the basic ingredient
for another disaster?
Just in case
Pakistan’s assertive Supreme Court faces the most challenging choices today. By opening up the Asghar Khan case, it has enhanced the possibilities for correcting our course. But its justice must be ‘complete’’ as enshrined in the Constitution
By Raza Rumi
“We cannot have an
army or intelligence agencies that constantly destabilise governments. We
cannot have rogue elements incessantly violating their oath and plunging
the nation into crises — Benazir Bhutto, Herald, 2000
Evidently, the state of
Pakistan is rotten when its former Chief of the Army Staff, who does not
stop touting himself as a true patriot, prima facie violated the oath he
undertook. It is not just Mirza Aslam Beg whose nefarious involvement in
politics has been the subject of discussion in the courts and TV channels
but countless others in Pakistan who have been upto similar tricks and
getting away with it.
After the death of Gen
Ziaul Haq, military rule only changed its clothes. It survived and
flourished for a decade until the Emperor threw off his civilian façade
and took over in 1999 through a proper coup d’etat in the same old
excuse of protecting and saving the country. However, the history of
1988-1999 is yet to be written for it has remained hostage to the
obfuscations of a political class created by the army itself and its
loyalist intellectuals who rule the media and are found in Pakistan’s
moribund academia as well.
The recent political
glasnost in Pakistan — thanks to the lawyers’ mobilisation and the
refusal of two major political parties to repeat their mistakes — is a
new chapter in our history. Whether this is an illusion, a temporary
triumphant moment remains to be seen. The Supreme Court has, after a
criminal delay of sixteen years taken up the Asghar Khan petition. The
‘free’ and independent Supreme Court did not take up this pending case
until there was sufficient public pressure in the recent months. The
judges have been remarking that they are representing ‘people’s
will’ and perhaps this is why they are now establishing that they are
truly independent and not taking cues from their erstwhile senior partner
the military-intelligence complex. This is a welcome development and, if
taken to its logical conclusion, might reset the way power dynamics have
been structured in Pakistan.
After 1988 elections, it
was clear that the junta, despite losing its greatest Machiavellian
leader, Zia, was in no mood to transfer power to a civilian government.
The story of Benazir Bhutto’s first ill-fated government (1988-1990) has
been well documented by her advisor Iqbal Akhund in his book entitled,
Trial and Error: The Advent and Eclipse of Benazir Bhutto (OUP Pakistan,
2000). The book, among other things, reveals the severe limits of
Bhutto’s powers and outlines how she had little control over core
governance areas such as security and economic policies.
During this time, there
were two serious attempts to oust her: first, through a vote of
no-confidence where the rogue intelligence officials doled out money to
engineer the outcomes. The name of one Osama Bin laden was also cited as a
potential financier of this effort. Bhutto’s government also indulged in
horse trading given that was the ‘set’ game in town. In a hard-hitting
interview given to monthly Herald (in 2000), Bhutto recounts the years in
“..in December 1988,
within a week of my forming the government, Brigadier Imtiaz, working at
the ISI Internal, began contacting political parties to overthrow my
government. My political adviser at the time, General Babar, moved to have
him replaced. The army refused initially, though later, Brigadier Imtiaz
was removed from the ISI Internal, not from the army itself…We collected
proof, in 1989, of ISI elements visiting MNAs for a no-confidence move. We
made audio tapes. The head of the MI entered my office and saw the
photograph of the man who had been approaching my MNAs. He panicked, took
the photograph and the tape and then sent me a report saying the man in
question was deranged. In 1990, when the ISI launched a similar effort, we
made a videotape called Operation Jackal. A serving army officer,
Brigadier Imtiaz, technically not in the ISI but substantively still
there, was taped saying: ‘the army does not want her, the president does
not want her, the Americans don’t want her’. He was seeking the
support of parliamentarians to oust the government. I gave that tape,
substantive proof of treason, to General Beg. He filibustered.”
The second attempt was
through a failed coup. The storyline was simple. Bhutto, as a people’s
representative could not be trusted and she was a security risk for the
deep state which wanted the continuation of jihad even after the demise of
the Soviet Union. The priorities of the civilian governments could come
into conflict with this sooner than later. It is not surprising that
Pakistan’s most progressive scheme, budgetary constraints
notwithstanding, of hiring and fielding village level lady health workers
was initiated during these turbulent twenty months of Bhutto’s reign.
This programme has continued ever since and its beneficial impact has been
However, after her 1990
ouster, Bhutto had to be kept away from power. So the military chief Gen
Aslam Beg, as details have re-emerged, played a direct and proactive role
in ensuring that her right wing opponents (not too averse to the jihad
paradigm) were returned to power.
