politics
Party not over yet
If PPP manages to connect to its basic ideology and provides a space for a consultative organisational structure, no split could affect it significantly. A close look at the party affairs
By Amjad Bhatti

Established in 1967, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is now passing through another crucial phase of transition, transformation and survival. The first phase began in 1979 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founding chairman of the Party, was ousted and later implicated by the military junta in a murder case that led to his death, now almost universally accepted as a 'judicial murder'.

Reform to welfare
After the failure of the Musharraf-led madrassa reforms, the present government wants to bring in its own Madrassa Welfare Authority
By Nadeem Iqbal
After failing to sell the 'Religious Schools' Reforms' to the clergy, who remain adamant about not accepting any official control, the government has been planning to wrap its erstwhile agenda of regulation into a new programme of 'madrassa welfare' to make it acceptable to the religious lobby. But the new reforms aiming to establish a Madrassa Welfare Authority are also being brought about without any express political will or  commitment.

Taal Matol
Celebrations!
By Shoaib Hashmi
"On his blindness" is one of the great poems in the English language, a lyrical acceptance of his own affliction by John Milton acknowledged as the greatest poet in the language, and ending in a line that comes close to the Sufic in its humility, "They also serve who only stand and wait"! And I have always thought that it should have inspired someone to write one called, "On his Birthday".

issue
Crisis still looms
The storm has been temporarily averted but many veterans related to the textile industry believe that the issues are too big to be settled easily
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

Just when it was expected that the industrial wheel would come to a complete halt in Faisalabad, the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the All Pakistan Power Looms Association called off their strike against what they called the 'oppressive' measures taken by the government. The strike call given for July 11 had been welcomed and joined by many textile associations from all over the country and was expected to be one of the biggest such shows in the history of Pakistan.

Defining elitism
Does the Lawyers' Movement qualify as being elitist and is the label of being 'elitist' enough to discredit it completely?
By Ameem Lutfi
Aur Bazar sey Ley aye agar
tuut gaya
Saaghar-e-jam se mera
jam-e-saffaal acha hai
Someone/they/we bought another from the bazaar if it broke
My cup of clay is better than the cup of Jamshaid
-- Ghalib
"The ongoing movement for the restoration of the judiciary is incredibly elitist." So said an activist-turned-columnist in an article published in a lifestyle magazine (trendy and a less elitist-sounding name for a fashion magazine). The activist-cum-journalist claims that since the movement is based on these high ideals and conceptions of law that do not, in any way, concern the masses, the only interested party is the 'civil society'. He claims that since the movement is based purely on a constitutional issue, with very little practical significance for the common man, the movement is elitist.

 

 

Established in 1967, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is now passing through another crucial phase of transition, transformation and survival. The first phase began in 1979 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founding chairman of the Party, was ousted and later implicated by the military junta in a murder case that led to his death, now almost universally accepted as a 'judicial murder'.

After the tragic execution of ZAB, his close aides in the party attempted to surpass Benazir Bhutto and establish their own splinter groups but could not succeed. Some of them ultimately had to rejoin the party under the chairpersonship of the youthful Benazir Bhutto. However, the tension and conflict between Benazir and what she used to call the 'gang of uncles' could not deter her from leading the party and quite ably so.

With the passage of time, she developed her own political acumen, vision and commitment inspired, of course, by her father. She optimised the Bhutto legacy by giving it her own direction and built a new team of anchors and comrades. Organisationally, Benazir was able to build herself into a binding force for the diversified interest base and groups within the party and its workers whether she was in power, facing the harsh trials in opposition, or living in exile.

With the demise of Benazir Bhutto, the national polity in general and the party politics of PPP in particular has become prone to a variety of risks and conflicts.

On the basis of her will, Benazir Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari sits on the driving seat and, like Benazir, is realigning the party in the light of emerging political and organisational expediencies. For PPP, this time around, circumstances are quite different. It is true that Asif Zardari has come to be known in politics only through his relationship with Benazir. Apparently, he was not interfering in the party affairs. Benazir Bhutto and her trusted and designated lieutenants influenced most of the organisational structure. Nevertheless, he had won the trust of party workers by standing with his wife and fought his trials and political victimisation valiantly. Still he kept a low profile as far as party politics was concerned.

