case
Time for complete justice
If Dr Tahirul Qadri is controversial for his loyalty as a dual national, then Mansoor Ijaz as a US 
citizen must not be given a high place in the ‘Memo case’
By Raza Rumi
Dr Tahirul Qadri, who has kept Pakistani pundits busy for the past three months, faced a major blow when a three-member SC bench dismissed his petition (which stated that the Chief Election Commissioner and four members of the ECP were not appointed in accordance with the Articles 213, 218of the Pakistani Constitution). 

issue
Endemic plague of corruption.
If our rulers bring back the money stashed in accounts abroad and invest it in 
Pakistan, we can have tax free budgets for almost 30 years

By Alauddin Masood
Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) on February 1, 2013 published, for the first time, plans to tackle the threat of “endemic corruption” in 29 priority countries, including Pakistan. The anti-corruption plans follow recommendations from the Independent Commission of Aid Impact, a watch-dog for DfID, to produce an explicit anti-corruption strategy for its main partner countries. 
The plan for Pakistan, which is due to receive 971 British Pounds between the years 2013–2015, will involve support for Pakistan’s Public Accounts Committee and its Election Commission.

Perils of tax breaks
Tax laws are changed only to fleece the poor for the luxuries of the rich
By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr Ikramul Haq
“By withdrawing tax measures through Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs), the government is subverting the budget”—Dr Kaiser Bengali, a noted economist and technical member, National Finance Commission from Sindh. 

market
Trade or tirade?
EU concessions for Pakistan come with strings attached. Either it implements over two dozen conventions or forgets everything
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The Pakistani government, with its economy under a perpetual stress, often calls for “trade not aid” in its talks with global powers and major trading blocs. The government’s focus in such deliberations is mainly on gaining increased market access to different regions for Pakistani exports, but the outcomes have not been quite encouraging. 

The heat is on
Climate change remains one of the fiercest challenges that the global community or any developing country like Pakistan will have to face
By Amel Ghani
Climate change has been an issue long under discussion, at various international conferences since the Kyoto Protocol was implemented in 1997. However, at that time the discussion focused on prevention, while today the narrative has changed to a very large degree. 

identity
Language lab
As the world celebrates the International Mother Tongue Day on 
February 21, Pakistan needs to preserve its languages to keep roots and contact with ancestors intact
By Dr Tariq Rahman
Who knew on that fateful day of 21 February 1952 when people lay dead in the streets of Dhaka (then spelled Dacca) and there were rumours of deaths and imprisonment in the hundreds that the day would become a major date on the calendar of the world. And yet, the events recorded in several sources of that time, and most poignantly in Tajuddin Ahmad’s diary entries 0f 22-27 February 1952 which I have had the privilege of reading, are a watershed in the history of the world. 

Political battle in Fata
As political parties gear up for election campaign in Fata, tribal people are 
optimistic that the first ever party-based elections will bring drastic changes in the primitive tribal system
By Ashrafuddin Pirzada
The upcoming elections will be the first party-based elections in Fata’s history, since the Political Party Act was extended to the tribal areas last year. Candidates, voters and young people are enthusiastically looking forward to the elections, as they believe that the party-based elections will help overcome the backwardness and poverty in the tribal areas. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

case
Time for complete justice
If Dr Tahirul Qadri is controversial for his loyalty as a dual national, then Mansoor Ijaz as a US 
citizen must not be given a high place in the ‘Memo case’
By Raza Rumi

Dr Tahirul Qadri, who has kept Pakistani pundits busy for the past three months, faced a major blow when a three-member SC bench dismissed his petition (which stated that the Chief Election Commissioner and four members of the ECP were not appointed in accordance with the Articles 213, 218of the Pakistani Constitution).

The court decreed that it failed to point out any violations of fundamental rights in either the petition itself, or the arguments by the petitioner. Therefore, as per 184 (3) of the Constitution, none of Qadri’s fundamental rights were infringed upon. Throughout the hearing of this case certain faultlines were traversed by both the parties. The court reminded Qadri that he was a dual national and his loyalties were split. Qadri in his retort reminded the Chief Justice of his past allegiance to Gen Musharraf during the days before March 2007 when Musharraf was resisted by the judges.

The Supreme Court observed that dual nationals were allowed to vote in Pakistani elections. But the court added that because of his dual nationality, Dr Qadri could not contest elections under Article 63(1) of the Constitution. Qadri’s dual nationality was, however, constantly brought under question during the proceedings.

In another case which made headlines during 2011 and 2012, the court gave extraordinary attention to US citizen Mansoor Ijaz’s testimony and also entertained a petition filed by a Canadian citizen on the alleged violation of Pakistan’s national security by the civilian government through it Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

A commission was formed to investigate the charges in the so-called memogate. The findings of the Memo Commission sadly relied mostly on the testimony of Mansoor Ijaz, who was exempted from appearing personally and could not be considered a reliable and honest witness. The formation of a commission instead of registering a police case led to the exemption of Mansoor Ijaz’s presence before the court. It should be noted that the judicial commission allowed Mansoor Ijaz’s testimony to be delivered via video conferencing, but denied Haqqani the same facility.

Recently, the Court has asked Haqqani to appear before the bench. The earlier findings of the commission and the irresponsible opinion generation in the media have already portrayed Haqqani as a ‘traitor’ in many minds. Sadly, in Pakistan there is little or no check against libel and anyone can be declared as an infidel or a traitor.