Apparently, Rs14 crore
were distributed by the ISI chief General Asad Durrani to opposition
politicians. This is a small amount as more details trickle in and some
estimate that the total quantum of funds used for political engineering
may reach Rs1.4 billion. General (Retd) Naseerullah Babar, the Interior
Minister in the PPP’s second government, collected the record and Air
Marshal (Retd) Asghar Khan initiated this case.
The key man arm-twisted
was Younis Habib, a banker who has now confessed that he was asked to
raise Rs350 million by the former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the army
chief before the 1990 general elections. Out of the Rs345 million
‘raised’, Rs140 million was paid through Gen Aslam Beg.
The Constitution in
Pakistan is clear. It was even as unambiguous when Gen Beg was at the helm
of affairs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The oath of members of armed
forces as enshrined in the Constitution’s Third Schedule reads as under:
swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold
the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embodies the
will of the people, that I will not engage myself in any political
activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve
Pakistan in the Pakistan Army (or Navy or Air Force) as required by and
under the law.”
How many times was this
oath violated? First, Gen Beg is on record to have sent a message to the
Supreme Court in 1988 not to restore Prime Minister Junejo’s government.
The message was sent through none other than the longest-serving chairman
Senate Wasim Sajjad who “advised” the Court. Later, a contempt
petition against the ex-COAS was brought before the Court, but the Supreme
Court was reluctant to proceed against Beg. It was widely believed though
with no hardcore evidence that the GHQ had saved its former military
chief. Honour comes with traditions.
Not content with this
victory, Gen Beg and his team indulged in pure politics and that too with
an ideological bravado. As Khaled Ahmed has written recently, “Aslam Beg
was essentially an adventurer and a soldier of fortune shaped by
Pakistan’s revisionist doctrine of defence who could not win against
India playing according to rules of professionalism.” Thus, the affinity
with local and global jihadis was at the back of sabotaging democratic
process and hurting the way Pakistani state functions.
This diarchy of
governance continues. The de facto powers to govern and take decisions
still reside with a small coterie of unelected generals, bureaucrats, big
business and a handful of pliant politicians. Now that the Supreme Court
is asserting its space under the eternal sunshine of Pakistani state
power, it is welcome as long as it establishes civilian ascendancy. The de
jure arrangements are clear. A Parliament, the repository of people’s
will and its elected cabinet has the legitimate right to govern and take
executive decisions. Any other formulation will only continue the
Supreme Court faces the most challenging choices today. By opening up the
Asghar Khan case, it has enhanced the possibilities for correcting our
course. But its justice must be ‘complete’’ as enshrined in the
Constitution. At the very least, the army officials who violated their
oath and politicians who squandered public funds must be brought to
justice. Anything less than this would disappoint all of us who are hoping
that the judges will not let history repeat itself.
words – “rogue elements incessantly violating their oath
and plunging the nation into crises”-make even more sense
nowadays after the agencies’ tricks such as memo affair have backfired.
The paralysis of governance for months ultimately affected the ordinary
citizen whose priorities such as security, employment and basic services
are yet to be fully addressed by a dysfunctional state.
writer is a regular contributor. His writings are archived at
Dr Adeel Malik holds the Globe Fellowship in the Economies of Muslim Societies at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, a research fellowship in economics at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, and is a tenured lecturer at Oxford University’s Department of International Development. Malik enjoys the distinction of being the only academic of Pakistani origin currently serving on Oxford University’s Social Science Faculty. He attended F.G. Sir Syed College, Rawalpindi, and Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. After having worked with Dr Mahbub ul Haq (late), he won Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a doctorate in economics at Oxford University. He subsequently held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Centre for the Study of African Economies before taking a full time academic position at Oxford.
Dr Malik’s research looks at the comparative role of geography, trade and institutions in driving long-run development outcomes. His current research revolves around questions of political economy with a special reference to the Middle East and Pakistan. Malik was in Pakistan last week on a research assignment. The News on Sunday sat with him at his home in Islamabad and talked at length on issues like the Arab Spring, importance of regional trade and political system of Pakistan. Excerpts of the interview.
The News on Sunday: You have recently written a paper called, Economics of Arab Spring, which has also been summarised in The Economist as well. What, according to your research, are the underpinnings of the Arab Spring and why have economic reforms failed to take off even after a year of this uprising?
