analysis
The Karachi conundrum
What Karachi also shows us is what
happens when powerful classes and institutional interests manipulate social changes

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

We are in the midst of yet another upsurge of murderous violence in Karachi. Those of us outside the city, as well as those who live in elite ghettoes of it, have become desensitised enough to violence in this age of televised ‘terror’ that it is easy to dismiss the recent spate of Karachi killings as only a slight departure from the norm. In fact, between Tuesday and Friday of this past week, 81 people were reported to have perished in the violence.

people
Persistent neglect
Parts of district Rajanpur still await attention and help from the state and civil society

By Faisal Nadeem Gorchani

Turning disasters into opportunities may have been a successful experience in the lives of some Pakistanis but for the people of hill-torrents affected areas on the western part of district Rajanpur, bordering Balochistan, it seems a distant reality.

When it comes down to food
The budget of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa does not hold much for the agriculture sector
By Tahir Ali
Agriculture sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has once again failed to elicit enough funds and attention from the provincial government in the budget.
Contrary to official claims that the new budget would be innovative in its outlook, an analysis of the annual strategy shows that it is yet another exercise characterised by meagre funding, phased allocation of funds that delays completion of projects for years and with overstretched plan of action that has no or negligible results.

What’s happening in Balochistan?
The province will remain another world unless we treat it as our very own

By Salman Abid
How can the Balochistan issue be resolved? The answer to this question is difficult because democratic forces seem to have little decision-making powers in the province. The undemocratic forces wield major power in the region and, at the moment, no political solution seems near in the future. The political government took some positive steps but the results are not that good. The trust deficit between the state and the Baloch has widened.

welfare
Politics vs population
How interlinked is a large population to political instability in a country?

By Mohammad Javed Pasha

As of June 20, 2011, the human population of the world is estimated by the United States Census Bureau as 6, 89, 9014970. In 2009, the United Nations estimated the Earth’s human population to be 6,800,000,000.

Helping the taxpayer
The Federal Tax Ombudsman Office helps out thousands of
taxpayers every year, providing them free-of-cost relief from the
maladm inistration and corruption of tax officials

By Adnan Adil
Amidst widespread corruption and maladministration of government departments, there are few institutions striving to provide some sort of relief to the public. The Office of the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO), a relatively less-known organisation established by the federal government in 2000, is one such organisation, which redresses the grievances of taxpayers against the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). A recent third-party survey has termed the FTO Office to be the cleanest and most-efficient organisation of the government.

Time for a re-think
We need to contemplate once again where did we go wrong?

By Syed Asif Nawaz Shah

In retrospect, Pakistan, a country initially founded in order to cater to the needs of Muslims in the subcontinent, has been wayward ever since the founder's passing, with a few bright spots in between. Faith, unity, discipline, despite this motto being carved into our minds, it is one that our rulers seem to have left behind. In fact, the status quo couldn't be more different from what our founding father may have imagined.

overview
Not in good shape either
To look at what our fiscal year would look like the Economic Survey
2010-2011 can be one important
indicator

By Irfan Mufti
The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11 shows a dismal picture of country’s economy. In the backdrop of rising terrorism, critical security situation, political instability, and internal and external threats the economic picture does not offer relief either. Last years’ large-scale devastations by flash floods 2010 also caused significant dent in the economy that still has not recovered from flood shocks.

 

Demise of the nation state?
The state in the post modern era will probably exist but it will not be sovereign in the traditional sense of the word

By Hussain H. Zaidi
In its course of development, the state has assumed various forms: tribal state, city-state, empire and feudal state until the modern nation-state. The evolution of the state, however, has not completed. After remaining the supreme institution in the West for three and a half centuries and for a lesser period in other parts of the world, the nation state seems withering away.

 

 

analysis
The Karachi conundrum
What Karachi also shows us is what
happens when powerful classes and institutional interests manipulate social changes
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

We are in the midst of yet another upsurge of murderous violence in Karachi. Those of us outside the city, as well as those who live in elite ghettoes of it, have become desensitised enough to violence in this age of televised ‘terror’ that it is easy to dismiss the recent spate of Karachi killings as only a slight departure from the norm. In fact, between Tuesday and Friday of this past week, 81 people were reported to have perished in the violence.

Karachi is the country’s biggest city and economic centre. We know about Karachi’s financial institutions and its port and their contribution to the exchequer. Yet, much of what happens in the city — including political violence — has much more to do with the so-called ‘informal’ economy, information about which is at best scattered and at worst non-existent.

Well-known architect and planner, Arif Hasan, has been attempting to redress the lack of meaningful and grounded research on ‘actually-existing’ Karachi for years. Among his major contributions have been to explain the genesis and spread of ‘katchi abadis’ — more than half of Karachi’s population resides in these informal settlements. He has also discussed gentrification and the neglect of the historical city centre along with its precious cultural artifacts. But what I want to focus on here is Arif Hasan’s analysis of contemporary political violence and its relation to the political economy of land.

In short, Hasan argues that what appears to be ethnically-motivated political violence in Karachi masks the operation of powerful land mafias that are competing ruthlessly to secure possession of available real estate. The long-running ethnic polarisation in the city — the roots of which can be traced back to the formation of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement in the 1980s — has provided the backdrop for the operation of these land mafias. In effect, the mafias patronise ethnic identities — as well as political party identities associated with certain ethnic groups — as a means of grabbing and maintaining control of land. In return, certain ethnic communities lean on these mafias/political parties because they believe that their safety and well-being demands it.

It is not possible to discuss Hasan’s arguments in greater detail. I would like only to make some observations in light of the general hypothesis that he presents. First, this complex political economy of violence confirms what myself and others have been arguing for some time now: that there is a need to understand how a large number of state functionaries are increasingly freeing themselves from the imperatives of ‘formal’ authority, including the law. This is not to suggest that the concept of the ‘state’ is rendered useless, or even that there is absolutely no coherent entity called the ‘state’ which is the repository of power in society. On the contrary, the ‘state’ is still the behemoth that mediates almost all social relationships. However, the Karachi situation is evidence that this behemoth is clumsy, confused, and internally contradicted.

