By Mian Ameer Ali and Zeeshan Haider
Dr. Muhammad Allama Iqbal, in the course of his address to the Muslim League in 1930 said, "Nor should the Hindus fear that the creation of autonomous Muslim states will mean the introduction of a kind of religious rule in such states…." Muhmmad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of our country reaffirmed the views expressed by Iqbal in his first presidential address as Governor General when he said, "We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state." More than 60 years down the line, where do we stand?
Before the dominoes fall
The repression and exclusion that permeates society cannot be ignored for too much longer
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
Pakistan continues to live up to its reputation as the world's most prominent basket-case. Over the past week, the country's publicly-owned railway company moved a step closer to financial implosion, inter and intra-ethnic tensions in Balochistan reached fever pitch (as state repression intensified), fresh military operations began in Swat and Buner, and, to top it all off, Hillary Clinton spent 36 hours holed up inside General Headquarters proving just how serious the United State's commitment to democracy in Pakistan really is.
It is almost as if those who run state affairs are chaos junkies, constantly picking new fights and embarking on ever more outrageous missions of self-aggrandisement. Unfortunately the brunt of all ruling class antics is borne by the long-suffering people of this country, now increasingly divided along sectarian, ethnic and linguistic lines. The reactions to the crises foisted upon working people by the state and its dominant class partners are accordingly becoming more parochial and violent.
The problem is that our rulers are not willing to address even those public welfare issues that might be considered relatively straightforward. While the state's coercive apparatus becomes ever more audacious, other formal state mechanisms are becoming increasingly dysfunctional. State functionaries themselves – let alone ordinary people – view their official positions primarily as a means of privatizing what are at least formally public resources. They simply do not believe anymore (if they ever did) that they must fufill their responsibility of providing public goods and services.
The katchi abadi phenomenon is a case-in-point. For the best part of the 63 years since Pakistan has been in existence, there has been a distinct deficit in housing supply for the working poor in urban areas. With rapid urbanization, the problem has grown more and more acute. Katchi abadis are essentially an informal market response to the failure of official planning.
Importantly however, it is naïve to think that often enormous squatter settlements can be built in major metropolitan centres without the connivance of the formal state. In fact the whole housing market in cities and towns is mediated by state functionaries. Of course, these state functionaries along with the various middlemen through whom the whole informal housing nexus is operationalised generate too much private benefit to accept a 'formalisation' of the system as it is currently constituted. But the point is that the fairly rational process through which katchi abadis are created and sustained indicates that low-income housing can be provided to the teeming millions in our cities and towns if only the state posssessed the political will to do so.
I personally do not believe that simply regularising existing katchi abadis is an adequate policy measure insofar as there is a dynamic demand for low-income housing which requires a commensurate increase in housing supply as well as attempts to contain out-migration from rural areas. The issue is also complex for other reasons such as the fact that the population of katchi abadis is not always exclusively poor. Middle-income residents are usually a fairly large minority within most abadis and many of these residents are involved in speculative activities which has great bearing on the housing market at large.
Nevertheless, regularisation of katchi abadis has been recognised by most serious observers as a necessary first step that can trigger a process of policy reformulation in which long-run planning is given much more importance. Since the 1970s successive governments have jumped on the populist bandwagon and announced that existing katchi abadis will be surveyed and regularized. There has been not insignificant progress but there is also inexplicable inaction. The present government too has made noises about restarting the process of regularization. One suspects that the next government and the following one will do likewise without much actually happening.
I have been writing about katchi abadis, urban planning and the like for the best part of 12 years. Unfortunately, I have been saying more or less the same things now as I was saying back over a decade ago (and some activists and researchers have been writing and arguing in fairly similar vein for much, much longer). The political will just does not exist, and I doubt that, within the confines of the existing political-economic system, whether it can ever be mustered.
I have already hinted above that there are some important changes that have taken place in the last decade or so. There is more cynicism amongst ordinary Pakistanis, the patterns of resistance and reaction to the state coercive apparatus as well as the economic coercion of the market are becoming increasingly exclusive, and state functionaries -- both at the top and bottom of the bureaucratic pyramid -- are inclined to completely renege on their task to serve the public and instead focus on acquiring power and capital.
The world will not end if katchi abadis are not regularised and a long-term planning process is not initiated. But ethnic fragmentation and attendant concentration of economic resources, for example, are much more acute problems. If the breakdown of the state and the opportunism of the parasites that inhabit it are not arrested there could erupt a spiral of violence and conflict even more brutal than what is ongoing at present.
I am not a believer in the hodge-podge about Pakistan being a 'failed state'. I also seethe with anger when the corporate media discusses the chances of a mullah takeover and generates panic over the security of the nuclear arsenal. But I do know that the chaos junkies in charge are far too easily swayed by the appeal of power and wealth, and also too spineless to take steps anathema to the Empire. Progressives are currently too weak and confused to offer a political alternative to ordinary people, and therefore various forms of reaction are becoming more and more entrenched. In sum this is a recipe for disaster. This is not to suggest implosion anytime soon, or ever. But the repression and exclusion that permeates society cannot be ignored for too much longer. In two provinces there is already a civil war-like situation. It is now important to make sure there is no domino effect.
Right to know
An effective law on the right to information is
needed to ensure protection of right to life and liberty
By Muhammad Aftab Alam
"The Indian Right to Information Act, 2005 and its effective implementation have revolutionized the debate on people's right to information in the world," one of the panellists said during a recent seminar on Right to Information (RTI) in Islamabad. In fact, Indian RTI Act 2005 has proved to be a paradigm shift in the discourse of access to information or right to know in the world.
Prior to the Indian RTI Act, the debates and discussions on right to information were revolving around the jargons of 'transparency, reducing corruption', or 'ensuring openness in the decision-making processes.' Despite the fact that more than fifty countries had promulgated the laws on right to information before 2005, none or only a few could actually relate the entire discourse to the common people's issues.
The debate could hardly allure general public's interests. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry remained outside the debate of right to information in the world. NGOs, intellectuals, and elite politicians kept the issue confined to their privileged audiences only. Perhaps, due to limited resources and needs, the NGOs and intellectuals could not relate it to the common people. And the politicians! Why would, by the way, they have made it a 'public issue?' Making it public could have harmed their vested interests through letting people ask about their malpractices and corruption. Similarly, bureaucrats, both civil and military, seemed happy without public accountability through people's right to information.
