analysis
Critical questions
We must dispel the impression that we are our own worst enemies
By Raza Rumi
There is no question that Pakistan is once again in the midst of an unstable and uncertain phase. The continued failure of democracy is being articulated by the usual forces that have little faith in representative politics. It is surprising, or perhaps not, that a twenty-month old government has been judged a failure in terms of governance, economic management and political consensus-building. This verdict is most loudly being proclaimed by print and electronic media, supported by a chorus of politicians outside the Parliament and of course tacitly approved or some say perpetuated by the unelected institutions of the state.

firstperson
"PPP works best when under attack"
Times have changed and now we cannot stop at roti, kapra aur makan
By Shahid Husain
Taj Haider, General Secretary, Pakistan People's Party, Sindh, and a stalwart of the PPP, has seen the party through its ups and downs since it was founded in 1967. A flag-bearer of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's political philosophy of social democracy, Taj has been an inspirational spirit behind a party that has faced one crisis after the other, the more recent being the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the ensuing chaos.

Who will take the plunge?
If the PPP is worried about appearing 'soft' vis-a-vis India, then it is always going to be at the mercy of the hawks in the media
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
As the media leaps from one "crisis" to the next, it becomes ever more difficult for those committed to the public interest to identify and then induce action on issues of real importance. It is now clear that the military establishment is trying to show up the elected government's 'soft' stance on India, but this was always to be expected, and sensationalising the burgeoning contradiction does the cause of peace no favours. What should be highlighted are episodes such as the one a couple of weeks ago when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the release of 100 Indian fishermen from Pakistani jails.

industry
Leather forecast
The leather industry sees no hope for the sector in the new trade policy
By Aoun Sahi
Till a few years ago, Pakistan's leather industry used to be a leader in Asia. It is facing difficult times today. During July-November 2008-09, the leather exports of Pakistan faced a decline of 27 percent while India, which exported 43 percent more leather garments, witnessed 27 percent increase in its leather exports during the same period.

Decent proposals
Domestic violence and sexual harassment or intimidation have been defined in a more elaborate way in the new bills, at least one of which has lapsed
By Shamim-ur-Rehman Malik
Amendments were proposed in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for making home and work environment safer for women so that they could pursue their careers with dignity. The bill, that the National Assembly had passed with unanimity in August to protect women and children from domestic violence, could not become a law. The government will now have to get the bill passed again from both the houses after the approval of a mediation committee comprising members of both the houses. The bill on sexual harassment had been passed by the National Assembly and has been presented to the Senate.

Small steps
Micro-financing is helping people establish their own small businesses
By Nazakat Hussain
The government seems to have realised the importance of micro-finance in reducing poverty across Pakistan. It is providing facilities to the micro-finance banks (MFBs) and the micro-finance financial institutions (MFIs) to reach the untapped poor population. It is important to empower the poor living under abject poverty and facing huge economic challenges.

climate
Lessons from
Copenhagen for Doha
Negotiations have to be a continuous process with a clear roadmap in mind along with alternative environment plans
By Pradeep S Mehta
Much has been written about the recently concluded Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change which will continue to reverberate. Copenhagen was not supposed to be the be-all-and-end-all on environmental matters. It was a part of a process and even if it disappointed many, including this writer, it remains a significant second best milestone, which will determine the future of climate change negotiations. The debate has certainly shifted from "poverty is the biggest polluter" to "justice for the poor victims of pollution by others". The drama will resume in the next summit in Mexico City in December 2010 and all the global pow wows before that. Our political leaders may again sing in chorus, as they have been doing on the Doha Round of negotiations by the WTO members: "Let's do something".

Absence of an open society
The problem with liberalism in Pakistan is that it has been clubbed with the concept of Westernisation
By Raza Khan
The phenomenon of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan, with its negative connotations, is largely the result of lack of openness in society. Extremism and terrorism is largely due to absence of individual freedom -- not just the freedom to think and act independently but also economic freedom. The central ideals of liberalism, including liberty of individuals, self-restraint, moderation and compromise, if pursued inside Pakistan, could greatly prevent extremist tendencies from rising. The central concepts emanating from liberalism could be made the core of a comprehensive strategy of countering extremism and terrorism.

Ways to fight debt trap
We need to focus on agro-based industry to maximise the output of this sector in order to improve our economic indicators
Dr. Farid A Malik
Military power alone cannot guarantee independence of a nation if its vital economic interests have been compromised. It is the economic strangulation that has crippled our freedom as a nation. How did we get into this debt trap? Pakistan had no external borrowing till 1958. As a nation we lived within our means and corruption was contained. In the words of Wali Khan, political leadership was by and large clean. Corrupt practices were an exception, not the norm.

 

 

analysis

Critical questions

We must dispel the impression that we are our own worst enemies

By Raza Rumi

There is no question that Pakistan is once again in the midst of an unstable and uncertain phase. The continued failure of democracy is being articulated by the usual forces that have little faith in representative politics. It is surprising, or perhaps not, that a twenty-month old government has been judged a failure in terms of governance, economic management and political consensus-building. This verdict is most loudly being proclaimed by print and electronic media, supported by a chorus of politicians outside the Parliament and of course tacitly approved or some say perpetuated by the unelected institutions of the state.

The December, 2009 order of the Supreme Court declaring the national reconciliation ordinance void ab initio has been a catalyst of this cynical view of democracy. The one stream within the wider public perception states that a corrupt gang of politicians had captured power in March 2008 and they now stand discredited and de-legitimised. The contrary point of view declares that opening up of the cases against the leadership of the ruling Pakistan People's Party is akin to re-starting the process of political victimisation which has been invoked since the 1950s. This time, the detractors of the Supreme Court hold, the process is being led by the Superior judiciary.

The reaction of the ruling party has been aggressive and the campaign is currently being led by none other than the powerful President who happens to be the co-Chairperson of the PPP. Interestingly, the current political mayhem has accentuated the old, unresolved national questions. Among others, three such questions stand out for their immense significance to the future viability of Pakistan: the unworkable federal structure, the institutionalised extremism within state and society and the tottering economic conditions that are inextricably linked to the chronic political instability of Pakistan.

Firstly, the unresolved issue of federalism. The centre-provinces tension has been a recurring theme of Pakistan's chekered political history. The demand for Pakistan was rooted in the failure of the Indian National Congress to accommodate the interests of Muslim majority provinces and to give a fair representation to the crucial minorities in Hindu-majority provinces. From 1947 to the present, we have still not corrected the lopsidedness of the federation. The complicated truth is that the leaders of smaller provinces, for the right or wrong reasons, have been treated shoddily by the executive arm of the state. The Khans of the northwest frontier were always branded as traitors, the Bhuttos were physically eliminated and the Baloch Sardars and their progeny were brutally killed.