Of course, state functionaries, even during the colonial period, related to the law in rather ambivalent fashion. They were able to employ it selectively, and more often than not were imbued with the authority to adapt, or even change, it. Yet, the present situation is qualitatively different — with the deepening of capitalism and the increasing sway of the market, state functionaries recognise that commitment to their own private motives garners them much more benefit than commitment to some abstract notion of ‘state interest’ (read: following orders in accordance with the state’s formal mandate). Of course, individual functionaries incline towards this behaviour when they observe others above them in the ‘food chain’. In any case, the coherence of the state is something that needs to be thought about deeply and understood on a case-to-case basis.

Second, speculative economic activity is fast displacing productive economic activity as the motor of Pakistani capitalism. Land that would have been relatively worthless even a decade ago is now prime property and fetching those who control it exponential profits. By definition, this is a risky business and involves spectacular troughs and crests. But ‘financialisation’ of the economy is nevertheless the direction in which things are headed, thanks in large part to the dictates of the international financial institutions (IFIs) and the global regulatory regime of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Having said this, there is a great deal of productive economic activity that takes place in the informal sector, much of which is undocumented. This activity will intensify in years to come because ordinary working people need to both produce and consume real goods and services to survive. Yet, there can be no question that the dissonance between ‘real’ and ‘speculative’ economic activity is one of the more serious contradictions of the neo-liberal epoch. Unsurprisingly, it is Karachi’s poor and defenceless who bear much the greater burden of this contradiction than the rich and famous.

Finally, the political economy of violence in Karachi verifies that it is increasingly accurate to characterize large swathes of Pakistani territory as part of a great urban sprawl. Even those regions that appear manifestly rural are being invaded by facilities that will subsume them ever faster into an ‘urban’ way of life. If rapid urbanisation entails changed property relations on the one hand, than it also brings with it dramatic changes in thinking and self-perception on the other hand. The dominant trend is for atomisation and a further erosion of collectivist ideals (although this is not to romanticise in any way the serious social conflicts and hierarchies that run right through ‘rural’ Pakistan).

What Karachi also shows us is what happens when powerful classes and institutional interests manipulate social changes that are not intrinsically progressive or retrogressive. It is, ultimately, the responsibility of political forces to come up with a vision to bring together an increasingly differentiated and excluded populace in the face of the most rapid technological changes in human history. Unfortunately, none of the present protagonists is up to the task — many are simply content to put in their lot with the mafias that rule the roost in the hope of getting a share of the spoils. It is true that the state apparatus set in motion the series of events that have made Karachi so susceptible to political violence. And this state apparatus will continue to do what it can to prevent meaningful political changes from taking place. But this apparatus is now wobbling badly and can arguably be forced into retreat. Has it left behind too much social strife in Karachi to foment a popular political settlement?

caption

Not the whole picture

 

people
Persistent neglect
Parts of district Rajanpur still await attention and help from the state and civil society
By Faisal Nadeem Gorchani

Turning disasters into opportunities may have been a successful experience in the lives of some Pakistanis but for the people of hill-torrents affected areas on the western part of district Rajanpur, bordering Balochistan, it seems a distant reality.

The unprecedented 2010 floods were disastrous in all respects for the poor people but the subsequent problems, involving poor response of the government and civil society, have added more miseries to people’s sufferings and sense of exploitation.

District Rajanpur lies west of the Indus River. It has a narrow strip of land sandwiched between the river Indus on the east and Suleman Mountains on the west. District Rajanpur in general, and areas commonly known as Ilaqa Pachadh adjacent to Suleman mountain ranges in particular, have been victim of State’s persistent neglect. The area presents poor human development indicators, abysmal socio-economic conditions and appalling development with a majority of population suffering with illiteracy, malnourishment, unemployment and a growing sense of deprivation.

Hill torrents commonly known as ‘Rod-Kohi’ emanating from Balochistan as well as Suleman Ranges cause flash floods and massive destruction every other year. The speedy waters of mainly Kaha Sultan, Chachar, Baga Khosra and Kala Khosra pass through a number of areas and finally culminate in vast areas of Harrand, Hajipur, Fazilpur, Muhammad Pur Dewan, Dajal and Rajanpur and lead to destruction to humans, agriculture, and infrastructure. The affected people, unfortunately, receive either no or very little response by the state and civil society.

According to a pre-flood 2010 report, ‘Food Insecurity in Pakistan 2009’ jointly published by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), World Food Programme (WFP), and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Rajanpur is ranked at 59th food insecure district among 131 districts of Pakistan whereas 55.3 percent population of the district is food insecure.

The western part of the district, particularly union councils in Mat Kund, Harrand, Tibi Lundan and Wah Lishari, border Balochistan and more specifically district Dera Bugti which, according to the report, is the number one food insecure district in Pakistan. The human development and socio-economic conditions in these union councils are more or less similar to neighbouring Balochistan.

People affected by hill torrents have a growing sense of resentment. They say they have been either ignored altogether or have not been taken care of properly. In fact, the focus of district administration, provincial government, NGOs and INGOs, and media have been on areas affected by floods on the eastern side of the district. After the floods, people affected by hill torrents feel neglected to this day.

Last year’s unprecedented hill torrents broke all previous records of destruction. The hill torrent flood channels had been designed for the discharge of 4,000-10,000 cusecs while the flow of the Kaha hill torrent alone was recorded at 10,0000 cusecs coupled with persistence of rains and floods for weeks.

The violent flash floods damaged property, standing crops, local infrastructure, livestock, and drinking water systems, etc.

The dilapidated link roads made the life of affected people miserable. Public transport was suspended on most routes for weeks while people had to pay high prices for their daily food items during and after the floods. According to World Food Programme (WFP), 15-25 percent increase in price hike has been observed in the country after floods. However, there was uncontrolled inflation as flood-affected people had to pay Rs200 rupees for one kilogram of potato what to talk of other essentials.

Most of the farmers had to take loans from the agriculture bank, and other commercial banks, selling out their valuables for buying agricultural inputs. People sowed seeds while investing additional agriculture inputs for the cultivation of next crops but every investment was a waste due to persistence of floods and rains. Floodwater has also damaged tube-wells of many. According to an early assessment of Punjab Flood Relief and Rehabilitation department, the district suffered with Rs11.37 billion losses with Rs4.03 billion losses to infrastructure, Rs3.30 billion damage to the education sector. However, it is not clear if the areas affected by hill torrents are included in this assessment or not. Various assessment reports of relief and humanitarian organisations give an alarming account of destruction in these areas, quite contrary to government’s vague assessments.