Quite similar to the international paradigm, the debates on the right to know in South Asian region remained confined to the corridors of 'elite politics' or 'academic discourse' only. The topic could not come out of the drawing room discussions or a debate in the national level elite seminars in the capitals. It was quite fashionable to talk about the right to know or access to information. Ordinary people like street vendors, poor farmers, labourers, and other marginalised communities have never been brought on-board regarding the right to know. They had no right to inquire into the much-disputed issues such as water distribution system wherein the lands of powerful are irrigated while the poor have not a single drop of water. They cannot ask about the ever-increasing prices of commodities.
There was no right to ask why there is a huge complex for basic health unit in their vicinity without any doctor and medicines. Moreover, they could not ask why huge storage of wheat and other essential commodities is rotting and millions are starving and forced to live without food.
Nevertheless, the efforts for and enactment of the Indian RTI Act changed the entire paradigm. As a result, the debate and discussion on the right to know came out of air-conditioned rooms and seminar halls to the streets and public gatherings (or public hearings). Now every Shanty, Murli, Puja, and Rahim has got the right to ask for any and every kind of information from the government. Moreover, the Indian law has contributed to a great extent in reducing corruption and bringing transparency in the official functioning along with empowering marginalised groups.
Whether it is the issue of ration cards and ration distribution; investigation into big scams, and scandals such as involvement of top politicians in getting kickbacks in big contracts; investigation into Mumbai attacks, or disclosure of assets of higher judiciary judges and parliamentarians, the Indian right to information authorises everyone -- intellectuals, NGOs, activists, politicians, labourers, and farmers -- without any discrimination to get access to the relevant information in a very efficient manner. Learning from this unprecedented success, Bangladesh enacted its RTI Act in 2009.
In Pakistan, the law on freedom of information was promulgated in 2002. Limited scope and application; exorbitant exemptions; absence of an institutional framework to implement the law; complicated and lengthy process for disposal of information requests; and ineffective appellate forum: all this has made the law redundant and useless. This is evident from the fact that since its promulgation in 2002, only a few hundred applications could be filed under the Ordinance. Less than hundred applications could be disposed of by the Ombudsman. Moreover, the people could not relate themselves to the law as well as the right given to them. Quite expectedly, the law and issue remained as an elite class discussion.
Due to its limitations and inadequacies, civil society representatives had already rejected the Ordinance altogether. Nevertheless, the passage of 18th Amendment and inclusion of Article 19-A in the Constitution brought a new life in the debate on the right to information. For the first time in Pakistan, the people's right to information has been recognised as a constitutional right. Now it is required to have a subordinate legislation to effectively implement the right as enshrined in Article 19-A.
Considering the inadequacy, irrelevance and ineffectiveness of Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 and need of a comprehensive subordinate legislation for this constitutional provision, Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) commissioned the ALPH Consultants and advocates -- an Islamabad-based law and consultancy firm -- to prepare a draft of a Bill on the Right to Information with the support of The Asia Foundation (TAF). The draft law, which was prepared using the most modern and innovative techniques of intensive legislative drafting research, has been published recently and presented to the federal minister for information and broadcasting during a seminar in Islamabad.
The draft RTI law provides holistic perspective to address the issue of absence of right to information to the public. The draft RTI law proposes to have an independent and autonomous institutional framework, i.e. the Federal and Provincial Information Commissions to effectively implement the law. It defines right to information as "right to inspection of work, documents, records; taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; taking certified samples of material; obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device."
The draft law proposes to include all authorities, bodies, or institutions of the government, which are established or constituted by or under the constitution or by any Federal/Provincial law and includes bodies which are owned, controlled, or financed by the government in the definition of a public body.
The draft law endeavours to provide access to information not only to the elites but also to the common people. Ranging from information about the essentials of daily life to national level projects and decisions, one can ask for all kinds of information from or about any public body. However, this is not an absolute right and certain exceptions are inevitable. These are limited only to a few categories of information such as information relating to sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan, the security, strategic, scientific, or economic interests of the state; or expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal; or the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament; or it is relating to trade secrets or intellectual property; or available to a person in his fiduciary relationship; or received in confidence from foreign government; or the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person; or which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; or which relates to personal information; or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual.
Besides, the bill proposes to penalise officials who delay in the disposal of information requests. The right to appeal against the decision on information request has been provided in the Bill. Moreover, whistle-blowers have also been protected.
In a nutshell, the draft law is a comprehensive solution to all issues and problems relating to the right to information and access to information in the country. The law can be enacted at both federal and provincial level; however, the question of federal and provincial level legislation is left for the legislature to decide about. The draft law, which is available with the Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as well as the CRSS, must be taken as ready-to-use draft to move forward.
For a democracy, the information is considered as oxygen and right to information is essential for healthy democratic process. Only an informed society can make informed decision and elect their representatives as per their aspiration. The information is also vital for life and liberty of the people. An effective and comprehensive law on RTI is needed to promote an informed society as well as ensure protection of right to life and liberty of the common people.
The writer is Media Law and Policy Expert, based in Islamabad.
Dr Alex Peter Schmid
"Religion, supposedly the raison d'etre of Pakistan, is dividing the country, not uniting it"
By Raza Khan
Dr Alex Peter Schmid is an internationally renowned Dutch scholar on Terrorism Studies and former Officer-in-Charge of the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations in Vienna, where, from 1999 to 2005, he held the position of a Senior Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer. In 2006, Schmid was appointed a Chair in International Relations at St Andrews University as well as Director of its Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV). Before joining the United Nations, he held the Synthesis Chair on Conflict Resolution at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He also taught International Relations at the Department of Political Sciences of Leiden University where he acted as Research Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Research Programme on Causes of Human Rights Violations (PIOOM). He was an Einstein Fellow at the Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, and served on the Executive Board of the International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council (ISPAC) of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme. Professor Schmid is a Member of the World Society of Victimology and a Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of the Netherlands. He also is a Member of the European Commission's Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation. The Supreme Court of India adopted Alex P. Schmid's definition of terrorism in a 2003 ruling (Madan Singh vs. State of Bihar), "defining acts of terrorism veritably as 'peacetime equivalents of war crimes.'"
Schmid is currently preparing a four volume set on Terrorism and Human Rights for the Routledge series Critical Concepts in Political Science. He has just completed a Handbook of Terrorism Research which contains a new Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism. He has been co-editor of the journal Terrorism and Political Violence and is now editor of the electronic journal Perspectives on Terrorism. Schmid is Director of Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI) which seeks to enhance security through collaborative research. Recently, he gave an exclusive interview to TNS, excerpts follow.
The News on Sunday: What is your assessment of the role the UN Terrorism Prevention Branch has played in countering intra-state and international terrorism?