Now, while the party is still going through the trauma of transition, Asif Ali Zardari has been put to deal with the danger of 'mutiny' within the party. Genealogically, being a non-Bhutto Zardari has assumed the role of political heir of an all-time inspiring legacy. Besides instigating a family fight, it has sent a panic message to the established feudal clique of Sindh in particular. Since Zardaris do not come from the 'recognised' elite of Sindh, it pricks the elitist psyche of traditional power-wielders of Sindh of a 'non-entity' being thrust upon them. The recent meetings of Makhdoom Amin Fahim with Pir of Pagara, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and Mumtaz Bhutto can be seen as a possible realignment by influential lobbies of Sindh against Zardari-led PPP.

A closer look at the party affairs in the post-Benazir era indicates there are apparently four streams of thoughts, which make up the possible edifice of internal party strife.

First, the organisational core group nurtured by Benazir Bhutto comprising her former political secretary Naheed Khan, her husband senator Safdar Abbasi and their clout; second, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and his area of influence particularly in Sindh; third, Bhutto family led by Mumtaz Bhutto, Ghinwa Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto, Zulifikar Junior and the new entrant Sassi Bhutto; fourth, the marginalised workers and party activists.

Some analysts have termed the totality of these forces as a serious threat to Zardari-led PPP while others believe that against the backdrop of changed political realities these forces cannot do a decisive harm to the future of PPP.

There is no doubt that Makhdoom Amin Fahim is regarded as a tested loyalist of Bhutto legacy and he is widely respected among PPP workers. But when it comes to choosing between Makhdoom supported by Mumtaz Bhutto, Jatoi and Pir Pagara, and Asif Ali Zardari sanctified by Benazir's will, party workers would go for the second option.

This is also because Pagara, Jatoi and Mumtaz Bhutto are taken as tormentors of Benazir-led PPP as she could never reconcile with them as her political subscribers and vice versa. Benazir Bhutto is understood to have carved out her own stature in politics through a relentless struggle and subsequently laid down her life with a heroic valiance. She did not develop a passive parasitical relationship with the legacy her father left and ultimately gave her life for the sake of this legacy. That is the impression which is instilled in the minds of the people and the party workers.

According to some party workers, Makhdoom Amin Fahim would lose his credibility and respect if he allied with the 'parasites' of Bhutto legacy. Parasites of Bhutto legacy are defined  by some party workers as those politicians who did not give anything but extracted a lot from the party establishment.

As far as the organisational core group led by Naheed Khan is concerned, party sources reveal that even during the life of Benazir Bhutto there were various streams, groups and sub-groups within the party owing to the likes and dislikes of Naheed Khan herself. "Naheed Khan, at one point, was termed and taken as the 'party bureaucracy'," maintained a senior party worker who has worked with Khan in various capacities. Explaining further the party worker shared his perception that, in certain cases, Naheed Khan is alleged to have monopolised Benazir's decisions that led to internal groupings. Now while Naheed Khan has gone into dormancy, the previously suppressed lobby within party has resurfaced, trying to gain the confidence of Zardari for some future political role in the party.

On the other hand, sources close to Zardari House say that Zardari is planning to restructure and re-organise the party to include the previously excluded groups and lobbies. For instance a close political aide of Zardari has been entrusted to draft the constitution of the party by explaining the composition of mother units of the party, electoral college for party elections, and financial framework of the party. This is considered important to streamline the voices of party workers in the organisational decision-making for the future of the party.

In a bid to redress the grievances of workers, party secretariat is being restructured by setting up different desks of allied wings and developing an advanced coordination and feed-back mechanism between party workers, office bearers and the leadership.

Sources also conceded that party leadership believes that in the absence of Bhutto factor in the party, it needs to be organised in a way that it could broaden its outreach and keep its populist base intact.

It is to be noted that third-generation PPP would be a different PPP but the basic fibre has to be maintained. Analysts believe that party would split only if there are repeated betrayals and major drifts in the popular attachments. If party manages to connect to its basic ideology and provides a space for a consultative organisational structure, no split could affect it significantly.

