On the waterfront
Provinces are once again at loggerheads over the water share
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Differences over the distribution of Indus River waters among the provinces have intensified once again and triggered a fierce debate among the stakeholders. The provinces are claiming more shares for themselves, with Punjab even going to the extent of boycotting the meeting of the advisory committee of Indus River Systems Authority (Irsa) held on February 11, 2010.
In the meeting, Punjab demanded more share of water as it feared severe loss to crops cultivated on large tracts of its land. Irsa had calculated that Punjab had 1.49 million acre feet (MAF) of its share left but Sindh and Balochistan contended that it had already used more than its share.
However, Punjab's demand for opening Chashma-Jhelum link canal has been approved by Irsa by a 3-2 vote a decision that has drawn severe criticism from Sindh. Representatives of the Sindh government and the federal government (also from Sindh) voted against the decision whereas other provinces supported it.
Sindh thinks this flood canal would be used to divert its share of water to Punjab on a regular basis. Sindh also claims that the decision has lost its validity as the Balochistan government has withdrawn its member Muhammad Amin for siding with Punjab on the issue.
The statement of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif that his province would not budge an inch from its stand set a tone that invited befitting responses from other provinces. Sindh Irrigation and Power Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah reacted strongly and criticised the Punjab Chief Minister, saying his plans were a conspiracy against the people of Pakistan. Shah also disapproved the construction of Punjab-proposed 44 MW power generation project on Chashma-Jhelum canal.
Another major objection by Sindh was that the estimates of water availability were made in the middle of the cropping season, unlike in the past when they were made in the start of the season. Balochistan has to side with Sindh as it may get less water in case Sindh gets less water than its share.
Talking to TNS, Zulfiqar Halepoto, Convener Sindh Democratic Forum (SDF), a Sindh-based political think-tank, says Punjab should not act according to its own will and must also give consideration to other provinces. He says Punjab has already borrowed 0.4 MAF in the Rabi season and is asking for more. "I think it must show the spirit that it showed in the case of National Finance Commission (NFC) and also watch the interest of smaller provinces," he adds.
Halepoto says the allocation of water for Rabi or Kharif crops or canals like Chashma-Jhelum are seasonal issues. The policymakers must look beyond them and bring about a paradigm shift, ensuring maximum availability of water in the country, monitoring glacial melt and minimising its wastage, he adds.
Halepoto adds the issues about internal distribution of water were decided in 1991 accord by the Nawaz Sharif government -- "It's strange that the provincial government of the same party is violating it and encroaching upon the share of smaller provinces".
Halepoto discloses SDF has written a letter to PML-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, stating: "The recent move of illegal opening of Chashma-Jhelum link canal coupled with setting up a power plant by Punjab has shocked the people of Sindh. This has resulted in diminution of PML-N credibility and integrity among the masses of Sindh for whom water has been a matter of life and death for decades. This year the Indus flow is expected to be the worst in the last five years, causing serious problems for the coming Kharif crop in Sindh. As of June, Sindh will suffer 54 percent shortage as compared to 14 percent by Punjab. For this reason alone, Sindh feels justified in pleading for closing the Chashma-Jhelum flood canal, Taunsa-Panjnad flood canal, Panjnad link canal and Thal canal, which flow from the Indus. This will help reduce Sindh's problem because the crop season in the province begins earlier."
Balochistan Fisheries Minister Mir Hammal Kalmati tells TNS Sindh has deprived Balochistan of its due share, adding agriculture of Balochistan has suffered too much due to paucity of water.
Kalmati says though most of Balochistan does not have canal system, areas like Jaffarabad that are on the border with Sindh get water to sustain their agriculture. For the last one and a half years, he says, Balochistan is complaining about release of less water by Sindh. Balochistan Irrigation Minister has once again taken up the matter with Sindh Chief Minister because "Balochistan also suffers due to availability of less water with Sindh. There would be no crisis if more water comes downstream from Punjab," he adds.
Hamid Malhi, Chief of Punjab Water Council, tells TNS Irsa is the competent authority when it comes to the resolution of disputes over water share. In case, the parties are not satisfied with its decision they can take the matter to the Council of Common Interests (CCI). He says the distribution formula was decided back in 1976 when Tarbela was built and provinces are regularly getting their share according to it. Malhi says paragraph 6 of the accord allows provinces to build dams to store water from their share, so this objection stands void.
