debate
Causes worth defending
If anyone bothered to pay attention, it would become clear that the recent history of Muslim states is a shameful record of complicity with empire. Yet rather than acknowledging this and attempting to understand the reasons for it, Salman Rushdie's knighthood still steals the show
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
All around the world, political upheavals -- many of them violent -- stare us in the face. Occupied Palestine is imploding as the two major parties that represent the cause of Palestinian self-determination slug it out in a bloody civil war. In Venezuela mercurial president Hugo Chavez has taken his 'Bolivarian Revolution' to the anti-government private media, his shutting down of the private RCTV inciting major outcry in the western world. And here at home, imperialist bombs are raining on Waziristan and there is a major conflict raging between the government and the deposed Chief Justice. Yet Salman Rushdie's knighthood is front-page news.

Newswatch
Nuclear non-proliferation and US hypocrisy
By Kaleem Omar
When it comes to double standards, the United States stands in a class of its own. It talks about global warming but withdraws from the Kyoto protocol on reducing carbon gas emissions. It lectures the world on human rights and yet continues to hold hundreds of detainees without trial at Guantanamo Bay and sanctions the use of torture as an interrogation technique. It talks about the rule of law and yet refuses to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice at The Hague and the newly created International War Crimes Tribunal.

budget
Yearmarked
NWFP Budget seems geared towards gaining political mileage in an election year rather than rational economic decision-making
By Raza Khan
If anywhere in Pakistan budget-making was purely for political and electioneering purposes rather than rational economic decision-making, it is the NWFP. The provincial government of MMA came out with a deficit budget of Rs114.5 billion for the financial year 2007-08.

Incredulous cover-up
The government's to have spent 98 per cent of its total allocations in the year 2006-07 smacks of unfair practices being carried out at the helm of the economic ministry
By Naveed Ahmad
By the close of every financial year, development economists ponder ways to curb the trend of unspent development funds by various sectors for a host of reasons. The year 2006-2007, however, may not be one such example of poor development sector spending as, by the end of this June, the government claims to have spent 98 per cent of the total allocations. There are no independent sources to verify the claim, though. It sounds rather incredulous that the government was able to take the Public Sector Development Spending (PSDP) level from 58 per cent in three quarters to 98 per cent in the last four months.

Remembering Hamu
Time is a great healer but there will always be a Hamu-like 'hole in the universe'
By Kashif Noon

I had always wanted to write but today, ironically, when I am writing, it is because the tears have dried up and grief seeks some other way of expression, so writing I am; about a friend of all of us; whose lives he touched in his sweet and unforgettable 'Hamuesque' ways. All of Hammad Raza's friends and 23rd Common stands grieved and aggrieved.

education
Demanding dignity
Teachers demand their right to better salary and working conditions, promotion and promised raise from the government, in the absence of which they have been reduced to 'serfs' serving the government
By Saadia Salahuddin
School teachers all over the country are protesting for the restoration of dignity. They are the least paid and one of the most badly treated section of society. The teachers, called the 'builders of a nation' and 'the guards of the ideological boundaries of a country' give election duty and polio drops in Pakistan, are supposed to attend government rallies to increase the number of people there and all these are among their duties. The dream of an educated Pakistan or 'Parha Likha Punjab' cannot be realised without giving teachers the respect which is their due.


The Poverty- Environment Nexus
Wrong policies, social, economical and ecological dynamics have led to degradation of Pakistan's coastal fisheries
By Shaheen Rafi Khan
Moving further back in the supply chain to fish harvesting highlights even more complex issues. The policy and social, economic and ecological dynamics are difficult and have led to a sustained degradation of Pakistan's coastal fisheries, extending well beyond its territorial waters. Degradation, here, refers to stock reduction due to both over fishing and to habitat destruction. In particular, the consequences for the livelihood of coastal fishing communities have been particularly severe. In what follows, I explain why poor coastal fishermen have resorted to unsustainable fishing practices. But, more important, entrenched mafias, backed by the wrong policies do far more damage to the marine ecology than poor fishermen with livelihoods at stake.

Fishing in troubled waters
The indigenous inhabitants of Gwadar town find themselves stranded with little or no share in the pie
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Till only a couple of years back, the name of Gwadar was not quite known to the people of Pakistan or those dwelling on foreign lands. But, today, it has become the focus of public attention, and more and more people are vying to tread into this 'land of opportunities'.

Estate of confusion
Real estate prices in Gwadar have been highly volatile over the years, reacting sharply to every positive or negative development
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
For the first-time visitor to Gwadar, it's a place totally different from what one perceived. A far cry from what one sees in 3D TV advertisements run by real estate developers, Gwadar is an old and traditional fishing town with little or no obvious signs of modern architecture or Dubai style development.

issue
Timely dose
Crash social sector programmes are underway in Gwadar to keep the pace of human development and material progress going
For decades, the coastal town of Gwadar had been a victim of sheer neglect at the hands of the government, and hardly any development work was seen there. However, with the construction of a deep sea port, multi-faceted development in the area can be spotted in the ruling elite's list of priorities.


debate

Causes worth defending

If anyone bothered to pay attention, it would become clear that the recent history of Muslim states is a shameful record of complicity with empire. Yet rather than acknowledging this and attempting to understand the reasons for it, Salman Rushdie's knighthood still steals the show

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

All around the world, political upheavals -- many of them violent -- stare us in the face. Occupied Palestine is imploding as the two major parties that represent the cause of Palestinian self-determination slug it out in a bloody civil war. In Venezuela mercurial president Hugo Chavez has taken his 'Bolivarian Revolution' to the anti-government private media, his shutting down of the private RCTV inciting major outcry in the western world. And here at home, imperialist bombs are raining on Waziristan and there is a major conflict raging between the government and the deposed Chief Justice. Yet Salman Rushdie's knighthood is front-page news.

This is not the first or the last time that a non-issue will become bigger than all other very serious issues that swirl around us. Not so long ago, the entire Muslim world (at least this time only Iran and Pakistan have adopted the vanguardist position) erupted over the cartoon affair, albeit a few months late. At home in Pakistan we've seen conflicts over religion columns in passports and a host of other trivial matters become larger than life itself.

And so it is again that the 'defence of Islam' takes precedence over anything and everything else. It matters little that there is tumult in many parts of the Muslim world that has nothing to do with religion and has everything to do with the structures of economic and political power that define today's world. It would appear that we have nothing to learn from popular movements such as that in Venezuela that have clearly emerged as the primary challenge to the world being moulded in the image sketched by neocon ideologues in a delusional document entitled 'The New American Century'.

It is no wonder that Muslims and non-Muslims alike lament the decline of the Muslim world, not because it is not Islamic enough, but because it has trivialised Islam to the point of reducing everything to a matter of theology. Even then the right to offer the correct interpretation of the divine message is disputed. If anyone bothered to pay attention, it would become clear that the recent history of Muslim states is a shameful history of complicity with empire. Yet rather than acknowledging this and attempting to understand the reasons for it as a first step towards righting the ship, Salman Rushdie's knighthood still steals the show.

The current movement in Pakistan is testament to the fact that Muslim societies are at their most vibrant when they do not invoke Islam as the explanation or justification for everything. In Pakistan's case this is a definite truism. For 60 years, the Pakistani state has instrumentalised Islam to no end, largely as a means of legitimising itself in the face of consistent and often fundamental crises of legitimacy. The Pakistani state will always have Islam to fall back on because Pakistani nationhood itself is a construct that is based on religious identity. This does not mean necessarily that Pakistan was, is or should be a theocratic state, but only that religion is likely to always be a central tenet of state ideology.

Thus the space for religio-political movements and parties to flourish, especially since the state has patronised such groups at various junctures in order to protect its own -- or its imperial patron's -- narrow interests. It has been the religio-political movements that have spearheaded the impassioned 'defence of Islam', if for no other reason that their political existence depends on it. However, it is crucial to bear in mind that the religio-political movements have historically not represented a challenge to unrepresentative Muslim states, and that their periodic resort to epic denouncements of 'anti-Islamic' forces has as much to do with their commitment to a fossilised political and intellectual discourse that is resistant to the forces of change as anything else.