After Taseer’s fate, who was also termed a blasphemer by irresponsible sections of media, why would Haqqani feel secure in returning to Pakistan. In his recent letter, he has questioned whether any of the myriad threats made against him have been investigated? He claims even the US authorities have had to investigate some of the threats. For good reasons, Haqqani has also mentioned that that the security arrangements for political leaders such as Bashir Bilour, Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were most inadequate even though they were in positions of authority. The writ of Pakistani state is weak and everyone knows that.

Pakistan is a polity where private militias have become stronger than the state apparatus. Jihadists, hyper-nationalists or indoctrinated personnel find it easy to kill whom they think violates any religious or patriotic ‘norm’ especially when media trials and verdicts have all declared Haqqani to be complicit in the alleged memo against the ‘national interest’ i.e. an alleged coup attempt imagined by the memo writer.

How can we forget that political leaders such as Imran Khan and Sheikh Rasheed have already stated on live television that Haqqani is a traitor. Often the TV anchors have not challenged these narratives and instead let the hype continue for higher ratings. In fact, media persons need to realise how their reporting or presentation of events can incite violence. Haqqani has also pointed out that his observations on the findings of the commission remain unaddressed and perhaps the judicial commission or the court itself should take them up.

Given that Haqqani’s security concerns have merit in them, it would be wise to allow him to appear via videolink given the advances of the technology. More importantly, what is left in the case. Haqqani is no longer the ambassador. The PPP government has almost completed its tenure and the people are going to vote a new government. Above all, the example of Swiss case is clear to all and sundry.

A long, drawn out proceeding by the Pakistani state — prosecutors, judges and the media — did not lead to any relevant or conclusive decision. The Swiss authorities have reiterated what so many of us were saying from the very start. The President of Pakistan under the Constitution enjoys immunity against criminal proceedings. Respecting the international conventions in this regard, the Swiss authorities have only restated the obvious.

The question is why the writing of the letter to the Swiss authorities became such a huge legal issue. In fact, it remained a source of political instability, did not allow the elected government to focus on policymaking and governance and even gobbled up a prime minister.

Haqqani’s case whether we like it has huge political overtones. The Opposition leader was the petitioner, the military establishment and former ISI chief were parties and at the end of the day the memo was unsigned and ‘filed’ by Gen Mullen. Something that may be considered by the honourable Supreme Court as well.

Sections of media who are baying for the blood of Haqqani might rethink their focus as well. He is of little significance to the current Pakistani political landscape. Neither can Haqqani be used as a political lever against the PPP government nor is he a threat to media or judiciary. Perhaps Mr Haqqani’s estranged friends in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are way too annoyed. Who knows?

But given the challenges that Pakistani state and society face, this issue should not even appear on the priority list. Charging Haqqani with contempt of court and/or treason will be counterproductive as well. What will be achieved through an extradition? The country has learnt its bitter lessons.

If Dr Qadri, a major religious scholar and the face of Pakistan’s moderate Islam, is controversial for his loyalty as a dual national then Mansoor Ijaz as a US citizen or the Canadian gentlemen concerned about Pakistan’s national security must not be given a high place on the nationalistic pedestals. It is time for ‘complete justice’ as the Constitution promises to the citizens of Pakistan.

The writer is Director at Jinnah Institute, Islamabad. The views expressed are his own. His writings are archived at www.razarumi.com

 

 

 

issue
Endemic plague of corruption.
If our rulers bring back the money stashed in accounts abroad and invest it in 
Pakistan, we can have tax free budgets for almost 30 years
By Alauddin Masood

Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) on February 1, 2013 published, for the first time, plans to tackle the threat of “endemic corruption” in 29 priority countries, including Pakistan. The anti-corruption plans follow recommendations from the Independent Commission of Aid Impact, a watch-dog for DfID, to produce an explicit anti-corruption strategy for its main partner countries.

The plan for Pakistan, which is due to receive 971 British Pounds between the years 2013–2015, will involve support for Pakistan’s Public Accounts Committee and its Election Commission.

Earlier, Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) ranked Pakistan at 139 out of 176 countries in its Corruption Perception Index (CPI). TIP Chairman, Advocate Sohail Muzaffar, in a media briefing on December 5, 2012, said that Pakistan was perceived to be the 33rd most corrupt country amongst 176 states. TIP expressed concern over the growing corruption in the country, and said that the corruption of Rs12600 billion was reported in different sectors of Pakistan during the last five years. TIP quoted NAB as having disclosed that the country lost seven billion rupees every day as a result of misappropriation.

How much the corrupt have stashed in foreign banks is any body’s guess? However, one can form a fair idea from the amount kept by these persons in the banks of just one country — Switzerland. The amount is so huge that it prompted a Swiss banker, recently retired, to say: “Pakistan is a poor country but Pakistanis are not” because they have “28 trillion (28,000,000,000,000) of Pakistan rupees deposited in Swiss Banks.”

Recently, Sir Malcolm Bruce, Chairman of the Britain’s parliamentary committee on international development also observed: “They (Pakistanis) have billions of pounds in bank accounts, and yet they are looking for money from the IMF.” One of the members of the development committee, Flora O’Donnell recalled his visit to Pakistan and said that there he heard people saying: “I do not pay my taxes because the government is so corrupt that it does not do any good, so I would rather engage in private philanthropy.”