Affected people have also complaints about influential people. They have a sense that plans and decisions are made without involving the affected communities. They have serious concerns and resentment over discriminatory distribution of Watan Cards. The district administration enjoyed an unchallenged discretionary powers to declare villages as calamity-hit or not-affected.

Villages which faced less than 40 percent household destruction were not declared eligible for Watan Cards at all which subsequently left out genuinely affected.

Interestingly, the government had declared all villages of these areas as calamity-hit but, subsequently, most of the villages were de-notified, thus depriving the genuinely-affected people of their due right. Even some of those populations were issued Watan Cards which were hardly affected by the floods.

Now, over six thousand heads of households have got together and are preparing to file their case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan under public interest litigation to get their issues addressed.

Like partial success of Watan Cards, the government took the one-off initiative of provision of seeds and fertilizers to affected people for wheat cultivation but this process also included a number of serious issues of coverage and distribution mechanisms.

Even today, there is an urgent need of a detailed assessment as well as a comprehensive response to rehabilitate and reconstruct peoples’ lives, property, and infrastructure.

The state of Pakistan has been investing so much in arms and guns to ensure the security of state, but the security of the state can only be ensured if it strikes a balance with investment into human beings and weapons.

ccapiton

The only option

 

 

When it comes down to food
The budget of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa does not hold much for the agriculture sector
By Tahir Ali

Agriculture sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has once again failed to elicit enough funds and attention from the provincial government in the budget.

Contrary to official claims that the new budget would be innovative in its outlook, an analysis of the annual strategy shows that it is yet another exercise characterised by meagre funding, phased allocation of funds that delays completion of projects for years and with overstretched plan of action that has no or negligible results.

Agriculture sector, which accounts to 25 percent of provincial gross domestic product and on which the livelihood of around 70 percent of its population depends directly or indirectly, requires an out of box solution, sufficient funds and their en-bloc release, and most of all commitment of provincial authorities whose indifference could be devastating for the sector after the 18th amendment.

The Chief Planning Officer of ministry of agriculture, Ahmad Said, informs agriculture Annual Development Programme (ADP) for 2011-12 has been prepared in the light of provincial agriculture policy 2005, horticulture policy 2009, and reconstruction priorities.

The total outlay of ADP has been increased by 15 percent from Rs69bn to Rs85bn. Allocation to agriculture and its related sectors has been increased from Rs1.175bn in the outgoing fiscal to Rs1.355bn for new fiscal but its share has decreased from 1.70 percent to 1.59 percent as percentage to the ADP. The ADP has 71 projects, including Rs0.849bn for 47 on-going and Rs0.505bn for 24 new schemes.

The whitepaper 2011-12, issued by the provincial finance department recently, says this year’s provincial ADP reflects higher priority to income generating sectors of economy, including agriculture. “Agriculture can easily attain the status of big industry in the province if proper care and patronage is given to it,” it argues.

For example, for five old and new schemes of agriculture mechanisation requiring Rs855mn, only Rs164mn are allocated. And for 37 old and new schemes in agriculture research that required Rs1040mn, only Rs243 have been earmarked for the coming year. Similarly, agriculture planning schemes have been provided only Rs21mn out of the total required Rs640mn.

For project distribution of cultivable land amongst landless farmers and agriculture graduates, which has a total outlay of Rs200mn, only Rs10mn have been allotted to the year, which means it will take years for the project to complete and benefit the farmers.

Again, only Rs1mn have been set aside for rehabilitation of germ-plasma units in Hazara division that involves Rs10mn in all. And for the establishment of the olive orchards in wasteland, another good intervention, only Rs10mn out of the total Rs60mn have been approved for the year.

Similarly, for a 2008 project of strengthening of planning and monitoring capacity of the agriculture department involving Rs15, only Rs3mn have been allotted while Rs5mn had been spent on the project. Can there be any better proof for half-hearted measures on the part of the government?

According to an official document, in the outgoing year, out of the total core ADP estimates of Rs69 billion, Rs45bn were released but actual expenditure stood at only Rs26bn. For the agriculture sector, over Rs1.22bn were released against the budget estimates of Rs1.175bn but only Rs0.67bn of these could be spent till 20th May, 2011.

Viewed in this backdrop, the amount to be spent on agriculture may be much less than allocated in the ADP. In the new ADP, there are 39 foreign-funded projects worth over Rs16bn but the agriculture sector has no projects in it like the outgoing fiscal. The government should have arranged research and development projects with the help of foreign donors to give a fillip to the under-performing sector.

Last year, the KP government had announced revival of cooperative bank and promised to provide Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women from the bank but actually onlyRs200mn were released. This year too, Rs400mn will be released. How can credit ratio be improved in this situation?

“The main problem confronting farmers is their poverty and costliness of agricultural inputs but there is no scheme to address the problem. The government should have announced an agriculture subsidy regime on its own or with the help of foreign donors,” says Haji Niamat Shah, a farmer. Despite these shortcomings, the annual agriculture roadmap of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is comprehensive and has something for each sub-sector.

According to Ahmad Said, lands that were washed away by floods would be rehabilitated and orchards would be established anew through free plants provision. “Another project for improving quality and increasing production of fruit plants through tissue culture technology has also been proposed. A public-private joint scheme for olive cultivation in areas where ordinary crops cannot be grown is being launched,” he adds. Subsidized inputs availability, weak coordination between farmers and government and wastage of on farm produce have gone unaddressed.

caption

Stuck to the old ways?

 

 

What’s happening in Balochistan?
The province will remain another world unless we treat it as our very own
By Salman Abid

How can the Balochistan issue be resolved? The answer to this question is difficult because democratic forces seem to have little decision-making powers in the province. The undemocratic forces wield major power in the region and, at the moment, no political solution seems near in the future. The political government took some positive steps but the results are not that good. The trust deficit between the state and the Baloch has widened.

The trust deficit is not only between the political forces and federal government, including military institutions, but also between local intelligentsia - human rights activist, academics, media personnel, and poet, etc - and the deprived communities.