This time of course the government itself has spearheaded the tirade against the British for awarding Rushdie what is, in this day and age, nothing more than an outdated symbol of an empire on which the sun set a long time ago. The religious parties have been struggling to keep up with the growing radicalism of the lawyer-led movement in any case, and are likely not keen to be accused of diverting attention from the real show in town, even though they are complicit with the government in doing exactly that. Meanwhile noone has uttered a word about the disaster unfolding in Gaza, the bombing of Miramshah or the unbridled hypocrisy of the United States in decrying the 'anti-democratic' behaviour of a popularly elected government in Venezuela while refusing to brook criticism of a weak, desperate and increasingly repressive military dictator here in Pakistan.

In lodging an official protest to the British government, the Foreign Office apparently claimed that the 'people of Pakistan and Muslims around the world deeply resented the decision' of the British government to confer knighthood on Rushdie. If it is true that the Foreign Office is aware of the sentiments of the people of Pakistan and Muslims around the world, one wonders whether it might not lodge a similar protest over Israel's, America's and Fatah's collective conspiracy against the elected government of Hamas. Or perhaps even more importantly, should it not be lodging a protest with the GHQ in Rawalpindi about the military's ongoing monopoly over state affairs in Pakistan itself?

Ultimately it is up to the people of the Muslim world to rid themselves of the autocrats and dictators that lord over them all the while presenting themselves as principled defenders of Islam. What defending Islam means is uncertain, but there can be no doubt that this slogan has been employed by the powers-that-be to prevent Muslim societies from acknowledging and challenging the deep injustices that have penetrated deep into their recesses. For far too long Muslims have either acquiesced to the pitiable state of affairs in various Muslim countries or have actively supported their states in the name of 'defending Islam'. This charade is now being taken to the level of the absurd through the logic of a civilisational war between the west and Islam. By indulging non-issues such as Salman Rushdie's knighthood we are only serving the interests of empire and those who would purport to replace them under the guise of Islam.

 

Newswatch

Nuclear non-proliferation and US hypocrisy

By Kaleem Omar

When it comes to double standards, the United States stands in a class of its own. It talks about global warming but withdraws from the Kyoto protocol on reducing carbon gas emissions. It lectures the world on human rights and yet continues to hold hundreds of detainees without trial at Guantanamo Bay and sanctions the use of torture as an interrogation technique. It talks about the rule of law and yet refuses to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice at The Hague and the newly created International War Crimes Tribunal.

The US makes a big hue and cry about Saddam Hussein's regime having used chemical weapons against its own people but refuses to sign the international convention banning the use of chemical weapons. It advocates nuclear non-proliferation but refuses to dismantle its own huge nuclear arsenal. It assures pursuing a global war against terrorism but turns a blind eye to repeated acts of state terrorism carried out by its close ally Israel against the Palestinian people. The list of such US double standards goes on and on.

A case in point is the current US-orchestrated brouhaha in the West over Iran's nuclear programme. The Bush administration says that using the military option against Iran regarding its nuclear issue is "not off the table," ignoring the fact that using military means against Iran would be just as illegal, as the US's unprovoked invasion of Iraq.

In all the tough talk emanating from Washington these days against Iran's uranium-enrichment programme, what Bush administration officials continue to gloss over is the fact that the United States itself possesses by far the world's biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Even after the cutbacks mandated under the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START I and START II) with the former Soviet Union, the United States still has close to 11,000 nuclear warheads -- enough to wipe out humanity several times over.

To make matters worse, the United States is now developing what it calls "mini-nukes". The US Senate has approved the Bush administration's request to lift a 10-year ban on research, development and production of nuclear weapons of less than 5 kilotons.

America is spending roughly $ 6 billion on nuclear weapons this year alone, and the Los Alamos National Laboratories (which developed the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs) is developing "earth penetrator" mini-nukes. Yet the US hypocritically condemns Iran for pursuing a uranium-enrichment programme, which Tehran insists is strictly for peaceful purposes and is aimed at producing fuel for the nuclear power reactor it is building with Russian help.

The Bush administration's "do as we say, not as we do" non-proliferation policy is yet another example of US double standards, which are matched only by Israeli double standards.

The US's Zionist ally has been developing nuclear weapons since the early 1960s, and now possesses an estimated 400 nuclear warheads. Small wonder, then, that the US and Israel are as thick as thieves when it comes to their stance on the nuclear non-proliferation issue.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has a nuclear arsenal. In January 2003, when Syria called for a nuclear-free Middle East, its proposal was met by deafening silence from Washington.

The US is pushing for more sanctions against Iran if it refuses to abandon its uranium-enrichment programme. Yet US continues to give billions of dollars a year in economic and military aid to the nuclear-weapons state of Israel. The Zionist state has long been the world's biggest recipient of US aid, which is currently running at about $ 4 billion a year. US aid to Israel since 1985 now totals over $ 100 billion.

What has alarmed the world about the latest details of US military planning for a strike on Iran is the fact that there are now two possible triggers for an attack.

One is, as expected, the nuclear programme. But the new one is any major attack on US occupation forces in Iraq that the US thinks could be "traced back to Iran."

With the head of UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed El Baradei, saying it could take Iran another six to twelve months to get 3,000 additional centrifuges running to boost its production of enriched uranium and four to six years to produce a bomb if it wanted one (which Iran says it doesn't), there is still time for negotiations on the nuclear front.

But it is tensions over Iraq that have escalated sharply in recent months with the US arresting Iranians in Iraq that Washington claims are members of Iran's elite Quds Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards.

Many analysts argue that the US has started building a case for war against Iran over its alleged interference in Iran.

Even if there is any such interference, which Iran denies, the US is hardly in a position to object to the alleged presence of a few Iranian soldiers in Iraq given the fact that the US itself has over 150,000 troops in Iraq.

"For many in Iran it seems unfair that the full blame for the violence in Iraq is suddenly being put on them and not on Sunni Arab countries that also back groups inside Iraq," said a recent a BBC report.

The Iranians argue that the disintegration of Iraq is not in Iran's interests and they would like a stable neighbour with a predominantly Shia government in power. Shias are in the majority in Iraq, so it is to be expected that any Iraqi government elected through free and fair elections would reflect this demographic reality.

"The US making public their targets for a possible military strike on Iran is likely to be seen by Tehran as a part of ongoing Western pressure," the BCC report added.

Some people in Iran are reportedly worried that America is preparing for war, but hardliners like Iranian President Ahmedinejad seem to dismiss the risk believing that Iran is too powerful a nation to be attacked by the West.



budget

Yearmarked

NWFP Budget seems geared towards gaining political mileage in an election year rather than rational economic decision-making

By Raza Khan

If anywhere in Pakistan budget-making was purely for political and electioneering purposes rather than rational economic decision-making, it is the NWFP. The provincial government of MMA came out with a deficit budget of Rs114.5 billion for the financial year 2007-08.

The shortfall of Rs. 5.5 billion does not seem too huge but keeping in view the Rs14.8 billion administrative budget which is 15 per cent of total budget and Rs39.5 billion developmental spending, the budgetary gap is too big in relative terms. Though according to analysts the budgetary deficit is substantial in real terms.

Once again, the provincial budget is divided into three components -- administration, 'welfare' and development.

The provincial government has not levied any tax in the budget, which has been referred to as the biggest fiscal 'achievement' by the financial managers of the MMA. The NWFP is almost entirely dependent upon the federal government for its revenues as it raises merely eight per cent of total revenues itself. It does not mean that the NWFP does not contribute to Federal Divisible Pool (FDP). Rather it contributes substantially. For instance, the Central Excise Duty (CED) of more than Rs38 billion annually on tobacco is a case in point. While the billions of rupees of surcharges which the federal government collects over electricity owe themselves to the huge hydropower potential of the province it is given just Rs6 billion as royalty.

Nevertheless, the government of NWFP cannot take pride in presenting a tax-free budget as its own receipts just amount to Rs6.2 billion. Keeping in view the lacklustre revenue generation capacity of the provincial government it should have imposed some taxes. The fact of the matter is that without raising additional revenue on its own the NWFP government will remain in financial straitjacket. Thus, it cannot allocate meaningful sums to the development and better governance until complete financial devolution from centre to the provinces and the economic autarky of provinces become a reality. The only reason for MMA not levying any taxes is that it does not want to annoy some quarters in the election year. A more plausible explanation is that the financial managers of MMA do not know the importance of diversifying the resource base and its overall salubrious impact on economy and society.