Alex Schmid: Eleven years ago, the United Nations had only two sections that dealt with terrorism, the General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism (which is part of its sixth (legal) committee) in New York and the Terrorism Prevention Branch in Vienna (which is part of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime). Today, there are more than two dozen UN and UN-affiliated entities that focus (part of their work) on countering terrorism. The work of the Terrorism Prevention Branch -- where I was Officer-in-Charge between 1999 and 2005, was -- and is -- to strengthen the international legal regime against terrorism by training judges and prosecutors and giving them the legal tools. In that, admittedly narrow, field of counter-terrorism has been very helpful in enhancing cooperation against international terrorism. It has no mandate to deal with intra-state terrorism as this issue is not the responsibility of the United Nations.
TNS: How and in what ways contemporary religious terrorism different from traditional political terrorism? Are objectives of both the same?
AS: The motivations for engaging in terrorism -- a form of violence without moral restraints, targeting preferably civilians -- vary: some groups engage in it to defend or advance the interests of a class of people (e.g. the land-owning class or the working class), of a group of people defined in ethnic terms (e.g. white supremacists or brown fascists) or they divide mankind into true believers and infidels. In each case, the goal is political power here on earth. Those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for class, race or religion are promised certain rewards. In the case of religious terrorism, these rewards are supposedly delivered in another world which makes it special. The objectives of terrorism are the same for secular and religious groups -- gain or maintain power here on earth but the rewards promised to the foot-soldiers who do the killing and dying are different in the case of religious terrorism. Religion, like terrorism, is not easy to define.
TNS: What is your analysis of current wave of religious extremism and terrorism in Pakistan?
AS: The situation is confusing, especially to an outsider. Various regimes, including the last military one, have cultivated religious extremism in the past and tried to instrumentalise it for foreign policy purposes. Now the military establishment discovers that it has created a series of monsters which threaten to get out of their control. The military now tries to show them who is in control, or so it seems.
TNS: What in your view are the root and contributing causes of religious terrorism in Pakistan?
AS: Pakistan defined its identity from the beginning in religious terms. States are, however, secular structures with territory, people, and a government that have to co-exist in a world of other states. Most states have a military; in the case of Pakistan it has been said that it is the other way round. If you take away the military, Pakistan would disintegrate. Religion, supposedly the raison d'etre of Pakistan, is dividing the country, not uniting it. However, since the state fails to deliver even a minimum of security, social justice, and employment to the masses of the people, religious entrepreneurs who promise a better life -- if not here then in the hereafter -- find a ready market. Religion has to do with life and death. Those who claim to speak with authority of one religion (or sect) or another often try to control human sexuality and human destructiveness, steering these into desired directions. Karl Marx suggested, perceptively, that "religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation". Religious entrepreneurs play politics with religion just as some politicians play politics with (counter-) terrorism. Where religion plays such a large role as in Pakistan, the temptation to play politics with religion is perhaps stronger than in more secular societies. However, there are no easy answers as to the question about the root causes of terrorism. As long as some people think that killing innocent people advances their cause, there will be terrorism. In reality, the victories of most terrorists are only tactical and short-lived. The long-term success record for terrorism is not impressive.
TNS: Don't you think the key reason for religious and ethnic extremism-terrorism in Pakistan is political vacuum characterised by several military rules and absence of a democratic culture rather than Islamic ideology as is generally viewed?
AS: The political vacuum created by a self-serving political elite and a self-perpetuating military apparatus is, in part, being filled by militant Islamists. All three groups have a tendency to blame the external world -- India, America -- for most of their woes. A scapegoat is a very useful animal in terms of fooling citizens.
TNS: Irrespective of American rhetoric what challenge(s) Al Qaeda and its affiliates like Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and Al Shabab pose to international security?
AS: Al-Qaeda has been around for 22 years now and has not managed to gain control of a single state. It consists of less than 100 people in Afghanistan and less than 1000 in Pakistan. Its main presence is on the Internet, not in the real world. It has only managed to launch a small number of spectacular attacks since 1998. Yet it has inspired others and become a model for articulating discontent. However, it has brought a great religion into disrepute in many parts of the world.
Since Al Qaeda destroyed the hold of the Taliban on Afghanistan in 2001 by its attacks on New York and Washington, there is little love for them among the Afghan Taliban. If the Americans and NATO would leave the country next year, the country would probably fall back into the same situation it had found itself after the Soviet withdrawal. It would probably not be a threat to the international system but it would be a threat to the large majority of the Afghan population, including girls whom the Taliban wants to keep uneducated. Al Shabab is stronger than Al Qaeda on the battlefield but is much more vulnerable to attacks from neighbouring states due to the African geographical setting than are insurgents in Afghanistan. Uganda and Kenya can beat it with the help of Western allies. The main problem area is along the Durand line and that problem would also be manageable if Pakistan and India would settle their differences over Kashmir. If India and Pakistan could peacefully co-exist, the situation would look very different, as would the Middle East situation if Palestine and Israel could accept each others existence and reach some territorial accommodation.
TNS: Is religious radicalization and terrorism a phenomenon specific to today's Muslim World or you have observed similar trends within Christian, Hindu and Jewish societies.
AS: Terrorism is not specific to Islam. The Catholic Spanish Inquisition used terror tactics in the late Middle Ages, the Christian American Ku Klux Klan used burning crosses and lynchings against black American ex-slaves after the Civil War of the 1860s to keep them down, the Jewish zealots used it almost two thousand years ago against the Romans and their local collaborators. The LTTE, which pioneered suicide bombings in the 1980s in Sri Lanka, consisted largely of Hindus.
TNS: What is the relationship between a democratic culture and religious and political extremism?
AS: Democracy allows for a plurality of opinions. The majority opinion, however, is allowed to call the shots and rule the state but has to do so within the confines of the constitution and only for short periods of time until the next elections. There are different types of democracies -- participatory federal democracies like Switzerland where various political parties form coalitions and together rule a country in a proportional way. Then there is the Westminster model of winner-takes-all type of democracies where the biggest party usually can run the country alone (the current British situation is atypical). As a consequence, you can have a tyranny of the Protestant majority over an eternal Catholic minority, as we saw in Northern Ireland until the Good Friday Agreement. That can be conducive to terrorism. Liberalism seeks to maximize freedom for all and requires tolerance from different sectors of society vis-a-vis each other so that everyone can achieve his or her happiness as he or she thinks is best. A problem arises when the tolerance of liberals is challenged by groups that are intolerant. That creates the paradox that tolerance against the intolerant becomes suicidal. Depending on the level of threat, democracies and liberal societies face from religious terrorist groups and political extremism-terrorism, they will have to rebalance liberty and security until the treat has been brought back to manageable proportions.