If our rulers bring back the money stashed in accounts abroad and invest it in Pakistan, we can have tax free budgets for almost 30 years. In addition, according to analysts, we can generate 60 million jobs; we can build four lane roads from any village to Islamabad; we can ensure forever free supply to more than 500 social projects; we can provide Rs20,000 per month as financial assistance to deserving citizens for 60 years; we can end our dependence on the World Bank and IMF loans. If the entire money kept by Pakistanis abroad could be invested in this country, imagine the state of development and the antecedent rise in the socio-economic status of the citizens!

Though the present administration has innumerable scandals of graft and kickbacks on its hands, we have not seen even a single resignation or head-rolling as yet on this count despite judicial verdicts against many. Elsewhere, even top politicians have to resign from their cabinet slots and face political exile for obstructing justice, but not in Pakistan.

Just take the case of former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, once one of the leading politicians of Britain. Huhne tried to pin speeding penalty on his wife. In 2008, prosecutors say, Huhne persuaded economist Vicky Pryce to say she had been driving the car so that he could avoid a driving ban. Huhne repeatedly denied wrongdoing, but he was forced to step down as a minister after being charged. His career in a shambles, Huhne changed his plea from innocent to guilty at London’s Southwark Crown Court on February 4, 2013. After emerging from the court, he told reporters that he was resigning from his parliamentary seat as well.

In democratic set-ups, the law does not distinguish between the high and low or a top politician and a common citizen. The law applies equally on one and all. Those found guilty have to face the punishment irrespective of their positions in the society.

Even in India, Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran resigned on July 7, 2011 after being named in a police court case report that suggested that he abused his power in the 2006 sale of second-generation (2G) mobile phone licences when he was the telecom minister. Earlier, his successor at the telecom ministry, A. Raja, resigned over the alleged fraudulent sale of new 2G telecom spectrum in 2008.

Against this, in Pakistan, with the exception of the Supreme Court, the attitude of the top hierarchy to prosecute mega scams appears to be lukewarm. Sorry to conclude, in a plutocracy like Pakistan, the mighty often try to obstruct justice and still manage to retain their top public positions.

Pakistan’s economic planners admit that the country’s economy is riddled with rules and regulations that may once have addressed a real economic or social issue, but now too often they only serve to create arbitrary obstructions to doing business. In its annual report for the year 2005, the NAB has identified lengthy and cumbersome procedures in the executive system, lack of transparency in government decision-making process, betrayal of public trust, weakness in the country’s judicial system and flagrant abuse of power by public office-holders, amongst major causes of corruption. The NAB put the blame for the sorry state of affairs on the successive governments.

Corruption inhibits good governance, undermines economic development, stunts growth, fuels poverty and creates political instability. No nation can develop to its full capacity or progress or realise its full potential if its social system is plagued by corruption and inefficiency. Corruption not only causes a severe drain on the national economy, it also acts as a major disincentive to serious foreign investment.

Due to corruption, once a rising middle-income state, now figures amongst politically unstable poor nations of the world. The situation is ripe for a man of destiny to motivate Pakistanis to bring back their money to their motherland so that this nation could march towards progress, prosperity and glory.

The role of awakening is usually played by statesmen like Quaid-e-Azam and writer-philosophers like Allama Iqbal. Let us see who, following in the footsteps of Jinnah and Allama Iqbal, takes out this nation of 182 million from the abyss and lead it to prosperity and glory.

If authorities are serious about rectifying the situation, they need to make a beginning by eliminating the culture of favouritism, nepotism, underhand deals, lack of transparency, and cumbersome procedures. In addition, persons who have bulk of their wealth abroad should not be allowed to contest elections unless they bring back a major share of it to Pakistan. Until that is done, Pakistan’s development and progress will continue to remain tardy and the big fish caught with their fingers in the pie will continue to walk away with their misdeeds.

Alauddin Masood is a freelance columnist based at Islamabad.

E-mail: [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

Perils of tax breaks
Tax laws are changed only to fleece the poor for the luxuries of the rich
By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr Ikramul Haq

“By withdrawing tax measures through Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs), the government is subverting the budget”—Dr Kaiser Bengali, a noted economist and technical member, National Finance Commission from Sindh.

Dr Kaiser Bengali, in an interview with a newspaper, has said that “the giving of tax breaks by the federal government in the middle of the year has started affecting the revenue share of provinces, resulting in a significant reduction in transfers during the first six months of the current fiscal year”. According to Dr Bengali, whenever the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) comes under pressure to give a boost to the revenue collection, it starts resorting to “the old tactic of burdening the lower and middle class taxpayers”.

From July to December 2012, the federal government transferred Rs592 billion or 37.8% of the annual commitments made under the 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award to provinces whereas it should have been 45%. For the current fiscal year, the federal government is expected to disburse Rs1.45 trillion to the provinces as per their share in tax revenues — the provinces are entitled to 57.5% of the total tax collection, but in the first six months, Punjab received Rs278.6 billion or 39.3% of its share of Rs710.3 billion, Sindh received Rs154.1 billion or 41.2% of its share of Rs373.6 billion, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa received Rs96.4 billion or 39.9% and Balochistan was given just Rs63.2 billion or 47.4% of its annual share of Rs133.3 billion.