In the current heated temperature, the smaller provinces' card has come to national limelight once again. The start of such a debate came with the confession of Sindh Home Minister that after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a section of the Sindhi political forces wanted to reject Pakistan. This startling statement was, as expected, condemned as irresponsible and seditious. The firebrand minister has now apologised but the issue is far from settled. In addition, the fiery speeches of the incumbent President have further aggravated the matter, to the extent of identifying his enemies as the "anti-Baloch" forces. It is true that the President is deliberately vague. But leaving his enemies unnamed is neither wise nor a step towards reaching a solution to the endemic political instability. Nevertheless, the manner in which the three provincial assemblies of Sindh, NWFP, and Balochistan have passed resolutions in favour of the President has caused a storm on the national scene.

The superior courts are going to hear the petitions pertaining to the illegibility of the President to hold the highest office of the state. The issue of the Presidential immunity will come under discussion as there are many who would want to see the President lynched in the public domain. Whether the President remains in power or is thrown out, the federal question and the popular perception within the smaller provinces will only get reinforced. In ordinary circumstances, we may have braved this. However, the way Pakistan is mired in regional conflicts and deep-seated internal discord this is an ominous development. The long-standing fissures that have festered over the decades might just turn cancerous.

The second challenge relates to the rampant extremism that has engulfed our society and penetrated deep into the institutions of the state. There is hardly an institution in Pakistan that is free of the influence or fear of extremism. From the Constitution of Pakistan to a primary school textbook, religion is an instrument of the state to perpetuate its ideological hegemony and coercive apparatus. Similarly, whether it is the media or the non-state actors in the third sector, apologists for extremism abound. The issue is compounded by the fact that no single definition of Islam is agreed upon by the theologians and their followers.

Whether it is the centuries-old religio-cultural events such as the Moharram rituals, or a basic religious offering such as a Friday prayer, nothing remains uncontested, non-violent and free of controversy. There are as many mosques as there are sects and there are as many interpretations of simple tenets of our religion as the number of mosque imams, who are now appointed by the state. Even the redistributive aspect of Islamic belief, such as zakat has been politicised and made into an instrument of power. In such a milieu, the citizens are no longer receiving their basic entitlement of security, which is fundamental to the legitimisation of state power.

In a context where the state and its executive organs are pitted against the jihad-factories, how wise is it to play partisan politics and fan provincial discord? Even an undergraduate student of history is familiar with the fact that wherever a war is waged, governments of national unity are formed, or at least there is a political consensus vis--vis the conduct of the war. It is shocking to note that political instability has erupted in these times, when Pakistan needs to be waging a concerted war-effort against the institutions and manifestations of extremism. While a public campaign was needed to rally the citizenry against the internal enemies, it has now been swept away by another campaign with a single objective, i.e. to discredit the democratic institutions and find alternatives to democracy where none exist.

Ten years ago, we underwent the hysterical accountability charade led by General Musharraf. A decade later, similar noises are gaining currency, this time thanks to civilian mouthpieces of the establishment. The gross failures of the military junta, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and experiments in exclusion of representative leadership failed miserably. This is not the first time that they have failed. Our history is replete with such instances where the dominant unelected institutions of the state marginalise peoples' representatives. This does not augur well for the future stability and progress of Pakistan.

The third issue directly relates to how we are living in a state of pure economic meltdown. During 2009, the GDP growth rate fell around 2 percent, probably the lowest digit in our economic history. The shortfall in energy supplies has wrecked the manufacturing sector, not to mention the small and medium enterprises, which do not have alternative energy generation systems in place. Adding to this mess was an all-time high inflation of nearly 20 percent. It is true that the IMF has bailed us out and US economic assistance is likely to bolster our situation, but all in all, there is a drastic economic decline taking place in front of us. It would be nave to find the causes for such economic performance on the domestic front, as the Pakistani economy is well-integrated into the world market, and the global recession has hit scores of developing countries. However, the way the current political instability is taking shape, our economic indicators will deteriorate in the coming years.

If there are predictions about a change in government every second week and if there are Jihadis blowing up our economic nerve-centres in Karachi, Lahore and elsewhere, how would we ensure that the rate of economic growth keeps up with the population explosion. Oil, food and energy shocks are far from over. With Pakistan's poor numbering in the millions, how would this government or for that matter any other government ensure internal peace and deepening of democratisation?

It is absolutely clear that the pundits who are fuelling instability in Pakistan are either illiterate in basic economic theory or are simply out to undo what is left of Jinnah's Pakistan.

These intractable challenges and complex issues require a bi-partisan consensus and continuation of civilian governance. Any disruption of the democratic process will be suicidal, for unlike the 1960s (or even the 1990s), there are now few in the world who would reach out to salvage Pakistan. Even before any external force attempts to support an alternative authoritarian structure of governance, the federal system in place will crumble under its own pressure.

There are five areas which require the urgent attention of the political elites of Pakistan. First, the resolution of the Constitutional issues and the implementation of the Charter of Democracy, without which the bickering fiefdoms will continue to expose their vulnerability to the invisible forces incorporated in our body politic. The 1973 Constitution must be restored as it stood on the 5th of July, 1977. Second, an all-parties conference should deal with the issue of the limits of the war against terror and make the national agenda homegrown and acceptable to all shades of political opinion.

Thirdly, based on the national consensus achieved, a thorough cleaning-up of the educational curricula should be undertaken without further delay. It is high time that jihad by means other than violence is adopted as a state policy.

Fourth, economic revitalisation ought to be kept as a first priority, not just that of the government, but of all political parties for the successive governments will face this spectre in its most brutal and unkind manifestation once they reach the halls of power. In this context, the neo-liberal framework of economic stabilisation will have to be rejected in favour of a national strategy that incorporates the views of Pakistani economists and social planners rather than those from abroad.

Finally, taking advantage of the fact that the courts mean business and are visibly independent, the pending petitions concerning the role of the intelligence agencies and their political wings should be pursued afresh with vigour. Once the doyens of civil society and the thundering politicians back this petition, we shall know that their shenanigans thus far were not rooted in political vendetta.

Saving Pakistan is an urgent priority and we must leverage the fact that most global powers and our own regional neighbors want a stable Pakistan. We must dispel the impression that we are our own worst enemies.

The writer is a development professional based in Lahore. He blogs at www.razarumi.com and edits Pak Tea House and Lahorenama e-zines

 

firstperson

"PPP works best when under attack"

Times have changed and now we cannot stop at roti, kapra aur makan

By Shahid Husain

Taj Haider, General Secretary, Pakistan People's Party, Sindh, and a stalwart of the PPP, has seen the party through its ups and downs since it was founded in 1967. A flag-bearer of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's political philosophy of social democracy, Taj has been an inspirational spirit behind a party that has faced one crisis after the other, the more recent being the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the ensuing chaos.