TNS: What are the causes behind the tendency of a large number of Muslim youth in Western society towards violence and terrorism?
AS: For one thing: they are not that many: many Western countries host hundreds of thousands even millions of Muslims in their midst and only a few hundred, and, in some cases, a few thousand of them conspire against their host societies. Many of these have identity problems, living between two cultures. Rather than assimilating or integrating, they chose to rebel against their host societies because they feel alienated, discriminated, or not being given a fair chance. Most of them would, however, rather live in the West than return to the country of their fathers for good. Scape-goating the West, blaming it for colonialism, neo-Imperialism, and Islamophobia is a cheap substitute for critical thinking.
Unfortunately, many who disagree with terrorist tactics buy some of their propaganda, such as that Islam is supposedly under attack from the West. That the West intervened in Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina on behalf of Muslim populations under attack from orthodox Christian Serbs is forgotten. When Kuwait, a Muslim country was attacked by a secular Baathist dictator from Iraq it was the US and the UK who came to liberate the country from a fascist dictator. Iraq was not attacked in 2003 because it was a Muslim country nor was the intervention in Afghanistan motivated by anti-Muslim feelings. Tens of thousand of Christians are killed worldwide, sometimes for their faith, sometime for other reasons, and nobody in the West shouts Christianity is under attack. The biggest slaughter of Muslims in the world in recent years has taken place in the Darfur province of Sudan. Most of the 300,000 victims were African Muslims and most of the victimizers were Arab Muslims. Al Qaeda has not come to their rescue in Sudan perhaps because Al Qaeda is Arabic first and Muslim second.
TNS: How frequently are terrorists able to realise their political and ideological ends?
AS: Most terrorist groups - except for some of those who are state-sponsored - do not survive the first two years of their existence. Life in the underground is just too hard, infiltration creates paranoia, internal tensions between the leadership with its privileges and the foot-soldiers (who are often just cannon fodder) rise; the death toll is high and the prospect for victory more and more distant. In those rare cases, when victory comes, it often goes to more mainstream political parties who share some of the goals but not the methods of terrorist groups. One recent study surveying the success rate of terrorist campaigns found that they were only successful in seven percent of all cases.
Afghan refugees are returning without getting proper education
By Atle Hetland
It was shocking to read the 2009 year-report from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Pakistan, which was released recently. Only two percent of the fifty thousand Afghan refugees who returned home had attended primary school, and just over one percent had gone to secondary school. How could this happen at a time when we talk about "Education for All (EFA)" by 2105?
Are refugees not included in the EFA and the Millennium Development Goals? Education is today a key field of protection and the basic fields of UNHCR's mandate.
UNHCR is one of the best UN agencies, still mistakes, like the current one, can be made, which leaves questions about the level and quality of education provision for the remaining some two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, or at least half of them, who live in refugee camps.
The agency supports those who live in refugee camps, while the urban refugees receive minimal support. But 30 percent of the returnees, about fifteen thousand, came from camps, yet less than two thousand had received any education.
Why all returnees did not have education, or, at least fifty-sixty percent of them, which was the case earlier? What UNHCR, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, UNOCHA and major NGOs, such as Save the Children and others, did to ensure better results? There might be instances of mismanagement and neglect.
The international organisations will come up with reasons; the first being that donors did not provide required funding. But that argument is difficult to understand since it wouldn't take too much money to give minimum education to camp refugees, staying in easy-to-reach geographical areas.
Besides, we can see why donors did not provide funding, if that is the case. The agencies will have to improve advocacy work, because it is very easy to explain the importance of education to their own offices and donors. Today, everybody realises that all girls and boys must receive education to get equipped for life and stay away from extremism, etc.
The second excuse for the poor state of affairs would be that most funds had to go to assist the internally displaced persons (IDPs), and less was, therefore, available for the refugees. Admittedly, there may be some truth to this argument. But then I wonder if education for IDPs is really given any convincing priority. Besides, the poor results have been caused by under-funding for many years since primary school takes some six to eight years.
The third excuse is likely to be that they are not really responsible for anything as it is the host country that has the responsibility for all persons living within the country's border. The UN shall only assist the host country. But such a formalistic view is not practical, and obviously, the international community has a responsibility to provide major funding to a country like Pakistan, the world's largest refugee-hosting country. Over the years, the Pakistan government and ordinary people in the country have carried a heavier share of the refugee burden than what it should have done, especially if we recall the Afghan refugee crisis was mainly caused by the world's superpowers and international strategic considerations.
The sad situation in education, in part, boils down to non-governmental agencies not doing their job, and not even realising that there is a problem, it seems. The UNHCR presents the figures.
One can recommend that Pakistan's Chief Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees and SAFRON call their international partners to explain the situation and, more importantly, ask them how they will improve it so that the 2010 report will not be a repeat. The "One UN", as they call the joint efforts of the agencies today must be able to do better in future.
Currently, the United Nation Education Agency UNESCO, is preparing its large book on education in and after emergencies and crises. I am glad that such a book is coming, but I hope it will not be a celebration of the agency's achievements and lofty advice, but that it will highlight past shortcomings and neglect because they have failed to fulfill the UN mandate in Pakistan and elsewhere in refugee education. (Reference: "UNHCR Year in Review 2009", published by UNHCR, Islamabad, July 2010.)
Atle Hetland is a Norwegian Social Scientist and Expert in Refugee Education with research and administrative experience from UNHCR, UNESCO, and other agencies in Pakistan. He is the author of the Learning Away from Home, summarizing the Afghan refugee education history from 1980-2005.
Pakistan's real interest lies in liberalisation of trade in industrial goods also referred to as non-agricultural market access
By Hussain H. Zaidi
Pakistan has been an active player in multilateral trade negotiations on the WTO forum since the start of the Doha round in November 2001. However, for reasons principally political, the country's major emphasis has remained on agriculture.
Further liberalisation of global trade in agriculture is important. However, it will essentially benefit countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay among developing countries and Australia and New Zealand among developed countries, which have a high potential for export of farm goods. On the other hand, Pakistan -- a net food importer -- has only a limited export potential in agriculture and thus is not likely to have appreciable gains from the sector's liberalisation. The proposed reduction of farm subsidies will not much affect Pakistan as the level of domestic support provided by the government is already well below the permitted level.
Of the country's major exports, only rice is an agricultural product, while the rest are industrial goods. Pakistan does at times export wheat and sugar but the result is often their acute shortage in the domestic market necessitating import of the commodities at a much higher price. The cotton we produce is needed by the domestic textile industry. The situation would have been different if we had large exportable surplus -- the difference between domestic output and domestic demand -- for these commodities and their export would not result in the escalation of prices in the domestic market.