MH Siddiqui, Adviser to the Punjab government on water issues, tells TNS the Irsa accord allows provinces to use their share of water resources for any purpose under its clause 14 (d) -- "The Chashma-Jhelum link canal has been there for decades and transferring water from Indus system to the agricultural lands of southern Punjab."
Similarly, he says, Sindh's contention that the construction of this dam would deprive the province of its share is not well-founded. The power company, he opines, which will set up the 44 MW plant has not asked for additional flow of water as it will use the normal flow of canal water to produce electricity.
Siddiqui says the Chashma-Jhelum canal was built to channel Tarbela water to the eastern parts of the country as rivers on this side were given to India under the Indus River Water Treaty in 1960.
While the provinces are trying to get their voices heard, there are reports that Sindh is pressing for the reversal of the Irsa decision to open Chashma-Jhelum link canal. Against this backdrop, a lot of activity is expected in the days to follow as the Punjab Chief Minister seems adamant not to surrender his position.
With the death of Howard Zinn, a dissenting voice representing the post-modernist era goes silent
By Tahir Kamran
Howard Zinn died of a heart attack on January 27 when he was swimming in a hotel pool, in Santa Monica, California. With his death, the most potent dissenting voice representing the post-modernist era (along with Noam Chomsky) would no longer be heard alive any more.
Both Chomsky and Zinn were paragons of integrity, authenticity and wholeness, and they practiced what they preached. According to Fred Branfman, Zinn and Chomsky mean "committed intellectuals", who did not compromise. They were intellectuals who aligned their bodies and actions with their minds and thoughts.
They had many commonalities. Two commonalities in particular need a mention: they were both Jewish and both condemned Israel.
Born in Brooklyn to Eddie Zinn and Jenny, Howard did not have idyllic surroundings to grow up in. His parents were factory workers with meagre means. Nevertheless, they introduced him to literature by sending 25 cents plus a coupon to the New York Post for each of the 20 volumes of Charles Dickens' collected works.
He was educated at the Thomas Jefferson High School where he also studied creative writing with poet Elias Lieberman.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Zinn joined Army Air Force and was assigned the task of a deputy lead bombardier in the 490th Bombardment Group. In the course of the military action that took place in Royan in the South Western France, he was among those who used napalm (a device used as arson). In 1966, Zinns visited Royan to find out the devastation wreaked by the aerial bombing, resulting in a colossal loss of life. Those attacks killed 1000 French civilians and German soldiers hiding near Royan waiting for the war to end.
In his two books, 'The politics of History' and 'The Zinn Reader', he writes the bombing was in fact ordered three weeks before the war in Europe ended. That was done at the behest of those military officials who were largely motivated by the desire for career advancement than 'legitimate military objectives'. The collateral damage as a result of air strikes in Royan and Pilsen later on sensitized him to the ethical dilemma that transformed his life and the priorities he set for himself -- as an academic, intellectual and activist.
The experience as a wartime bombardier led him to question the justifications for military operations inflicting massive civilian causalities during World War II such as Dresden, Royan, Tokyo and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. History repeated itself in Hanoi during US war in Vietnam and then in Baghdad and Afghanistan when the only world power waged the war on terror. He had been particularly severe on US for its indiscriminate bombing and its use of deceptive and deadly language -- like "accident," "military target," and "collateral damage" -- to explain the actions.
World War II interrupted his education. Therefore, he resumed his studies after the war was over. He attended New York University and graduated in 1951. Subsequently, he earned an MA in 1952 from Columbia University and a PhD in 1958 in History with Political Science as a minor. At Columbia, Richard Hofstadter, a famous historian and the author of 'The American Political Tradition' left an indelible impression on Zinn's mind. From 1956 to 1963, he was Professor of History at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. There he not only chaired History Department but also zestfully participated in the civil rights movement.
At Spelman, he also served as an adviser to the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He vigorously opposed gender segregation and despite being a tenured professor he was dismissed in June 1963 for siding with students in the struggle against segregation. Despite some hazards, Zinn considered those seven years, recounted in his autobiography 'You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times', "as the most interesting, exciting, most educational years" for him.