Dr Bengali has claimed that lower revenue collection, as was the case last year, would jeopardise the federal and provincial budgetary frameworks. “Owing to the FBR’s inability to collect projected revenues, provincial budgets run into deficits that contribute to further widening of the national budget shortfall,” he added. Substantiating his claim, Dr Bengali said that “besides the adverse implications of political appointments to top FBR positions, the following tax breaks affected the collections:

Withdrawal of the biggest new revenue spinner — 1% withholding tax on manufacturing — resulting in a revenue loss of Rs18 billion.

Drastic cut of federal excise duty on sugar to 0.5% aimed at benefiting the influential sugar industry owners, causing a loss of Rs8 billion to the national exchequer.

50% cut of sales tax for steel melters, causing revenue loss of nearly Rs4 billion.

Dr Bengali demanded that “all SROs affecting the revenue share of provinces should be approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) — the constitutional body headed by the prime minister with all chief ministers as its members.” The demand of Dr Bengali is judicious. Total loss of revenue through Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) issued during the last few years is estimated at about Rs1200 billion — unprecedented concessions to the rich made the state poorer and the masses indebted enormously.

A very important constitutional provision has escaped everybody’s attention. Article 162 of the Constitution debars even the National Assembly to grant tax exemptions or concessions without prior approval of the president. The power to issue SROs delegated to the federal government by the Parliament is blatant violation of supreme law of the land. How can the Parliament delegate a power which cannot be exercised by itself without the prior sanction of the president?

The principle of “no taxation without representation”, embodied in Article 77 read with Article 162 of the Constitution, is perpetually and flagrantly violated — a lamentable act that remains unnoticed at all levels. The prime culprits are members of parliaments who have been delegating their legislative power of levying taxes to the federal government (through FBR). Authority to issue SROs for extending any kind of exemption or concession in respect of any tax is gross violation of Article 162 of the Constitution which says:

“162. Prior sanction of President required to Bills affecting taxation in which Provinces are interested: – No Bill or amendment which imposes or varies a tax or duty the whole or part of the net proceeds whereof is assigned to any Province, or which varies the meaning of the expression “agricultural income” as defined for the purposes of the enactments relating to income-tax, or which affects the principles on which under any of the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, moneys are or may be distributable to Provinces, shall be introduced or moved in the National Assembly except with the previous sanction of the President.”

The delegated power to an executive authority to issue SROs is in utter violation of Article 162 as the parliament itself is not authorised to consider any Bill or amendment that imposes or varies a tax or duty, the whole or part of the net proceeds whereof is assigned to any province, unless the same is first approved by the president. Exercise of delegated powers by the FBR to vary a tax or duty through SRO is a blatant violation of Article 162 which has never been challenged and even no suo moto action is taken by the apex court that is to interpret and enforce the Constitution — this confirms our intellectual bankruptcy in understanding and implementing the supreme law of the land.

Enforcement of Rule of Law determines the failure or success of a society. In the context of tax laws, it means that taxes are imposed through parliamentary process, rather than through administrative discretions (SROs). Article 77 of Constitution says that “no tax shall be levied for the purposes of the Federation except by or under the authority of the Act of Parliament”. Thus delegation of legislative power to the executive to vary a tax or duty renders the entire tax system unconstitutional. The so-called wizards sitting in the FBR have been playing havoc with tax laws by issuing infamous SROs and administrative instructions — granting exemptions or modifying the taxes imposed by the parliament or even levying taxes under the garb of rule-making powers.

Dr Bengali has rightly highlighted the malady but has not suggested the right remedy i.e. withdrawal of all provisions delegating powers to the executive to issue SROs in view of Article 162 of the Constitution — taking these to CCI is not the answer. Tax administrators should be given powers to enforce tax laws and not to vary or modify them to negate the principles enshrined in Article 77 and 162 of the Constitution.

Tax laws should be framed and enacted through a constitutional process and their proper enforcement is to be ensured by tax administration. All segments of the society should adhere to the rule that nobody is above law. In Pakistan, tax laws are meant only to fleece the poor for the luxuries of the rich. The privileged classes pay no taxes on their colossal incomes and wealth but the poor are subjected to all kinds of oppressive taxes. Adding insult to injury, they get nothing in return — even deprived of protection to their lives and property, what to speak of basic facilities of health, education, transport and housing.

The writers, tax lawyers, are members of visiting faculty of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

 

 

 

 

 

 

market
Trade or tirade?
EU concessions for Pakistan come with strings attached. Either it implements over two dozen conventions or forgets everything
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

The Pakistani government, with its economy under a perpetual stress, often calls for “trade not aid” in its talks with global powers and major trading blocs. The government’s focus in such deliberations is mainly on gaining increased market access to different regions for Pakistani exports, but the outcomes have not been quite encouraging.

No doubt, the country has suffered a lot due to terrorism and natural calamities that have hit the country over the years without fail. It expects the global powers to support the country on sustainable basis and, instead of releasing aid for disbursement among affectees etc, help strengthen its economy.

However, of late the country has been successful in earning trade concessions from its largest trading partner — the European Union (EU). In a welcome move, the latter has granted duty free access to 75 items, which can be exported from Pakistan, under is Autonomous Trade Preference scheme. The concessions were granted on humanitarian grounds with the aim of helping a flood-hit country recover economically and generate employment.