The principal importance of farm trade negotiations for Pakistan is indirect and follows from the principle of a single undertaking. In WTO negotiations, nothing is agreed until all is agreed. Hence, consensus in one area cannot develop into an agreement until it is reached in other areas as well and the result is a final package agreed to by all members.
Pakistan's real interest lies in liberalisation of trade in industrial goods also referred to as non-agricultural market access (Nama). Products of the country's major export interest, such as textile and clothing, are subject to higher tariffs in the markets of developed countries. On the import side, Pakistan will be required to reduce its industrial tariffs which will affect public revenue as well as domestic industry -- although being a developing country, Pakistan will have the flexibility to continue to protect some of its "sensitive" sectors, such as autos.
The major issues in the Nama negotiations are the level of tariff reduction, the timeframe, and flexibilities that may be available to developing countries. There is consensus that tariff reduction will be done through a formula, rather than through individual approach, and that the Swiss formula will be used. The advantage of the Swiss formula is that it cuts higher tariffs deeper than lower tariffs. For the benefit of the reader, the Swiss formula is reproduced below:
Final bound tariff = Coefficient x initial bound tariff
Coefficient + initial bound tariff
The lower the coefficient in the Swiss formula, the greater the reduction and the lower will be the final tariff. Understandably, disagreement in the main is on the value of the coefficient. According to the proposed modalities, developed countries will have the coefficient of 8, while developing economies may choose one of the three coefficients of 20, 22, and 25.
A developing country choosing coefficient of 20 will have the flexibility to designate 14 percent of its industrial tariff lines as sensitive provided they do not exceed 16 percent of the total value of its non-agricultural imports. These sensitive tariff lines will be subject to tariff reduction equal to 50 percent of the agreed formula reduction. Alternately, the country can exclude 6.5 percent of its tariff lines from duty reduction.
In case a developing country employs a coefficient of 22, it can offer tariff cuts equal to 50 percent of its formula reduction on 10 percent of its tariff lines, or exclude 5 percent of the tariff lines from reduction. A member opting for coefficient of 25 will not be allowed to designate any of the products as sensitive, meaning that the agreed formula will be used for all tariff lines. Thus the basic principle of proposed modalities for developing economies is: the lower the coefficient, the greater the flexibility.
The proposed modalities are supposed to not only reduce tariffs but also address the problem of tariff peaks. In the wake of implementation of modalities, in developed countries, the average and maximum bound industrial tariff will be below 3 and 8 percent respectively. In case of developing countries, average bound tariffs will come down in the range of 11-12 percent and only a limited number of tariff lines -- designated as sensitive and thus excluded from formula cuts -- will have duties exceeding 15 percent. The implementation period for the proposed modalities will be five years for developed countries and 10 years for developing countries.
Since developing countries will have the flexibility to designate certain number of products as sensitive, they may be inclined to exclude entire sectors from tariff cuts at the expense of their trading partners. The proposed modalities address this problem through an "anti-concentration clause", which provides that while applying the Swiss formula, members will ensure that at least 20 percent of tariff lines in each tariff chapter are subject to full formula reduction.
The proposed modalities, if accepted, will have far-reaching implications for Pakistan on both import and export sides. Take the import side first. Being a developing country, Pakistan will have to choose one of the three coefficients. One can safely rule out the coefficient of 25 for Pakistan, because choosing this will mean that Pakistan will not be allowed to designate any sector as sensitive and will have to drastically reduce tariffs on all industrial products. However, for different reasons, certain sectors, notably the auto-sector, are likely to remain highly protected. This means that Pakistan will choose the coefficient of either 20 or 22.
In either case, tariffs will have to be drastically reduced on most of the industrial products, which means a substantial fall in import revenue, a major source of public finance. Though average applied industrial tariffs in Pakistan are 14 percent, bound tariffs are much higher -- around 55 percent. Since the proposed modalities seek to reduce bound tariffs -- applied tariffs will automatically be reduced once bound tariffs are reduced -- the flexibility of increasing applied tariffs will no longer be available.
The fall in customs duties will reduce the final price of imports. On the one hand, this will benefit both consumers and industrial buyers; on the other, it will increase pressures on the import competing domestic industry, which in most cases will largely be left on its own without the umbrella of protection. That may lead to de-industrialization and loss of output and jobs as well as increased dependence on imports to meet domestic demand.
On the export side, there is a lot on the table for Pakistan. Textile and clothing are our major exports and these products carry high tariffs in developed countries. In case industrial tariffs are scaled down, Pakistan will be better placed to compete with other countries already enjoying zero or lower duty in the markets of developed countries under some unilateral or bilateral preferential trading arrangement.
Increase in exports will create jobs and additional incomes leading to higher level of savings and investment. Export promotion will also help reduce Pakistan's balance of payment problem. However, mere fall in tariffs will not be enough for substantial increase in Pakistan's exports as our exporters will still have to comply with the standards and technical requirements of their foreign customers.
The new Pakistan Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement is being looked at with suspicion by the local trading community
By Raza Ahmed
Ultimately Pakistan and Afghanistan have been able to reach at a new transit trade agreement that would replace the old Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA) signed between them in 1965. The new agreement called Pakistan Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement (PATTA) has to come in force once the competent forums of both countries -- Afghan parliament and Pakistani federal cabinet -- give it a go ahead. However, the PATTA signing after several rounds of threadbare parleys between Afghan and Pakistani officials would be mere a ceremony.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have had serious reservations on the ATTA of 1965. However, the nature of objections of both countries has been fundamentally different but mutually reinforcing. Afghanistan has been complaining that the ATTA of 1965 gave undue leverage to Pakistan for restricting the trade of Kabul with the rest of the world. These restraints by Pakistan, as Kabul thought, come in the shape of limiting the number of items Afghanistan could import via Pakistan and outright rejection of exports from certain countries like India. For Pakistan the problem with the ATTA has been the landing back through smuggling of colossal amount of goods imported by Kabul and meant for local consumption in Afghanistan. The smuggled goods imported under ATTA have been inflicting huge damages on the Pakistani economy in the form of huge revenue losses of around $5 billion a year. The damages to local manufacturing sector have been apart from the revenue losses.
The unending huge smuggling during ATTA has been the reason behind Islamabad's protective measures of limiting the number of items Afghanistan could import through Pakistan and denying of India trade corridor through Pakistan for Afghanistan. Pakistan has been fully justified in rejecting Indian and Afghan requests for giving both a trade corridor. Because on the one hand the war-ravaged Afghanistan with limited writ of central government has never been in a position to check the landing back of ATTA goods into Pakistan. Thus giving Indian goods access to Afghanistan would have been suicidal as Pakistani markets would then have been flooded with Indian goods and due to their low manufacturing cost and relatively good quality would be the choicest consumer items in Pakistan.