In 1960-61, Zinn got post-doctoral fellowship in East Asian Studies at Harvard University.
While at Georgia, he observed 30 violations of the first and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution in Albany, Georgia, including the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and equal protection under the law. Finally, he moved to Boston University in 1964 where he served for 24 years till his retirement in 1988.
He was immensely popular among his students. No less than 400 students subscribed each semester for his course on 'Civil Liberties'.
In 2005, after nearly 41 years after his WWII firing Zinn returned to Spelman and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane letters.
Zinn was endeared to anybody belonging to the downtrodden either black or women. He was champion of civil liberties and trenchant critic of American-Israeli nexus which thrived at the expense of the Palestinians. He particularly considered the occupation of West Bank atrocious and intolerable.
As a founding member of Jewish Voices of Peace's Advisory Board, he spoke on behalf of the Shministim, Israel's young conscientious objectors who waited in jail for refusing to serve the occupation.
Howard Zinn was an ardent follower of socialism and believed Americans ought to have another look at its full historical context. He said while addressing a gathering at Madison Wisconsin, "Socialism basically said, hey, let's have a kinder, gentler society. Let's share things. Let's have an economic system that produces things that people need. People should not be retreating from the word socialism because you have to go beyond capitalism." That statement epitomised the vision and the courage that Zinn had in him. He indeed was a firm believer in a greater good for greater number of people.
Zinn had 20 books to his credit, but his best selling and most influential "A People's History of the United States" was truly his magnum opus which brought forth the villainy of the settlers, perpetrated with all possible brazenness against the indigenous populace. To say the least, that book is a monumental contribution and a prism of 'the history from the below' has been deployed quite adroitly. Along with his struggle for civil liberties and espousing the cause of victims in the wars waged by his own country against hapless Iraqis and Afghanis, 'A People's History' makes Zinn as one of the leading historians of the contemporary times.
I will end this narrative by quoting from Fred Branfman's obituary of Zinn. He says, "I have met many political people in my lifetime. Howard was by far the most honest, humane, open, kind, generous, gracious, sweetest, humorous and charming of them all. By far, I am not the first to be reminded of Abraham Lincoln when talking with him, not only because of the physical resemblance but his profound humanity."
That description is a testimony of how complete Zinn was as a human being.
Jails of woe
Prison conditions must be improved to stem the rising riots
By Waqar Gillani
The recent riots in Faisalabad Central Jail, killing two and injuring over 50 prisoners, add to the number of incidents that expose the condition of the country's prisons. The issue of rioting is a result of delay in carrying out judicial and administrative reforms dealing with prisons.
Reportedly, the riots started when the newly-appointed Superintendent Jail Tariq Babar Warraich allegedly used derogatory language during inspection. Infuriated prisoners climbed up the roofs of the prison and started pelting policemen with bricks. The situation worsened when the superintendent called more police force and tear-gassed the inmates, killing two prisoners and injuring about 50 inmates and jail staff. However, the superintendent said the prisoners were responsible for the escape of five inmates from the jail during the last few days.
Riots in jails are not a new phenomenon. One such major incident occurred in July 2005 in Sialkot when three civil judges and five prisoners were killed and two judges critically wounded inside the Sialkot District Prison. Later, police raided the prison to free 10 judges taken hostage by the prisoners.
"It is the issue of reforms," Muhammad Masood Khan, Principal Central Jail Staff Training Institute (CJSTI) tells TNS. "The prison world cannot be different than the society. Prisoners are reflection of the society," he says, adding, "Strikes and riots are part and parcel of jails. Sometimes it is authorities' attitude with jail inmates that cause riots."
Overcrowding causes frustration among the inmates, forcing them to fall out with each other. A 2009 data compiled by the Research, Development and Planning Wing of the CJSTI shows overcrowding in Pakistani jail is more than 100 percent. The authorised capacity of total 92 prisons of Pakistan is 42,165 while the number of inmates was 86,983 in June 2009 and still growing. Overcrowding is high in the prisons of Punjab and Sindh provinces.
