Farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa complain of lower prices for their produce of sugarcane
By Mushtaq Yusufzai
Sugarcane is considered one of the most important cash crops of farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The growers this year faced a host of problems, apparently caused by absence of proper guidance of the government and its support.
percent of births in Pakistan take place in worst conditions”
Her typical story
A tale of women fighting for life and hope amid poverty,
illiteracy and terrorism
By Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam
Zarghoona, an 18-year-old, hides her face behind a bright green sequined dupatta when my conversation with her goes beyond the initial exchange of pleasantries. She is a patient at the gynecology ward of the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar. After acquiring permission to do so, I pick up her medical file. “Zarghoona. 18 years. Mother of single female infant. Developed a Vesicovaginal Fistula due to prolonged labour. Second wife of husband.”
Zarghoona’s life’s headlines are summed up in a few words: A teenager who has already endured much beyond her years. A Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) is a surgically correctable condition. If the cause is prolonged labour, it will be called an Obstetric Fistula. The chances of a surgery repairing the fistula are 95 per cent, yet in spite of advocacy, aid and awareness campaigns, women in many parts of Pakistan continue to suffer from this debilitating condition for years, simply because of lack of awareness or means that hinder them from getting treated. The result is urinary or fecal incontinence, because of which a woman constantly leaks and smells. She often becomes a social outcast in her own community, and ceases to enjoy basic pleasures like praying, socialising, physical intimacy with her husband or even hugging her children.
Zarghoona seems frail. She is initially unwilling to talk freely, but over time, exchanges of smiles and handshakes seem to ease her. Her story is typical. She has travelled to Peshawer with great difficulty from a remote tribal area. An earlier surgery by an unskilled surgeon resulted in her fistula deteriorating even further. Luckily, someone referred her to the Lady Reading Hospital. A successful surgery later, she is better but not completely. 8-month-old baby Kulsum is nestling in the cove of her arm. As an elderly man enters the room, Zarghoona gives bashed smiles. The on-duty medical personnel tell me that this is Zarghoona’s husband. On appearance, he is not less than 75 years old. He is a labourer by profession and it is often difficult for him to feed his family two square meals a day. I find myself asking him how and why he married the young Zarghoona. “I lost my first wife to an illness. I had to marry again. I saved money till I had Rs100,000 which I paid to Zarghoona’s father,” says Ghulam Mohammad, beaming with hope. Luckily for Zarghoona, as she shares, he is a kind man and treats her with compassion.
I ask Zarghoona what an average day in her life is like and discover what I already know — it is a life of hard, strenuous labour. Her dreams and ambitions revolve around little Kulsum. At 18, Zarghoona has stopped dreaming for herself. She has never been to school. What does the future look like for Zarghoona, or Kulsum for that matter? Poverty, illiteracy and to top it all, the looming threat of terrorism and unrest.
Yasar Yousafzai, the coordinator of this unit of the hospital, says that the condition of these patients is often precarious by the time they arrive at Lady Reading Hospital. “They have to travel in that condition from far flung areas like Hangu and Waziristan,” says Yousafzai. In the terrorism-torn province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), travelling is not an easy option. Often they have to take long detours to avoid attacks by militants.
“Every second person from the tribal areas has lost a family member to militancy,” shares Dr Nasreen Ruby Faiz, Head of the Department of Gynaecology in Lady Reading Hospital. Post-partum hemorrhage is the common most cause of maternal death in Pakistan. It becomes an even more probable cause for women of this area, because in case they have to travel to nearest towns or cities for delivery, they may bleed to death on way as many a time the roads are blocked or simply too unsafe to travel on due to firings and bombings. “Usually, by the time these women reach us, they are in bad shape already. 90 per cent of the cases are emergent. Only 10 per cent have enough time that they can be admitted. There are days that every bed in the hospital has two patients on it, because we cannot say no to them when they travel to us from so far for treatment,” says Dr Faiz.
Anemia is extremely common among women here, mainly because of lack of proper nutrition. Before political unrest became so rampant, things were not so bad. Even poor labourers, drivers and craftsmen could earn enough to have enough food. Security issues have robbed people of their jobs. Apart from the cost of loss of human lives in general, a silent collateral damage is of the health of the women of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly reproductive and maternal health.
One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to “Improve Maternal Health”, while another is to “Promote Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment”. But ground realities make these seem far-fetched ideas. “Where the main reason for maternal deaths is that she can’t reach the hospital on time due to lack of infrastructure, poverty and now security issues, how do we propose to meet the MDGs?” says Dr Faiz, posing a pertinent question.
Azra, 35, a resident of village Islamabad Karuna in KPK, is a widow and a mother of 3. I meet her at the “APNA Primary Girls’ School” where she works as an aaya (nanny) for the students. When Azra smiles, it is such a rare flash of sunlight on her usually morose and tired face that it takes one by awe. And she usually smiles only when her 8-year-old daughter Sapna comes and narrates what she learnt at school that day.
Azra’s story is one of ostracisation. Her husband was murdered by robbers, and later she was accused by the whole community of having been an accomplice and a partner in crime with another man in the village whom villagers accused her of having had “relations” with. The result was a helpless and shelterless Azra, with two children and pregnant with the third.
In KPK, unlike other provinces of Pakistan where women at least have some sense of empowerment and economic independence by working in the fields or from home, the cultural beliefs bar most women from working. Her parents supported best as they could in their poverty. But no one else would talk to her, leave alone give her a job or extend help.
But the human spirit is undefeatable and finds a way to fight odds. Azra was miraculously given a job at APNA School by philanthropist and teacher Asma Munir Salman who has been part of rehabilitation efforts in areas wiped out by the floods of 2010, and is the founder of APNA School founded for little girls of this remote village. “Azra is a conscientious and hard worker, and deserves a chance at happiness and stability. This job provides her and her children just that,” says Salman.