Pakistan has also been hard-pressed to deny Indian goods access through its territory to Afghanistan because in this way New Delhi would increase its political influence in Afghanistan. Remember the old maxim that flag follows the trade. Obviously Indian political influence in Afghanistan would be at the cost of Pakistan.
Therefore, the analysis of the PATTA must be done in the above-mentioned historical context regarding transit trade. The most important feature of the proposed PATTA is the denial by Pakistan to India its territory for carrying out trade with Afghanistan and onwards with Central Asian States. Although the Afghan government as well as the United States has been demanding for years from Pakistan to give India access to Afghan and Central Asian markets through its territory, Pakistani authorities refused to budge.
At a moment when there has been no reduction in the smuggling back of goods meant for Afghanistan into Pakistan and the intense Cold War between Pakistan and India in Afghanistan, it seems the most appropriate decision. However, Pakistan failed to resist the US, Afghanistan and Indian pressure for giving access to New Delhi exports to Afghanistan as under the PATTA India has been allowed to transport goods through Pakistani airspace to Afghanistan. As the air travel time from India to Afghanistan is just minutes more than Pakistan, India would still manage to ship large amount of goods to Afghanistan by air if the land route is unavailable to it.
Then the PTTA has failed to address the core issue of smuggling -- by not putting any conditions on Afghanistan for checking smuggling. Rather the agreement may exacerbate smuggling of goods into Pakistan because it has allowed the Afghan transporters to carry the country's exports to India on their own. So there would be increased danger of smuggling through Afghan trucks.
"For Pakistan the need for a new agreement was to control smuggling from Afghanistan. PATTA has failed even to touch this issue at all. The agreement is just to please America which wants to give access to India to Afghan and Central Asia markets" Zulfiqar Ali Khan, Vice President of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) told TNS.
Pakistani business and trading community has opposed the PATTA with one voice. "You have allowed the use of your land for the benefits of others. Now you don't know what would be transported in Afghan trucks. This would be the biggest fallout of the agreement," a senior member of Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry told TNS from Karachi. However, he wished not to be named as the country's business and trading community is going to adopt a united stand soon on the issue before which individual comments may endanger the unity of businessmen and traders.
As PATTA would allow Afghan transporters to ship goods in their own trucks through Pakistan territory it would have severe consequences for local transporters. "Pakistan transport industry would suffer losses to the tune of billions. Moreover, after offloading export goods the Afghan trucks would carry local goods say from Wagah to Peshawar on half the rate which Pakistani trucks charge as it would be an added profit to Afghan transporters," argued Zulfiqar.
It is also feared that allowing Afghan trucks inside Pakistan would increase smuggling possibly of arms. "The transport sector of Pakistan would definitely be affected besides increase in smuggling but more problematic would be that what is transported in the trucks," said the FPCCI office-bearer.
Business community also thinks giving access to Pakistani traders to Central Asia under PATTA is fallacious. "It is being argued by the government circles that Afghanistan has reciprocated Pakistani actions in the PATTA and has given access to Pakistani traders to Central Asia. This is a totally wrong perception as Pakistan already had access to CARs. In return Afghanistan has been enjoying transit trade facilities through Karachi ports. Now when we have given Afghanistan another transit trade route to Wagah, could someone tell us what we have to get in return?" questioned Zulfiqar.
Last but not the least, Pakistani exporters and traders would lose a large part of Afghan market if India manages to send large amount of exports to Kabul. Currently, Pakistan is the largest trading partner of Afghanistan and enjoying the balance of trade by a huge gap. Then Afghanistan and India have a free trade agreement while Pakistan and Afghanistan does not have any FTA.
Thus the PATTA seems to have compromised Pakistan interests more than realising them. "This is a political decision rather than an economic one. We have lost everything through PATTA. On the other hand it is a win-win situation for Afghanistan," said Zulfiqar.
While traders and business community of Pakistan have expressed reservations over PATTA, others think the new agreement is a good development. Pakistan's former foreign secretary, Dr Humayun Khan, says, "Anything which improves trade relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a good thing. Although different trade chambers of Pakistan have already started saying that PATTA would lead to smuggling of Indian goods into Pakistan, which I don't think is the case. But I think regional trade agreement with Afghanistan is welcome."
Dr Humayun who also served as Pakistan's Ambassador to India and Afghanistan at the same time is hopeful about the future, "I have no doubt that the time will come when Pakistan would open its territory for all kinds of regional trade which is inevitable for the development of the entire region," he says.
Trade relations between India and Pakistan can work to solve issues between the two countries
By Salman Ali
Pakistan and India's governments desire for peaceful relations and resolution of outstanding disputes such as Kashmir, Indus Water, and others. Bumpy relations between the two countries can produce results if they develop stronger economic relations. If that happens, the trust deficit can be removed. Steps should be taken for better economic relations through expanding trade between the two countries. The volume of trade between them is very low in relation to the size of their economics.
According to one estimate, after independence, 70 percent of Pakistan's trade transactions were made with India and 63 percent of India's exports took place with Pakistan but this ratio came down drastically over the years.
Indo-Pak agreement on trading consists of only 1075 items which can be imported or exported between the two countries. The number of items has been increased in recent times but the agreement can be called as paper agreement as in reality nothing substantial has actually happened.
If Pakistan wants to improve economy it will have to start trading with India, its next door neighbour. A sizeable number of youth all over the country believes only trade between the two countries can resolve their outstanding issues.
Economic cooperation will definitely lead towards peaceful political relations. For that to happen, visa restrictions should be removed. Positive steps have been taken by the Aman ki Asha campaign in this regard.
Kashif Tabassum, an MBA student based in Lahore, and his father Idrees Tabassum, have a wholesale garment business in Anarkali. They believe trade relations are always good no matter how fragile diplomatic relation does a country has with its neighbour. "We must encourage regular trade but unfortunately, a lot of smuggling is taking place across the borders that are causing lots of revenue losses and destabilising market economy", Kashif says adding, "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."
Shakoor Rana has been running an import and export business for the last about 15 years with India. He says, "About 80 percent of the Gross Regional Product income of South Asia is coming from India and we can say that it can be called as one of the biggest markets in the world. The economy of Pakistan can improve if we trade with each other. It is clear that regional stability is a foremost priority for India given its focus on achieving a 10 percent growth rate. Pakistan should benefit from this dynamic by expanding trade with India because mutual trade will improve the situation and will give a much-needed boost to our economy," he says, adding, "The government of Pakistan is importing coal and iron ore for our steel mill from Australia and Brazil. We can import from India too which has a growing expertise in the industry and mostly it will reduce our cost in a big way."