In his capacity as the party's senior member and policy maker, Taj has advanced the cause of the poor through his vision for the party and his writings, including plays for Pakistan Television during 1978 to 1985. Besides, Taj is a former senator and son of eminent educationist and intellectual Prof. Karrar Hussain.

TNS had the occasion to speak with him on several issues, including the PPP's future, democracy, ethnicity, peace process with India, and the perceived threat of military's intervention in the nascent political process. Excerpts follow:

 

The News on Sunday: How do you view the speculations that there is a rift between the democratic government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the army, what steps should be adopted to keep the army at bay?

Taj Haider (TH): The armed forces of Pakistan are working strictly under the elected government and carrying out its instructions. The propaganda by certain quarters is simply aimed at creating a rift or creating a perception that a rift exists. The armed forces have realised that they have to adhere to the constitution and the people of Pakistan shall not allow a repeat of the adventurism that we have seen in the past.

The attacks on the PPP and its leadership, in fact, have further united and consolidated the party. The PPP works best when it is under attack by the reactionaries and today there is greater determination to carry forward the programme of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and divert the resources of the state towards eradicating poverty, illiteracy and disease. The methods tried by our adversaries have always failed in the past.

These people are not capable of innovative thinking and they are merely repeating once again what has failed many a time in the past. When they are attacking the person of President, they are in fact attacking the party, its programme and policies, and the benefits it is providing to the working classes. We have seen in the past that whenever a PPP government has been dissolved, all those who were provided jobs during our tenure are dismissed and the process of privatisation and retrenchment begins and development schemes are stopped. The new wave of attack against the party also has the same objectives.

TNS: People are complaining about inflation, loadshedding, unemployment, and non-availability of essential commodities. How can the PPP call itself a party of the masses if it has failed to deliver the goods?

TH: Procurement of essential items is being looked after by the government. Support prices of agricultural products have been raised substantially. The government is buying about 40 percent of the crop. As a result, about 400-500 billion rupees are being diverted towards rural areas where real poverty existed. The Benazir Income Support Programme and the recent programme undertaken by the government of Sindh to provide similar support to half a million women in Sindh have been designed to provide a safety net to the poorest of the poor. Privatisation and retrenchment has been stopped. Thousands of people have been given jobs in the public sector but in Sindh we need 500,000 employment opportunities whereas the public sector has been able to provide about 70,000 jobs.

With more money in circulation, business and production is picking up. The government revenues are going up.

A lot more money as compared to the past has been given to provinces which they will use it in the social sector and development projects. The high prices of commodities in the market are due to the fact that the public sector is not controlling the distribution side and it is not in an active competition in the market. A system has to be devised through which the government can supply commodities directly to retail shops in mohallas. This system is known as social marketing and the shops can register themselves in the network and perform the task of selling the commodities at reasonable prices and earn profits. The profits being earned through black marketing and hoarding and by manipulating the market can only be checked if public sector enters the market as a competitor.

We are thinking on these lines and examining if the utility stores corporations can expand its area of activity and include hundreds and thousands of retail shops in the expanded network. Regarding the power shortage, besides increasing generation since as many as nine power units are coming on line, the most important part remains -- to cut down energy losses. Unfortunately, no investments were made in upgrading and maintenance of transmission and distribution lines in the country over the last 10 years.

Karachi Coordination Committee is, for the last one month, regularly monitoring the work of Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) in installing new feeders and enhancing the capacity of grid stations. About 50 percent work has been completed and energy losses in certain areas have come down from 40 percent to less than 20 percent. Further improvement can be brought about by checking theft and reducing the losses to 8-10 percent which are internationally accepted levels. Such measures will not only increase availability but improve profitability and help reduce electricity tariffs. Old generation plants are working at an efficiency of 25-30 percent. The new plants based on combined cycles would be working at 60 percent plus efficiency and that would change the entire tariff scenario.

If things improve in Karachi and we stop buying 700 megawatts from Wapda, the rest of the country would have more electricity. New projects are also going to start in the province of Sindh based on Thar coal. You will recall that our last government had finalised all paper and planning work on 5,000 megawatts coal plant at Keti Bunder. That plant was to come on line in 2001. Unfortunately, the project was scrapped and we are facing a crisis today.

TNS: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has offered the Balochistan package but don't you think the trial of Nawab Akbar Bugti's killers and recovery of missing people should have been the top priority of the government?

TH: The package is "Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan". The trial of murderers of Nawab Akbar Bugti is a part of the package. So, work on all the points contained in the package has to start simultaneously and it would be unwise to withhold action on all the points until some action is taken on specific points. Action on the missing people continues. Many people have been recovered. The Supreme Court of Pakistan would be having a daily hearing on missing people and that should also help the government in recovering these people.

TNS: Do you agree that Karachi carnage was an attempt to destabilise democracy? Who in your opinion were the culprits?

TH: It would be premature to say anything on this issue. One should approach the investigation with an open mind. Options should not be closed and conclusions should be made in the light of evidence that is available. It is the investigation agencies that have to reach conclusions. At present, our first priority is to furnish such information to the authorities and this holds true for anyone who has any information or evidence about this tragedy. The smallest information to the authorities is important because it can lead to something big.

TNS: People have recently celebrated the birthday of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Don't you think the PPP has undergone a metamorphosis after the judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto?

TH: Times have changed and now we cannot stop at roti, kapra aur makan. The PPP's manifesto of 2008 envisioned by Benazir Bhutto Shaheed is based on five Es -- employment, education, electricity, environment, and equality. This is the programme now and people will judge in the next elections as to what degree we have been able to achieve the goals set by Benazir Bhutto.

TNS: Why is it that the PPP has not been able to make inroads in urban centres such as Karachi?

TH: The PPP is a representative party in all urban centres. Everyone knows that there was large scale rigging in 2008 elections and the PPP was deprived of many seats that it had actually won. Our endeavour is to provide identity cards, free of cost, to the poor working classes; to have a fresh census which is overdue; and prepare through the Election Commission of Pakistan genuine voters' lists. If free and fair elections are held in the country, the PPP would come out as the majority party in urban centres because it has very big support among working classes and katchi abadis which do not vote on ethnic or religious lines.

TNS: You acknowledge that ethnicity is a big problem. What steps should be taken to solve this problem?

TH: The government and the party are discouraging all parochial prejudices that are divisive. We are making sure that the laws and policies are applied uniformly across the ethnic and sectarian divide with the result that on the smallest PPP platform one finds participation of people belonging to all ethnic groups and sects. The divide is ideological. The oppressors belong to every ethnicity and belief and so are the oppressed. So, the real issue is exploitation and not ethnicity or belief.