However, Khan believes riots and strikes are mainly because of the rising corruption in prisons. The prison staffers provide mobile phones and other facilities to inmates while talking bribe. And when such illegal facilities are withdrawn, prisoners tend to take the law in their own hands.
Khan, stressing on judicial reforms, says these riots can be controlled by solving the remission issue which is discriminatory and by improving the administrative and management system.
Pakistani prison laws and rules are the 150-year old relic of the colonial rule. The laws related to prisons in Pakistan Penal Code were made in 1860, while the Prison Act was enacted in 1894. The other current laws on jails include The Prisons Reformatory Schools Act 1897; Prisoners Act 1900; Borstal Act 1926; Probation and Offenders Ordinance 1960 and so on.
In the past 60 years, from time to time, a number of committees and commissions have been constituted to introduce prison reforms. The first Jail Reform Committee of the country was formed in 1950, which submitted its recommendations after five years with a revised jail manual and some other improvements.
Then there was Jail Reforms Commission in 1968 whose recommendations were incorporated in Pakistan Prison Rules (PPR) 1978 10 years after the creation of this commision.
The Interim Constitution of 1972 and the Constitution of 1973 made prisons the common concern of the federation and the provinces. A federal government's Jail Reforms Conference 1972 also presented recommendations that remained ignored. Then, in 1983, the federal government formed a high-powered cabinet committee to examine the general state of prison system and propose measures for improvement. The committee's report was submitted after three years in 1986, which was not different from the points covered by previous committees/commissions.
One more committee was formed in 1993-94 to continue with the work of the 1989 committee.
Another Jail Reforms Committee, headed by Justice Rafique Tarar, was set up in 1997. Yet another Task Force on prison reforms was formed in 2000.
No jail reforms commission have been constituted at national level after 2000, an Interior Ministry senior official tells TNS. However, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had constituted a reformatory committee in 2004 comprising Attorney General of Pakistan and Advocate Generals of the provinces to examine the situation in jails.
The National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) has recently finalised a report followed by recommendations to improve the conditions of Pakistani prisons. The report has been forwarded to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for implementation.
The report, a copy of which is available with TNS, indicates overcrowding, lack of facilities and inadequate trained jail staff as the key problems in prisons.
The report indicates the number of convicts in prisons is only 26 percent (according to the 2008 and 2009 average figures) as compared to the two-third majority of under trial inmates. The report recommends provision of clean drinking water, sufficient number of toilets, blood screening of HIV and Hepatitis C, vaccinations, interview rooms, drug rehabilitation centres, family quarters and libraries in prisons.
The report proposes 20 percent increase in the health budget allocations for prisons with proper strength of doctors and paramedics. It also calls for constructing additional barracks. The report urges the government for necessary amendments to increase the ratio of general amnesty and expeditious disposal of cases through video-conferencing in jails by judges.
It also advises technical and vocational training for prisoners, revival of prison industry, enhancement of food expanses, better baby care, proper psychological counselling and rehabilitation of drug addicts.
The report also recommends exclusive juvenile and family courts, payment of Diyat by the state and legal aid for women prisoners. It proposes that Central Jail Staff Training Institute Lahore should be upgraded as an academy and regional training centres should also be set up across Pakistan to train prison staff. The report also recommends construction of a separate prison in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
Life starts returning to normal in the valley as reconstruction gets underway
By Delawar Jan
As we entered Swat, a billboard at Landakay the entry point to the valley reading "We salute police shuhada" catches our attention. We thought it reflects people's sympathy with police -- after all Maulana Fazlullah-led militants killed 200 policemen and injured 300 during the insurgency.
It is 7:15 in the evening. Trucks loaded with good, some with cauliflower to be specific, enter the valley. Coaches rush out of Swat and the night traffic is in full gear. Villagers roam in the streets; some go to mosques for Isha prayers and some to markets for shopping. The activity is new to Swat. Till some time ago people could not dare come out of their homes for fear of the Taliban.
It is a pleasing journey, through the orchard of peaches and green fields on a road recently macadamised to prepare it for rebuilding Swat.
The militants over a period of two and half years destroyed everything -- schools, bridges, hospitals, government-owned buildings, orchards, electricity and gas installations, shops and private houses. Their actions reversed the progress and development of the picturesque valley made over decades, but now it is being put back on track to development, with stability playing a key role.