There appears a jugglery of figures in the budgetary projections. For instance, it allocates a huge amount of Rs50 billion for poverty alleviation, Rs25 billion shown as set aside for first lift irrigation schemes, Rs4 billion for construction of three new hydel schemes while having no funds in the budget for the purpose. In fact, these amounts have to be taken from the Rs110 billion which MMA dreams to receive from WAPDA according to the decision of the Hydel Profit share. This is quite tricky since the amount is to be received in installments over the next five years when MMA may not be there.

According to Dr. Abdul Mateen, member Economic Reforms Committee constituted by MMA: "The Frontier budget is commendable since the government has sustained the growth initiated in the past five years. It has been successful in retiring the debts borrowed from the federal government."

However, there is a need in the current budget for allocations for the quality of service delivery especially in heath, education, and administration, Mateen said.

Haji Muhammad Adeel, former NWFP finance minister and speaker and Awami National Party leader, giving a counter argument said "The MMA economic policies are based on lies. The ministers have themselves admitted in the post budget press conference that the province has a debt of Rs18 billion. While on the other hand they claim of retiring debts to the federal government. How come it is possible with a deficit budget? They claim they would take easy loans from World Bank for the purpose. But they've been castigating IMF and WB for being agents of jews."

"The MMA claims it expects to bridge the budgetary deficit with a special fund of federal government. So if the special fund is not released it means the deficit would be 14 billion," he feared.

The blow to this year's budgetary projections would come in the form of denial of the first installment of Rs24.7 billion as share of the province in net hydel profits as decided by the arbitration tribunal. After remaining in a state of self-deception for three years by projecting Rs 8billion instead of Rs6 billion in the head of hydel profit share from WAPDA, the NWFP government has now reversed it once again to Rs. 6 billion. Haji Adeel said: "The MMA may be crying foul but it is responsible for the situation by accepting a tribunal to decide the case. A party accepts the arbitration by a tribunal when there is any controversy or confusion. Because under the AGN Kazi formula the share of province is decided and still if there is a dispute then the constitutional way is to knock at the door of the constitutional body, Council of Common Interest (CCI)."

The heads mentioned under 'welfare' have nothing or little to do with welfare directly. Haji Adeel said: "Jamaat-e-Islami is the only political party whose members give Zakat to the party. So if the MMA government is an Islamic government and JI has the portfolio of finance in the province why don't the Jamaat members give their Zakat to the provincial government to distribute among the poor as the incidence of poverty in NWFP is 77 per cent."

The NWFP budget for the financial year 2007-08 envisages Annual Development Plan (ADP) of Rs39.5 billion. But the per capita average for the 18.6 million population (estimated by NWFP Bureau of Statistics for year 2000) of the actual developmental allocation (foreign funding excluded) comes to just 1666 rupees. This amount is worthless basically due to massive poverty and unemployment.

The ADP figures include Rs8 billion of foreign funded projects. However, the MMA government does not have any commitments from any donors in this regard to finance the projects. "There is no need of projecting an amount which a government is not cocksure of receiving because it ails the overall policy making. The stakeholders would like to see that in the ADP a resulted-oriented and an outcome-driven course of action is followed," Dr. Mateen opined.

The MMA government of NWFP has certainly set a record of 955 developmental schemes which is unprecedented in the province. This includes 720 ongoing and 235 new schemes. But what sort of developmental schemes these would be as on average each would receive around Rs3 million (the amount does not include the Rs. 8 b foreign funding for ADP). It means that technically out of the 955 schemes not even a single is a mega project.

Another perplexing figure is Rs1.2 billion allocated for districts development programme -- perhaps too little for the 24 districts of the province. In the words of Haji Adeel: "The MMA has now started separately publishing the ADP and the White Paper in which districtwise breakdown is not mentioned in order to conceal which district gets what. This is an attempt to hide the inequitable rather lopsided allocation to Chief Minister's district."

Dr. Mateen said: "The ADP is as usual a package of projects. There is no evidence that the projects identified, ranked, selected, approved and sanctioned follow the criteria of viability, needs, urgency in connection with the development of productive capacity."

The MMA government has allocated only Rs509 million for the agriculture sector, which is the mainstay of the province's economy. More ironic is the allocation of Rs538 million for the industry and mineral sector. As far as science and information technology is concerned, the allocation is a mere Rs100 million.

MMA financial managers have not earmarked any meaningful funds for irrigation schemes. A total of Rs1.5 billion have been given to irrigation sector but again no mega or big scheme is included.

Rs160 million have been reserved for urban development at a time that the civic amenities in the so-called rural urban centres of NWFP have totally collapsed. In a city like Peshawar there is not a single road which does not need reconstruction while the sanitation and drainage system is totally choked.

Email: razapkhan@yahoo.com

 


Incredulous cover-up

The government's to have spent 98 per cent of its total allocations in the year 2006-07 smacks of unfair practices being carried out at the helm of the economic ministry

 

By Naveed Ahmad

By the close of every financial year, development economists ponder ways to curb the trend of unspent development funds by various sectors for a host of reasons. The year 2006-2007, however, may not be one such example of poor development sector spending as, by the end of this June, the government claims to have spent 98 per cent of the total allocations. There are no independent sources to verify the claim, though. It sounds rather incredulous that the government was able to take the Public Sector Development Spending (PSDP) level from 58 per cent in three quarters to 98 per cent in the last four months.

According to an analyst belonging to a state-funded think-tank, the unusual massive spending spree over the last three months must have cost the state exchequer dearly, in every sense of the word. Requesting anonymity, the Islamabad-based economist admits that there is no data available on how much of the state money went wasted in the accounts of the PSDP. However, he quotes an estimate by late Dr Mehbub ul Haq indicating 20 per cent waste on an average.

But, these were the times when the volume of the PSDP was far smaller than what it is today; not to mention the staggering 98 per cent utility of the development funds.

By the end of the third quarter of 2006-2007 fiscal year, over 100 PSDP were either delayed or simply sidelined because the of lousy release of funds amounting to Rs 62 billion for the fourth quarter of PSDP 2006-07 by the Finance Ministry.

The projects that have been adversely impacted include the acquisition of land for the construction of new water reservoirs, 12 Higher Education Commission projects, at least six NHA projects, including M-1 and M-2; 20 social uplift and food security schemes of the federal government, clean drinking water and other social sector projects in FATA and AJK, in addition to the construction of new schools, repairing of roads and the provision of basic health units for the general public. Even the FATA administration and the AJK government had to seek General Musharraf's intervention to get their promised allocation. On the contrary, last year, the government decided as a matter of policy that the Finance Ministry would release funds to the federating units on quarterly basis to ensure their timely availability.

Clearly the unspent funds released in mid-June 2006-07 are being made a part of the increase the government announced in the PSDP allocation for 2007-2008.

A cursory look at the 2007-08 budget shows that the Rs 520 billion allocation for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) manifests an overall increase of 24 per cent over the last year's allocation and a 30 per cent jump in the provincial development programmes' amount. However, the interesting part is that 86 per cent of the PSDP allocation will be consumed by ongoing development projects, leaving only 14 per cent for new high-priority projects. This means that the government has either been allocating very little amount or the allocated funds lapsed due to non-execution of the projects.

The 2007-08 PSDP has an operational shortfall of Rs 35 billion. This will reduce PSDP/GDP ratio from 4.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent which is still higher than last year's PSDP/GDP ratio of 4.1 percent. The PSDP/GDP ratio would be gradually increased and at the end of the terminal year of MTDF 2009-10 it would reach 6.3 percent of the GDP.

The real PSDP amount reduces to Rs 427 billion when foreign loans totaling Rs 58.6 billion and Rs 35 billion earmarked for earthquake reconstruction is deducted.

The PSDP/GDP ratio is 4.8 per cent compared to current year's 4.3 per cent. The federal share in the PSDP is Rs 335 billion while the provincial governments are expected to receive Rs 15 billion. Public sector corporations will invest Rs 204 billion outside the budget increasing the volume of the overall PSDP to Rs 724 billion.