March 8 is celebrated globally as “International Women’s Day”. As I observe the little girls in their school in the village of Islamabad Karuna, I see a group of little girls whose mothers never went to school and who often don’t have enough to eat for breakfast before coming to school and who are often not dressed warmly enough for lack of winter clothing. Yet, when they giggle uncontrollably between lessons and recite poems and read out from their books, I see hope. Hope amidst poverty, illiteracy and terrorism. Hope of a better tomorrow for the women of KPK, and for women world over!
Sugarcane is considered one of the most important cash crops of farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The growers this year faced a host of problems, apparently caused by absence of proper guidance of the government and its support.
Sugarcane is cultivated on a huge area of the province. A number of sugar mills have also been established for making sugar from sugarcane and sugarbeet grown in the province. Sugarcane is also used for making gur. Peshawar is one of the largest gur markets in the region as it is transported to other parts of the province as well as the tribal areas and even exported to neigbouring Afghanistan. Also, gur manufacturing is a source of self-employment in the sugarcane-growing areas. Normally, gur making starts in October and continues till April each year.
Farmers complain that Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) had approached the Planning Commission to help stop smuggling of gur from the country aimed at reducing its production to the minimum and force the farmers to sell their crop to the mills.
Farmers are of the view that PSMA wanted the government to impose a ban on gur export which meant financial crisis for the poor sugarcane-growers, whose crop has already been destroyed by flash floods.
In their view, the provincial agricultural department has been unable to devise farmers-friendly polices owning to pressure from influential mill owners and proved serving interests of the miller by forcing the poor growers to sell their crop to the mills instead of making gur to be sold in the market.
Haji Zahir Khan, an agriculturalist and senior vice president of Sarhad Aiwan-e-Zaraat and Farm Service, says the crop this year recorded five percent increase in its production due to timely rain in June-July, but even the growers suffered heavy losses owing to low prices fixed by the millers and high cost of production of the crop.
Last year, he recalls devastating flashfloods had damaged the crop cultivated over 86000 acres of land in the province and most of the farmers had given their crop to the mills. He says before the start of crushing season, the agricultural department convened a meeting of farmers’ representatives and mill owners in October last and wanted to fix new price of the crop after reviewing the cost of production.
“The government itself estimated Rs101000 cost of production per acre while our estimate was Rs99000 and strongly recommended raise in prices,” Zahir Khan says. The mill owners, he says, later held a separate meeting without inviting representatives of farmers and reduced price of the crop.
“The mill owners fixed Rs150 per 40 kg and provided sugar to the market at Rs42 per kilogram. There is no one proper forum at the moment on government level to save the poor farmers from being ruthlessly looted by the sugar millers. According to the farmers, they are suffering the loss of Rs40, 000 per acre due to low prices of the crop,” the farmers’ representative says.
“The growers are at the receiving end and compelled now to sell their crop at throwaway prices to the mills, despite delayed payment by the millers to them.” Haji Khan Faraz, agricultural marketing expert, opines that the farmers first suffered losses when sugar mill owners started crushing season of the crop very late, in November, 2011, and that hampered sowing of wheat on the land vacated from sugarcane.
He says the growers suffered economic losses after the millers reduced price of the crop from Rs337/-per 40 kilograms in the crushing season 2010-11 to Rs150/-per 40 kg in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK) during the current crushing season 2011-12 despite the fact that the cost of production of the crop had increased manifold in view of increase in the cost of inputs, especially the hike in prices of fertilizers.
The farmers have staged several protest demonstrations against reduction in prices by millers but have failed to get attention of the government as well as of mill owners. “The growers producing gur from sugarcane were faced hardships when the federal government reportedly imposed a ban on movement of gur from KPK to the tribal areas.
“Farmers often complain that sugar millers in KP do not show rate of the crop supposed to be paid on the basis of recovery, instead of weight, which would automatically reduce the per 50 kg prices. “It is the responsibility of the government to explore a suitable market for the produce in and outside Pakistan to help growers come out of financial crisis,” Khan Faraz says.
Jamshed Khan, a farmer, from Inzargi village of rural Mardan says they make their planning throughout the year for the sake of sugarcane. “Whatever we plan, we hope we will do it after selling the crop in the market. But now we produced a lot of gur but nobody is going to buy it. If we sell the crop to the mills, the amount we receive is not even sufficient to meet our daily expenses,” he complains.
The KP Director General agricultural department, Taslim Jan, says the crop this year was surplus but even then they tried their level best to provide some relief to the farmers by persuading the millers to raise the price of the produce. “Keeping in view rising prices of fertilizers, fuel, and power, our department arranged three meetings of representatives of mill owners and farmers and suggested a reasonable raise in prices for the sugarcane. The millers, instead of raising the price, reduced it further which they had set last year.”
He agrees that farmers producing gur have suffered losses earlier in the season when the federal government imposed a ban on the movement of the produce. “Though the government later lifted the ban but there is no market at the moment of the produce in the country,” he notes. Several efforts were made to approach representative of the millers for their side of the story but those contacted by this scribe referred him to others and thus avoided to comment.
— Dr. Shershah Syed, a distinguished surgeon, currently working at Koohi Goht hospital, Landhi, Karachi, as a gynecologist, where he treats underprivileged women suffering from various reproductive health issues. Besides, he has served as the President of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan and is a founding member of the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH). Also a social activist, he has been actively involved in raising awareness about the importance of provision and access of adequate and professional healthcare services for women in the country.
The News on Sunday: What, in your opinion, is the state of women’s reproductive health in Pakistan?
Dr Shershah Syed: It is at a primitive level, as there is a lack of awareness on women’s health requirements. It is estimated that around 80 percent of births in Pakistan happen in worst conditions, without medical support of any kind. Most of the government-based maternal healthcare facilities are not properly functioning. Due to the unavailability and a lack of access to proper reproductive healthcare facilities, the presence of unskilled birth attendants (daai), the child-birth procedure in most cases is worse than what it is in animals.
If we talk about our neighbouring countries, Afghanistan is in a bad state and India and Bangladesh have better healthcare facilities. The reason is the provision of better education, legal support and focus on primary healthcare facilities.