The federal government announced a few packages for Balochistan, including the National Finance commission (NFC) award. But the issues and concerns of the Baloch people, critics believe, cannot be resolved by offering different packages given without consulting different stakeholders in the province.

For example, the missing people is an issue of the Baloch people that remains unresolved. The majority of Balochistan's political parties and workers, including human rights groups, blame the security agencies for the whole situation. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also issued a fact-finding mission report on the province titled, Balochistan - Blinkered slide into chaos". It has given a list of missing people and those that were killed in the province on the basis of different reasons.

For example, the report says 140 bodies of missing persons were found in Balochistan during July 2010 to May 2011. 143 people were missing till May 29, 2011, 18 people were targeted in 2011 and 5 people were killed in 2011.

The serious cause of concern is that not only political workers but human rights activists, poet, professors, students, lawyers', social workers, and journalists are also missing or have been found dead. The province's nationalist parties give even higher numbers of missing people.

The political government, state agencies, and security forces are accountable to highlight and present the true picture of Balochistan before the nation. Are the government and security agencies doing their utmost to find out missing people? If the security agencies have complaints against certain people they should be brought before the court.

Actually, we should admit that the people of Balochistan, especially the marginalised groups, have been facing serious social, political and economic disparities in the region due to lack of attention from the government. The basic infrastructure of institutions in the province is very poor, especially in education, health, and transportation sectors besides concerns about natural resources' control. Balochistan people also have serious reservations on the issue of governance.

The people of Balochistan believe decisions about the province are being taken in Islamabad and GHQ. The provincial political government is powerless and has no right to take any political decision for the local people. A majority of the elected people admit the failure of resolving issues due to inadequate administrative and political powers.

I agree that some groups in Balochistan use the tool of violence against security forces such as Balochistan Liberation Front, Balochistan Liberation Army, Lashkar-e-Balochistan, and Balochistan Republican Army, etc.

These groups attack state installations, security and military forces. They did not accept the state writ under the 1973 Constitution. These groups oppose Balochistan nationalist parties participating in the political process. We are also observing sectarian violence, especially with the settled Punjabis. Many Punjabis have shifted from the province in order to save their life from extremist nationalist groups.

The state and government should come out from the politics of denial and accept their own mistakes. If the government has proof of local insurgents getting external support they should present it in the parliament.

But violence by state actors is the major issue compared to violence by non-state actors. Because when the state violates people's fundamental rights the reaction comes.

The question is how the issue of Balochistan can be and should be resolved? Actually, some 'forces' do not allow the political elements to sit together and resolve the conflict. For example, in the last governments of PMLQ the parliamentary committee reached final settlement with the Baloch nationalists, including Nawab Akbar Bugti but General Pervez Musharraf took a different action instead of going for a political solution.

Our military establishment and their agencies should take into account the fact that the people criticise their role and blame the army for all the troubles. So, the military forces should go a step back and give space to the political forces for making political decisions.

Federal and provincial governments should revisit the security policy, especially in Balochistan, and develop a consensus based on devising a mechanism for eliminating violence. Mainstream political parties like the PPP, PMLN and PMLQ should realise the sensitivity of the issue.

The political parties should show more courage and the political will to mobilize people for a peaceful political process in the province. I think there is a good suggestion from the HRCP for establishing a high level commission for the inquiry about the disappeared people. It also says that mainstream media should take major responsibility and highlight the issue as a national problem.

The writer is a political analyst and can be reached at [email protected]

caption

The wait is not over yet.

 

welfare
Politics vs population
How interlinked is a large population to political instability in a country?
By Mohammad Javed Pasha

As of June 20, 2011, the human population of the world is estimated by the United States Census Bureau as 6, 89, 9014970. In 2009, the United Nations estimated the Earth’s human population to be 6,800,000,000.

The Population Reference Bureau, USA reports that it took from the dawn of time to the year 1830 for the world to achieve a total population level of one billion. By 1930, that figure had doubled to two billion which means it took 100 years for an anther billion. By 1976 it gained four billion, this time of one billion took only 46 years.

The addition of next billion took only 12 years. i.e., the world was carrying the load of five billion people in 1988. It took another 12 to reach six billion in 2009. The increase from 6 billion to 7 billion is likely to take 12 years, as did the increase from 5 billion to 6 billion. Both events are unprecedented in world history. The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion between 2040 and 2050.

Pakistan’s estimated population by the end of June 2011 has been over 177,126,625, making it the world’s sixth most-populous country, behind Brazil and ahead of Russia. During 1950-2008, Pakistan’s urban population expanded over sevenfold, while the total population increased by over fourfold. In the past, the country’s population had a relatively high growth rate that has, however, been moderated by declining fertility and birth rates, during the last 6-7 years.

Dramatic social changes have led to rapid urbanisation and the emergence of mega cities. During 1990-2003, Pakistan sustained its historical lead as the most urbanised nation in South Asia with city dwellers making up 36 percent of its population. Furthermore, 50 percent of Pakistanis now reside in towns and cities. Pakistan has a multicultural and multi-ethnic society and hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world as well as a young population.

The ever-increasing population of Pakistan has put a great pressure on resources with adverse consequences. Yet the invisible pressure on our political stability and constitutional governments is another stress. Around the world, in countries with divergent political histories, aspirations for political freedom and representative government are surfacing. For many countries the stability of new democratic institutions may depend not only on the wisdom of the leaders and on the support they receive from within the country and abroad, but on their ability to slow the continuing build-up of population pressures.

Rapid population growth, especially when overlaid with sharp ethnic divisions, places enormous strains on political institutions. It also complicates problems of governance by contributing to massive urbanisation, to an imbalanced age structure and to labour force expansion which outstrips job creation, especially for urban youth. Pakistan has a great pressure of both, a very high urban population growth rate which is 3.3 percent annually and the segment of young population which is around 40 percent of the total population under 20. Population-related problems, wherever they occur, become matters of transnational importance in an era of problems like crimes, drugs and terrorism.

Demographic trends in Pakistan are putting great strains on existing political, social and economic structures. Nowhere are these tensions more likely to find their origins than in the mass movement of people, mostly young people from rural areas to already crowded cities. The benefits of urbanisation are greatly outweighed by negative factors when growth rates are excessive and when the rapidly expanding slums also lack even the most basic housing, sanitation, drinking water, energy/power including electricity and natural gas and mainly the jobs.