In its mid-year review, the Planning Commission had clearly identified some of the procedural snags that routinely impacted the execution of the PSDP projects.

The Planning Commission report had claimed that in most cases the 'savings' had been re-allocated to the same sector in fast-track projects either for their expeditious completion during the current fiscal year or in order to meet the contractual obligations within the approved cash plan. However, such juggling of the PSDP priorities may create problems for the least developed regions of the country, as our report indicates. Such midway re-scheduling seems at times to be influenced by personal likes and dislikes.

At the same time, a vast discrepancy exists between the government's ambitious uplift goals and its restricted delivery capacity. According to experts, the government's expenditure used to be traditionally categorised into revenue expenditure and capital expenditure.

Some economic experts believe that the government's failure to meet the PSDP targets in time largely arises from the mismatch between its extremely limited delivery capacity and its ambitious development goals which, at times, seem to be mainly geared towards garnering some useful Brownie points.

The PSDP 2006-07 projects, for which funds amounting to Rs 62 billion were withheld by the Finance Ministry till mid-June, mainly related to infrastructure, which remains the weakest sector of our economy. Moreover, the allocations were meant for some of the least developed regions of the country, which makes it all the more important for the government to ensure their timely release.

The last six years have seen the official claims of massive increases in development allocations at the time of the presentation of the annual budgets -- only to be revised downwards at the time of the release of the annual Economic Surveys and, again, at the time of the presentation of the next year's budget.

The process of allocation and subsequent downward revision is also reflected in the State Bank of Pakistan's annual reports each year. So, by the time the actual expenditures are toted up for a couple of years, only a small proportion of the overall allocation for the development for the year in question is found to have been spent, upsetting all growth targets, especially the ones for poverty alleviation, employment generation and the like.

The widening gap between promises of economic progress that the official economic managers keep selling to the people and the ground realities that confront the teeming millions creates bitterness and frustration among the people. The government seems to have developed a blind faith in a system of market economy, the private sector and the theory of trickle-down. In such a system, stock exchanges boom and real estate prices sky-rocket, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, without adding anything to the overall progress and the affluence of the nation and its assets.

The government's claim about reduction in poverty to the extent of 10 points, i.e. from 34 per cent of the population to 24 per cent, also seems far-fetched. In fact, this would mean almost 33 per cent of the people living under the poverty line are to cross the poverty line upwards, thereby implying that every year 2-3 per cent of the population has moved above the poverty line. In aggregate terms, this would mean that out of the 52 million people living under the poverty line, some 13 million have improved their status and got out of the grip of poverty.

Critics of the over-swollen PSDP allocations and the poor capacity of the ministries and related institutions to optimally exhaust the same fear pilferage of development funds to non-developmental projects, due to a poor or weak monitoring of the auditors. Even the redirection of funds from one development project to another is also illegal. The monitoring exercise remains limited to keeping track of funds utility against the approved project. Neither the quality of work nor optimal utilisation is taken into consideration.

Every now and then, experts call for performance audit of project carried out under the PSDP, yet it remains an issue of paying lip-service. The auditors remain concerned only with the vouchers, tenders and compliance with the bureaucratic rules and regulations instead of investigating into the fictitious letterheads and fake bidders.

 

Gone are the days when the official cadres produced economic managers such as V A Jaffery, A G N Kazi and Ghulam Ishaq Khan who were no economists at the outset but trained and evolved for the particular roles. Recently, a senior government officer nearing retirement was sent to Harvard University on a capacity building programme. Such a stint seems more like a pleasure trip than anything academic and productive. The government would have to return to some of its old but useful traditions of bringing back the lost sense of public service amongst its cadres.

At the same time, the all-powerful finance ministry cannot go unchecked for denying the release of the legitimately claimed allocations by the provinces as well as the ministries. The scandalous cover-up in the current PSDP of last year's failure to spend development funds speaks volumes of the unfair practices being carried out at the helm of the economic ministry right under the nose of the prime minister (and of course the president).

The author can be reached at navid.rana@gmail.com

 

Remembering Hamu

Time is a great healer but there will always be a Hamu-like 'hole in the universe'
By Kashif Noon

I had always wanted to write but today, ironically, when I am writing, it is because the tears have dried up and grief seeks some other way of expression, so writing I am; about a friend of all of us; whose lives he touched in his sweet and unforgettable 'Hamuesque' ways. All of Hammad Raza's friends and 23rd Common stands grieved and aggrieved.

We have been Friends for the last 17 years. I still vividly remember Hamu, when that winter evening in 1990 he came to Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad; a slightly chubby, dark young man with mischievous eyes. It was the beginning of a long relationship tragically cut short on that fateful morning of May 14, 2007.

There is so much we shared and I remember today. I recollect our days at the Q.A.U. Hostel no. 1. We used to run out of money, for cigarettes, and that was often. Hamu always used to have one or two hidden for such an eventuality. The late night discussions on academic matters and those of faith, the agnosticism, the heated debates, the pressures of sessionals and term papers all that was QAU life; we shared. The forlorn sadness of unrequited loves and excitement of requited ones; we shared them, too.

The Civil Services Academy at Walton brought us together again. We were in different groups and played against each other on the field. I was never a good football player. Our teams were playing a match. I was in the team of Group-1 due to the sole reason of absence of any Beckham from our side; our team was at best a motley crew. In my most earnest efforts I always aimed my kick at the ball but somehow it most often hit the shins of opposite teams' players. Hamu was a forward for his team and he bore the brunt of my well targeted albeit well meant kicks; of course at the football. A moment came when in utter exasperation he stood still, picked up the football glared at me, saying "Noon sahib (that's what he used to call me) that's enough I quit and I am taking the ball with me". I also recall times when we used to stroll to the Walton Railway Station with some very good friends on almost every, hot, sultry, Lahori summer evening for doodh pati; the tete-a-tetes till the wee hours of the morning, what more can I say that we "skinned our hearts and skinned our knees" together.

He was an avid reader and a connoisseur of good music. We shared the taste in books, music and poetry. Most often the books I borrowed from him I did not return, to his great chagrin but he never refused to give me books, the gentleman that he was. In the end after lot of cajoling he relented and later regretted. I have his books, cassettes, CDs, lying here with me and it's good that I have kept them.

Today I also recall, all those innumerable evenings of good cheer at Shahnawaz's place, at Mirjal, Attock, Karachi and elsewhere, I recall all those times with immense sadness now. The ceaseless banter, the discussions of, and about life, the future and what it beheld for service; especially for DMG. He was a fighter and was not ready to hang his head down. He was one of those DMG batch mates who still stand their ground with pride and keep on serving in the government despite all odds (Now that the stakes have been raised, I don't know what they will decide).

He was an exceptional officer; the province where he had served most of his professional life will bear witness to this. When I was posted to Quetta, I was a bit apprehensive. I only carried the introduction of being his friend. I was taken care of in a manner that I can't really express. People who had come across him during his sojourn there almost worshipped him, and believe me this is not an exaggeration. The only safarish that he ever asked of me was about the son of his old driver there in Quetta.

That was the kind of man today I am writing about but I realise now that it is very difficult to write about a life-time together, a wonderful person and the tragedy of it all. Words forsake me. I am old enough to realise that life goes on and time is a great healer but I also realise that there will always be a Hamu-like 'hole in the universe' (Arundhati Roy, Hamu recommended her book to me). A great friend, a splendid officer, an exceptional human being and a beautiful life has now been so sadly reduced to memories and photographs.

They were building home for the first time in their lives. It was the first time that they were buying furniture and curtains etc. They now wanted to settle down here in Islamabad and raise their children; a chunk of his savings had gone in to shopping for his home, what a target for the dacoits and what wealth they took away.