TNS: Would you say that healthcare provisions are better in the private sector?
SS: Certainly, the public healthcare system is in a shoddy state. The setup may be better only in some departments due to priorities.
In the private sector, there are only a few exceptions. Otherwise, the quality of healthcare is questionable and there is no proper system of merit and audit. Without these two important aspects, there is no chance of improvement in the healthcare system in Pakistan.
TNS: How has the women’s rights movement defined the scope for women’s health in the country?
SS: See, the basic objective of women’s rights movement [in Pakistan] is to empower women which can be achieved by educating them and spreading more awareness about women’s rights across the different sections of our society.
TNS: How has the women’s rights movement impacted the women’s health?
SS: Although we have seen a positive impact, it is limited. There has been an increase in awareness about women’s rights and people are now asking more questions about their rights, but we need to go further on from here. There is a need for more people to join in and start working on other issues also, such as maternal healthcare and family planning. It is a continuous process and requires dedication and determination.
TNS: How can a common man help to carry this cause forward and contribute to it?
SS: Generally, the individuals working for this cause are more responsible in spreading awareness and engaging the common man. Non-government organisations and other agencies need to put their best foot forward. It is important to go on working, no matter how small the dividends may be.
Education and family orientation also play a key role. Health education should be given at all levels including adolescent and adult ages. An educated person can spread the right word among their social circles this is how things will change for good.
The interviewer works at the Aga Khan Foundation in Capacity Development unit. She also serves as a visiting faculty at the Iqra University, Karachi, for BBA-MBA students. She has done MS-IT and MBA from IBA
Pakistan joined the IMF in July 1950 and for the first time the country approached it in 1958 for a loan of Special Drawing Rights amounting to 25 million worth nearly US $24.80 million. It was requested to be sanctioned under the Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) in December 1958, meant to provide financial support to overcome macroeconomic distortions, if being faced by the member countries of mainly the developing world.
It was, however, cancelled even prior to its expiration date on the ground that the amount had remained lying completely idle for long. The whole amount, therefore, went off unutilised. The reasons being the political upheavals during the period and also because of inflow of substantial economic and military aid from the US soon after the dictatorial regime came into power in October 1958.
During the 60s, two more stand-by arrangements, each of them of one year duration, were approved in 1965 and 68, collectively amounting to 148.0 SDRs which could be utilised only to the extent of 71.0 percent and the remaining amount was lapsed due to slow utilisation.
Although the whole amount of the loan was not utilised but it was productively deployed for achieving a higher level of economic development. These IMF loans, along with other factors such as funding by the World Bank to mega projects for water resource management and hydro power generation, later on resulted in achieving an impressive growth rate during the period.
At a later stage in the 70s, four loans were sanctioned to Pakistan under the similar nature of Stand-by Arrangements worth SDRs 330 million in aggregate which were utilised to the extent of about 95 percent of the sanctioned amount. It is creditable that the then economic managers were successful in meeting the targets of their utilisation.
The loan programmes by IMF till such time were not characterised by any significant variations in terms of conditionalities attached to the loaning which provided the opportunity to the policy makers for framing the economic policies independently suiting the requirements of the economy. It facilitated, to a great extent, the successful implementation of the programmes.
In the 80s, however, a drastic change in terms and conditions i.e., conditionalities of loaning programmes took place for Pakistan as also in case for other developing countries. The conditionalities, in their broader sense, embrace both the design of IMF-supported programmes i.e., underlying macro-economic and structural policies, and the specific tools used to watch the progress of the programme.
These used to be imposed on the client countries in the form of strict set of policy reforms which included a close monitoring of the economy concerned which continued to be stricter with the passage of time and also according to its experience about the economic performance of the countries in response to the loan programme. These paved the way for the IMF involvement in policy framing of these countries.
During the period prior to the return of democratic system of government in 1988, two long-term loans under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), amounting to a total sum of SDR 2.187 billion, were approved first in November 1980 and subsequently in December 1981, covering approximately a period of three years.
The size of these loans was more than four times the entire amount lent through seven Stand-By packages during 1958-80. It is worth noting that the IMF was once again liberal in sanctioning a large amount of loan during the military regime.
Since this period, there began an increased role of IMF as a source of lending to Pakistan and also in terms of its influence in national economic policy making. IMF loaning, therefore, became a subject of intense debate in the country which got further intensified by the failure of such packages in solving the economic health of the country.
The strict conditions imposed by the IMF attached to its loan packages such as devaluation of currency and de-linking rupee from dollar and replacing it by the managed float system, liberalisation of imports, restrain on government spending and increased role of private sector were met except implementation of complete abolition of subsidies.
However, the government could utilise only a sum of SDR worth 1.079 against the sanctioned amount loan which constituted only 49.33 percent of the total amount of approved loans despite at the cost of meeting most of the tough conditionalities such as massive devaluation and floating rate of exchange.
Its reason may be attributed to inefficient economic management and also on account of an inflow of financial aid in the country for economic and defense purposes, again during the period of military regime. Despite a heavy cost to the economy caused by devaluation and linking the value of rupee based on managed float system, the loans could be utilised only partially.
Since 1988 and prior to the ongoing Stand-By Arrangement, eleven loan arrangements, amounting to a total sum of SDR 5.21 billion equivalent to nearly US $ 5.80 billion were made under various programmes such as Standby Arrangement (SBA), Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) and Extended Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAP).
Since 1988 till the end of 90s, only 62.41 percent of the total amount of loans approved by IMF was utilised. Before the Eighties the under utilisation of the loans was either on account of inefficient economic management of various governments or due to its redundancy after the inflow of economic aid during the dictatorial regime, while in the subsequent years, it was largely because of their failure to act upon the strict conditionalities attached to the loaning programmes.
During the post 2000 period, IMF entertained the government’s first request for the Stand-By credit arrangement amounting to $ 596 million equivalent to SDR 465 million in November 2000. Later on, the government was sanctioned a loan of $ 1.3 billion worth SDR 1.03 billion in December 2001 on its request under the Poverty Reduction Growth Facility, covering a period of three years.