TNS: How can suspicions between Pakistan and India be overcome?

TH: People do not want war. A lot of ground has been covered through people-to-people contacts. Our defence preparations are due to our threat perceptions and due to the unresolved questions in the region. There is a need to have better understanding at government-to-government level and a firm commitment that large scale reductions would be made by SAARC countries in their defence budgets. This does not seem to work until the right wing of Indian politics controls the state. We can look forward to real peace with the left wing of Indian politics, with the Communist Party of India playing an active role in Indian policy making.

I must put it on record that we have had very positive meetings on the directions of Benazir Bhutto Shaheed with the Indian left and several agreements have been reached on issues such as Kashmir and water scarcity because the Indian left is taking a principled stand and is not giving up to pressures of religious extremism and imperialism. We certainly look forward to that day when those in India who advocate the cause of working classes are in power. It is the poor who need peace and only their genuine representatives and not those who work for capitalists.

TNS: What are the impediments in a substantial bilateral trade between Pakistan and India?

TH: Trade relations are always good. We must encourage regular trade. Unfortunately, a lot of smuggling is taking place across the borders that is causing lots of revenue losses and destabilising market structures. There should be regular trade with India and there should be a balance of trade between the two countries so that it does not result in unnecessary outflow of foreign exchange from Pakistan.

TNS: What is the logic in that books and magazines cannot be imported from India?

TH: There is no logic. Books and magazines should be freely exchanged and promoted. This will help us in disseminating our views to the Indian public and making visible cracks in the information walls that have been erected by the governments of the two countries. The perception gap has to be bridged.

 

Who will take the plunge?

If the PPP is worried about appearing 'soft' vis-a-vis India, then it is always going to be at the mercy of the hawks in the media

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

As the media leaps from one "crisis" to the next, it becomes ever more difficult for those committed to the public interest to identify and then induce action on issues of real importance. It is now clear that the military establishment is trying to show up the elected government's 'soft' stance on India, but this was always to be expected, and sensationalising the burgeoning contradiction does the cause of peace no favours. What should be highlighted are episodes such as the one a couple of weeks ago when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the release of 100 Indian fishermen from Pakistani jails.

Both Indian and Pakistani fishermen have been languishing in each other's jails for decades. The start of this particular 'cold war' between the two sides can be traced to the 1965 war after which poor fishing communities started to be used as pawns by both security establishments in an unending clash of egos. Every few days there are reports of fishermen being rounded up by coast guards for trespassing into the other side's territory. In recent years, these poor and defenceless fishermen have been charged under anti-terrorist legislation and denied any kind of legal counsel. Their families are rarely informed that they have been arrested and years pass without contact.

Neither side has bothered to lobby for their own citizens, and neither has been willing to unilaterally release the fishermen even though it is abundantly clear that the latter represent no threat whatsoever to anyone's security and are simply the victims of power politics. In this context, the Prime Minister's announcement of a few weeks ago might be viewed as a good positive step. However, this is not the first time that such 'confidence building measures' have been taken.

In fact, both governments have released fishermen from the other side on numerous occasions over the past two decades or so. But it has been clear on every such occasion that the objective is to score diplomatic points rather than completely clear the air and demonstrate a serious commitment to lasting peace. The only way that Prime Minister Gilani or his Indian counterpart can genuinely distinguish themselves on this front is to release every one of the other country's fishermen without condition and subsequently call a halt to future arrests.

The mistrust and posturing that dominates the relationship between the two countries was made clear when after PM Gilani's announcement the Indian authorities refused to accept the released fishermen and the latter were quickly shunted back into jail. Some days later the exchange actually took place but rather than bringing the countries closer together the incident simply underlined just how far apart we really are.

All of these developments deserved much more public debate than took place. Given the access that the media has to virtually every corner of the country, it is mind-boggling that no major media outlet has done a human interest story on the plight of the fishermen. It would be easy for our TV hosts to meet the families of Pakistani fishermen who are desperate for their jailed relatives to be released as well as the incarcerated Indian fishermen in our jails. But none seems to be bothered.

Meanwhile, assuming that there really is a tug-of-war going on between the elected government and the military establishment on 'national security' questions, it is imperative for the former to go ahead and take bold decisions like unilaterally releasing all Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails. If the elected government is truly convinced that the nexus of military-media-mullah (and some would even add judiciary) is out to undermine democracy, then only the working masses are left as a countervailing power to undemocratic forces. That is to say if the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is worried about appearing 'soft' vis-a-vis India, then it is always going to be at the mercy of the hawks in the media and other 'opinion-making' institutions. The PPP should instead openly espouse the cause of peace and rally the support of ordinary working people to pursue this agenda. And that is possible only by taking initiatives which prove, as the release of Indian fishermen would, that the interests of the Indian and Pakistani people are anything but diametrically opposed.

Indeed, is it really possible to draw borders in the water? Have historically embedded subsistence communities such as coastal fishermen ever recognised borders? Should they have to? The modern nation-state may be the political shell which has overseen the tremendous expansion of the productive powers of capitalism, but as the foremost political identity of the past century it has also sanctioned unquantifiable destruction.

Ultimately it is likely that the PPP will neither fully break with the national security paradigm nor fully propagate it. And this is consistent with the history of the party and its ambivalent relationship with the establishment. The Congress government in India is itself unwilling to take a 'soft' stance vis-a-vis Pakistan with right-wing Hindu nationalists waiting in the wings to take advantage. In short, hundreds of fishermen will continue to suffer even though they have nothing to do with any of the national, regional, or global power games in which they are being used as instruments.

There are many progressives who continue to believe that the various contradictions that have erupted with the coming of the 'war on terror' to Pakistan will necessarily produce a rupture in the structure of power that exists in this country, and that whatever follows will represent some measure of forward movement. I do not disagree with the analysis that the objective conditions for change exist, but I do believe that the subjective forces necessary for change to be actualised are either conspicuous by their absence or unable to agree on the required political strategy. If the PPP continues as it has done to date (by putting all of its eggs in the American basket), and no other progressive force emerges to take the bold stance required -- against imperialism, the military, right-wing media, mullahs, and in favour of peace with India and other neighbours -- more and more working people in this country, and indeed the subcontinent, will join the ranks of the long-suffering fishermen.

 

industry

Leather forecast

The leather industry sees no hope for the sector in the new trade policy

By Aoun Sahi

Till a few years ago, Pakistan's leather industry used to be a leader in Asia. It is facing difficult times today. During July-November 2008-09, the leather exports of Pakistan faced a decline of 27 percent while India, which exported 43 percent more leather garments, witnessed 27 percent increase in its leather exports during the same period.