Dr Adeel Malik: We know that the Arab Spring was in large measure about jobs and justice. Muhammad Bouazizi who set himself on fire was in fact protesting against unjust economic and social structure in the Middle East. So, economics, particularly job and justice, were at the heart of Arab crisis. My paper on the economics of Arab spring talks about the long term economic failure of the region. My main premise in that paper is that this is a crisis not only about the Arab state; it’s also about the private sector or more appropriately its absence. For a long time, the Arab world has relied on its status development model in which state is the provider. It provides jobs, security, subsidies.
We know that a 100 million jobs need to be created within the next 10 years or so in that region and the state itself is unable to create those jobs, so you need a private sector. Now, how do you create the private sector? The problem of the private sector development is not just a technocratic problem which can be solved through the magic recipes provided by the World Bank that emphasises on credit to firms, including investment climate, extending credits so on and so for. I think the challenge of the private sector development is twofold. It is political and it is regional. We know that in the Middle East boundaries between public sector and private sector are blurred and to have a private sector that can generate income streams that are independent of the rent streams controlled by the state can be seen as a possible threat by the state because it can create economic power and that economic power can translate into political power. It is a regional challenge because in order from the private sector to succeed for its service and thrive, it needs a bigger market and for the last many decades the Arab world has denied its private sector a big market. It is one of the most fragmented regions in the world in terms of linkages and production, trade and finance. Less than 10 percent of the total merchandise trade in the Arab world consists of intra Arab trade and that has remained stagnant for a long period of time.
TNS: Why is the Middle East so fragmented?
AM: It’s a puzzle because this is a coastal region. Not a single country in the Arab world is landlocked. And everywhere in the world access to the coast translates into a lower transport cost and greater success in manufacturing exports. Yet, in the Middle East, costal access is not translated into market access. Secondly, this is a hugely urbanized region in the world. Nearly 58 percent of Arab people live in urban areas. Yet, the region does not benefit from the economies of agglomeration that are present in the developed world and that again in a sense is the puzzle of geography and here the Middle East has an interesting comparison with Africa.
Africa is similarly resource rich, it’s similarly fragmented yet its fragmentation is mainly the result of geography and ethnicity because Africa is landlocked and Africa has huge ethnic diversity which goes back to the time of the slave trade that has prevented the provision of public goods. By contrast, the Middle East is fragmented not by geography or ethnicity it is fragmented by history and by policy. It’s fragmented by history because historically, the merchant class was very weak in the Arab world and when the region became independent it was cut off into small countries and those countries never created trade linkages that were required. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire the biggest collective action problem faced by the Middle East is to drop regional barriers to trade.
Now this is difficult both in terms of politics as well as in terms of geopolitics because those who are insiders in each of these countries lose by dropping those bearers because they control the economic rents of these trade bearers generate. It is difficult geopolitics as well because the Middle East has been a part of extractive process of globalisation where external powers extract resources through the processes of trade through resources and other ways.
TNS: Let’s talk about Pakistan. Many people believe here that Pakistan can be the next recipient of the Arab revolution. What do you say?
AM: I think before we make these comparisons, it is important to note both similarities as well as differences. There are two similarities here. One similarity is in terms of demography and Pakistan is growingly young like much of the Arab world and there are new forces of demography which are shaping developments on the ground and posing new challenges that is commonality. My main argument is that institutional change in Western Europe and in many other places was driven in large measure by a class struggle where the agrarian classes or traditional power elites were challenged by the bourgeois class or by new elites. It was some sort of class struggle. What we have in many Muslim societies, and Pakistan certainly is no exception to that, is that no new classes are born in a big way. So what you find is not a class struggle but actually a demographic struggle for inclusion, a generational struggle for inclusion. Economic and political power is concentrated among the tiny group at the top. You can think of it as a pyramid where at the top of it there are a few economic and political elite who have access to resources and power and then there is base of the pyramid which has the bulk of the population, including young people who are now clamoring for more of those resources. So, similar generational struggle exists in Pakistani as well. Social media can also play a role.
The other similarity, if I may say so, has to do with reliance on unearned income stream what economists call rent. In the Middle East, unearned income stream through oil and gas revenues, through foreign aid create a particular pattern of development. In Pakistan, too, foreign aid has been an unearned income stream and that has benefited in large measure the civil and military elite of the country and there of course Pakistan is very similar to Egypt.
Having said that, there are important differences between these places. The Arab countries have been far more repressive than Pakistan. There is a lot of debate on the role of intelligence agencies in our countries these days, but if you see at the Arab world you will forget about Pakistani intelligence agencies. The Arab world is a more centralised region whereas in Pakistan you have more ventilators. The media is really free; there has been some tradition of party politics too. So, the South Asian tradition is slightly different. The private sector is weak but it is not non-existing.