However, there are challenges for the party leadership to take up at the organisational level; a realisation that PPP has a wide diverse base of its followers which would have to be capitalised upon by the leadership to carry forward the Bhutto legacy, strengthened now by Benazir's martyrdom.

The test lies with both the 'new' and the 'old' party, as described by Makhdoom Amin Fahim; how the mainstream and dissenting groups of the party choose to fare -- whether they want to stay faithful to their association with the party and contribute to strengthen it or serve to degenerate the party they once belonged to.


Reform to welfare

After failing to sell the 'Religious Schools' Reforms' to the clergy, who remain adamant about not accepting any official control, the government has been planning to wrap its erstwhile agenda of regulation into a new programme of 'madrassa welfare' to make it acceptable to the religious lobby. But the new reforms aiming to establish a Madrassa Welfare Authority are also being brought about without any express political will or  commitment.

In the new plan, the responsibility to carry out the reforms would rest solely with the ministry of education. The proposed Madrassa Welfare Authority will be regulating 12,153 deeni madaris in the country. Over 1.5 million students are studying there under the guidance of 55,000 teachers.

As per education ministry figures, deeni madaris constitutes only 4.9 percent of the total 231,289 educational institutions in the country. The international community believes the numbers of religious schools is more than double the statistics quoted by the Pakistan government.

The previous reforms that were initiated by the Pervez Musharraf-led government in 2001 as part of controlling extremism were jointly executed by the federal ministries for education, interior and religious affairs.

The religious ministry, which deals with the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, had an influence on the religious leaders and was mandated to register the madrassa while their curricula were to be revised by the education ministry besides allocating them funds. The interior ministry had a role to reprimand the non-conforming madaris. However, the religious leaders showed antipathy to the education ministry then headed by a former ISI chief Javed Ashraf Qazi.

Two laws were also enacted which included the 'Pakistan Madrassah Education (Establishment and Affiliation of Model Dini Madaris) Board Ordinance 2001' and 'Voluntary Registration and Regulation Ordinance 2002'.

In addition three model institutions were established in Karachi, Sukkur and Islamabad. Their curriculum includes subjects like English, Mathematics, Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, Law and Pakistan Studies being taught at different levels.

These laws were to provide the then government with channels to also monitor their sources of funds and foreign nationals studying there. But the laws failed to win the confidence of the religious lobby. At the end, the religious affairs ministry could only bring less than half of the religious seminaries to its fold.

According to the education ministry, of the total 12,153 deeni madaris in the country, 3,431 madaris with 545,825 students belong to Wafaq-ul-Madaris of Deobandis, while 2,633 madrassas with 338,097 students belong to Tanzeem-ul-Madaris of Barelvi school of thought. Rabita-tul-Madaris Islamia's 903 institutions having 127,800 students belong to Jamat-e-Islami. All the religious schools are operating in the private sector.

Officials recognise that the main reason for the failure of the reform is the defiance of Wafaq-ul-Madaris Pakistan. The fate of Musharraf reforms was sealed when last year, in July, in a military operation on Lal Masjid in Islamabad, hundreds of students were killed. The Jamia Hafsa belonged to Wafaq-ul-Madaris.

During the first anniversary of Lal Masjid early this month (July 6), a large number of religious students gathered in Islamabad and demanded of the government the reconstruction of the Jamia Hafsa and the restarting of classes at Jamia Faridia. They also vowed not to compromise on the independence of madrassas.

On the occasion, Wafaqul Madaris General Secretary, Hanif Jalandri said that the madrassa students would stage a long protest if the government did not heed their demands. He said that the students and teachers of all 12,000 madrassas in the country had shown solidarity with those killed in the Lal Masjid operation.

Another reasons for the resistance is that most of the money coming for these reforms is from the United States. After the 9/11 Commission Report, the US government made reform a top priority; this centered on three key elements: funding, curriculum change and teacher training. Therefore, major share of $300 million a year of US aid goes into the field of education.

Similarly in 2003, the Pakistan government allocated about $50 million annually to provide assistance to registered seminaries, especially by paying the salaries of teachers hired to teach non-religious subjects.