The sharp decline in Pakistan's second top foreign exchange earner after textiles that employs some 500,000 workers is a matter of serious concern, calling for immediate steps to stem the tide. The government announced some steps for supporting leather industry in its trade policy 2009-12, including facilities from Export Investment Support (EIS) Fund for the procurement of expert advisory services, a matching grant to establish design studios/centres and establishment of research and development centres in Karachi and Sialkot.

Federal minister for trade and commerce, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, also announced that leather sector would be able to avail EIS Fund facilities that include sharing 25 percent financial cost of setting up laboratories and matching grant for setting up of effluent treatment plants. "A scheme is also likely to be launched to compensate inland freight cost to exporters of leather garments and some other items," he said. He also ensured availability of electricity supply to the leather industry. "The ministry of water and power and electricity distribution companies will enter into agreements with a cluster of industries whereby electricity will be supplied at mutually agreed times," he said while announcing the target of six percent increase in export of leather products.

The leather industry sees no hope for the sector in the new policy. "Our main demand is to provide rebate on exports equal to other regional countries. China, India and Bangladesh had announced relief packages to face the international recession and had salvaged their industry by offering rebates ranging from 7.5 percent to 15 percent on leather and leather goods imports which is only 2.3 percent in Pakistan," Sarfraz Bhatti, CEO FS Candino, a leather goods-making factory in Sialkot, tells TNS.

Bhatti has lost around 50 percent of his business during the last one and a half year for different reasons. "Increase in the cost of production due to power crisis, economic depression, better rebate rate and financial environment in India, China, Bangladesh and Turkey, the competitors in international market and export of raw leather are the main factors responsible for the situation. We are supplying raw leather to India too."

According to him, the number of tanneries in the country has increased from 520 in 1999 to 720 at present while the production of hides of cattle and skins of goats and sheep in the country is almost static for the last two years at 12.3-12.6 million and 45 million respectively."

Bhatti says two years back more than 500 people used to work in his factory but now they are not more than 200. "Every leather goods-making factory in Sialkot has been facing the same situation."

According to Pakistan Leather Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, there are more than 460 leather apparels-making and 345 leather gloves-producing units in the country that employ more than 40 percent of the total labour force working in the leather sector.

Having 11 percent of the world's livestock -- 14 percent buffaloes and 7.5 percent goats -- Pakistan stands 15th in the world in leather production. According to sources, around 80 percent of leather production is exported. Pakistan stands at number four in leather garments production, second in leather gloves, and 36th in leather footwear. "Even then Pakistan's share (USD940 million) is less than one percent in the world leather trade of USD 98 billion while its share in the world's leather exports is 1.29 percent", former chairman Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA), Agha Saiddain, tells TNS.

According to him, Indian and Bangladeshi governments have been giving special attention to the sector while our government is still not ready to take solid step towards giving benefits to the leather export sector. "Because of the timely steps by the Indian government for its leather industry and relief package of Rs13120 million for 10th and 11th leather plans, its leather exporters have been able to increase their export. The Indian government has also given Rs2630 million to leather exporters in grant in the head of modernisation, capacity building, and betterment of infrastructure of the sector. In contrast, the Pakistan government has not followed the recommendations of the leather industry."

It is estimated that around 15-20 percent of the hides and skins are affected by pre-slaughtering damages, like skin-cuts, rashes, diseases, injuries, etc, while around 10 percent more are damaged due to power and gas loadshedding at the main tanneries. Saiddain admits there are many problems in the industry as well, "We don't have enough skilled labour while our industry is also less interested in taking new initiativesThe future of the leather industry in the country is linked to the development of shoe and value-added leather goods."

Leather shoe and footwear manufacturers, however, do not see hope even in this sector. They think their arch rival, Vietnam, has many advantages over them. "Since the US has announced duty-free import of Vietnam's footwear, many Chinese shoe-making companies have shifted their operations to Vietnam to take advantage of the situation. Since Vietnam exports to ASEAN countries are tariff-free, this is also a big issue for Pakistan to penetrate ASEAN markets", Muhammad Ashraf, owner of a shoe-making factory in Lahore tells TNS. The other issue, according to him, is the cheap Chinese footwear which is being dumped in Pakistan markets. "It has compelled manufacturers of joggers and sleepers manufacturers in Pakistani markets to outsource production to China to take advantage of the low cost of doing business there," he says.

TNS contacted Noor Alam Khan, parliamentary secretary on trade and commerce, but he declined to speak on the issue. Azhar Ali Chauhdry, joint secretary export, foreign trade wing of the Ministry of Commerce and Trade tells TNS, "I think the international economic crisis is the only reason for decline in our leather exports. I don't think there are any local reasons".

 

Decent proposals

Domestic violence and sexual harassment or intimidation have been defined in a more elaborate way in the new bills, at least one of which has lapsed

By Shamim-ur-Rehman Malik

Amendments were proposed in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for making home and work environment safer for women so that they could pursue their careers with dignity. The bill, that the National Assembly had passed with unanimity in August to protect women and children from domestic violence, could not become a law. The government will now have to get the bill passed again from both the houses after the approval of a mediation committee comprising members of both the houses. The bill on sexual harassment had been passed by the National Assembly and has been presented to the Senate.

The issue of domestic violence and harassment in and outside the house had also been addressed. Section 509 of the PPC had been amended and sub-section 2 had been added to section 509 PPC. The provision in law already dealing with the issue is not specific about workplace or employment-related activities but now the newly added sub-section deals with the workplace, working environment, job situation and job related functions and activities which clarifies the intention of the legislators.

Domestic violence and sexual harassment or intimidation, etc. have been defined in a more elaborate way and an attempt has been made to clarify the ambiguity in the term "modesty of any women". The social environment we are living in can broadly be divided into two categories -- firstly, the environment in big cities and secondly the prevailing environment in rural areas. The people living in big cities, to some extent, have developed tolerance as far as the acceptability of women working in offices is concerned. Women can now move freely and can get to their offices or work at different places. Still, there are a number of problems they face when they go out.

A section of the male-dominated society does not allow women to go to work. At some places, they have not been accepted as co-workers. The attitude of the male members of society is still not encouraging, to say the least. In some offices, the working environment is also not reasonable and there too women are fighting for their acceptability as workers.

Those around, who should be a part of the solution, are often part of the problem. We will have to draw a line somewhere which must not be crossed and whoever crosses the limit should be treated accordingly. Now, the line has been drawn by the legislators and the issue of sexual harassment has more elaborately been defined in the new law and these activities have been dealt with by providing a penal clause which provides punishment for such offences up to three years and a fine of up to five hundred thousand rupees. The legislators have tried to secure a pleasant working environment for the most vulnerable section of the society, the women.