The scheme came into force in the mid of November last year. In words of EU Ambassador to Pakistan, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark: “These special trade concessions will provide economic growth by generating employment. They will also help the industries of Pakistan, especially the textile and clothing exporters, to get increased market access.”

The major players in Pak-EU trade have also welcomed the concessions, but they believe this is a short-term favour and the arrangement will end in December. They say it took EU too long to finalise things, form consensus among member states and fight resistance from countries such as India and Bangladesh. The argument seems valid keeping in view that the EU had requested for this waiver in October 2010. Had it been granted then, Pakistan would have had good three years to benefit from it.

Though Pakistan stands to gain $700 million to $1 billion extra in EU-bound exports from these concessions during the ongoing year, it should look beyond this, says Anees-ul-Haq, spokesman All Pakistan Textile Manufacturers Association (APTMA). His point is that the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus Scheme, supposed to come into force from January 1, 2014, offers much more than what the current package offers. The GSP plus status allows duty free treatment to eligible countries and in case Pakistan wins it, it will be able to export all products except agricultural products and seafood.

This offer, however, comes with strings attached and puts Pakistan in an extremely difficult situation. The foremost condition here is that in order to qualify, Pakistan should implement the 27 conventions on human rights, labour rights, environment, governance etc it has signed over the years. The contention on part of the policymakers is that without putting the house in order, the benefits will go to the privileged few and the labour and common man will have little or nothing to benefit from.

So, what is the situation on ground and what are the chances of improvement? Anum Saleem Advocate, a lecturer at LUMS and an expert on World Trade Organisation (WTO), states the list of conventions is very long and their implementation, so far, is far from satisfactory.

For example, he says the EU wants implementation of Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), Convention concerning the Abolition of Forced Labour (1957), Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, No 87 (1948), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973), Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (1989), United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988), United Nations’ Convention against Corruption 2004 and so on.

Anum believes the offer in fact provides the country an opportunity to improve its record and implementation mechanism. But this would not be easy as Pakistan is in the international press for all the wrong reasons and its critics and competitors will always be on a hunt. “Who will believe labour rights and safety are ensured in Pakistan, when news of workers dying due to fire and building collapses are too common.”

The potential critics in the EU are Portugal, Greece and Spain, who are Pakistan’s competitors in textile products, and in South Asia both India and Bangladesh. India had even filed a complaint against Pakistan-specific concessions with WTO. It reportedly withdrew the complaint once Pakistan assured it would grant Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) to its eastern neighbour.

Even tougher demands from the EU are elimination of death penalty and grant of data exclusivity to multinational pharmaceutical countries — meaning none other than they will be able to benefit from the research they have done.

While the onus lies on the government to implement relevant laws, the industry also has to play its role. The APTMA spokesman says Pakistani industrialists must focus on increasing their product range. For example, the country can try to capture the European market for synthetic textiles which is not its strength. Similarly, there are many other products in the list which are widely produced here. “Why not venture in this direction?”

caption

Labour laws still a far cry.

 

Clean clothes

The pressure on Pakistani businesses to improve working conditions for labour etc does not only come from the EU’s policymakers. In fact, the general public, pressure groups and civil society organisations in Europe are also out to ensure whether the price advantage they enjoy via imports from developing countries is justified or not.

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is one such European organisation which identifies malpractices in the textile business and raises awareness among the general public on contentious issues. It is the same organisation which launched a campaign and pressurised the German importer KIK to pay $1 million in compensation to victims of Baldia Town fire in Karachi.

A CCC delegation visited Pakistan recently and visited various factories, including the ill-fated one in Baldia Town. TNS talked to the delegation head Symantha Maher during its visit to Lahore.

During the talk, she claimed they are especially watchful of companies selling dirt-cheap products in Europe. This vigilance is due to a widespread perception that in order to cut on prices, such companies compromise on health and safety of workers and give free hand to production units in developing countries.

It was not easy for the group to convince KIK to pay the compensation. It took them long to make the company agree it had failed to get the factory inspected properly. A startling revelation made by Symantha was that an international company SAI had hired an Italian company RINA to inspect the above-mentioned company. RINA had expressed satisfaction over the labour safety measures, hardly three weeks ahead of the tragedy.

Symantha shares it with TNS that email petitions and streets protests arranged by chain.org, articles in German magazine Speigel and New York Times were other means to build pressure. The CCC, she says, has also highlighted the flaws with audits done by international companies and calls for direct involvement of Pakistan’s labour and trade unions in policies pertaining to their health and safety. Similarly, she suggests international buyers to forget certification systems and interact directly with trade unions.

Symantha adds the Pakistani government had been asking the local industries to get certified by these companies and later on get reimbursed. This has not delivered and it is a possibility many such certifying companies are only interested in collecting fees, she adds.

The CCC, Symantha says, is dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries. It has worked since 1989 to help ensure that the fundamental rights of workers, such as determination of maximum working hours, minimum wages, life with dignity, are respected. The factory fires are also common in Bangladesh and Pakistan, she concluded.

— Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

caption

Symantha Maher.

 

 

 

 

The heat is on
Climate change remains one of the fiercest challenges that the global community or any developing country like Pakistan will have to face
By Amel Ghani

Climate change has been an issue long under discussion, at various international conferences since the Kyoto Protocol was implemented in 1997. However, at that time the discussion focused on prevention, while today the narrative has changed to a very large degree.