In the large cities of the country there are extremes of wealth and poverty dangerously juxtaposed with high visible wealth and mass communications spurring high expectations among the predominantly youthful population. If the expectations are rarely realisable, they lead to resentment, frustration, crime and political unrest.

People can live in poverty in rural areas in a way they are not able to manage in cities. In rural areas, poverty is best defined as the possession of little: in urban areas, as the non-possession of much.

There are other forces at work in many cities, especially those where traditional family and social structures are crumbling and where parental discipline is breaking down. The youth is brought to the streets and violence become commonplace. A further aggravating factor is the way rapid urbanization often involves bringing people of different races, religions, tribes and cultures into unaccustomed proximity, usually competing for scarce housing, jobs and services.

These are various factors that have led to a denial of political rights in the country and sustaining peaceful constitutional changes of government. Population pressures are not the direct cause of these problems in governance but that are related to their existence in a very fundamental and albeit complex way.

The demographic pressure causes obstacles in achieving political stability. The population is further divided by language, caste, class, education levels, economic status, and urban-rural splitting up. An increase in the population leads to increase in these factors, which is an invisible and indirect threat to the political system and democratic institutions.

Another challenge is providing food and services to urban populations at affordable costs, especially in big cities. This often entails subsidies which drain the treasury and which, in turn, causes donor countries to insist on reducing or even removing subsidies as price for getting further assistance.

Another threat to the country’s economic, social and political concerns is the presence of refugees. According to UNHCR Annual Reports-2010, Pakistan is host to largest population of refugees in the world. The report further explains that developing countries host 80 percent of the world’s refugees and it is poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden. Pakistan is host to the largest refugee population of 1.9 million with the majority of children and young people. This segment of population has both direct and indirect affect on the country’s economic and political situations.

There is an evident correlation between political instability and the presence of largely youthful populations in overcrowded cities. A similar correlation exists between political instability and diversity and intensity of ethnic and religious factors. Finally, there is correlation between the potential for political upheaval and the presence of oppressive governments violating human rights. This is especially true in an age when education and communication make people more aware of political freedoms in the country.

In short, more people mean more food, more jobs and job security, more energy and social services and other necessities of life. The failure of the state results in a situation of restlessness, frustration and violation.

July 11 is observed as World Population Day

caption

... and counting!

 

Helping the taxpayer
The Federal Tax Ombudsman Office helps out thousands of
taxpayers every year, providing them free-of-cost relief from the
maladm inistration and corruption of tax officials
By Adnan Adil

Amidst widespread corruption and maladministration of government departments, there are few institutions striving to provide some sort of relief to the public. The Office of the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO), a relatively less-known organisation established by the federal government in 2000, is one such organisation, which redresses the grievances of taxpayers against the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). A recent third-party survey has termed the FTO Office to be the cleanest and most-efficient organisation of the government.

The FTO Office is a quasi-judicial forum, established in September 2000 with an objective of providing inexpensive and arbitrary redress against unfair and arbitrary treatment of taxpayers by the FBR. The law empowers the tax ombudsman to entertain complaints against all the FBR officials collecting income tax, customs duties, sales tax and federal excise duty. The FTO is empowered to identify and review systemic and emerging maladministration-related issues within the FBR and its field offices. Any citizen can also file complaint with the tax ombudsman (FTO) against the FBR for not providing the required information as per the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002.

Early this year, the independent research firm, Islamic Countries Society of Statistical Sciences (ISOSS) conducted a “Citizen Report Card (CRC) Study” of the FTO Office. According to the study, over 90 percent of the respondents rated the FTO organisation as most helpful. In the past, Motorway Police has been rated as the most helpful public-sector organisation in Pakistan with 81.75 percent and 84.91 percent ratings in National Corruption Perception Survey 2009 and National Corruption Perception Survey 2010 carried out by the Transparency International respectively.

Another positive aspect of the FTO Office is that its services are free of cost so the lower middle class and middle class people who cannot afford to engage lawyers can turn to it by simply writing an application addressed to the FTO. After examining the merit of the complaint, the FTO Office writes to the FBR for its version. In a large number of cases, the FBR redresses the complaint on merely receiving it from the FTO Office so the genuine complainants are saved from the hassle involved in the investigations and hearings.

The study indicates that the FTO resolves most of the cases in about two months, though, a few cases remain pending. Being a quasi-judicial forum, time becomes an important factor in the functioning of tax ombudsman. According to the respondents, the FTO resolved most taxpayers’ complaints within 67 days in 2010, an improvement from 74 days in 2009; only 5.0 percent complaints are pending and proceedings in 11.3 percent complaints are underway and may lie with active consideration of the FTO officials.

The data reveals both the FBR and taxpayers have displayed a high confidence in the FTO mechanism as they accepted 80 percent of the FTO decisions, while in the remaining case they went into appeal. Only 1.25 percent of the taxpayers challenged the FTO decisions before the President of Pakistan who is the appellate form against the FTO verdicts. It means almost 99 percent taxpayers who moved the FTO’s jurisdiction were satisfied with the tax ombudsman’s decisions.

Displaying more sensitivity to taxpayers’ problems, the FTO Office in 2010 went one step further and started suo motu investigations involving systemic or significant service-delivery issues — a measure taken for the first time since the establishment of the FTO Office in 2000. These suo motu actions resolved 195,331 cases and helped taxpayers receive refunds amounting to Rs 5.1 billion from the FBR. In total, during 2010, the FTO recommendations in all types of complaints resulted in the refund of more than Rs7 billion to the aggrieved taxpayers.

While investigating the complaints, the FTO Office diagnosed systemic issues which taxpayers are repeatedly facing at the hands of tax functionaries. For instance, the FTO Office told the FBR that a common complaint of taxpayers was that the FBR never responded to their correspondence. The FTO recommended the FBR to develop some institutional system for acknowledging the receipt of letters or message from taxpayers — a step that will build confidence between the FBR and the taxpayers. The FBR implemented this suggestion and directed its offices to issue immediate acknowledgements of communication made by taxpayers. Similarly, to end inordinate delays in the refund of taxpayers’ money, implementing FTO’s recommendation, the FBR introduced Expeditious Refund System (ERS) under which sales tax is being processed through electric verification system.