In 2004, the government planned to provide computer education at all of the country's public schools including financial grants to madrassas that seek to 'impart modern-day education'.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is implementing a five-year, $100 million, bilateral agreement, signed in August 2002, to increase access to quality education throughout Pakistan, with an emphasis on Balochistan and Sindh.

The new approach in religious schools reforms stems at the growing realisation among the official corridors that by revamping the public sector education they could provide the poor segments of society an alternative system of affordable quality education. As most of the seminary students come from poor families.

According to Economic Survey 2007-08, the aim of the Deeni Madaris reforms is to bring the formal education and Deeni Madaris close to each other.

"The Madaris reform programme has been initiated with the introduction of formal education in 8,000 Madaris. Madaris will be mainstreamed through provision of grants, salaries to teachers, cost of text, books, teacher training and equipment. Recently, Punjab government has planned to train this huge reservoir and has established Government Technical Training Institutes (GTTIs) at 27 Deeni Madaris including 20 for male, 5 for female, and 2 mixed in 13 popular demand-driven trades. Such initiatives must be taken in other provinces as well," the survey added.

Whether these initiatives will satisfy the western governments' concerns about these madaris being the breeding grounds for terrorism remains to be seen.




 Taal Matol
Celebrations!

"On his blindness" is one of the great poems in the English language, a lyrical acceptance of his own affliction by John Milton acknowledged as the greatest poet in the language, and ending in a line that comes close to the Sufic in its humility, "They also serve who only stand and wait"! And I have always thought that it should have inspired someone to write one called, "On his Birthday".

I had one, a rather significant one the other day, and I found out why no one has ever written one. You see a birthday is supposed to be for the boy, or girl, to celebrate, but it is really an excuse for his irreverent friends to have a field day and go to town. A birthday is not really 'our' kind of celebration; we have borrowed it from the West, and all the rituals attached to it are foreign, like candles and cakes and stuff.

All my friends, who think they are clever, decided to 'indigenise' the whole thing. Only thing the only rituals they knew about are those to do with weddings and the preliminaries, one of which is that a week, or more before the wedding, they stop the bride, or groom, washing! That's right! The theory is that when they do eventually wash on the wedding day, they will come out cleaner and fresher than ever. Meantime there are half a dozen rituals to get through right before the wedding, and there are apocryphal stories of brides sponging their way through all of them, and friends missing their best friend's wedding because who wants to meet a friend who hasn't washed for a week. It is not the sort of thing one takes a chance with, and I told them to go sit on an egg.

The other ritual is to drown the house and garden in oodles of fairy lights, so the neighbourhood gets to know this is the house, and festoon the front door and veranda with coloured paper decorations. My friends sent round a whole squad of workmen and I couldn't stop them. They had orders. And the house has been looking like one of those bawdy establishments from a Mexican border town! But you can't say it isn't cute.

Someone had got the bright idea of celebrating all the friends in the same decade of life as me, and it was wonderful to meet up with all the oldies, specially because we were sprinkled among friends from eight different decades, all determined to have a ball. They had even got a Sufi folk singer to entertain, and as he launched forth old friend Nahid Siddiqui, arguably the finest Kathak Dancer of our times, launched into her own interpretation of the music. As they say a great time was had by all!


issue
Crisis still looms

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

Just when it was expected that the industrial wheel would come to a complete halt in Faisalabad, the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the All Pakistan Power Looms Association called off their strike against what they called the 'oppressive' measures taken by the government. The strike call given for July 11 had been welcomed and joined by many textile associations from all over the country and was expected to be one of the biggest such shows in the history of Pakistan.

The industrialists in Faisalabad  -- the textile hub of Pakistan -- had declared it impossible to run their units after the unprecedented hike of 31 percent in the price of gas supplied to them and 68 percent in the price of gas supplied for their captive power plants. These are high-cost power plants normally established by an industry to meet its own energy requirements and ensure that there are no power disruptions.

The big industrialists also had the support of around 250,000 powerloom units that feared imminent closure in case the 31 percent hike in gas prices and imposition of 10 percent withholding tax on electricity bills was not reverted. This would also result in laying off of hundreds of thousands of workers and endless miseries for those dependent on them.

