups:
• Developing criteria, in consultation with representatives of all major groups, for formal affiliation of these committees;
• Developing guidelines, in consultation with representatives of all major groups, for appropriate conduct by NGOs during meetings of these committees;
• Encouraging the major groups to establish their respective issue-specific focal points, for intra- as well as inter-coordination among the stakeholders;
• Discouraging any barriers to intra- and inter-consultation among the stakeholders; and
• Encouraging the major groups to form issue-specific experts'' advisory groups, for developing their positions on sustainable development issues and putting into place efficient coordination mechanisms.
The right of major groups for independent research, their access to information for the same, and their opinion / point of view need to be respected. There should also be due realisation that whereas major groups may be single issue-oriented, the government has to take many diverse viewpoints and national interests into consideration before finalising any policy.
(The writer works with Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad.
Email: [email protected])