When we analyse the current situation and the present law, the most irritating factor remains that registering a report of violence is a difficult process and it is almost impossible for a women to approach a police station and get a case registered. To lodge an FIR is a difficult process even for the men, what to speak of women who have to cross many hurdles before going to police station. The 'environment' in a police station is again a problem. Such cases can only be reported if a special mechanism is provided and arrangements are made that the complainants do not feel any hesitation in the process of reporting the offence committed against them.

The existing section 509 of the PPC code deals with the modesty of a women and whoever insults her. The law provides penalty and we can very safely say that this is a woman-specific section of law but the newly added sub-section is not woman-specific; rather the words have been used "other person" instead of "women". It shows that the sexual harassment at workplace is being addressed by the legislators as an offence against all individuals and not specifically against women. This specific treatment of the offence will be of help in the implementation process of the law.

Once a case is lodged by the police, the case has to be finally decided by the court where, according to the procedure, all the witnesses who have made their statement before the police will be summoned for the deposition in the court where they will also be subjected to cross-examination and then the case will be decided either way. The magisterial courts are mostly over-burdened; that is why the cases pending before the courts are adjourned frequently and ultimately cases are decided after years.

The accused persons involved in serious crimes, such as in a murder case, are produced before the magistrate which makes the environment of magisterial courts difficult for a woman. Family courts may be a better option for trying such cases as family courts have better environment and have powers to conduct criminal proceedings in cases provided in the schedule of the family laws.

The penalty for the offence was earlier one year and now, through this amendment, has been enhanced to three years. Fine has also been fixed up to five hundred thousand rupees. This increase in penalty will only serve the purpose if the hindrances and obstacles in the way of implementation of law are dealt with effectively and carefully, otherwise the increase in penalty will be of no avail to the victim.

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.

 

Small steps

Micro-financing is helping people establish their own small businesses

By Nazakat Hussain

The government seems to have realised the importance of micro-finance in reducing poverty across Pakistan. It is providing facilities to the micro-finance banks (MFBs) and the micro-finance financial institutions (MFIs) to reach the untapped poor population. It is important to empower the poor living under abject poverty and facing huge economic challenges.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is providing guidelines to MFBs and MFIs. It is also in the process of amending rules to stabilise these institutions. The aim is to eradicate poverty by creating economic opportunities for the poorest sections of society by broadening their outreach. Micro-financing should be corresponding to its potential. The key indicators of micro-financing are signaling rapid growth but the share of women is not growing, an aspect which should be taken seriously. Poverty will continue to haunt the masses unless women are made earning member of a family.

MFBs and MFIs have so far covered only 10 percent of the poor. Depositors, corporate bodies, and the government agencies fund them, whereas foreign donor agencies have been major contributors. The capital base and deposits of local micro-finance sector cannot meet credit needs of untapped 40 million populations.

During the last two years, lending has jumped to over 90 percent while the number of borrowers has increased around 46 percent but the number of female borrowers remained at 26 percent. The rest of 72 percent loans go to male borrowers. Among the poor, the ratio of women stands at 71 percent.

The micro-finance business got a shot in the arm recently when SBP granted them the permission of raising foreign currency loans from abroad through international financial institutions (IFIs) that would help them. However, some experts suggest that instead of relying on foreign funding, local MFBs should design saving products to meet their financial requirements.

The MFBs that stand to benefit from the SBP moves include Khushhali Bank Limited, NRSP, Micro Finance Bank Limited, the First Micro Finance Bank Limited, Pak Oman Micro Finance Bank, Rozgar Micro Finance Bank, Tameer Microfinance Bank Limited, and Kashaf Micro-finance Bank. These banks have 269 branches across Pakistan that needs to be doubled in a short span of time. Three dozen micro-finance NGOs are also operating in the country.

The new breed of investors is not interested in maximizing profits only; they are also concerned with sustainability of their projects for providing employment, credit, and low-cost products to the disadvantaged segments of society. Banks that provide micro-financing facility can expand their outreach by seeking credit lines from commercial banks, raising capital by issuing share and by floating Term Finance Certificates (TFCs), which can be taken up by socially oriented business houses etc.

Small size of borrowings and high repayment rate did not affect the liquidity position. Micro-finance culture everywhere motivates borrowers to repay loans in time to ensure renewal and enhancement to meet their future credit needs.

Small businesses could be a blessing for some women which help them become financially secure while staying at home. Growth in the number of MFIs provides an opportunity for women to enhance their standard of living. They can try their luck in the business of jewelry, cotton fabrics, carpets, handicrafts, traditional shoes, and bags, embroidered fabrics, silverware, pottery, etc.

Ishrat, 35, is running her tailoring business in Krishan Nagar, Islampura, Lahore. She took a loan of Rs 12,000 from Khushhali Bank Limited (KBL) in two installments to buy sewing machines. Now she has a monthly sale of 20,000 and earns around 14,000 a month. She is now a breadwinner for the family, not only caring for her three dependents but also helping seven other employees feed their families.

KBL has also contributed in the economic uplift of many micro-entrepreneurs. One of them is Shakeel Ahmad Khan, 34, who runs embroidery business in Green Town, Lahore. Khan has become a role model for the entire locality by providing job opportunity to ten people. Khan did it by getting a loan of 20,000 in six installments. He has not only improved his own living standard but also contributed in the economic growth of others. He is a valued customer of KBL for the last six years.

Ghalib Nishtar, President KBL, is a strong believer in micro-finance. He says it is a simple yet effective tool employed to combat poverty while raising the standard of living. Micro-financing has over the years shown a lot of promise as far as poverty alleviation and women empowerment is concerned.

Micro-finance institutions have even-handedly facilitated the impoverished to pull them out of poverty. It aims to increase the income generating capacity of the masses whereby small loans are granted to them based on the potential they display as hardworking enterprising individuals capable of being successful micro-entrepreneurs.

At a time when inflation is high, there has been a slight shift in attitudes as more and more women aspire to contribute to the family's finances by earning a livelihood. KBL has over the years taken numerous initiatives for the uplift of women, and has focused on the excluded segments of society to provide financial access to them. Mr. Nishtar believes in facilitating the poor through greater financial access, guidance and training so that they can learn certain skills no matter how far they may reside from the city centre.

The writer is a freelance journalist and focuses on micro-financing.