It was learnt that the representatives of the textile industry called off their strike after the assurance from Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to arrange their meeting with the federal finance minister in Islamabad to look for solutions to these issues.

Another relief came from the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) that approved that OGRA would reduce the gas tariff for captive power producers, from 68 percent to 31 percent, on the immediate demand of the textile sector.

Apparently the storm has been averted but many veterans related to the textile industry believe that the issues are too big to be settled easily. Muhammad Arif Bhatti of Style Textile in Lahore, tells TNS that the sharp increases in the cost of production are bound to push our industry out of the global competition. He says the raise in gas tariff was the last nail in the coffin. "There are various other issues that have also been haunting the textile industry for long."

Arif says the government has suspended award of Research and Development (R&D) fund to the textile sector. This facility must be revived without any further delay. Besides, he says, the markup offered by commercial banks for the industry is exorbitant. Whereas in India the government refunds 5 percent markup on loans used to produce items meant for export, he adds. "I think the government must also keep these issues in mind while holding parleys with the government."

He says there is little hope that the government will offer much to the industry, especially when the prime minister has openly said that it would not compromise on any decline in its revenues. Arif says the challenges facing the government will become even worse as fuel prices in the international continue to skyrocket.

Tanvir Sheikh, spokesman for All Pakistan Textiles Association (APTA), tells TNS that contrary to the common perception the situation has worsened after the downward revision in the price of gas supplied to captive power plants. He says this decision will benefit only those textile units, very few in number, that have their own gas powered plants. "On the other hand the units dependent on electricity will find it hard to compete with the gas-powered ones and will have no option but to shut down."

Tanvir says it had been realised for the first time by the government that high-priced gas supply to captive power plants of industrial units will bring them at par with those running on electricity. "But after the reversion of this decision the situation has changed," he says. "If prices of electricity are not checked, more than half of the country's textile industry will close down in a couple of months."

Another problem faced by the industry dependent on electricity is that the frequent power failures affect their working to a great extent. It was due to this very reason that hundreds of powerloom workers turned violent in Multan in April this year and marched in protest against loadshedding from Chowk Manzoorabad to the Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) office on Khanewal Road, Multan.

Reportedly, the violent crowd put Mepco office on fire -- a charge vehemently denied by the office-bearers of All Pakistan Power Looms Association (APLA). The Secretary General of the association, Khaliq Qandeel Sindhu, says their workers were not part of the rioters as some outsiders had tried to bring a bad name to their movement. He tells TNS that they were simply protesting against closure of 35,000 power-looms because of the 16 hours load-shedding in Multan. He says how could they sit silent when their children were crying for food. He says the government must announce a relief package for the power looms sector that provides coarse cloth for both the domestic and international markets.

In addition to all the issues mentioned above, the demands of the labour force employed at textile units are also haunting the industrialists. The ordeal faced by workers of a power loom factory in Sadar Faisalabad on June 24 is just a case in point. It was at this unit that more than 10,000 workers protested against their management and several of them were injured by bullet shots fired by the gangsters hired by the factory owner.

Nisar Shah, General Secretary, Labour Party Pakistan tells TNS that the only fault of these workers was that they were demanding their legitimate rights. He says they were forced to work on the salary package which was decided 15 years ago and had not been given appointment letters. "The appointment letters are denied only to deprive workers facilities like social security, old age benefits and the minimum salary fixed by the government," he adds.

Nisar says the government must not take dictates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) and withdraw subsidies in one go. Instead it must ensure the survival of country's labour force which is endangered the moment the industrialists find an excuse for layoffs.

By Ameem Lutfi

Aur Bazar sey Ley aye agar

tuut gaya

Saaghar-e-jam se mera

jam-e-saffaal acha hai

Someone/they/we bought another from the bazaar if it broke

My cup of clay is better than the cup of Jamshaid

-- Ghalib

"The ongoing movement for the restoration of the judiciary is incredibly elitist." So said an activist-turned-columnist in an article published in a lifestyle magazine (trendy and a less elitist-sounding name for a fashion magazine). The activist-cum-journalist claims that since the movement is based on these high ideals and conceptions of law that do not, in any way, concern the masses, the only interested party is the 'civil society'. He claims that since the movement is based purely on a constitutional issue, with very little practical significance for the common man, the movement is elitist.