According to State Bank, the government could successfully meet the performance criteria as laid down by the IMF for both the programmes. Almost the whole amount of $ 1.896 billion equivalent to SDR 1.495 billion was thus utilised except the last trench amounting to US $ 252.60 million on the ground that it was no longer needed.
These were followed by the approval of current 25-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) Programme worth SDR 7.236 billion (US $ 11.3 billion) covering a period of 25 months after being augmented on August 7, 2009 from an originally approved 23 months programme, worth SDR 5.17 (US $ 7.6 billion) approved in November, 2008 which is more than double the entire amount of loans sanctioned by IMF to the country since 1958.
The programme package comprised a number of conditionalities in the form of Structural Performance Criteria and Structural Benchmarks and it was to be implemented by December 2010 through six installments (besides the amount released with the approval of the loan) based on its satisfactory quarterly performance reviews by IMF. The reviews were to examine the achievements of the programme as per conditionalities which were framed with mutual consultation of the government and IMF.
The conditionalities were designed as loan package signified under the broad framework of its objectives, aiming at to “(i) restore financial stability through tightening of fiscal and monetary policies to bring down inflation, strengthen foreign currency reserves and develop confidence of local and foreign investors; (ii) to protect the poor to preserve social stability through a well targeted and adequately funded social safety net; and (iii) raise the budgetary revenue through comprehensive tax reforms to enable the significant increase in public investment and social spending required for achieving sustainable growth.”
The programme remained suspended after the fourth review in June 2010 and the release of fifth trench, since the government failed to achieve some of the key structural performance as well as benchmark conditionalities. The remaining two trenches amounting to US $ 3.4 billion (the last was scheduled to be released in November 2010 were, therefore, withheld.
The government, despite taking some politically difficult reform measures, could not meet some of the important conditionalities such as lowering down the fiscal deficit to the desired level since there was a continuous breach of fiscal deficit limits, implementation of reformed sales tax regime (Value Addition Tax), withdrawal of the subsidies, amendment in the banking legislation to enhance the effectiveness of the State Bank of Pakistan and overcoming the problem of circular debt in the power sector.
Lately in June, however, the IMF extended the programme till the end of September, 2011 in response to the request of the government to give chance to implement the remaining conditionalities.
On realisation that it may not be possible to implement these due to their heavy political repercussions and also on account of its inability to rectify those ills in the economy in the short run in the wake of some heavy macro economic distortions in the economy to which the conditionalities were meant to address. Non-preparedness and lack of political support including that of the business community to introduce some conditionalities such as VAT regime is also the reason of the failure of the government to successfully implement them.
Another contributing factor in the failure of the government to comply with some tough conditionalities was unprecedented floods of the last year experienced by the country, which shattered the whole economy. The government, on finding the rigid stance of IMF regarding the implementation of the key structural reform conditionalities, abandoned the effort to avail the opportunity.
The programme, therefore, ended up by 30th. September, once again without achieving some of the significant targets which are, no doubt, most essential for the health of the economy. However, since the economy faced a great economic set-back on account of unprecedented floods costing it heavily, it was expected that the IMF should have adopted some lenient approach. However, the country should take it as challenge as well as an opportunity to be dependent only on home grown solutions and to live with domestic resources mobilisation to protect its economic sovereignty.
writer is Senior Economic Advisor, Sustainable Development Policy
Why do they hate us? Why don’t they trust us despite all our assistance? What is it like over there? Do they want to take us there too? Why do they blow themselves up and kill others too? What’s the way out of this?
These questions haunt our minds in the Western world and this novel, The Misunderstood Ally, has the answers to our questions illustrated through a powerful story based on three protagonists representing the main forces.
Faraz Inam, the author, is part of Pakistan’s moderate, progressive but silent majority. In his debut novel he has managed to movingly portray the different psyches prevailing in the region without being critical and has skillfully pulled the three threads together in such a way that the reader empathises with each strand. The News on Sunday talks to the author about his novel and what his expectations are.
The News on Sunday (TNS): What inspired you to become a writer?
Faraz Inam FI: The current sorry environment in the Af-Pak region brought out the writer in me. Wanting to play my little part in this struggle to keep my country’s name high, I embarked on writing this novel on the current state of affairs in Pakistan and our involvement in the ‘War on Terror’. I’ve been related to military since childhood one way or the other; son of a PAF Officer, an ex-Cadet of PAF myself, having projected the Army on media through two popular drama series and maintaining contacts with my numerous course-mates in the military; I believe gave me sufficient knowledge and motivation to initiate this project.
I also honestly felt that forces that be were getting a raw deal in the current environment. I wanted to believe that the world in general did not mean ill towards my country. However, the damaging news reports coming out of Pakistan courtesy some sections of the media and their projection of a small segment of our society, had created a wedge between Pakistanis in general and the outside world.
TNS: Tell us something about yourself, your childhood, education and your life.
FI: I was born in 1970 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. My father was a combat pilot in the Pakistan Air Force. He is retired now whereas my mother is a homemaker. My early childhood memories are of our stay at various Pakistan Air Force bases where my father would be posted. The sound of combat jets flying overhead was music to my ears and I would always rush outside our house to see these beautiful birds maneuvering in the sky overhead. My father has been my ideal and to follow his footsteps in becoming an aviator was my Goal in life. However fate had other things in store for me. Although I joined the Air Force I could not become a combat pilot due to weak eyesight and, hence, was put in Engineering Corp. from where I opted out while in training. After completing my education I joined an Investment Bank in Islamabad in 1996 and relocated to UAE in 1997. Since then I’ve been working as a corporate banker in UAE and am currently based in Dubai with my wife, two daughters and a son.
TNS: How do you usually find your ideas?
FI: Pakistan is full of stories of both valour and sacrifices. The 30,000 dead Pakistanis from acts of terrorism; each has his or her own heart-rendering tale. This book has been inspired from their lives, their travails and their challenges. The numerous challenges faced by men in uniform has forced me to pen down this realistic story of grit and valour on all fronts.