 

climate

Lessons from

Copenhagen for Doha

Negotiations have to be a continuous process with a clear roadmap in mind along with alternative environment plans

By Pradeep S Mehta

Much has been written about the recently concluded Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change which will continue to reverberate. Copenhagen was not supposed to be the be-all-and-end-all on environmental matters. It was a part of a process and even if it disappointed many, including this writer, it remains a significant second best milestone, which will determine the future of climate change negotiations. The debate has certainly shifted from "poverty is the biggest polluter" to "justice for the poor victims of pollution by others". The drama will resume in the next summit in Mexico City in December 2010 and all the global pow wows before that. Our political leaders may again sing in chorus, as they have been doing on the Doha Round of negotiations by the WTO members: "Let's do something".

And in this high-voltage drama we often forget that economic, social, and political challenges are powerful enough to take care of many environmental concerns that the countries are facing today. Countries will not have much choice but to take unilateral mitigation and adaptation measures rather than wait for action through global consensus. Our farmers and other common folk have been doing this in their own indigenous ways for centuries and will continue to refine and innovate.

We can discuss whether Copenhagen was an utter failure or a muted success till the cows come home. Writing obituaries of legally binding multilateral treaties serves no purpose. Instead, we should think seriously about the process of arriving at such treaties. A process involving 193 countries to arrive at a political consensus at the highest level through negotiations over two weeks has little chance of success. This is especially so when our political leaders are lacking in capability as well as intention to reconcile global challenges while, at the same time, satisfying their domestic constituencies.

Negotiations have to be a continuous process with a clear roadmap in mind along with ready and implementable alternative plans in order to address its ups and downs. In this respect, it is good to note that a proposal was made in Copenhagen to hold permanent negotiations on climate change in Geneva. This idea received support from many developing countries, as it would allow them to access the negotiating resources of their permanent missions in that city.

Unfortunately, the other big multilateral negotiation, the Doha Round on trade, is suffering from the Copenhagen syndrome and the root cause is the same. 153 members of the World Trade Organisation are trying to thrash out a legally binding, multilateral treaty through 'consensus' when their interests are as different as chalk is from cheese.

One may argue that if it happened in the early 1990s when the Uruguay Round (the round which launched the WTO) was successfully concluded through consensus then why not now. The world has changed. The days of 'forced consensus' are over. It is no longer possible for the US and the European Union to have a deal between them and then sell that to others. There is a new political equation which includes the big emerging economies as equal partners and sometimes formidable opponents to the traditional powers.

Giving the devil its due, let us take lessons from the positive developments in Copenhagen. Without compromising their basic positions and those of others who were looking at them for leadership, the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) group of emerging economies was able to get the US back to the high table of serious negotiations. Both should be complimented as they have shown the world that they are politically mature to make deals.

This initiative should be nurtured as a future model to get interests of others on board and balance them properly while addressing the challenges of making the benefits of global public goods such as climate and international trade accessible to people at large, bearing in mind the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Consensus should be developed brick by brick rather than through a sudden act of imposition of will.

This is the most important lesson that Doha should draw from Copenhagen. Fortunately, this lesson is there in the Doha process but yet to be clearly understood. From the vicissitudes of Doha a New Quad of Brazil, European Union, India and the US has emerged. In the late 1980s, it was Arthur Dunkel who saved the Uruguay Round from its demise by preparing a draft negotiating text (famously, or infamously, known as the Dunkel Draft) and then weaving various (largely transatlantic) interests around it.

Given the current geo-political scenario, it is not possible for the present incumbent at the WTO, Pascal Lamy, to do so. It is up to the New Quad (or G-4) to take up this mantle and show the world that they can make deals. Earlier this year, a leading development agency predicted a scenario that the global community may face the disaster of de-globalisation unless global and national institutions channel their energy towards more policy coherence involving multiple stakeholders, including the civil society. The new leadership can do it by drawing inspiration from the post World War-II leadership we have to revisit Potsdam.

Through a recently concluded UNCTAD-initiated negotiation on South-South trade, Brazil and India have shown that they can make politically saleable deals. The European Union has shown its willingness to take a leadership role. Now, it is up to the US administration to stand up on its feet and show the world that they can take a leadership role -- they are a deal-maker, not a deal-breaker. The time is ripe for them -- a public survey in the US has shown that today the public at large in that country is less sceptical about trade than they were a year ago.

Whether it is climate change or international trade, while countries have accepted that there is a "multi-lateralisation of sovereignty", it will be difficult for them to satisfy domestic constituencies if their sources of competitiveness are compromised. Pascal Lamy has aptly stated it in his response to Copenhagen: "The more we move toward a multilateral framework on climate change, the more unilateral trade measures will be difficult to explain".

The author is the Secretary General of CUTS International. Bipul Chatterji of CUTS contributed to this article.

 

Absence of an open society

The problem with liberalism in Pakistan is that it has been clubbed with the concept of Westernisation

By Raza Khan

The phenomenon of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan, with its negative connotations, is largely the result of lack of openness in society. Extremism and terrorism is largely due to absence of individual freedom -- not just the freedom to think and act independently but also economic freedom. The central ideals of liberalism, including liberty of individuals, self-restraint, moderation and compromise, if pursued inside Pakistan, could greatly prevent extremist tendencies from rising. The central concepts emanating from liberalism could be made the core of a comprehensive strategy of countering extremism and terrorism.

The creation of a civil society and independent and vibrant media at home with enhanced economic and cultural integration could greatly serve the purpose. People having a liberal thinking prevailed on the Western political thought after the epoch-making social movements of Reformation and Enlightenment in Western Europe. Gradually, this thinking evolved into a grand societal theory influencing all aspects of national life.

The central concepts of liberalism were so forceful that they could not remain confined to intra-state level and influenced life elsewhere also. It was liberalism in action that challenged first the domestic extremism and subsequently international terrorism of Adolf Hitler led fascists. In the same manner, through practising liberal ideals extremism and terrorism in contemporary Pakistan can be contested.

Anees Jilani, head of Liberal Forum Pakistan, a civil society organisation that promotes liberalism in Pakistan, tells The News on Sunday (TNS), "Even if you stick to just one principle of liberalism that is individual freedom in Pakistan and respect the people's freedom the level of extremism in society could be significantly curtailed." As the essence of Liberalism is self restraint, moderation, compromise and peace the lack or absence of all these elements leads to creation of extremist and violent tendencies. Once liberalism pervades Pakistani society people will learn how to demonstrate self-restraint.

Anees Jillani says, "Basically, it is lack of education and that is directly related to lack of tolerance. So, when we talk of lack of tolerance it is about lack of individual freedom. I think if people are given quality education it could make some difference. Education which is imparted in Pakistan does not serve a purpose, except producing intolerant people. There is need to review the curriculum."

Dr A H Nayyar, a researcher at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) tells TNS, "The reason Pakistan is poor in all sectors is primarily because of military intervening in politics (power politics) and its trying to define things according to its own interest which has always led to disasters." Nayyar argues that had there been individual freedom in the country individuals could make their political choices out of freewill and things would have been different.