Here I must ask, what exactly defines elitism? Does the Lawyers' Movement qualify as being elitist according to this definition, and is the label of being 'elitist' enough to discredit it completely?

This very issue of elitism (though with a very different context) was raised by the Progressive Writers Association in the late forties and fifties. In 1949 when Ali Sardar Jafri of the PWA published an essay demarcating the line the progressive writers associations on both sides of the border were supposed to follow, all literature that was not progressive as per the PWA came to be labelled as 'elitist'. What was most interesting about the essay was that it not only marked out the type of literature it asked of its members to produce but it also set down the stance the members should have on all literature outside the progressive cannon. Jafri, in his essay, exclaimed that poets who ignored the masses and their struggles were guilty of abandoning their calling and were supporters of the status quo and capitalist order and should be opposed. As a result PWA publicly disavowed all those who did not incorporate the progressive ethos. All that was not progressive was considered 'elitist'.

One possible definition of elitist that can be drawn here is: anything that is meant for the hegemonic/elite class and not for the masses. This definition ends up being too broad in scope and inclusive (definition of elitism is too inclusive, ironic isn't it?).

Judging by this standard, when I write this article which surely is not for the masses to analyse but for a very small minority of educated population that reads and understands English, am I too not being elitist? All theoretical debates would be considered elitist if one goes by this definition. Even the PWA would be considered elitist, considering the fact that the majority of the population in the subcontinent is [was] illiterate and hence unable to access much of the literature produced by the Progressives.

True, selected works of Jalib and Faiz did go on to become anthems of resistance for the masses but most of the literature of the Progressives cannot truly be considered 'popular literature'.

You know your definition of elitism is inaccurate when you end up deducing that the PWA, the champion of the anti-elitism campaign, is itself very elitist! Maybe we can tweak the definition just a little so that when we input PWA, the output does not come out elitist.

Here is another attempt at providing a workable definition: anything which is neither meant for the consumption of the masses nor does it benefit them in any way. This definition passes the litmus test; it gives the PWA a thumbs-up for being non-elitist, since even though their literature can not be accessed by the masses, it does (intend to) support the cause of the masses.

How does the Lawyers' Movement present itself under this new and improved definition? Certainly people placed on the lower rungs of the social strata continue to remain apathetic towards the lawyers cause. A few weeks back the same television channel that once hailed the movement as the biggest thing since 1968, showed interviews of countless people from the lowest strata who had no clue what the 'Lawyers' Movement' was. So we conclude that the movement fails to qualify as a 'popular movement' or a movement of the masses. But is it intended to benefit the masses which happen to be the unprivileged portion of the population? This I leave open for you to decide.

Getting into the implied morality of the term, do we as moral agents necessarily have to condemn anything that is elitist? A knee-jerk reaction to the query would be "Yes; all that is elitist has to be denounced; virtue lies in being a people's person."

But would this complete disavowal of elitist tendencies not lead to situation where there would be no space left for the treatment of literature for its literary value alone?

Are we ready to condemn those who read the works of Ghalib, or any 'non-Progressive' literature ('Progressive' not in the broad sense of the word, but as per PWA) for that matter, for the literary value in his/their work alone? Even if we make an exception for literature, are we ready to exclaim that applied math/physics is the only 'morally permissible' area of math/physics? Are we ready to campaign for stopping all projects aimed at preserving historical monuments and historical sites such as Mohenjodaro on the basis of the fact that these projects are elitist? Are we ready to show abhorrence towards the Lawyers' Movement for being elitist when we know that their demands support the cause of the masses.

 

In numerous surveys that one has come across over the years, of people asked to rank government departments in terms of corruption and inefficiency, the police have always managed to stay on top. No wonder then that the last person one would go to, to register a theft of a car or an armed robbery at one's home would be a police station in this country. A daily reminder of just how corrupt the police can be is given to me when I leave my apartment building in Clifton for work.