Hum Khasta Tanoun

Say Mohtasibo

Kia Maal Manal

Ka Poochtay Ho

Jo Umar Say Hum

Nain Bhar Paya

Lo Samnay Lai

Daitay Hain

Daman Main Hai

Musht-e-Khaq-e-Jigar

Sagar Main Hai

Khoon-e-Hasrat-e-Mai

Lo Hum Nain Daman

Jhar Dia

Lo Jaam Ultai

Daitay Hain

(Faiz sahib)

 


education

Demanding dignity

Teachers demand their right to better salary and working conditions, promotion and promised raise from the government, in the absence of which they have been reduced to 'serfs' serving the government

By Saadia Salahuddin

School teachers all over the country are protesting for the restoration of dignity. They are the least paid and one of the most badly treated section of society. The teachers, called the 'builders of a nation' and 'the guards of the ideological boundaries of a country' give election duty and polio drops in Pakistan, are supposed to attend government rallies to increase the number of people there and all these are among their duties. The dream of an educated Pakistan or 'Parha Likha Punjab' cannot be realised without giving teachers the respect which is their due.

The school teachers have long resented this, but their protest became more visible around April this year, in response to an announcement made by the prime minister in the last budget about granting them teaching allowance that was never fulfilled. Whereas the teachers working under the federal government and FATA had received the allowance, those in Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan, were still without it.

The prime minister seems to have made the announcement without consulting the bureaucracy. What, perhaps, he didn't realise is that he was inviting trouble for the government whose obviously bad policies in the education sector were now becoming more evident than ever. It sure would do the government no good in terms of getting it political mileage.

The teaching allowance that was announced by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was Rs 1000 for graduates, Rs 750 for intermediates, and Rs 500 for matriculates. The teachers came out on the streets for not getting their due, even a year after the announcement had passed.

There are departments in which the government has shown keen interest and taken steps that must be appreciated. For instance, in the police department, the constables have got a raise of Rs 1000, head constables Rs 2000, and station house masters Rs 15,000, this year. In an unprecedented move, the Punjab Government hired 6000 graduate sub inspectors in Punjab recently at Rs 16,000 salary to streamline traffic in the major cities of the province. The policemen who perform their duties all day braving the rigours of the weather certainly deserved at least this much.

Sadly, the government has not been able to earn the trust of the teachers community. In Pakistan, as many as 50,000 seats of teachers are currently lying vacant. In comparison to the police, for instance, the school teachers -- with masters degrees on their resume -- are working on contract basis and end up getting Rs 4,500 a month only. This pay is equal to that of what a peon working on contract in a private organisation in Lahore draws. A peon is a grade 4 employee in the government sector. The grade 4 employees -- that include gatemen (chowkidars) and sweepers -- are not to be found in government schools. Does this mean that the teachers are expected to do the cleaning themselves?

Will it be a surprise at all if the school teachers leave for greener pastures? And, come to think of it, many of them already have. Last year, as many as 700 teachers were recruited in Lahore by the district government. 300 of them quit within a year.

"Science teachers are the first to leave," says Syed Zahid Abbas Zaidi, Press Secretary Punjab Teachers Union. Many of them went on to join Police. For instance, Abid Mehmood, Ph.D in Plasma Physics, left teaching for Police. He is a sub-inspector now.

Shahid Azeem, a junior maths teacher, chucked up on teaching for a job in postal office. Shahid Mehmood, a science teacher, got a job in Metereology department. Yet another teacher, Saqlain, a B.Sc, B.Ed, and M.A, is now an ASI in Police. He has come to the police department through Public Service Commission.

There are 28 stages a teacher has to go through in order to move from grade 16 up to 17, while an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) becomes an SP (superintendent police) in 28 years; a constable becomes a DSP and a clerk is promoted to the post of assistant director after a certain period of time. But, for a teacher, there is no level of promotion. There is no clear formula from PTC teachers to SST. They are all working on one scale.

The Pakistan Teachers United Front Punjab chapter led by Hafiz Abdul Nasir demands a time scale for all teachers which means that they should be promoted to the next grade after a certain period of time. Simply put, there is no incentive to become a teacher.

Hiring teachers on contract and giving them minimum salary is an insult to the educated class. The Pakistan Teachers' United Front (Muttahida Mahaz-e-Asataza) demands regularisation of services of teachers all over the country. Teachers were last hired on a regular basis a decade back.

Here is a glimpse of what the teachers get, under different heads. Conveyance allowance is for teachers working in cities only. Those living outside the precincts of the city are not paid a penny. Then the Housing allowance is also different for the two.

Teachers in rural areas should get a village allowance as the doctors do, demand the different teacher unions. Invigilators get peanuts which is shameful and must be increased.

Hafiz Abdul Nasir says, "We are surviving on adhoc-basis and have our back towards our goal."

He suggests constituting a forum that consists of teachers, students, journalists, lawyers and intellectuals who should together form a comprehensive educational policy. Ensuring its implementation is of utmost importance as the policies in the past were hardly ever followed. "It is not possible without good teachers but as long as the government doesn't take care of their economic stability, the realisation of the dream of an educated Pakistan is not possible."

The monitoring system introduced by the government has reduced the teachers to the status of the 'serfs' serving the government. It is necessary to abolish the present monitoring system by retired soldiers and DMOs and restore the old supervisory system. The monitor shall work under the DPI Schools, the teachers' body demands.

The teachers' body also wants the government to define the role of the NGOs in government schools.

"The NGOs get grants in lakhs and pay their teachers Rs 3500 only. Their interference in government schools is alarming and must be checked," says Malik Allah Daad Malik of Pakistan Teachers United Front.

Malik believes the bureaucracy is prejudiced towards teachers. "They want to obliterate the existence of government schools, in the name of betterment."

The interference of politicians and government functionaries like ministers, MNAs, MPAs, nazims, councilors and political workers has to be stopped if the schools are to function properly, the Teachers United Front demands. "The charge of the bureaucrats against increasing absentee-ism of teachers also has its roots in politicians' interference in government schools. These are the ones inducted by politicians. We ask for strict action against such teachers," says the Chairman Pakistan Teachers United Front.

The teachers' body points out the loopholes in the giving over of government schools to the private bodies. As many as nine educational institutions of Lahore are being returned to Anjuman-e-Himayat-i-Islam after denationalisation. Fees in the schools run by Himayat-e-Islam ranges from Rs 400 to Rs 1200 per month. Fifteen thousand students are getting free education in the nine schools marked for return to the Trust. The Anjuman does not have the resources to give free books and education. Handing over of government institutions to private institutions will be a setback to the education sector.

The committee the government constituted to hear the teachers' case in Punjab has not come up with any result. The teachers have written a letter to the government, requesting appointment of another chairman to the committee who is ready to listen to them.

Actions speak louder than words. No matter if the government gives statements regarding education being its priority, its the policies speak just to the contrary. So long as the teachers do not get paid in accordance with the rate of inflation (which has gone up by 4 per cent in a year's time), they will not find the peace of mind and, therefore, will not be able to perform their duties properly. They will also start contemplating switching to other fields. What, then, will become of the government's vision of an educated Pakistan or, for that matter, a 'Parha Likha Punjab'?

The Poverty-

Environment Nexus

Wrong policies, social, economical and ecological dynamics have led to degradation of Pakistan's coastal fisheries

By Shaheen Rafi Khan

Moving further back in the supply chain to fish harvesting highlights even more complex issues. The policy and social, economic and ecological dynamics are difficult and have led to a sustained degradation of Pakistan's coastal fisheries, extending well beyond its territorial waters. Degradation, here, refers to stock reduction due to both over fishing and to habitat destruction. In particular, the consequences for the livelihood of coastal fishing communities have been particularly severe. In what follows, I explain why poor coastal fishermen have resorted to unsustainable fishing practices. But, more important, entrenched mafias, backed by the wrong policies do far more damage to the marine ecology than poor fishermen with livelihoods at stake.

Some quantification is in order, even though the data is dated and its quality suspect. Fish catch trends for the most important species caught in Pakistan waters (both coastal and offshore), show a perceptible decline.

Indebtedness and the poverty trap: Several factors have contributed to declining catches. It is appropriate to start with the growing indebtedness of local fishermen through loans, which has plunged them into a poverty trap. Loans fall into two categories:

Capital expenditures, which include loans taken to purchase boats, launches, nets and engines.

Running expenses, which include boat, net and engine repairs, ice fuel and food.

In the absence of institutional credit, the fisherman's only recourse is the informal credit system. The repayment conditions are similar for the two types of loans. In either case, the fisherman pays loan charges until he pays off his entire debt. However, there is no deduction for the principal which is required to be paid separately. The system has five variants, all of them exploitative but in differing degrees. Exploitation is explained in terms of the difference between market based returns for fish catch and realized returns. These five variants are locally known as the commission system; the Gaatu system; the Pati system, loan sharking and; the contract system.