While scientists have been warning the world of the effects of global temperatures rising, it has only been in the last decade that a wave of natural disasters — tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes — has truly opened the masses to the realities of climate change. Thus, began the next phase of discussion at climate change, from prevention to now tackling what has become a stark reality.

Once again began the struggle between the developed and the developing world. The agriculturally dependant developing countries that are more open to the risks of changing weather patterns are calling for help while the developed countries refuse to shoulder the responsibility, financially or in terms of their commitment towards lowering Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

Thus, the battle continued at Doha in 2012, where all countries battled to sketch out the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. Pakistan and China fought for more commitments on reducing GHG emissions, and providing aid to the developing countries to deal with the effects of climate change. In Cancun 2010, and Durban 2011, USD 100 billion were required per year to help bring developing countries up to speed in tackling and preventing climate change.

In Doha in 2012, the European Union, France, Germany, Denmark and UK pledged a total of USD 6 billion. This was considered partial success on the part of developing countries. In terms of emission, the developed world still did not meet the required cut to ensure that the world temperature does not rise above 2C.

According to estimates made by the latest report of the World Bank, if current levels of GHG emissions continue, the total temperature rise will be 4-6 degree celsius. According to the UNEP at the current rate of emissions they will reach 58 gigatons in 2020, 14 gigatons more than they should be — a horrific scenario. Despite all this Russia, Japan and New Zealand have not become part of the second phase, while Canada walked out of the protocol altogether. However, countries will be revisiting their pledges in 2015. Thus, what the conference in Doha did was postpone some of the most important issues to the next conference, its major success lying in the fact that the treaty did not break down completely.

So while the scientists scream about a rise in temperature, developing countries about finance, and the developed countries continue doing what they’ve always been doing, everyone happily ignores the fact the conference took place in Qatar, a country with the world’s highest per capita carbon emissions. The United Nations definitely has a sense of humour.

While overall the conference has not been able to settle much, for Pakistan there have been some highlights. The treaty has now extended funding to countries which are particularly vulnerable to climate change — Pakistan remains high on the list. This financial support was previously limited to small island communities and least developed countries. An international mechanism that will be able to evaluate loss and damage due to climate change will help the countries where slow climatic events occur such as droughts or melting glaciers. While there would be implementation of mechanisms to introduce awareness and education of climate change.

This is important for a country like Pakistan, where climate change has still not been understood, and it was only after the floods in 2010 that the government acknowledged climate change. A Climate Change Task Force, headed by Qamaruzaman Chaudary who is currently the elected Vice-President of World Meteorological Organisation, was largely ignored after its formation. However, in 2010 the Germanwatch Global Climate Change Risk Index put Pakistan as the number one country at risk of being affected by climate change, a fact which was highlighted internationally at the 2011 United Nations Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa.

Moreover, the statistics by independent research organisations such as the International Panel on Climate Change along with UNEP predicting the loss of around $14 billion annually to Pakistan’s economy finally put the policy tackling climate change on the institutional agenda. This constant pressure from various international organisations played its part in the creation of the first draft of the Climate Change Bill in April 2012, which was approved by the legislature on 26th May 2011. The Ministry for National Disaster Management was also transformed into the Ministry of Climate Change, with Rana M. Farooq Saeed Khan as the minister, on 14th April 2012.

The policy addresses the biodiversity of Pakistan, highlighting the different weather systems. It also lays out a plan for adaptation and mitigation of some of the more serious challenges Pakistan will face in line with climatic changes. While a hierarchy of ministries at both the federal and provincial level has been formed, implementation still remains a far fetched dream, and awareness amongst the population another problem. Flash floods continue to claim lives each year, in Northern Pakistan, Balochistan and Sindh. Despite flaws being pointed out in the rain and flood forecasting system by both local and international experts, the government has still not been unable to rectify the flaws in order to ensure more efficiency in reacting to climate changes.

Climate change remains one of the fiercest challenges that the global community or any developing country like Pakistan will have to face. At the same time, it also remains one of the most under-realised threats of the modern era, despite large scale discussion on variety of international and national levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

identity
Language lab
As the world celebrates the International Mother Tongue Day on 
February 21, Pakistan needs to preserve its languages to keep roots and contact with ancestors intact
By Dr Tariq Rahman

Who knew on that fateful day of 21 February 1952 when people lay dead in the streets of Dhaka (then spelled Dacca) and there were rumours of deaths and imprisonment in the hundreds that the day would become a major date on the calendar of the world. And yet, the events recorded in several sources of that time, and most poignantly in Tajuddin Ahmad’s diary entries 0f 22-27 February 1952 which I have had the privilege of reading, are a watershed in the history of the world.

First, they became a precursor to a collective memory: that of the Bengalis reacting to the domination of the West Pakistani elite, especially the bureaucratic and military elite which happened to be predominantly Punjabi. And, secondly, they made people realise that the mother-tongue is a precious right of a people which must not be denied them in the name of national unity or modernisation.

The first of these narratives got scarce accommodation up to 1970 when Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rahman finally won a landslide victory precisely because he tapped these powerful emotions. The result was the creation of Bangladesh but at great cost of life and happiness of the Bengalis, West Pakistanis in Bangladesh and the Biharis. Of course, anyone in his or her right mind would primarily blame the military regime of the time which unleashed the dogs of war upon the poor people of Bangladesh, driving them to seek refuge in India and defeat their oppressors.