TNS: Tell us about your book?
FI: The Misunderstood Ally depicts a modern day story about the instability in Pakistan, a Muslim Nuclear State, through the eyes of a gutsy and determined US Special Agent, Samantha Albright, as she lands in the enigmatic country. Story also reflects the travails of a brave and patriotic Pakistan Army Officer, Lt. Col. Dhilawar Jahangiri, as he grapples between his personal challenges and call of duty. The life of a belligerent but ruthless Afghan militant commander, Baaz Jan, gets projected too as he fights back for what he feels is right. This may be a novel but the environment it reflects is real. Its characters may not be original but the personas they represent are real. The events may not be precise but the motives behind their occurrence are real. It took me almost two years to write this book.
TNS: Your book is based on real events, what are the major challenges that you have faced in your writing?
FI: The book is inspired from on realistic events, however, to avoid controversy it is termed as fiction. Nevertheless, as stated earlier, the motives behind their occurrences are real. Since I wanted to put everything in perspective on the subject I consulted my friends and old course-mates in the military to better understand the situation. I studied books, internet, newspapers and TV documentaries on related subjects to understand the other sides of the stories too before finalising. So, I would say it was a challenge for me to project an objective account of the current situation to all the readers in the West and East, who may I dare say have little idea of the other side’s perspective. I hope I’ve been successful in meeting my challenge.
TNS: What do you want to achieve from this book?
FI: Mutual respect, peace and compassion among different nations of the world. Better understanding towards the root cause of all this chaos and regard for each other’s point of view, efforts towards making this world a better place for all to live.
Misunderstood Ally by Faraz Inam is published by Strand Publishing UK Ltd,
As Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy recently wrote, “Men like Rohrabacher are no friends of the Baloch. But what can stop their meddling? The answer can only come once we dump the myth of Pakistan being one nation, one people”. The continuous undermining of Pakistan’s pluralism, citizenship rights and quest for self-rule has led to a situation where Pakistani flag is not welcome in many parts of its largest and most neglected province.
This is not the first time that the country has faced a dire situation. In 1971, we were faced with a similar dilemma and the civil-military elites of West Pakistan bungled. Their mishandling was exacerbated by an external intervention and for years we have been fed with stories of how all was hunky dory in the more populous wing of Pakistan until the evil ‘Hindu’ India destroyed the ‘Muslim’ Pakistan.
It takes a questionable resolution tabled in the US Congress by Dana Rohrabacher, an extremist republican with a dubious past, to alarm the mainstream Pakistani politicians and media about the plight of Baloch people. Yet again, a “conspiracy” to disintegrate the land of the pure has been reiterated. The good part is that Balochistan issue — something that the media was afraid to talk about — has become a subject of prime-time, and sometimes ill-informed, discussions on national television.
We cannot absolve ourselves of the decades-long discrimination that the province and its people have faced due to a variety of reasons. Whether it is the misuse of its natural resources such as natural gas, gold, etc, or its leverage in the federal power structure, the scorecard is pretty grim. In real terms, the issue of provincial autonomy has only been resolved recently via the 2010 eighteenth amendment. But even that seems to fit the clichéd description of being “too little and too late” given how the Baloch nationalists view it.
Historically, the civilian and military rulers have been trigger-happy when it came to Balochistan. For instance, the initial dispute of Kalat’s forced inclusion into Pakistan is an open question and it was never resolved. In 1972, the ‘elected’ leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto started an operation to crush an insurgency. General Zia offered carrots to the Baloch tribal leaders and kept things under central ‘control’ without any move towards resolving the fundamental issues: self-rule, resource distribution, and development.
But the fourth military rule under General Pervez Musharraf embarked on a mega-modernity project ignoring the history, alienation and festering wounds of the local people. Ambitious plans to introduce modern policing systems (incidentally based on the colonial policing structures that the British left us), development and completion of the Gwadar Port, highways connected to Cantonments were part of this package from Islamabad.
The Baloch rejected this paradigm and thus began another operation against the locals. The year 2006 was the highpoint of this struggle when the 80-year old Nawab Akbar Bugti (ironically always a pro-federation politician) was brutally killed in a cave. Trumpets were blown and Musharraf is on record to have said that he will teach others a lesson.
This was the turning point and the low-grade insurgency has now turned into a full-scale war against the might of Pakistani state — its security agencies. This has not come without some unfortunate developments such as the killings of non-Baloch civilians and more worryingly teachers thereby further denuding the prospects of education for the young as many teachers in the province are Punjabis and Mohajir.
While the state – especially the military – deny that such ‘operations’ are underway, the media, especially the social media, have been reporting gruesome tales of abduction, torture and murders of many young Baloch nationalists.
The tragedy is that the strategy of the state and the militants both appear to be patently flawed. The Pakistani government has yet to show credible evidence of Indian or US involvement in Balochistan. The lack of transparency in dealing with the province has become a major farce. The Interior Minister’s media-bravado is no longer taken seriously and no one believes what the security establishment says. There seems to be a serious dearth of imagination while searching for solutions.
On the other hand, the leaders of the Baloch people (incidentally most of them are tribal chiefs) are making open appeals to India, US and the world powers to intervene. But this can only feed into a vicious cycle of state repression. The US will not do anything for Baloch out of love for their autonomy and would keep its interests before those of the Baloch. And sidelining Pakistan and its powerful Army is not on the US agenda. It requires no rocket science to understand that, Congress resolutions notwithstanding.
Balochistan is a complex issue where history, geography intersect with the imagined notions of a centralised, nationalist Pakistan. It is time to reconsider that and find ways, which can lead to meaningful engagement with the Baloch nationalists. For that to happen, the security operations must end immediately, resource distribution formulae be worked out, commissions be set up to investigate the brutalities and if needed a constitutional amendment be introduced to enhance autonomy or even reconfigure it. This Parliament has undertaken historic constitutional reforms via 18th, 19th and 20th amendments. Why not a 21st Amendment?