The study, which was commissioned by the Transparency International (TI), indicates that the Federal Tax Ombudsman is the most clean public-sector organisation in Pakistan, better than Motorway Police, in spite of the fact that the respondents also included officers of FBR, against whom FTO has decided 89 percent of the complaints. It’s an achievement for a public sector body to have such a positive response from its stakeholders. Unfortunately, the FTO Office has not received much public attention as the government institutions have their own way of doing things and marketing is not their strong point. The office needs to publicise its existence and services at a wide scale so that more and more hapless taxpayers could benefit from this institution.

 

 

Time for a re-think
We need to contemplate once again where did we go wrong?
By Syed Asif Nawaz Shah

In retrospect, Pakistan, a country initially founded in order to cater to the needs of Muslims in the subcontinent, has been wayward ever since the founder's passing, with a few bright spots in between. Faith, unity, discipline, despite this motto being carved into our minds, it is one that our rulers seem to have left behind. In fact, the status quo couldn't be more different from what our founding father may have imagined.

The radical brand of religion propagated by the Taliban was followed by a significant portion of the population and even a certain well-rounded political party. Or perhaps we'd prefer the liberal/conservative/fundamentalist/secular one which the upper echelons of Pakistani society follow? There is confusion because a constant upheaval of what our nation stands for has been in effect since 1947.

A nation is so disconnected in so many ways that one meets a Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi or Pashtun more often than one comes across a Pakistani. Discipline here is a laughable thought for our civilians and non-civilians alike.

Yes, Pakistan has clearly lost the plot. But where did this problem start? How did it escalate to this point? And, most importantly, how do we fix it? Up until the latter half of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government, the religious orientation of Pakistan was fairly ambiguous, despite the name at the top of the constitution. When the religious lobby began to be given importance in the political sphere, Pakistan's future was virtually set in stone.

Bhutto's desperate attempts to mollify the mullahs and maintain power through his policies, so contradictory to his secular political ideology, fuelled the radicals. At that moment, Bhutto put them on the map. Unfortunately, he himself was taken off. In all fairness to Bhutto, he couldn't have seen the dust storm that was to come. Enter Ziaul Haq, the COAS who took power.

Up until this point, Pakistan's religious leanings hadn't been confused, and religion really hadn't been a political affair. That ended, however, in Zia's time. On the one hand, he courted the Americans, while on the other he posed such questions as 'Do you want Islamisation to continue?' as the basis of a referendum. Such activities put a stamp on Pakistan's future, one of division along ideological lines between the moderate and the extremists. Incidentally, Zia's regime also saw the creation of the Taliban, the introduction of the Hudood Ordinances, and the blasphemy laws.

In the years since Ziaul Haq's regime, Pakistan, has aligned itself with, as a society, conservative religious values. The mullahs have been allowed to expand their base of power and thus, exercise greater influence over the people. These so-called scholars have indoctrinated the public with the idea that religious laws are absolute, failing to clarify, however, what religion actually is and instilling within them the notion that they have the right to take the law into their own hands.

Rather than attempting to unite the country, our politicians seem eager to destroy it, employing such tactics as the 'Sindh Card', in an effort to one up each other. What the public needs to understand is that when politicians use such tactics for their own end, it doesn't affect the people of Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan or KPK; it affects the people of Pakistan.

It is neglect of the public which has allowed religious parties the chance to strengthen their position. Despite not being able to win an election to save their lives, these parties mysteriously manage to have control of various ministries and an apparent influence on government policy. Historically, these parties have appealed to the dispossessed, the uneducated and the impoverished. Today, we see that this is where their support and their ability to influence government policies and decision-making come from. Because they control the minds of these individuals, they can instill within them their own dogmatic and intolerant values. And when nearly 50 percent of the population of a country is illiterate, ignorance and intolerance find it easy to flourish.

One of the prime examples of this ignorance is the case of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which have been a source of great controversy and debate in Pakistani society. The case against the laws being in place gained steam with the killing of Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, who was one of the principal opponents to the laws. Governor Taseer, a member of the PPP, a party espousing relatively liberal and secular beliefs, spoke against the laws following the trial of an impoverished Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy by Muslim colleagues and sentenced to death by the district courts. The ruling was considered unjust by the Governor, who was extremely vocal in his views, condemning the law as a 'black' one and as discriminatory towards minority groups. The late Governor's statements were met with a furor by the ulema and were condemned as blasphemous in turn. Pakistan, intended by Jinnah to protect everyone within its borders, has obviously not lived up to that noble purpose.

The law and order situation in Pakistan has served to protect terrorists. Mullah Omar, the Haqqani network, and of course Osama Bin Laden, who was hidden in a house in the military garrison of Abottabad, right under our army's nose. He was captured by the Americans in an air strike which 'impinged on our sovereignty' as many enlightened individuals have put it. This statement is particularly alarming. Alright, even if we accept that the Americans did encroach upon our sovereignty, what have Al-Qaeda and other militant groups done since 9/11/01? Is it not a matter of sovereignty when our people are killed, more and more, by the day, in terrorist bombings? When our youth is brainwashed to think the purest deed imaginable is to blow themselves up?

What does this country need? It requires someone who can flush out hypocrisy, the web of confusion, and ultimately provide a strong leadership to a nation which, if left to its own devices, may well destroy itself. What can we do now?

Recently, someone said something to me which really resonated, perhaps because it's so simple. We need to educate our children. By educating, I don't just mean sending them to school. I mean teaching them right from wrong, instilling in them pride for their country, making them appreciate the advantages they have been born with. We can fix our country, but we must do it holistically, starting with our self and our family.

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The real face.

 

overview
Not in good shape either
To look at what our fiscal year would look like the Economic Survey
2010-2011 can be one important
indicator
By Irfan Mufti

The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11 shows a dismal picture of country’s economy. In the backdrop of rising terrorism, critical security situation, political instability, and internal and external threats the economic picture does not offer relief either. Last years’ large-scale devastations by flash floods 2010 also caused significant dent in the economy that still has not recovered from flood shocks.