Opposite to where I live, an apartment building is being constructed (most probably in violation of the building code of the Karachi Building Control Authority, but does anyone care?). For the better part of the last six months, its builder and contractor have literally commandeered over half the road for keeping the building and construction materials. As they did this, not a single person in my building (myself included, by the way) did anything about this illegal act, which actually affected most of the residents in the buildings surrounding this under-construction zone, directly. The road became narrower and hence the quantum of traffic increased and there were also instances where many of the maasis coming to work in the apartment buildings complained that the labourers working on the site would make cheap remarks at them.

In addition to this, many residents who have more than one car would normally park the extra car outside the building but this became a severe problem because of the fact that a lot of the parking space was taken over by the building materials. Not only this, since nobody in this country has any consideration for the rights of others (I have found this to be particularly true when people come to live together in apartment buildings), the builder seems to have no qualm over getting the job done through much of the night as well -- so many a night was interrupted by the sound of heavy dumper trucks unloading cement bags and/or reti and bajri.

In any civilised country, all this would obviously not happen. The road would not be blocked because the municipal authority, or one of its subsidiary agencies, in charge of regulating/preventing the encroachment of public space would soon kick into action and ask the builder to remove the material from the road. This is obvious given that the road is public property, is not owned by the builder and is to be used for passage of traffic and/or by pedestrians. Furthermore, even if building materials are to be kept outside of the boundary wall of the intended project, they should not impede the flow of traffic -- and in some cases the municipal authority may charge a fee for letting this happen.

As for the noise levels, especially at night, again, in any civilised country, that is, residents could easily seek the assistance of the local police in getting their point across to the person or party engaged in producing noise levels that are too high or which disrupt the daily lives of residents.

And of course, last, but by no means the least, the building control authority of any civilised country would try and see to it that the building conforms to the rules and regulations enacted as part of the building code to ensure that the said building conforms to the standards set down by the local community -- that it allows for adequate parking space, that the materials used are not sub-standard and that the services and amenities given to would-be owners of apartments are indeed what were advertised/promised.

And what is the moral of this rather long example, one may ask -- what connection does this really have with the police?

I would say the answer to that comes when every day I see two or three policemen visit this building site in their squad mobile car or pick-up. One of them gets down and saunters over, a gun over his shoulder, to presumably the foreman, has a few words with him, the foreman goes to his tent, comes with something in his hand, shakes the policeman's hand, and the latter comes happily back to his car or pick-up. Once the vehicle has gone, I crossed over to the other side of the road and asked the ruddi-wala lying on his thela under a half-dying tree, what had happened. As I had suspected, the police come -- almost every day -- to collect their 'protection' money from the builder's foreman.

Of course, the more cynical readers would say that this happens everywhere in Karachi or in other cities -- that as soon as you start building your home, the police come and start asking for chai pani. And if you tell them politely but firmly 'no', then the reply you get from them is basically that if anything happens at your building site, then the police is not responsible. Of course, how many people would want to be on the wrong side of the police (read criminals) when they can be on their good side by paying for their chai pani?

It is in the context that perhaps a quite comprehensive report released on July 14 by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group titled 'Reforming Pakistan's police' should be essential reading for everyone. More importantly, rather than just read it, the government should enforce some, if not most, of its worthy recommendations. Some of them are: increasing the numerical strength of the police; promoting specialisation, particularly in the areas of forensic science and cyber crimes; strengthening the counter-terrorism wings of the FIA and the IB; abolishing the political wing of the ISI and removing it from military control; withdrawing the Pakistan Rangers and other paramilitary organisations from internal security functions, replacing them by the police; removing corrupt, inefficient or politically biased officers from senior positions and positions of authority over the police; increasing salaries, particularly of those serving at the lower levels; ensuring that increased allocations are spent on housing and transport for those serving at the lower levels and not on senior officers; publicly recognising acts of bravery; evolving a national consensus on how to make the police a disciplined, efficient, service-oriented and transparent institution; setting up a parliamentary subcommittee on policing under the National Assembly's Standing Committee on the Interior; empowering public safety commissions devising stringent enforcement mechanisms for police accountability; appointing and transferring police officials only with the approval of the relevant public safety commission; abolishing the military's 10 per cent reserved quota in the police and appointing an independent police ombudsman to investigate serious cases of abuse.

 

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: [email protected]

 

 

 


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