The News on Sunday: Can you outline your testimony to the US Congress on Balochistan?
Ali Dayan Hasan: The hearing provided an opportunity to highlight the dire human rights situation in Balochistan and was used by HRW to that end. We take no position on the issue of self-determination and I clarified that Balochistan was an internationally recognised Pakistani province and not a territory over which there was any dispute over sovereignty. That said, HRW expects Pakistan’s constitutional protections for citizens to apply to those who live in the province. I explained that while the state — through the army, intelligence agencies and paramilitaries such as the FC — was the principal abusive actor, Balochistan presented a complex situation with multiple actors involved in human rights abuse.
While the state is responsible for illegal detentions, disappearances and targeted killings, it is also true that Baloch nationalists have targeted non-Baloch settlers and Sunni extremists are killing Shias in the province. HRW also called upon Congress to examine US complicity with former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in the disappearances of al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects, and how that enabled Musharraf to extend enforced disappearances to the menu of human rights abuses across Pakistan generally and in Balochistan in particular. I also explained that Balochistan was not a mono-ethnic province peopled only by the Baloch but that they comprised just over half the population and that any examination of the place of Baloch nationalism had to factor in the implications stemming from this reality.
TNS: Were you surprised at the outrage over the Congressional hearing in Pakistan? Do you think it was justified?
ADH: I made clear even before the hearing that HRW was only using the hearing as a platform to highlight the human rights situation in Balochistan and we viewed the politics surrounding the hearing in the US with discomfort. However, on balance, international groups such as HRW and Amnesty felt it important that an objective human rights analysis, based in international law rather than political rhetoric, be placed on the record. While I understand why Congressman Rohrabacher’s resolution asking for self-determination in Balochistan was negatively received in Pakistan, I have said before and I repeat that it is not within Rohrabacher’s or the US Congress’s capacity to create or dismember countries. Every sane minded person understands this both in the US and Pakistan. But these events have focused attention within Pakistan on the human rights crisis in Balochistan and that is a positive development. And now, knowing that it is on the international radar, it is incumbent upon Pakistan’s political and military leaders to end an untenable policy of denial and resolve this crisis speedily and meaningfully.
TNS: What has HRW research revealed about human rights abuses in Balochistan?
ADH: HRW research shows that that the return to civilian rule in 2008 has not resulted in civilian control of security policy in Balochistan.
Consider: in 2008, Interior Minister Rehman Malik admitted that 1100 people were missing. Today he claims that less than 50 are missing. This is simply false. Disappearances have continued. HRW has also recorded some 300 killings of Baloch nationalists in the last 18 months in “kill-and-dump” operations. The federal government, which initially tried to effect a policy of reconciliation in the province and was willing to acknowledge large-scale disappearances, has failed in ending abuses by the FC and intelligence agencies. Instead of seeking broader support for peace in Balochistan and challenging the security apparatus, the federal government has sought refuge in pretence and denial, insisting that all is well even as the situation has steadily deteriorated.
The judiciary has repeatedly tried to address the issue of disappearances in Balochistan but it has also failed resistance from those perpetrating these abuses. Certainly, Baloch nationalist attacks on non-Baloch settlers are a complicating factor. Punjabi and Urdu-speakers are living in fear of their lives in Quetta today and there is a mass exodus of teachers, who belong to these linguistic groups, from the province creating a crisis of education that will haunt the province for years to come. Further, HRW has also documented the killings of some 300 Shias, mostly from the Hazara community since 2008. Militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have claimed responsibility for these attacks and many in Balochistan believe that these groups enjoy close relationships with the army and operate at its behest.
TNS: So how can this situation be improved or resolved?
ADH: The state has failed in its duty to enforce a rights-respecting rule of law and needs to urgently address that failure by confronting the security apparatus. Also, while we cannot rule out the possibility that third parties may also be fomenting unrest in Balochistan, this cannot be used as an excuse for state abuses to continue. A durable peace in the province requires the army, the FC and the intelligence agencies to be part of the process and to change their behaviour. This can only happen through sustained political pressure not just by the government but by all political parties who must act in concert to stop excesses by the security forces and simultaneously use confidence-building measures that bring Baloch nationalists to the negotiating table.
Given the urgency of the situation, it is particularly disappointing that PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has decided not to attend the APC on Balochistan. He should reconsider this decision as this is too serious a crisis to be hostage to party political considerations. Further, all political parties and the government should ensure that representatives of the military, the intelligence agencies and the FC are also brought to the table and public commitments are extracted from them about ending abuses and adhering to human rights protections in Balochistan. Unless killing and abuse stops, offers of amnesty to Baloch leaders will have no credibility. In a sense, the state has lost credibility with the Baloch and needs to prove through actions not empty rhetoric that it means to earn their trust once again. If mainstream political parties — in government and opposition — can guarantee that the security apparatus will not renege on political accords reached with Baloch nationalists, pressure on the latter to reach a viable, peaceful settlement will also increase exponentially. A rights-respecting federation can only be created through negotiation and not at gunpoint.
Publicly disseminated last September, the National Nutrition Survey reports mass deprivation from adequate nutrition. Along comes another dire news from Save the Children — over 90 percent of infants receive unacceptable diets that threaten both physical and mental development (A Life Free From Hunger, 2012). A recent (draft) report by UNICEF is grim: unacceptably large numbers of children die before their first birthday; widespread malnutrition is a core reason for an even more wrenching tragedy of remaining children unable to survive beyond 5 years (Situation Analysis of Children, 2012).
It is a tragedy when a majority of families are unable to overcome acute nutritional deprivation despite multiple earners, including children and juveniles confronting hazards in violation of their rights.
Two-thirds or more districts were hit badly after unexpected floods and severe rains. Hence the matter could rest as a temporary phenomenon, though warranting serious concern at the inadequate access to private and public assets, amidst warnings of more floods during the decade.