Mingora glitters with lights in the evening. Almost every shutter of the shop and gate of the house sport the Pakistani flag. Is this a forced show of patriotism? We wonder.
The security forces are now consolidating their hold to ensure a conducive environment for rebuilding -- and handing over the valley to civil administration.
As a prelude to full-scale reconstruction, the government carried out a damage assessment survey of houses in Swat. The survey revealed that two and half year of militancy and subsequent military operations had destroyed 8,500 houses, majority of them in the Kabal area.
The purpose behind the survey was to collect data, provide shelter houses to the affected families and offer them cash compensation. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), a body dealing with disasters, assesses the area has 25,000 shelters. But the District Coordination Officer Swat Muhammad Atif said the administration will install only 10,000 shelters. Each shelter will consist of two rooms and a latrine.
The government has allowed 65 non-governmental organisations to work in the Malakand division. Among the 65 non-governmental organisations allowed to work in Malakand division, four NGOs -- Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP), Pakistan Community Development Programme (Pak-CDP), Initiative to base Development on Rights and Knowledge (IDRAK) and Community Motivation and Development Organization (CMDO) -- have been assigned the task to install shelter houses in the valley.
"We have installed over 250 houses in Swat so far," DCO Atif tells TNS. The government has announced to offer Rs400,000 to owners of those houses which had been completely destroyed and Rs175,000 for the partially damaged house. However, people are unhappy with the fixation of uniform compensation and say it will not make up for their losses. "I had furniture of Rs400,000 in my house," argues Safdar, a resident of Kabal. Such surveys have now been launched in the neighbouring Buner, Lower Dir and Upper Dir districts.
The most challenging task for the government is the reconstruction of bombed schools. Students both girls and boys are housed in tents. To ensure a proper atmosphere for education, SRSP has erected six shelter schools in Matta and Charbagh areas, which will enable 702 girl students to resume their education. The roofs of the shelter schools are made of compressed galvanised iron (CGI) sheet, ceilings of thermophore sheets to make them weather resistant, windows of aluminium and walls of brick masonry and CGI.
TNS visited one such school in Ditpani in Matta, built with a cost of Rs1.1 million. Around 155 girls, who could not read for a year, resumed education from February 1 in this school. It was a three-room structure with all the facilities, including latrines, water supply, electricity, fans and a boundary wall. It echoed with "Pak Sarzameen Shaad Baad" with the national flag flying high.
An official of the SRSP, Zahid Khan, tells TNS that installation of the shelter school in Ditpani has taken 35 days and it has a minimum of 10 years life.
"It's a very good model. It must be replicated elsewhere in the valley," says a local elder Rahmat.
"All of us were promoted to grade V without examination because we had missed the whole course and knew nothing," says a grade V student, Fariha. "After returning to Swat," she says, "We were studying at our teacher's private house."
Another student of grade V, Sundas says they used to sit on mats in her teacher's house in the cold and had no water and latrine facilities.
DCO Muhammad Atif says funds have been released for repair of 202 schools while the construction of 37 completely destroyed schools would be approved soon. "We have given Rs30 million for the repair of schools to the army and will be releasing Rs25 million more in coming days," Atif adds.
The army has also spelt out a strategy for the reconstruction of Swat which includes the rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure, revival of tourism sector and enhancing fruit production. Virtually, the valley is administered by the army and civilian administration enjoys little authority. One sees banners and placards from the army directing people on different issues. The Landakay-Mingora portion is mainly manned by police, but Mingora-Matta strip is still secured by security forces that have six checkpoints between the two towns.
The British High Commission admits to having misplaced about 80 Pakistani passports, causing much despair among visa applicants
By Shaiq Hussain
The British authorities have launched a probe to trace dozens of Pakistani passports missing from UK High Commission in Islamabad. Britain took up the matter after strong protest by Pakistan -- with a warning that the lost passports coupled with delay in issuance of visas to Pakistanis could harm ties between the two states.
The British officials also fear that these travel documents could be used for crime and terrorism if they get into the hands of terrorists. British investigators have visited Pakistan to probe the issue.