Some vital indicators show disappointing trends. The real GDP is estimated to grow at 2.4 percent on the back of strong performance of services sector as against actual growth of 3.8 percent last year and target of 4.5 percent. The growth in the agriculture is estimated at 1.2 percent on the back of 3.7 percent growth in the livestock sector. Output in the manufacturing sector has witnessed expansion of 3 percent in 2010-11 as compared to expansion of 5.5 percent last year on the back of strong performance from small and medium manufacturing sector.

The services sector grew by 4.1 percent against the target of 4.7 percent and actual outcome of 2.9 percent. Country’s per capita real income has risen by 0.7 percent in 2010-11 as against 2.9 percent last year. Per capita income in dollar term rose from $ 1073 last year to $ 1254 in 2010-11, thereby showing increase of 16.9 percent. Real private consumption rose by 7.0 percent as against 4.0 percent attained last year.

Revenue collections of FBR stood at Rs1,156 billion during July-April 2010-11, thereby reflecting 12.6 percent growth over Rs1,026.5 billion collected during the corresponding period last year. Total expenditure of Rs3,257 billion was estimated for the full year, comprising of Rs2,641 billion of current expenditure (81.1 percent of total), and Rs617 billion of development expenditure (18.9 percent of total).

Government borrowing from the banking system for budgetary support and commodity operations stood at Rs342.2 billion. Out of this amount, Rs196.3 billion were borrowed from the State Bank of Pakistan while Rs275.9 billion were borrowed from other scheduled banks. Net inflow of foreign investment in Pakistan was US$ 301.5 million which as compared to US$431.9 million in the last corresponding period. The inflation rate measured by the changes in Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 14.1 percent during July-April (2010-11), as against 11.5 percent in the comparable period of last year.

Overall exports recorded a positive growth of 27.8 percent during the first ten months (July-April) of the current fiscal year. Exports increased from $15,773.2 million to $20,154.2 million in the period. It was mainly due to some trade concessions offered by EU countries and other trading blocs after the devastations of floods 2010 to support the country that was already struggling against terrorism.

Imports during the first ten months increased by 14.7, reaching to $32.3 billion. Workers’ remittances totaled $ 9.1 billion as against $ 7.3 billion in the comparable period of last year, depicting an increase of 23.8 percent. Current account balance improved significantly during the last two years or so. Current account recorded a broad-based surplus of $ 748 million in July-April 2010-11 as against deficit of $3456 million in the comparable period of last year.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) (private) stood at $1232 million during the first ten months (July-April) of the current fiscal year as against $1725 million in the same period last year, thereby showing a decline of 29 percent. Foreign Exchange Reserves amounted to $ 17.16 billion by the end of April, 2011, of which, reserves held by State Bank of Pakistan stood at $ 13.7 billion and by banks stood at $ 3.4 billion.

During the first nine months of the current fiscal year 2010-11, Pakistan’s total external debt increased from $55.9 billion at end-June 2010 to $ 59.5 billion by end-March 2011, an increase of US $ 3.6 billion or 6.4 percent in just one fiscal year. The total domestic debt at the April 2011 was Rs 5617 billion.

The overall literacy rate which was 57.4 percent in 2008-09 has increased to 57.7 percent in 2009-10, indicating 0.5 percent increase over the same period last year. There are 972 hospitals, 4842 dispensaries, 5344 basic health units and 909 maternity and child health centres in Pakistan. With availability of 144,901 doctors, 10,508 dentists, 73,244 nurses and 104,137 hospital beds in the country by 2010-11, the population and health facilities ratio works out at 1222 persons per doctors, 16,854 persons per dentist and 1701 persons per hospital bed which is lower than the average facilities available to citizens in other developing countries.

According to the latest estimates, population of Pakistan stands at 177.10 in 2011 and is now the sixth most populous country of the world. Population growth rate stands at 2.05 percent and total fertility rate is 3.5 per woman. With these figures Pakistan is now ranked high in 13 countries that have highest growth rate in the world. Life expectancy in Pakistan is 64.18 for male and 67.9 for female. Pakistan has the total labour force of 54.92 million and is the 9th largest country in the world with respect to the size of its labour force in 2010.

About 3.05 million labour force is estimated as unemployed in 2009-10, with an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent. The floods of 2010 have caused a significant loss to poverty reduction efforts. 10 percent rise in domestic food prices in Pakistan for one year could push an additional 3.47 million people below the $1.25-a-day poverty line or worsen poverty situation by 2.2 percentage points. Food inflation in Pakistan has averaged 18 percent for the last four years which implies significant deterioration of purchasing power of the poor.

The economy has suffered losses amounting to $67.93 billion (or approx Rs6000 billion) due its operations against terrorists since 2001. The war on terror has so far left over 35,000 citizens and 3,500 security personnel. Battle against the militants impacted the country’s exports, prevented the inflow of foreign investment, affected the pace of privatisation programme and slowed down the overall economic activity. It also reduced import demand and tax collection, led to expenditure over-run on additional security spending and damaged domestic tourism industry.

Pakistan has never witnessed such devastating social and economic upheaval even after dismemberment of the country. Thousands of jobs were lost due to destruction of domestic and foreign tourism and the sharp increase in expenditure to support internally displaced persons.

The trend shows that the economy has plunged into a deep crisis and there are no signs of immediate recovery as no plans for growth or investments or major economic reforms have been announced. The situation also proves that Pakistan cannot afford to live in a state of continuous external or internal confrontation because it is receiving aid to do so. Therefore, the most critical question that merits deeper discussion is whether the political economy model of a security state that Pakistan has practised — and one that can rightly be termed as a failure — can survive in the 21st century?

The answer is a definite no as all economic indicators after ten years of war against terror show that the economy has suffered badly. The development issues such as land reforms, the need to broaden tax net and develop export-oriented industries have been put on the back-burner. A combination of aid, subsidised loans, protectionist trade policies and a lax tax regime benefited the civil and military bureaucracy, inefficient industries and tax evading business magnets. This bought the military their support at the expense of the vital economic reforms that should have been undertaken to prepare Pakistan for the 21st century. 

While countries like China, Korea, Taiwan and the rest of East Asia adopted policies for exports-led growth, the trade regime in Pakistan still seems to be biased in favour of import substituting production. Domestic markets are insulated from foreign competition through non-tariff barriers and high tariffs.