Given cruelly high levels of (officially acknowledged) malnourishment in recent decades, there should be more to say about the probability of permanent and pervasive malnourishment for significantly large numbers, perhaps even a majority, of citizens across the country.
Growing slowly over the decade, (real) national income per capita still exceeds Rs 30,000 per annum in recent years (Economic Survey). This seems more than enough to ensure adequate nutrition for every child, woman and man in the country. So why then is malnourishment observed?
Is domestic production the problem? Food grain harvests have generally been below that required for adequate calorie intake fully through cereals (around 200 kg per capita); similarly domestic output of pulses has remained substantially less than protein requirements met entirely through pulses. But: there are food imports and people do consume other foods that provide these nutrients. And we can certainly wonder why the state does not achieve food sovereignty for its citizens.
More than half of female citizens have been socially condemned to remaining illiterate, which is surely a contributing factor to mass malnourishment of not one but several generations. Isn’t lack of health education a failure of an Islamic state acknowledging the right to life?
Official data remains missing, but it is widely held that at least in poor households there is significant gender inequality in consumption over much of South Asia. Since females fare badly, this is a cause of mass malnourishment for a very large section of the population, and extends to even male infants of malnourished mothers.
Should the state have no responsibility to offset social discrimination? Surely the health of our children extends beyond parental responsibility. What evidence is present from diets in Pakistan — unaffordable, or mostly misallocation of food expenditure to taste rather than nutrition?
There are two reasons to begin with calorie intake: one, that official poverty lines are based upon calorie standards; two, that calorie intake appears to be the first priority for biological and economic reasons (such as relative prices of other nutrients; work needs energy).
Do official income and expenditure surveys support the likelihood of mass malnourishment? If there is mass undernourishment (of calories) then most members of these families remain deprived of other nutrients (protein, vitamins and minerals) corresponding to their needs (e.g. pregnant and lactating mothers and their infant children; arduous labour; old persons).
The official, conservative, daily calorie requirement (2350 per adult or 1880 per capita) yields nearly Rs 900 per adult as the official minimum monthly expenditure in 2004-5. Adjusted for general inflation, this threshold would rise to around Rs 1400 per capita in 2010-11. Since food prices are critical to nutrition, the minimum expenditure would then jump to Rs 1600 per capita.
The official Household Integrated Economic Survey 2010-11 reports mean consumption expenditure at over Rs 3000 per capita (close to the national income per capita). Since a skewed distribution is very likely, median consumption is probably much lower i.e. half the population may well be unable to afford minimally adequate calorie intake without cutting back on minimal non-food expenditure.
This drastic implication is confirmed by consumption expenditure in the bottom three quintiles. Hence, at least one-third and perhaps as much one-half of the population was deprived from minimum required expenditure. If citizens cannot afford even the cheapest nutrient, then it is no wonder that women and children in particular suffer from mass deficiency in other nutrients!
Across the country, food expenditure implies a possible daily intake of 1900-2300 calories per capita, depending upon how liberally we approximate calories from food. Using a (conservative) official calorie standard (1900 per capita), mean food consumption appears to provide adequate calories. If the consumption distribution is skewed in favour of high consumption (median larger than mean), then less than one-half of the population would have inadequate calorie intake.
In view of our opposite conclusion on the basis of income, i.e. affordability, two checks can be made. One is to disaggregate consumption by low and high incomes; the other is to differentiate between rural and urban families.
Ranked by income, the bottom one-fifth of country population would be at high risk of calorie deficiency. At somewhat lower risk would be the next one-fifth population. The remaining sixty percent of population in higher income households is unlikely to have many with calorie inadequacy. It does appear that poorer households adjust diets when unable to afford the standard diet.
However, if one accepts that low incomes imply physically more exerting work and higher morbidity than the average, then a significantly higher daily calorie threshold at well over 2000 per capita does imply mass calorie deficiency. The Asian Floor Wage Campaign, for example, insists upon 3000 daily calories per adult even for urban areas in contrast to 2150 as the Pakistan standard (similar to other low standards in South Asia for official denial of failure).
A rural-urban study indicates rural families to be at higher risk. As found for the country, disaggregating incomes or having more reasonable thresholds does suggest the likelihood of mass calorie deficiency. Surprisingly, in the very locations that food is grown, undernourishment is more pervasive. Or perhaps this should be expected given the highly inequitable access to crop land – even including tenancy, but not ignoring the massive illegal occupation of public land by large landowners.
Malnourishment is not simply calorie deficiency; protein, vitamins and minerals are also crucial to a decent diet. This note only extends to protein intake.
Ignoring the fact that proteins get converted to calories when the latter are inadequate, the average daily consumption suggests less than 60 grams per capita, but this is well over an official threshold of 65 g per adult. As with calorie intake, does average protein consumption hide lower intakes among much of the population?
And so it is: in the first quintile of incomes, average protein consumption is lower than even a conservative threshold. Many in the next quintile are also likely to be undernourished. It should be a matter of much concern that even among rural households — supposedly with better access to nutrition — the poorest report inadequate protein intake. Yet again, we find that state subsidized modern agriculture fails to be fair to the rural poor.
To conclude: prevalent, and entrenched, substantial inequality — not of assets alone but also of returns to labour — has led to immense and continuing inequity in incomes across Pakistan. This imperils adequate nourishment of not just adults but also of children, threatening both physical and mental distortions among many if not most citizens.
We all know that a very large part of labour depends upon wages in standard employment. But so-called self employment is also the employment status for many suppliers of services but with irregular incomes. Scarcity of full time work and absence of decent wages have to be a major reason for nutritional impoverishment. Official Labour Force Surveys illustrate extreme labour exploitation: not many more than half of adults seek jobs.
The wage distribution among employees — representing a fourth of the active labour force — reveals extremely difficult survival for these families. Mean monthly wages were just about the minimum wage (Rs 7,000) but below the household poverty line (of over Rs 10,000 for a family of 6-7 persons). Data indicates that more than one third of employees may have been given wages less than half the poverty line.