The fish marketing system is complex, involving auctioneers (mole holders), middlemen (beoparis) and fishermen. The process reflects the impact of the systems described above: it varies by species of fish; the type of net used and; whether the fish are exported, consumed locally, or both.

Karachi is the main fish market in Pakistan, both for fresh and saltwater species, as well as the country's only legal export outlet. The harbor currently has about 45 auctioneers (mole holders) working full time. An authorized mole is allowed to charge a 6.25% commission on every auction of which he pays half to the FCS or to the harbor authorities. He is allotted a space in the auction hall where he auctions the fish unloaded at the jetty by boats and launches. The beoparis (middlemen) bid for lots, which go to the highest bidder and are then either sold to the processing plants, or in the local market to both wholesalers and retailers. The mole also doubles as a commission agent, collecting money from beoparis and paying it to the fishermen for the commission he charges. Basically, he injects stability in the process by ensuring fishermen get paid.

The beoparis extend loans to local fishermen but ensure repayment through a lower price for the fish they purchase. As a fixture in the fishing economy, the beopari can absorb extended debt but this comes at a price to the fisherman in the shape of higher loan charges. This growing cycle of indebtedness and distress pricing is becoming increasingly evident in Sindh, especially among the small fishermen, who are struggling to cope in a regime of declining fish catches and mounting debt. The loan shark is the lender of last resort. He charges extortionate interest rates and his repayments are time bound. While not a market player, fishermen locked into this nexus of dependence get the lowest effective returns on the catch.

Empirically, we observed an inverse empirical link between poverty and indebtedness. Indebtedness is acute among low-income groups in both Balochistan and Sindh. The limited occupational choices for fishermen and the exploitative terms they get for their catch have locked them into a cycle of debt dependence and made their livelihoods extremely precarious.

Vulnerability-Resource rights and the poverty-environment nexus: Second factor which impoverishes poor fishermen is the transgression of their resource (open access) rights, referred to as resource capture. There are three manifestations of resource capture. First, sea lords claim ownership over the coastal creeks. These sea lords, formerly owners of the inundated agricultural lands, have taken possession of these creeks by virtue of their prior status as landlords. They link permission to fish the creeks to the sale of their catch to designated beoparis. It is not difficult to see the connection between the resultant distress pricing and the use of harmful nets. Second, as fish stocks in the Sindh waters have dwindled, launch owners have begun to intrude into Balochistan's territorial waters. This practice, as we noted, is facilitated by the Fisheries Department and the Maritime Security Agency. Not only do these launches catch fish illegally, their drag nets cut the smaller stationary nets of the boat fishermen. On occasion, communities have resorted to violent action to assert their resource rights. For instance, the Pasni fishermen reported violations to the authorities. Absent a response, they took matters into their own hands and impounded the fishing nets of the Sindhi launches. Third, resource capture is embedded in existing fishing policies. The institution and revocation of zoning laws have allowed trawler intrusions into coastal fishing waters. As another example, dredging in the Gwadar port has destroyed rich shrimp breeding grounds. Also, the Maritime Security Agency now requires prior security clearances to allow fishermen access to waters around the port.

While the analysis above suggests that poor fishing communities degrade resources, it also suggests strongly that this is an induced response, rather than a deliberate or want on act. It is induced by commercial pressures which, in turn, are supported by policies. Federal and provincial fishing policies, through both intent and default, support commercial interests at the expense of environmental and livelihood concerns. Zoning laws and price manipulation by the processing plants, middlemen and the sea lords lead to reduced catches and low returns on these catches. Consequently, poor fishermen resort to environmentally harmful fishing practices to sustain themselves. However, these cause relatively less harm than the practices employed on a much larger scale by deep sea trawlers and launches.

Unsustainable fishing practices: Indebtedness and resource capture has forced poor fishermen to use destructive fishing nets in an effort to increase fish catches. These nets are made of nylon, have a fine mesh and catch small fry. The translucent nylon allows fishing both in day and night time. The smaller nets are prone to rip off in undersea coral, washing up later on the beach. However, the bulk of species depletion and habitat destruction is caused by large launches and deep sea trawlers. Stationary fishing methods have made way for trawling which scrapes the ocean floor and damages fish habitat. The mechanization of boats and launches has both facilitated the use of these nets as well as permitting mobility. The increasing use of winches has accelerated the pace of fishing and encouraged the use of bigger nets. Some examples of the nets being used are:

 

Bhulo gujja (tidal trap net). A fine mesh cone net made of nylon, with the mesh getting finer towards the cone. The net is tied by wire cords to two iron rods, which are embedded in the creek mouth. Meant for shrimp, small fry get trapped in the fine mesh and decompose. The net was introduced by migrant Bangladeshi fishermen but the uptake by local fishermen has been rapid. A variant is the chappal gujja, which is tied along the seashore near mangroves. It catches juvenile and small shrimp.

* Plastic nets. This term is used for fine mesh nylon nets used in Balochistan. They come in all sizes and are used in small and medium sized boats. They were originally introduced about three years ago by the migrant Bangladeshi community, working under contract to the processing plants to catch Indian mackerel, ribbon fish and sole for export largely to the Far East. In time, they have been assimilated more widely.

* Launch gujja. This is a larger version of the bhulo gujja and is used on medium size and large boats (20-35 feet) and launches. It is a drag or trawling net made of thicker nylon but the mesh is still fine and traps fry. The net scrapes the ocean floor and damages fish habitat. This net was first introduced here in 1951 and is rapidly replacing the gill net. The use of these nets and winches has earned these traditional launches the pseudonym of 'mini deep-sea launches.'

Qatra (fine mesh net, also referred to as a wire net). This net is used in medium and large sized boats and launches to catch trash fish, mostly sardines, which are converted to chicken feed.

Deep sea trawler nets. They use a variety of nets; trawl liners, bag type trawl nets that scrape the ocean floor, hooked rope nets (used by long liners). The combination of these nets and winches causes considerable ecological damage. Also, the trend towards target fishing results in unwanted dead fish being thrown back into the sea, which is both wasteful and harmful to the ocean ecology.

The need for a sustainable fisheries policy: Serious efforts in formulating a sustainable fisheries policy are recent in nature. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), as its name suggests, is a representative body of fisherfolk working in the coastal areas of both Balochistan and Sindh. PFF was formed in May 1998 to address the threats to livelihood of local fisherfolk community. It is engaged actively in creating awareness, mobilizing and organizing fisherfolk community for the protection of their livelihood and sustainable management of the fisheries. PFF has recently prepared a draft sustainable fisheries policy. It is the only comprehensive document of its kind that exists in Pakistan presently, essentially based on local voices and is geared towards addressing the problems of local fishermen. The initiative on the part of PFF is also important as it represents a serious effort from the civil society to improve governance and policy making processes in the provincial government. The draft policy is broadly based on principles of sustainable ecosystem management. It seeks 'to protect fisherfolk communities livelihood resources in the country, brining sustainability in the fisheries resources of Pakistan for the present as well as coming generations and ensuring complete protection and rehabilitation of the coastal as well as fresh water biodiversity.'

Recapping, the two-part article discusses issues of compliance with international standards in Pakistan's Marine Fisheries sector. The compliance with international standards has been analyzed in the context of a supply chain analysis at three different stages namely, harvesting, pre-processing and processing. The harvesting standards are basically covered by the MSC principles discussed in earlier sections. Although, the standards are purely voluntary, there is a possibility of them becoming an 'international norm' in future years. Similarly, the processing standards are spelled out in Codex Alimentarius and implemented through HACCP guidelines. The standards chiefly deal with processing of sea food, however, they spill over to harvesting by including on-board processing standards.

In the processing industry market forces work towards ensuring compliance from processor-the opportunity cost of non-compliance can be as high a complete loss of foreign markets for local business. Survey shows that the processors have, over the past six to eight years, been willing to invest in this, implementing HACCP plans to ensure compliance for their European and American clients.