Until and unless establishment and the political parties are prepared to undertake critical economic reforms to mobilise domestic resources to produce economic growth and reduce dependence on sporadic flows of ‘aid money’, it would be naive to expect any real change.

The writer is Deputy Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global Campaigner

[email protected]

caption

Lot of work has to be done.

 

Demise of the nation state?
The state in the post modern era will probably exist but it will not be sovereign in the traditional sense of the word
By Hussain H. Zaidi

In its course of development, the state has assumed various forms: tribal state, city-state, empire and feudal state until the modern nation-state. The evolution of the state, however, has not completed. After remaining the supreme institution in the West for three and a half centuries and for a lesser period in other parts of the world, the nation state seems withering away.

The birth of the nation state is generally traced to the Treaty of Westphalia concluded in 1648, which brought to an end the Thirty Year’s War in Europe. The treaty sounded death-knell for the claims of the Holy Roman Empire to command allegiance of various European countries. However, the foundations of the nation state were laid in the fifteenth century much before the Treaty of Westphalia. That century saw the revival of learning or the Renaissance, which questioned the medieval beliefs and institutions. The medieval society was characterised by three powerful institutions: the church, the Holy Roman Empire, and feudalism. Both the church and the Holy Roman Empire represented, at least in theory, universalism, whereas feudalism embodied decentralisation and local interests.

There was an inherent conflict between universalism espoused by the Holy Roman Empire and decentralisation represented by feudalism. That is why feudal states, which came into being in the wake of the break-up of Roman Empire, sided with the church in its power tussle against the Holy Roman Empire. The feudal-clergy alliance prevented the growth of a central authority in the Middle Ages in Europe.

Hence, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, political power was largely dispersed among feudal states. Since political and economic powers go hand in hand, trade was locally monopolised and controlled.

In their bid to establish strong national governments, the kings had to fight feudalism, the church and the Holy Roman Empire. And they could not have won the fight without the support of rising merchant or middle class. That class, though itself did not stake claim to power, wanted a political set-up conducive to its interest. The feudal states with their restrictions on the movement of goods, lack of uniformity of rules and internecine did not suit them. What the merchants wanted was a freer movement of goods, larger markets, uniform laws and a strong centralised government, which could give them full protection. Therefore, they supported kings in their conflict with the competing forces.

The result was that by the beginning of the sixteenth century, absolute monarchy was well-established in most of Europe. The early nation states were monarchical. However, with the growth of trade and the resultant increase in its influence, the middle class started pressing for political reforms with a view to having political power commensurate with its economic muscles. This brought the middle class into direct conflict with absolute monarchy — the very institution which they had earlier supported. It was primarily due to the efforts of the middle class that political reforms culminating in the rise of representative governments in Europe were adopted. Thus emerged the democratic nation-state. Hence, the economic factor was among the most important factors in the rise of the nation state.

Whether democratic or monarchical, the fundamental attribute of the nation state is its sovereignty — the supreme power in society free from external and internal control. Essentially, sovereignty consists in the absolute power to make laws and enforce them within national territorial limits. However, in reality, the sovereignty of states, has been subject to the various elements of their power: size, economy, population, natural resources, military muscles, leadership, etc. The more powerful a state, the more sovereign it is. However, never the threats to sovereignty have been as severe as they are at present. Unlike in the past, the most potent threat to sovereignty stems not from other states or an alliance thereof but from globalisation and all that it stands for. Globalisation is making people and institutions in different parts of the world interdependent through economic and cultural integration.

The engine of globalisation is the multinational corporation (MNC). For an MNC, local or domestic customers constitute only a small market, which cannot satisfy its urge and potential for profits. Like the mythical character Ulysses, MNCs want to go on exploring new worlds. Just as the feudal state was anathema to the merchant class in the later Middle Ages, the sovereign nation state is anathema to the MNCs in the contemporary post modern society. A sovereign nation state would allow MNCs to enter into the economy only on its own terms. With a view to safeguarding national interest, it would prescribe the areas in which foreign investment may be made as well as stipulate other investment measures like local content requirement, local employment requirement and technology transfer requirement. It would also restrict the amount of profits that can be repatriated back by an MNC.

The MNCs, however, want to enter into new markets only on their own terms. They do not want host governments to protect domestic companies. They do not want host governments to restrict the field of their activity or impose any other conditions that may reduce their profits. Complete freedom in the choice of the investment sector as well as mode of operations is what the MNCs look for. If national laws do not guarantee that freedom, the same have to be amended. Thus, last few decades have seen immense growth of bilateral investment treaties. The BITs are between two sovereign states but their purpose is to safeguard the interest of the investors from both sides by making the protection of cross-boarder investment an international obligation.

Like the merchant class in the later Middle Ages, the MNCs do not themselves want to govern but want the governments and laws suitable to their interests. Being an agent of capitalism, MNCs want a laissez-e-faire government or the one closest to it. The government should exist only to facilitate businesses. The government may regulate business activity but only to enforce contracts and prevent unfair business practices, such as violation of intellectual property rights. Since MNCs operate in a number of countries, they also want uniformity of laws across national boundaries.

Developments over the last couple of decades bear out that the powers of businesses in general and MNCs in particular is increasing at the expense of the government or the state: all over the world the economic role of the state is shrinking; trade and investment regimes are being liberalized, and corporate regulatory regimes are becoming business friendly. In the past, businesses existed to generate revenue for governments. Now governments exist to facilitate businesses.

The recent global financial crisis in the West has underlined the need for prudential regulation of the economy, particularly the banking sector. The global recession, which accompanied the financial crisis, forced several countries to adopt measures to protect the domestic industry against foreign competition. However, this signifies merely a change of policy to cope with a difficult situation and not a movement away from philosophy of economic liberalism.

Globalisation is thus re-defining the role of the government and making the concept of sovereign nation state obsolete. The state in the post modern era will probably exist but it will not be sovereign in the traditional sense of the word. In the post modern state, the government will be mainly an agent of businesses. And when we talk of businesses, it is the mega businesses or MNCs that matter, because with cost controls at premium, smaller businesses will have to leave the field for the bigger ones.

Economic factor was an important factor in the rise of the nation state. It will be the most important factor in the demise of the nation state. This is an irony. But then history is replete with such ironies.

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