Tameem Bukhari, a student of Political Science at the Punjab University, says, "According to the 2004 State Bank study, trade between India and Pakistan can be increased from $1 billion to $5 billion if the entire trade between the two sides through illegal means is bought in the legal net but sadly, its not happening because passengers in Samjhota Express are into this illegal trade which bring goods with them and sell here."
Sana Riaz, a student of Political Science at the Punjab University believes "Pakistan can come up to the potential where India has already excelled like in steel, pharmaceuticals, IT, consumer products and various raw materials. If Pakistan wants to trade with India then a proper agreement should be made. People to people relations should be made in which youth can go and study in Indian universities but it is not the case because of the visa process here."
"Politicians and human rights activists only take selected people across the border which is not fair. Pakistan should first start trade with India and make our economy better then we can take up the issue of Kashmir otherwise it cannot be resolved" says Muhammad Shahbaz, a student of International Relations at the Punjab University.
The writer is a student firstname.lastname@example.org
The world we want
A key part of the MDG review process brought together over 500 civil society representatives from all over the world to speak with UN member states
By Irfan Mufti
The Informal Civil Society Hearings on the MDGs, held in New York on the 14th and 15th of June 2010 provided an opportune moment for civil society activists around the world to make their voices heard on the agenda of poverty and inequality at the United Nations. Several campaigners and civil society groups worked together to organise side events, mobilisation activities and civil society coordination spaces alongside the Hearings.
The actions that were organised around the Civil Society Hearings, including voices and stories of inspiration from those who have been actively involved in making people's voices heard and presence felt on the ground. "We are calling for The World We Want 2015, because we are not happy with the world we live in today -- a world where children are denied the opportunity to go to school and neo-liberal polices dictate that education is a service that must be paid for. The World We Want is a world where there is education for all, health, water, decent work, universal social protection floor and dignity for all" a group of global campaigners said in a crowded rally organised just before the Civil Society Interactive Hearings in the UN General Assembly in New York.
Armed with a giant copy of the Open Letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and flags and banners of The World We Want, the rally participants headed over to the UN in what was a historic first -- a civil society meeting in the General Assembly hall, usually reserved for member states and dignitaries. Unfortunately, the giant letter only got as far as the door!
A key part of the MDG review process, the Interactive Hearings brought together over 500 civil society representatives from all over the world to dialogue with UN member states and observers, and provide concrete suggestions for an MDG breakthrough plan to be discussed at the High Level Plenary in September this year.
"The voices of those most affected by the Millennium Development Goals need to be heard... Your vision for achieving the MDGs has the power to inspire," said the President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Ambassador Treki in his opening remarks, "With that vision, we can discuss case studies highlighting best practices and lessons learnt, and suggest action-oriented strategies for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals."
The forty-six official speakers included four representatives, who provided powerful and comprehensive inputs on the floor of the General Assembly -- undeterred by the rows of empty seats in the area reserved for Government representatives.
Common threads emerged across many of the presentations with a majority of speakers highlighting the need for the MDGS to be rooted in a human rights based approach and the need for a focus on gender equality and women's right across all the MDGs. Many speakers referred to the need for serious reform to the international financial architecture as a pre-condition for achieving the MDGs. Accountability was another key issue with speakers, emphasizing that without legally binding accountability mechanisms – there is absolute impunity for unfulfilled commitments.
In addition to an increase in the quality and quantity of aid to achieve the MDGs, the need for new and innovative forms of financing for development were mentioned in particular an international financial transaction tax which would raise the necessary funds to address gaps in the MDGs and get them back on track for achievement by 2015.
Over the next two months, The World We Want charters will be released in Africa, Asia and Latin America, even as members of the MDG 2010 Working Group organize to respond to and reach governments with recommendations to the Outcome Document. These groups and activists with a clear vision of the future of the world also committed for continued engagement to make this a truly inspired and strategic effort!
These activists gathered from all across the world especially the poor countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America achieved a major breakthrough in their campaign towards the MDG+10 Summit when activists and campaigners involved with the 'Open Civil Society Letter on the MDGs' met the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN Headquarters in New York on June 23, 2010.
The open letter to the UN Secretary-General -- shaped and signed by over 120 civil society organizations -- contained nine key recommendations, including calls for greater accountability, measures to increase gender equality and reduce social exclusion and the provision of quality affordable public services.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that civil society plays a crucial role in correcting injustice and eradicating poverty. "Gender inequality is a moral, political and social injustice and we must work together to correct it," said Ban Ki-moon, responding to the issues raised by the civil society delegation. Ban Ki Moon said that in the new Joint Action Plan on the MDGs that he had recently announced, he called for greater investment of $15 billion until 2011 and $45 billion until 2015 to address the goals related to maternal and child mortality. He also said that NGOs and people's movements stand next to government and without civil society support UN cannot address issues such as fighting poverty, empowering women and generating resources.
It was also reminded to Secretary General that people of the world are keenly waiting to seeing G20 countries fulfilling their commitments for more funds to achieve the MDG. We need a holistic approach, one in which sexual and reproductive health and rights are taken into account. Social inclusion, gender equality and the empowerment of women must be a component of every Millennium Development Goal.
After the morning briefing at the UN NGO representatives gathered around UN building to rally for "The World We Want – End Poverty Now." They held flags and placards with sayings such as, "Gender Equality, Peace and Security." And while marching down the streets they shouted, "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!"
The group of marchers ranged from experienced activists who flew in from different parts of the world to participants who were rallying for the first time. The Manhattan locals observed as these protesters marched by and though the rallying group, the energy was extremely high and their efforts were hopeful.
Through these efforts and focused interventions the voices of global activists from across the world have been heard. But these efforts must not stop until UN member states put their proposals into action and a genuine breakthrough plan is achieved to end poverty and inequality and achieve the promise of the Millennium Development Goals.
World leaders will gather at the United Nations in September at a meeting that is expected to produce additional pledges to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In preparation for this gathering, the UN Secretary General has produced a report called "Keeping the Promise" which provides a 10-year review of the MDGs and recommendations for action. Governments are currently negotiating the contents of an action plan that will be approved at the September MDG Summit. The World We Want Open Letter contains specific proposals for this UN plan and Organizations often add their signatures to a petition without any real hope that people in power will actually read it.