Pakistanis intending to travel to UK have been complaining about the delay of visas' issuance for months. But the situation got worse when the British High Commission introduced a new system last year following which passports are received in Islamabad but applications are processed in Abu Dhabi.
The resultant delay in visas issuance led to an unprecedented backlog and at one time around 200,000 Pakistani passports were lying at the British High Commission in Islamabad, whereas the applicants' papers were being processed by the UK Border Agency officials in Abu Dhabi.
The revelation that around 80 passports were missing from the British High Commission, nonetheless, led to deep anguish among Pakistanis -- and the British government had to send its Secretary for Home Affairs Alan Johnson in October last year to Islamabad to defuse the increasing tension.
Johnson had assured Pakistan of all possible steps to not only address the issue of lost passports but also remove hurdles in acquiring UK visas.
The British High Commission has accelerated the process of vetting Pakistani travel documents and the situation has improved, Pakistani authorities admit. However, Pakistani officials say hundreds of Pakistani citizens, including students, have yet to receive their visas.
"We are pleased that the British authorities have started taking certain measures regarding issuance of visas to Pakistanis, but there is still a huge backlog," says a Pakistani diplomat. He said recovery of missing passports was necessary and it was the responsibility of British High Commission to hand them back to their holders and take strong action against those involved in negligence.
Pakistani foreign office spokesman was unavailable for his comments despite several attempts to reach him on telephone.
However, spokesman for British High Commission, George Sherriff, tells TNS, "We take this issue very seriously and investigations are already underway. We have already introduced a new procedure to avoid further delays and losses. The missing passports have been reported to appropriate authorities."
However, he says, the visit of chief inspector of UK Border Agency to Pakistan was not part of that investigation. "The chief inspector is an independent regulator to provide a transparent assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of the UK Border Agency (UKBA). He is visiting Pakistan on a routine inspection. His visit is part of an annual report to the Home Secretary on the work of UKBA," he adds.
Sherriff says UK had a close and important relationship with Pakistan and the visa operation was a vital part of that relationship -- "We take the integrity of our immigration system very seriously and are investigating these reports as a matter of urgency".
Asked what his government is doing to resolve the issue of delay in visas issuance to Pakistanis, he says there were some delays in the Pakistani visa operation last year, mainly due to protracted technical difficulties. "We have made a lot of progress as UK Border Agency remains committed to providing an efficient and effective visa service to customers in Pakistan. Currently there is no backlog in applications and we are processing student visas in just over three weeks," the spokesman claims.
"More Pakistani students were issued visas to study in the UK in 2009 than in 2008. The issuance rate increased to about 70 percent. Around 10,000 Pakistani students are currently studying in the UK and Pakistan is one of the top five student markets for UK education," Sherriff concludes.
Irrespective of what steps the British High Commission has taken, there are many Pakistanis who underwent a lot of stress and pain after receiving the shocking news that their passports had gone missing.
Pakistani businessman Zafar Mahmood, who lost his passport at the British High Commission last year, tells TNS he had applied for a business visa for Britain in July 2009 and he thought he would get it within two weeks. "However, the British High Commission kept me waiting for weeks and during that period I contacted the Commission and the Abu Dhabi visa section several times. Finally, I was told by the Abu Dhabi visa section on September 7, 2009 that they had dispatched the documents to Islamabad after processing," Mahmood recalls.
But, he says, he didn't receive his passport, which contained valid multiple US and Schengen visas and instead was told by the British authorities on December 11, 2009 that his passport was lost. "I was asked to submit a new passport for the visa," he laments.
Raza Rehman, resident of Shah Kot (Nankana Sahib), applied for UK visa for a highly skilled engineer programme in Britain back in January 2008 after completing his engineering degree. He was initially refused a visa on grounds of invalid NIC number. "I had sent my documents containing NADRA verification to relevant authorities in UK as well as Islamabad. In October 2008, I got a letter from UK that I shall be granted a visa -- a copy of which was also sent to British High Commission in Islamabad," he says.
"It was in January 2009 that I was contacted by the British authorities in Islamabad to apply afresh for a visa and bring along the passport. I applied a few days later. "I finally met the people of the European desk in the Pakistani Foreign Office in December that told me after a couple of months that my visa had been refused and I could collect my passport," Rehman laments.