In contrast, there is weak compliance with harvesting (voluntary or otherwise) and pre-processing standards. This is largely due to the absence of institutional mechanisms capabilities to cope with this requirement. Similarly, deep sea fishing policies introduced since 1980 have focussed on the commercializing aspects of fishing without much regard to quality control and fisheries management. Underscoring this problem is the perception of marine fisheries as an open-access resource. As a result the sector has witnessed severe over-fishing and the threat of species depletion.

The lapses at the harvesting stage signal two messages: first, a sustainable fisheries policy needs to be formulated and; second, in the interim, the good aspects of existing policies need to be implemented. With regard to the first, policies need to recognize the interdependence between fishing methods and conditions of fisherfolk communities. We therefore recommend the following policy measures:

Formulation of a sustainable fisheries policy that focuses not only on ecosystem management but also includes economic uplift of fisherfolk communities

The reinstitution of the buffer zone

A complete ban on industrial fishing and use of destructive fishing practices by both local and foreign fishing vessels

A improved marketing system that ensures just prices and immediate payments to small fishermen

Extending microfinance facilities to coastal fishermen

Reduction of fishing capacity by imparting training in other skills to local fishermen and providing them alternative livelihoods

Fish species with declining yearly catch (metric tons.)

Local Name English Name 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999

Boi Mullet 21,620 18,439 16,567 16,622 17,678 16,392 11,367

Tarli Indian oil

Sardinella 73,960 50,543 45,231 42,611 44,410 38,110 25,100

Padon Thryssas 29,260 18,111 17,564 14,091 16,113 13,165 15,154

Palli Clupeoidei nei 40,210 31,198 21,615 21,982 20,100 19,209 21,103

Kiddi Kiddi shrimp 18,210 15,121 12,289 13,171 15,912 13,854 12,121

Source: Handbook of Fisheries Statistics of Pakistan Volume 18, 2002

 

 

Fishing in troubled waters

The indigenous inhabitants of Gwadar town find themselves stranded with little or no share in the pie

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

Till only a couple of years back, the name of Gwadar was not quite known to the people of Pakistan or those dwelling on foreign lands. But, today, it has become the focus of public attention, and more and more people are vying to tread into this 'land of opportunities'.

The planners of today are looking at the place as the hub of business activity in South Asia, Gulf and the Middle East region. If there were any doubts, they have been removed to a great extent after the inauguration of the deep sea port here and the construction of the Makran Coastal Highway.

While the outsiders thronging the district are dreaming of making fortunes overnight, the real inhabitants of this old fishing town find themselves stranded. Contrary to the official claims, they fear that there is nothing for them in the grand master plan of Gwadar. In fact, the government's announcement to dislocate fishermen's settlements near the port to distant places has rung warning bells for them.

Abdul Qadir, a fisherman in Gwadar, tells TNS that it's very unfair of the government to dislocate people like him to distant places along the flat coast.

"We can't survive there, as the waters of the Arabian Sea are turbulent. Only the bays and creeks where water is surrounded by land from the three sides suit us," he adds, "Here, the waters are calm and boats can be anchored easily."

Life has become tougher for these people as robust infrastructural growth and migration from upcountry have contributed to increasing the prices of essential commodities. Besides, the people who have sold their lands to real estate developers have become rich overnight giving rise to the classes of the 'haves and have-nots'.

"The local restaurants hardly serve seafood as its shipment to processing centres in Karachi and other places has increased to a great extent after the construction of the coastal highway," says Nabi Buksh, a waiter in a hotel in Gwadar.

Jan Muhammad, a local who works with an NGO operating in Gwadar, says the fishermen fear they will lose their livelihood once the shipping activity increases around the deep sea port. Elaborating his point, he says that the port authorities have stopped small fishermen from throwing their nets near the port area. "This means they can fish only in the deep sea water. It's impossible as small boats can't operate in deep sea waters."

Jan, who has been on fishing sprees in deep seas, tells TNS that many a time the international trawlers hit small boats coming their way and they kick up hot water upon resistance. "On the other hand, they often violate law and enter territorial waters lying 12 to 35 miles away from the Makran coast. Under the maritime law, the local fishermen have the sole prerogative to fish in these (territorial) waters."

The Makran Coast extends from Hub River to the Iranian border, which is about 770 kilometres long. The bottom is generally rock and the shelf is uneven. The region is characterised by a number of bays like Sonmiani, Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar and Gwater bays.

Coastal water fishing is undertaken in most coastal villages. Whereas, deep-sea fishing is undertaken largely as a commercial venture. Such a fishing trip can take 60 to 70 days and are made on larger motor-driven vessels. The fishermen often go to places as far off as Djibuti, Tanzania, and Somalia while sailing along the coasts of Oman and Yemen, and come home with catch worth millions.

"The catch belongs to the main fisherman called Nakhuda if he is the owner of the vessel, and can be divided if the investment is made by an investor. People from as far away as Dir have come to Gwadar and are investing money in deep-sea fishing," adds Jan.

Mostly, the catch consists of dozens of species of shrimp, crabs, lobster, sardine, hilsa, shark, mackerel, butter fish, pomfret, sole, tuna, seabream, Jew fish, catfish and eel. The catch is mostly auctioned at Gwadar Fish Harbour, though sometimes the Iranian boats enter Pakistani waters at Sorbandar and buy fish directly from fishermen who are at sea.

Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman Pakistan Fishermen Folk (PFF), tells TNS that it is totally unfair on the part of the government to dislocate people from Gwadar without making any proper arrangements. He says that announcements such as those of the construction of fishermen's town and allotment of plots in locals' names have not been backed by action and everything is in the air.

He also condemns the government for giving target fishing rights to foreign trawlers. "In such cases, these trawlers retain only the specific type of fish for which they have secured the license and throw the dead fish of all other types back into the water."

According to Shah, in the year 1999, the government awarded license to a Chinese company to catch Ribbon Fish in the area. What happened was that for 50,000 tonnes of Ribbon Fish they caught they had to throw 400,000 tonnes of dead fish in sea waters. Had this fish not been wasted, small fishermen could have lived off them.

Abdul Majid, Tehsil Nazim Gwadar, tells TNS that the government's main focus is on the development of the newer parts of Gwadar. This, for the most part, is done at the cost of the older settlements and the well-being of the original inhabitants of the town. He says that a lack of drinking water is the biggest challenge to the area. "We talked to the Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) in this respect but were told that they had nothing to do with the development of the older part of the district. This leaves one guessing if the only mandate the GDA has is to construct metal roads in the desert."

The tehsil nazim says that in this situation the local governments will have to take care of the neglected lot. "We have spent the whole grant of Rs 10 million given by the Prime Minister on drilling 10 bores at a place called Suntser -- some 87 kilometres from Gwadar. The drinking water pumped from here will be provided to the population of Gwadar till a long-term solution is found."

Majid says that the situation is similar in the district hospital where there are no medicines or working refrigerators and air-conditioners for most of the year.

 

Estate of confusion

Real estate prices in Gwadar have been highly volatile over the years, reacting sharply to every positive or negative development

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

For the first-time visitor to Gwadar, it's a place totally different from what one perceived. A far cry from what one sees in 3D TV advertisements run by real estate developers, Gwadar is an old and traditional fishing town with little or no obvious signs of modern architecture or Dubai style development.

The skyscrapers are there but only on huge billboards placed by developers along the road leading from the airport to the city centre. Beyond these billboards are endless tracts of barren land owned by the real estate developers employing every possible means to attract investment into the sector.

Every other person you converse with talks about the boom in Gwadar's real estate sector and the risks involved in the business. They would warn you against investing in property business without taking proper safeguards and in some cases even offer their services to ensure a transparent deal.

This scribe's visit to Gwadar started immediately after the declaration of 18 Gwadar housing schemes as fake by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The bureau had made it public that the said housing schemes had not obtained No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Gwadar Development Authority (GDA). What had followed was a sudden fall in the prices of Gwadar land as uncertainty prevailed among prospective buyers.

As per the GDA byelaws, a housing scheme seeking NOC has to give some assurances to the authority and also pledge a significant chunk of its land (30 per cent of the total owned) with it as security. It was revealed that these housing schemes had started selling plots without fulfilling these conditions. Silver Rock, Khaleej City, Mega City, Royal Park Tower, Alpine Gwadar, Marina View, Soldier City, Gwadar Port Yard and Golden Valley were some of the housing societies pointed out by NAB.