Leaders from 189 countries signed The Millennium Declaration in 2000, setting out eight clear cut time-bound commitments to end poverty. While some progress and significant achievements have been made, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not on track to be achieved by the 2015 deadline, due in part to the feminization of poverty, the ever more apparent affects of climate change and the global financial and food crises.
In 2009 alone, an estimated 90 million people -- mostly women and girls -- were pushed into poverty. The UN needs to create indicators for each MDG to measure how women and the socially excluded are faring, with an eye to ensuring that these groups are not left behind. UN must play its role now to make sure that these commitments are honored by member states and global institutions and that a new world is created for those that still have Hope.
The writer is Deputy Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global Campaigner email@example.com
Extremists are exploiting religious divisions to polarise the nation as was seen in the attack on Ahmadis' place of worship
By Mian Ameer Ali and Zeeshan Haider
Dr. Muhammad Allama Iqbal, in the course of his address to the Muslim League in 1930 said, "Nor should the Hindus fear that the creation of autonomous Muslim states will mean the introduction of a kind of religious rule in such states…." Muhmmad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of our country reaffirmed the views expressed by Iqbal in his first presidential address as Governor General when he said, "We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state." More than 60 years down the line, where do we stand?
In 1953, a coalition of religious leaders gave the government ultimatum to declare Ahmedi sect as non-Muslim and consequently expel all members of the sect from key positions. To deal with the matter a committee, spearheaded by Justice Munir, was set up. The resulting report, submitted on the 23rd of January 1954, is known as the Munir Report.
During the proceedings, the 'Ahmedi problem' was explored through both a religious and a political lens. The committee not only advised against the aforementioned proposal but also, in a larger context, counseled for a secular Pakistan whose politics should remain free of religious dogma.
These recommendations were born out of multiple reasons. To tackle the Ahmedi issue directly, the religious leaders were asked to give their definition of a 'Momin' to which no two could arrive at a consensus, whereby agreeing to one definition would lead to being classified as a non-Muslim by all other definitions. Ramifications of such a label were realised when the religious leaders divulged that such a labeling of Ahmedis would entail them to be treated as 'Dhimmis' by the state. The 'Dhimmis' were second-class citizens with fewer legal and social rights. They lacked a voice in the making of and the right of administration of the law and were denied the right to hold public office.
Such a situation directly undercuts the conception of Jinnah's Pakistan who envisioned a state where each person "no matter his colour, caste, or creed would enjoy "equal rights, privileges and obligations". He promised that "…you (citizens) are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the state." (Jinnah, Presidential address to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Karachi, 11 August 1947)
Further complications in the Ahmedi matter involved the issue of apostasy. Apostasy is punishable by death and if the definition of a Muslim remained ambiguous or a religious guideline were imposed the counts of apostasy would become too numerous.
Between 1954 and late 1960s the government tried to remain wary of the religious leaders. But 1970s saw some of the problems predicted by the Munir Report rise to surface. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's tenure paved the way for state-lead Islamisation to be carried out in Pakistan. When he came to power, Bhutto used a rather socialist slogan of 'roti, kapra, aur makaan' to address the current problems facing the country. However, after assuming office he slowly but surely conceded far too much ground to religious political parties. This policy of Bhutto resulted in laying the foundation for religious radicalisation of the populous.
The 1973 Constitution proclaimed Islam as state religion and its Clause 31 allowed the state to mould its citizens' lives in consonance with the principles of Islam. Progressive Islamisation of Pakistan thus became a state objective for the first time. An Islamic Council and Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology were constituted to advise the government regarding the propriety of existing and future laws in the backdrop of the tenets of Islam. The constitutional provisions opened the field for Ulemas and fundamentalist parties and gave them room to pursue their own political interests.
This was soon evident as during that time all political issues were given a religious colour and had Islamic undertones. The year 1974 is very important in this respect as Bhutto amended the constitution of Pakistan and declared Ahmedis as non-Muslims. It may be noted that Ahmedis were staunch Bhutto supporters during his campaign because of his liberal values and an apparently secular agenda. Many feared that religious leaders would not rest after achieving this milestone victory over liberal forces. Their fears were soon realised.
The agitation after the 1977 elections, a political issue, was turned into a religious problem and a fight for the initiation of 'Nizam-e-Mustafa' in Pakistan. Once again, Bhutto, in order to appease the religious right and gain political capital, succumbed to pressure and announced the enforcement of Shariah Law within six months and the banning of alcohol and gambling with immediate effect. The precedent for legislation based on religion as opposed to popular will was hence set during this time.
On the international level, Mr. Bhutto exaggerated and over emphasised Pakistan's Islamic character in a bid to benefit from the oil boom by being able to influence the oil-rich Arab nations. While this may have improved Pakistan's cash flow in the short run it may be said that Bhutto did not consider or chose to remain oblivious to the problems that were to follow as a result of misrepresentation of the Pakistani people who were at the time largely moderate.
The selection of General Zia to lead the armed forces of Pakistan was more of a political decision by Z A Bhutto as opposed to a professional one. Zia belonged to a conservative Muslim family and was a staunch practising Muslim himself. Upon assuming office, he changed the motto of the Pakistan army and openly tried to radicalise the armed forces. He recommended that Corp Commanders lead troops in prayers, distributed religious books written by Maulana Maududi in competitions held at military garrisons and reconceptualised the purpose of the Pakistan army to reconcile it with that of a Muslim state.
During this era, the US not only ignored this radicalisation but also used the image of Pakistan put forward by Bhutto and Ziaul Haq to the international community as a means to facilitate its aim of ending the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. At the time these 'Islamist extremists' were 'warriors of god engaged in a holy war' and the United States did everything to ensure that they succeeded.
It was this short-sighted US foreign policy coupled with the politics of Bhutto and Zia which can be blamed for many of the current problems which plague our country today. To begin with, we need to highlight Nawaz Sharif's attempt to transform Pakistan into a theocracy to gain political leverage against his opponents of the time. Sharif's proposals included the complete implementation of Shariah Law with the government having absolute authority to tell its citizens what to do in their public and private spheres. This was motivated by an aspiration to cease complete control of the judiciary, the armed forces, and the parliament and establish himself as the self-proclaimed 'Ameer-ul-Momineen'.
Members of the Munir Commission warned that such a situation might arise where so much political influence had been lost to the religious right that for further pacification such a drastic measure would be necessary. Not to ignore the differences among different schools of jurisprudence regarding what exactly Shariah Law is. Terrorists and religious extremists are exploiting the same divisions to polarise the nation as was seen by the recent attack on the Ahmedis' place of worship that resulted in the death of 86 Ahmedis. Today, in order to obtain a passport we must sign a document declaring that we believe Ahmedis to be non-Muslims regardless of our personal beliefs.