But, if it is justice we desire, then the sufferings of all — the Bengalis, the families of West Pakistanis and the Biharis — would have to be taken into account. Novels like Of Martyrs and Marigolds (2011) by Aquila Ismail are works of fiction but their account of the sufferings of innocent Biharis is both true and moving. Similar works of fiction about the mindless sufferings of Bengali women, children, Hindus and other innocent people is absolutely true and deeply disturbing. But what really disturbs me is that, despite several reminders in newspapers and other fora, no government of Pakistan has apologised to the people of Bangladesh for these atrocities. And also, nobody has bothered about the appalling condition of the Biharis in Bangladesh let alone apologise for the violence done to them.

I take this occasion to ask for truth and reconciliation at the highest level between Pakistan and Bangladesh so that we achieve something more than mere diplomatic relations. A special commission formed in Pakistan should condemn violence, acknowledge we were wrong in many ways and resolve to respect peoples’ right to their wealth, culture and desire for power. And these principles should apply to Balochistan now that needs truth and reconciliation.

The second narrative, the idea of the rights of the mother-tongue also came to be officially recognised by the UNO in 1999 and the first time the International Mother Tongue Day was celebrated in 2000. The events of the 21st of February 1952 (Bhasha Ondolan) were mentioned and the right of people to maintain their mother-tongues was asserted.

Although the UNESCO had taken the position in 1953 that children learn new concepts best in their mother-tongue, the real momentum to the idea came from 1999 onwards. Education in the mother-tongue (MLE) was established in many parts of the world and the idea that one’s mother-tongue was worth saving is now gaining currency. The arguments given in favour of saving the mother-tongues of people and using them are many but let me mention only the major ones.

First, children learn basic concepts best in their first language and then graduate to other languages more easily. In short, the time spent in teaching them through the mother-tongue is not wasted. It leads to better understanding of academic subjects later. The administrators and teachers of Pakistan’s English-medium schools are convinced that this is wrong. They argue that children learn English better by being exposed to it at the cost of their mother-tongue, which is not taught, as early as possible. This way of thinking completely bans the mother-tongues in elite schools so that speaking in Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and Balochi is actually punishable in such institutions. That this is against the UN’s concept of human rights and Pakistan’s own constitution as well as a robust body of research on such issues is dismissed with a shrug in such schools.

The second argument is that the world is losing its languages very fast on account of globalisation and fast communications so that we have about 6000 (plus) languages left but we might have far fewer before the 21st century is out. I myself surveyed the languages of Pakistan and discovered, on the strength of other peoples’ work, that out of the nearly 72 languages of the country in 2000 nearly six have disappeared and at least three smaller ones may disappear soon. As many of these languages, in my view, were actually dialects of larger languages we might actually have a much depleted number of languages when the Summer Institute of Languages publishes its next Ethnologue.

Given this depletion rate, it makes sense to teach the mother-tongues. Teaching them would create written texts in them and even CDs and DVDs. It would preserve the largely oral literature which would otherwise die when the language disappears. This would be worth doing because a language embodies the spirit, or worldview, of an ethnic group. If the language disappears, the ethnic group disappears too. If we are to have some sense of our roots and contact with our ancestors then language is the means to preserve these things.

The third argument is that children look down upon their own language, their way of life, their ancestors, their literature — in short their identity — if they are taught in a foreign language. This is evidenced by the fact that Pakistani Punjabi children, especially girls, speak even in private in Urdu and generally regard Punjabi as a rustic, unsophisticated language.

I have often encountered the question — or rather the assertion — that Punjabi has neither script nor literature of its own. When I point out that Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Sindhi and Balochi too use modified forms of the Arabic script and not just Punjabi, they are incredulous. Similarly, when I point out the abundance of mystic poetry in Punjabi refuting their claim that Punjabi is fit only for vulgarity, they are nonplussed. And such uninformed prejudices are not the sole monopoly of Punjabis.

Most students of English-medium schools have not read Ghalib, Meer or Faiz and, what is really painful is that they do not want to. Indeed, they are proud not to. And it is no consolation to think that they have not read Shakespeare and Dickens either. The point is that the English writers have a respectable niche in their minds which the Urdu ones do not. And this may not have happened if Urdu and the local languages had been accorded the respect they deserve in our educational system. If nothing, we could have shown films of the classics — Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu, Ghalib, the stories of Asmat Chughtai — to our children without imposing examinations upon them.

But what we have done instead is to make Urdu compulsory which is a sure way of making it hated. Languages should be taught to all and not just to the poor, rural guinea pigs and they should be taught with the help of interesting things like drama, song, poetry and films. As for examinations, maybe they are a necessary evil but they belong to the market place not to the experience called education for creating civilised and informed citizens of the world.

There are other arguments too but I think even these will not be digested by the decision-makers of Pakistan so let me stop here. If the 21st of February makes us rethink even some of our policies — such as that of treating the Baloch or not teaching our children their mother-tongues — the purpose of this article would be served.