Anyhow, it is a fact that there is a real estate boom in Gwadar and businessmen from all over the country, especially Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar have set up real estate business here. There are those also who have never visited Gwadar themselves but are booking residential and commercial plots in all the major cities of the country.

Moeed Ahmed, a real estate agent, tells TNS that there is no need to panic over the statement given by NAB. "In fact, this intervention hints at the fact that the government is wary of the situation and wants to guide citizens before the damage is done. It also means that all housing schemes other than these 18 are genuine."

Moeed hails from Karachi and has come to Gwadar by road along with a couple of his prospective clients. In the past, the investors would doubt government claims but after the construction of Makran Coastal Highway and the inauguration of the deep-sea port, most such fears are gone, he adds.

While Moeed sounds optimistic, there are also those who see the pace of development as far from satisfactory. "Gwadar is attractive for those who can hold their investments for long. I cannot afford to dump my savings here and wait for 15-20 years to earn a reasonable profit on my investment," says Azhar Husain, a Karachi-based businessman, while talking to TNS.

Of all the sites in Gwadar, the most scenic is undoubtedly Koh-i-Batil where an elite housing society by the name of Sanghar Housing Project has been founded. Gwadar is actually spread in the form of a hammer, and the head of the hammer is a several kilometre-long strip known as Koh-i-Batil. The mountain is surrounded on all sides by the ocean except for a small strip on the northern side, the hand of the hammer that encompasses the Gwadar town.

The Sanghar project was launched by the government of Pakistan, with the help of foreign consultants, to provide an opportunity to the residents of Gwadar and other parts of Balochistan to acquire residential and commercial plots at affordable prices.

The other plans on the card are about the establishment of hotels, motels, playgrounds, boating clubs, theme parks, marinas and other recreation projects in Gwadar. In addition, there are plans to connect this future port city to the rest of the country by land, sea and air links. The real estate developers hope that with the completion of each and every component of Gwadar's masterplan, the price of land will increase.

Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri, Director General (DG), Gwadar Development Authority, tells TNS that the flamboyant Gwadar real estate market was slowly dropping to a reasonable level. About NAB statement, he says it has been issued purely in public interest. "The verdict is not final. The day a blacklisted housing society succeeds in getting NOC from the GDA, the negative tag will be removed."

Lehri says that anybody willing to purchase plots in any private housing scheme in Gwadar can confirm the status of the society from his office. There is a proper verification system in the GDA office and people can contact the office in this regard. The map of the housing society undersigned by the town planning section of the GDA should also be examined, he adds.

In Lehri's opinion, it is wrong to assume that there is a ban on transfer of land in Gwadar. In fact, such restriction was imposed in an apex court decision but it was pertaining to an individual case only.

He also denies claims that the infrastructural growth in Gwadar is not in accordance with the pace of the growth of the district. "We are setting up desalination plants ourselves as well as asking private housing societies to have the provision to cater to the drinking water needs of the residents. Similarly, we are planning to buy 100 MWs from Iran in addition to the 30 MWs that we are getting currently to meet our growing energy needs."

About the schemes meant to benefit the indigenous people, it was learnt that the House Building Finance Corporation had launched a housing project meant exclusively for the people of Gwadar and the residents of Makran Coast as well as the people from these areas who are working in the Gulf States. The scheme, situated in Surbandar, offers low-cost housing to locals and has no attraction for investors coming from other parts of the country.

 

issue

Timely dose

Crash social sector programmes are underway in Gwadar to keep the pace of human development and material progress going

For decades, the coastal town of Gwadar had been a victim of sheer neglect at the hands of the government, and hardly any development work was seen there. However, with the construction of a deep sea port, multi-faceted development in the area can be spotted in the ruling elite's list of priorities.

The infrastructure, education and health facilities being extremely limited, especially in rural areas around Gwadar, the human development index in the district has been one of the lowest in the country. This was something quite worrisome for those dreaming to see Gwadar as the Dubai of tomorrow. At this juncture, the government decided to divert maximum resources towards the social sector development here, probably to make up for the loss that the area had suffered over the years.

Illiterate and uncouth locals are not at all a welcome sight for foreigners and those coming from upcountry to the town in hordes either to work or settle here. For this very reason, a comprehensive component of the curriculum taught here is all about manners and interacting with strangers. The task was assigned to the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) -- a fast track initiative launched in 2002 to help Pakistan achieve Millennium Development Goals. The commission intervened and launched programmes like the compulsory enrolment of out-of-school children, primary healthcare, adult literacy and so on in August 2002.

The district government and the local community, including philanthropists and clergy, were taken on board before the launch of these projects so that they could sustain once the NCHD comes into being. Over the years, it has been observed that the locals are benefiting from these initiatives, though there are strong impediments as well at many places.

Gwadar's location and history have given it a unique blend of inhabitants. The Arab influence on Gwadar is strong due to the Omani rule and the close proximity of the Arab regions. It was in 1958 that Gwadar came into Pakistan's administrative control. The presence of the Omani slave trade is felt in the town with people descending from African slaves who had passed through the town.

The name consists of two Persian words 'Gwa' (wind) and 'dar' (door) meaning 'doorway to winds'. The area boasts religious diversity, as it is home to Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Qadianis, Parsis and other minor Islamic sects. Among the most important religious sects is the Zikri sect, a faith that about half of Gwadar's inhabitants claim to follow.

The district covers an area of 15,216 square kilometres and has a population of 185,498 according to the census of 1998. The total number of tehsils in the district are 4 and union councils 13. The literacy rate among the males, according to the same census, is 25 per cent and among females 14 per cent.

Before going ahead with the plan, a baseline survey was conducted by the NCHD whose results show that there were 8,763 out-of-school children who were supposed to be in school.

Waqar Ahmad Jaffar, General Manager, NCHD Gwadar, opines, "It took us a lot of time to convince the people that our programmes were for their very own benefit, especially the one aimed at improving adult literacy rate. Finally, they agreed to provide space for adult literacy centres and teachers were identified from amongst them. Today there are 190 such centres in Gwadar district."

Waqar tells TNS that initially they tried to teach through phonetics and graphics. The locals could not recognise even the most common of the vegetables printed in their books which, according to him, was "for the reason that they had never seen vegetables in their life. It's only after the construction of the coastal highway that fresh vegetables have started reaching Gwadar."

Waqar says that the curriculum was re-developed, employing local traditions and interests such as fishing. Simple arithmetic is being taught by creating situations like the one in which the learner was asked to work out the total amount they would get by selling different amounts of their catch.

About the results, Waqar says that slowly and steadily they are getting better. Many of the 'newly-literate' adults have begun to talk softly. They can now read expiry dates mentioned on medicines, read letters themselves and make simple arithmetic calculations.

Another major problem in the area is that the women do not often stray into public areas frequented by men. For this reason, very few local females trained for health services and even if they are available, the socio-cultural environment inhibits them from rendering such services.

Abdul Majid, Tehsil Nazim Gwadar, tells TNS that the foremost challenges facing the people of Gwadar are in the field of education, health and hygiene of its people. The population, he says, has increased very fast due to the migration of people to this 'land of opportunities'. In contrast, the education and health facilities available for them have not increased in the same proportion.

"The situation is so bad that the annual supply of medicines at DHQ and BHUs finishes within 3 to 4 months."

Majid says that interventions have been made in the area by different bodies such as NCHD, but "we are worried because the benefits last for as long as they haven't withdrawn from the area."

In Gwadar, the disease pattern changes with the change in climate. In summer, malaria is the most common ailment apart from gastrointestinal diseases. The absence of a sewerage system and improper garbage disposal results in swamps and marshy areas that contaminate drinking water. That is why, diarrhoea and dysentery are prevalent.

To counter this menace and to help the death rate caused by these diseases, especially among children, an Oral Rehydration Campaign (ORS) has also been initiated by NCHD in the rural parts of the Gwadar district. Under the campaign, the rural women are trained to prepare the solution using water, salt and sugar, and administer it to the patients. Besides, they are taught about the disease and its causes, its effects, signs of dehydration, identification of danger signs in diarrhea, and the precautionary measures.

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