Of the lucky or desperate earners, a substantial number find work for less than 35 hours a week; and many more have to work excessively (beyond 48 hours a week). Either labour (including self-employed) was underemployed, reducing earnings; or it was overworked, increasing nutritional needs.
State failure hits badly the majority of citizens, as overworked and underpaid labour. Ignoring policy exclusion of agricultural labour, and general non-enforcement, the legal minimum wage has arbitrarily failed to keep pace with double-digit inflation in food prices. Furthermore, even an inflation-adjusted minimum wage remains much lower than an inflation-adjusted poverty line, let alone a living wage. The wage deficit is even more enormous for a state committed to seriously equitable growth e.g. through enforcing minimum wages tied to national economic growth.
It is urgent to rethink the folly of abandoning universal food subsidy as ‘inefficient’ targeting despite its almost divine status in Washington.
There is much wisdom in aiming towards a universal employment guarantee as a citizen right, overcoming obvious deficiencies in the Indian scheme. This would be much more dignified than cash transfers, especially to the desperately deprived.
Yet again we must note that a development model based on extreme inequality and mass deprivation cannot build a fair society. At over $ 1200 per capita, annual national income per capita is well above that required to eliminate nutritional deprivation through domestic agriculture. There is no shortage of farmland for adequate provision of calories and protein through cereals, pulses and milk. Furthermore, billions in worker remittances enable more than sufficient foreign exchange for meeting domestic shortfalls.
writer works for the labour movement through PILER and PFF
As ordained by the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the longstanding highly centralised agriculture sector was last year devolved to provinces. It goes without saying that this devolution has increased the responsibilities of the provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They must come to grips with their financial and capacity constraints to deliver on this front as agriculture accounts for livelihood of around 70 percent of people in the country.
Increased powers require capacity enhancement and efficiency on the part of provinces but apparently facing budgetary and capacity constraints, shortage of personnel, lack of sufficient technology, the new beneficiaries seem ill-prepared to look after the devolved subjects.
What are the financial implications and how the province is coping with them? What has it done to increase the capacity of its employees to cope with the new responsibilities?
While acknowledging that problems of capacity constraints are there, officials, nevertheless, claim that KP’s agriculture department is fully capable to cope with the increased responsibilities and functions following the devolution of agriculture ministry to the province.
Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Israr Muhammad, says the province has sufficient resources and personnel to perform the new roles. “We have made elaborate arrangements for the purpose. By fulfilling the longstanding demand of the employees for service structure, we have promulgated the 4-tier formula for the officials serving in the agriculture extension, research and livestock sub-sectors. Again, different sections of the department have been allocated sufficient budgets to train their officials so that they could better perform the devolved functions. The department has correlated its targets with the outcomes of provincial agriculture policy and provincial horticulture policy.”
“While the provincial soil conservation directorate can fully address the devolved functions regarding soil survey of Pakistan, another post of director marketing has been created to look after the devolved agriculture products’ grading and marketing responsibilities,” he adds.
To a question as to what were the financial implications of the devolution for the province, Mr Muhammad says, “We have had to own only a few personnel of the soil survey of Pakistan (SSoP), which was handed over to Punjab but it decided to take only the employees and assets within its territory. Accordingly, we have sent the case of these officials to the inter-provincial coordination (IPC) division Islamabad through the provincial IPC department and the decision is awaited. They will be adjusted as and when the decision is conveyed,” he says.
“There is no shortage of money. The ANP-led government has increased the agriculture budget and it has promised to look after all our financial needs in the wake of ongoing and new projects,” he informs.
He says of the three PSDP projects that were left to the provinces to look after them — the national programme for improvement of water courses, programme for high efficiency irrigation and the crop maximisation project — KP has allocated Rs355million, Rs120mn and Rs170mn for them respectively from its own resources for the current fiscal. The money is sufficient for the year and the provincial government has assured us of financial allocation if need be.”
But the problems remain to be addressed. The PODB has been wound up and its functions devolved to provinces. “If any province or donor agency and foreign country wish to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for developing oilseeds or olive or any other agriculture crop, it will still have to seek approval of federal entities like PARC or ministries like economic affairs division and ministry of commerce,” says an official on the condition of anonymity.
“Had the provinces been fully empowered in this respect, agriculture would have greatly benefited. The provinces also need improved seeds and other services from foreign countries. They either need to be empowered or a facilitation centre needs to be setup for the purpose at provincial or federal level,” he says adding, “The resourceful tea/tobacco research institutes and PARC, etc, have been retained at the centre and only the financially weaker attached departments with only liabilities and no incomes have been handed over to provinces.”
The landmark 18th amendment had devolved 12 functions and attached departments of the now defunct federal ministry of food, agriculture and livestock (MINFAL) to provinces or other federal ministries.
The devolved functions include those of plant protection; economic studies for framing agriculture policies; farm management/ research for planning; project formulation and evaluation; crops forecast and crop insurance; marketing intelligence; agriculture commodity, market and laboratory research; soil survey and preparing comprehensive inventory of soil resources; production of special crops like UT olive; standardisation of agriculture machinery; economic planning and coordination with regard to cooperatives; socio-economic studies for framing agriculture research policies; and high level manpower training for agriculture research.
As for the attached departments of MINFAL, the agriculture grading and marketing department, agriculture policy institute, department of plant protection, directorate general of food and agriculture, federal seeds certification and registration department, SSoP, Pakistan agriculture research council (PARC) and national agriculture research council, Pakistan central cotton committee, Pakistan oilseeds development boards (PODB) were devolved to provinces, adjusted in other federal ministries or wound up. For example SSoP was handed almost entirely to Punjab.”
The above devolution of functions and attached departments was affected according to the notification of June, 2011. But recently, another entity with the name of federal food security and research division (FFSRD) has been formed which will cater to all the functions of the former MINFAL to ensure food security and coordinate research in the country. The FFSRD is gradually obtaining back all the attached departments that had been handed over to other federal ministries. The export of agriculture items that had been handed over to the ministry of commerce will be reverted back to the new ministry.