Since liberalism is about the liberty of the individual, every individual can express his or her view, pursue the goal he or she wants and, consequently, give vent to their pent-up emotions. Given the nature of closed Pakistani society it should be no surprise that social settings produce restless souls.

Another meaning of liberalism is that state must always be the servant of collective will, not the master and democratic institutions are the best way of guaranteeing this. It can be assumed that collective will in a society is non-violent and anti-extremist and anti-terrorist.

If one looks deep into the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism it transpires that, partly, the intervention of successive governments of Pakistan and the establishment single-handedly or in concert with the US, created jihadis for the Afghan War. It may be mentioned that it was not only clerical extremism that was given an opportunity to thrive in Pakistan but also ethno-nationalist extremism.

There is a general consensus among the intellectuals and others that the underlying reason for the spread of extremism in Pakistan has been the absence of democracy or representative government, the very important pillars of a liberal society. This is true to a certain extent because the unrepresentative regimes and military authorities have had to depend upon clerical groups to depoliticise the society. Depoliticisation naturally went in favour of unrepresentative authority.

This has been typically the situation with Pakistani society where lack of individual liberty due to its tribal social structure and autocratic state structure, have compelled thousands of youths to quest for 'other' worldly pursuits. The intervention by the military in the social and individual life has not been the only intervention. The political instability, which it fomented, made the 'establishment' to look for support from without. Thus, it invited the US to interfere in Pakistan's internal affairs by making itself the instrument of US manipulation inside Pakistan.

The issue of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan is not merely a domestic one but there is sufficient evidence that it has regional and international fallout in the shape of violence in Afghanistan. There has been little debate on the contention that feudal and tribal social structure and military-dominated state structure curbed all individual freedom and created a vacuum in society that was filled by extremism and militancy. The practical shape of liberal ideals is the civil society and an independent media and a symbiotic relationship between the two.

The problem with liberalism in Pakistan is that it has been clubbed with the concept of Westernisation. Anees says, "Yes there is a kind of stigma attached to the term liberalism in Pakistan because the detractors look at those who believe in liberalism with a particular mindset. They don't go into the wider philosophy of liberalism." At the moment, there is a need to remove misconception about liberalism in Pakistan.

The writer is a doctoral candidate writing a thesis on Countering Extremism-Terrorism in Pakistan Afghanistan region.

 

Ways to fight debt trap

We need to focus on agro-based industry to maximise the output of this sector in order to improve our economic indicators

Dr. Farid A Malik

Military power alone cannot guarantee independence of a nation if its vital economic interests have been compromised. It is the economic strangulation that has crippled our freedom as a nation. How did we get into this debt trap? Pakistan had no external borrowing till 1958. As a nation we lived within our means and corruption was contained. In the words of Wali Khan, political leadership was by and large clean. Corrupt practices were an exception, not the norm.

In the case of Pakistan, dictatorship and debt are closely linked. With the imposition of first martial law in 1958 the flood gates of economic strangulation were opened as economic management was handed over to the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Traitors and agents were inducted into important cabinet positions. Instead of self-reliance and basic industrialisation the focus was on dependence and imports.

Finally, when Ayub Khan was driven out of power the external debt stood around US$10.0 billion. Yahya Khan's misadventure in East Pakistan caused the economic order to collapse and resulted in the disintegration of Pakistan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's elected government focused on basic industrialisation and self-reliance. The entire defense production establishment around Islamabad and the Steel Mills in Karachi were built in this period.

In order to strengthen people's power, the 1973 Constitution was unanimously approved and implemented. The period from 1973 to 1975 saw the rise of democracy and the strengthening of democratic institutions.

Today, the external debt of Pakistan stands close to $40.0 billion. The Afghan wars (in the 1980s and now) have been the major factor for this escalation. By conservative estimates, the total cost of these misadventures has been $50.0 billion. Even if the other factors are not considered the war is deepening the economic strangulation of the country and calls for immediate re-assessment of approach as we are losing on all fronts external, internal, financial, and strategic.

It is in the national interest to have the entire external debt written-off before firing the next bullet as we just cannot afford to continue on this path of confrontation. We must insulate from the Afghan war and consolidate internal security by deploying our armed forces for the defence of the motherland and its strategic assets. We must regain our sovereignty bartered by the successive dictators.

Economic strangulation will eventually weaken the defence forces and render them in-effective. Sovereignty has to be regained and retained at all costs for long-term national interests. We have to find a way out of this mess. As a nation, we may have to face hardships in the interim period but it will ensure long-term sustainability as an independent nation governed by constitutional rule of law.

The entire world is facing shortage of food and fuel. We have been growing food for centuries. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and has the capacity to sustain our economy. We need to focus on agro-based industry to maximise the output of this sector. After exploiting and manipulating the world oil business the next target is food. Countries that rely on imported staples will be in a difficult situation. Multinationals are now on a land-grabbing mission in third world countries to push the world towards hunger.

Pakistan is blessed with fuel. The Thar Coal deposit in Sindh is the single largest field in the world with estimated reserves of 180 billion tons. If properly exploited, the country can very well become self-sufficient in fuel. The coal can be converted into gas and diesel through established technologies. The challenge is in using these huge natural resources.

In the past, the unnecessary interference of the army in civilian matters has derailed democracy and damaged institutions. Pakistan needs a well-trained military outfit but it must be contained and subservient to the constitution and rule of law. No one will be allowed to derail the democratic process. The civil society and the media will not allow any khaki adventurism as was done in 1958, 1969, 1977 and 1999, which eventually caused economic strangulation.

Democratic leadership is the missing link in our fight for gaining sovereignty. Nations have to sacrifice for their freedom. The founding fathers till 1958 defended the sovereignty and integrity with their blood. Liaquat Ali Khan lost his life. Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy was found dead in his hotel room in Beirut. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was sent to the gallows and in the first decade of the 21st century his daughter was eliminated at the same spot where the first Prime Minister of Pakistan was assassinated.

The stakes are high and the future of the country is at stake. Afghanistan is the graveyard of once established empires. The third world countries seem to have no chance to survive in this battleground. Let the bigger players grapple for supremacy while we watch and consolidates out interests. Our borders with Afghanistan should be fenced and mines laid, making it difficult for intruders of various nationalities to enter our homeland.

The short-term economic difficulties can be overcome but firing our bullets for the so-called friend will only take us deeper and deeper into the problems. The interests of Pakistan must come first and should be fully protected by our armed forces. Let us put an end to this economic strangulation and regain our freedom and status as Pakistan.

The writer is ex-chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.

 

 

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