 

 

 

 

Political battle in Fata
As political parties gear up for election campaign in Fata, tribal people are 
optimistic that the first ever party-based elections will bring drastic changes in the primitive tribal system
By Ashrafuddin Pirzada

The upcoming elections will be the first party-based elections in Fata’s history, since the Political Party Act was extended to the tribal areas last year. Candidates, voters and young people are enthusiastically looking forward to the elections, as they believe that the party-based elections will help overcome the backwardness and poverty in the tribal areas.

Political experts say that the coming general elections will be totally different for the people living in Fata as they will have an opportunity to reject ‘evils’ by participating in the first ever party-based polls.

Tribal people are optimistic that the elections will bring drastic changes in the primitive tribal system in Fata. Some parties are even making promises for the complete abolishment of Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR) from all the tribal agencies.

All the major political parties and independent candidates in Fata have launched their election campaigns and are trying to win more voters ahead of the first party-based general elections. The experienced political parties, including the PPP, the PTI, the PML-N, the JUI-F, the JI and independent candidates are utilising different ways and means in their election campaigns. They are holding street corner meetings, village dialogues and using social media tools.

Despite political differences, most of the candidates and political parties agree that the outdated tribal political system should be abolished and a more democratic system should be introduced in Fata.

The hope of free and fair elections in a peaceful atmosphere further increased among the tribal people when President Asif Ali Zardari appointed the first civil and non-partisan tribal figure Engineer Shaukatullah Khan as the KPK Governor. All the tribal politicians, youth and independent candidates welcomed the decision and urged the governor to conduct free and fair elections.

Jamat-e-Islami Fata Naib Ameer and NA-45 candidate, Zarnoor Afridi, says though people had cast votes on relation, creed and clans basis in the past elections, the next elections will be totally different.

In the 2002 and 2008 elections, tribal people had sent young and educated persons to the National Assembly. Noorul Haq Qadri from NA-45 was elected twice in 2002 and 2008 and he is also contesting the 2013 elections. But this time, his ex-supporter and billionaire tribal businessman, Alhaj Shaji Gul Afridi, is also contesting elections against him from NA-45 which, the voters say, would give tough time to Qadri.

The other young tribesmen elected were Dr Kamran Khan from NA-40 North Waziristan Agency, Dr Javed Hussain Mian and Sajid Toori from NA-37 Kurram Agency, Gulab Jamal and Javad Hussain from NA-39 in the 2002-8 elections.

“The past elections show that every time only independent candidates had been elected from Fata. However, politicians believe that political parties’ candidates will give tough time to the independent candidates in the coming elections,” Zarnoor says. Zarnoor Afridi adds that the main activity of the JI’s election campaign is party recruitment gatherings in Fata. “Thousands of people in Khyber, Bajaur, Mohmand, North and South Waziristan agencies have joined the JI,” he claims, adding the JI workers are also helping people to get registered as voters.

Senior tribal journalist and social activist, Saif-ur-Rehman Afridi, believes that the results of the coming elections would be totally different from the past results. He says political parties, specially the PTI, and religious parties will sweep the 2013 elections. Saif says that independent candidates and sitting MNAs would be defeated because of their absence from their constituencies. “None of the MNAs had afforded a single visit to the tribal agency during the last five years,” he says. “However, top political party leaders, including Imran Khan and Munawar Hassan, have personally participated in public gatherings in Fata.”

Aysha Gulalai Wazir, the PTI’s Fata leader, is the first tribal woman who will likely go to the parliament on reserved seats. She says that she, on the advice of Imran Khan, is holding meetings with Waziristan elders and women. She says the days had gone when women had no say in the tribal system. She urged the tribal women to follow her and make sure their participation in the coming elections.

Other PTI leaders, Fakhruddin Shinwari and Rahim Shah Mohmand, say their party has started its mobile SMS election campaign to attract new voters. They say the party had also assigned workers at village level to go campaigning from door to door. This campaign is already underway. “We have adopted a unique campaign by convincing tribal people after resolving their disputes,” Fakhruddin Shinwari says. He says tribal people have many problems and disputes which they bring to the administration offices and the PTI workers help them settle their disputes and urge them to vote for the PTI.

Noorul Haq Qadri, the sitting MNA from NA-45, launched his campaign two months ago. He held several public gatherings in Peshawar as he faced life threats in his Khyber agency constituency. Using social media, especially Facebook, Qadri’s workers regularly post texts and photographs of development projects initiated by Noorul Haq Qadri in the last five years.

Shahid Khan Afridi, Khyber Agency press secretary of the Awami National Party (ANP), says they had established party units at the village level and tasked them with conducting meetings in hujras (guesthouses). “Due to threats from militants, they would not expose themselves in public gatherings, but campaigning would continue.” The ANP leaders have advised local party workers to remain in safe places until the National and Provincial Assemblies are dissolved.

Yaqoob Afridi, spokesman for Alhaj Shaji Gul, the independent candidate for NA-45, says that Shaji Gul’s supporters have already set up election offices in various places. He says Shaji Gul was the first candidate in Khyber Agency who is campaigning from door to door and addressing public gatherings in Jamrud and Landi Kotal tehsils. “The situation is not favourable for elections in Fata, but people want a change which could address the problems of poor people,” says Yaqoob.

Jihad Shah Afridi, the election committee organiser for Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (F) in Khyber Agency, says his party believes in continued political campaigning. The JUI-F has divided its election campaign into several phases. Jihad Shah says billboards, wall chalking and the JUI workers’ training are almost complete.

 

 

 

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