So, there are some important differences that exist and yet there are huge similarities. For instance, in the case of Egypt there are interesting parallels. You know that the American Ambassador to Pakistan who brokered the NRO is now ambassador in Egypt, which means even the Americans know that such similarities exist and they might need similar tools to push through similar change.
TNS: So, can there be an Egypt like revolution in Pakistan?
AM: I think one has to be careful while talking about revolution or any other episode of discontinuous institutional change. It can bring more continuity than change. We have seen that in Egypt many people now doubt what they went through a year ago was a genuine revolution because even if political power may have shifted, the de facto power in the country remains the same. It is still in the hand of the military. So, revolution in Egypt is still a very much unfinished business. In that regard, Turkey is a country that is undergoing genuine revolution on the ground. Some 20 years ago nobody would have imagined that Turkey would send 12 or 15 generals to the jail. The economic power has been shifted in a big way, the civilian supremacy of the military is still being ensured and the country is growing at a very fast pace. So, those who are interested in bringing a revolution must first understand the way in which economic and political power is distributed in the country. Once they understand that they would also understand that it is not just a problem of Zardari or Nawaz Sharif or Altaf Hussain, it’s a problem about a permanent interest group in Pakistan which has made political alliances with all political parties or other major stakeholders.
TNS: So you are talking about lack of regional trade and high non-tariff barriers in the Middle East region. The situation is almost the same in our region. How important is it for Pakistan to have regional trade and what impact it can have on our economic and political stability?
AM: I think the question of regional trade is central to our economic prosperity as well as to our sovereignty. Pakistan needs to reduce its dependence on aid and convert that into dependence on trade and when it comes to trade why not start with one’s neighbours. But doing so, one should not be prejudiced in any way. I think Pakistan’s stance should be not to impose any hindrance on natural flow of trade, whether it’s towards eastern or western neighbours, etc. Whenever there is a discussion about Pakistan-India trade there is a very strong lobby in the English press that supports it for a very good reason. It is a great cause and Pakistan and India should trade more, there is no doubt about that. But when it comes to trading with Iran you do not see the same kind of enthusiasm in the English press and that is very surprising because connecting Pakistan to all its neighbours in terms of trade is in the best economic and political interest of Pakistan and it should resist all pressures on that account.
TNS: Why has our political and governance system failed to deliver?
AM: I think Pakistan’s failure in the last 60 years is a failure of politics. I think we did not allow our political system to run smoothly. Despite all its flaws, despite the fact the elections usually recycle the same old elite into power if we allow the system to run smoothly it will have some self-correcting mechanism. Forces that disturb this system are more oriented towards the status quo than the political forces.
As far as political parties are concerned, I think political parties and political system in general consist of individuals for whom business and politics is combined. There is a narrow economic interest which this political system tends to serve but with urbanization, with more education and weakening of the traditional rural power structure we can see some kind of change on the horizon. I think if you let the country have three free and fair elections without any interference from Washington, from military and its intelligence outlets and if we trust their judgment we would not be wrong. Keeping such a diverse polity and region together requires some political framework. And yes, politics is still far from where it should be. Politicians will deliver but we should have faith in the process.
TNS: It’s true that we have politicians who have not delivered but we have a new entrant in politics, Imran Khan, who has come with the slogan of change. Do you think he will be able to change the political system?
AM: Everybody agrees that Imran Khan is an excellent philanthropist, a good human being, and he also has virtues that many politicians lack. In recent months, Imran’s rise and popularity represents a yearning for change and it shows that there is a huge disenchantment with the prevailing political class. To the extent that Imran is bringing the youth into the mainstream political system and our urban middle class that has remained aloof from political process for long is a good omen. As a political economist, I believe that competition is not just an economic virtue it’s also a political virtue. One of the problems we have been seeing over the last few years is that the PPP has totally left open the urban space. It is now concentrating more on rural areas and so is Nawaz Sharif and many other political leaders who are elected from urban areas. They have remained pretty much unchallenged. Imran, in a sense, will pose that challenge which is a good change. Whether he will be able to bring change, I have my doubts about it, especially in the light of new entrants to his party — many of the same old faces. A lot of things can change but the team matters. The traditional faces from the political elite represent the old power structure which has shifted alliances for centuries. They are pragmatic politicians and one can be sure that they are not joining Imran for his agenda of change but to protect their interests. It is an effort by old political elites to secure their political and economic stakes in the face of new demographic realities of Pakistan.
Energy crisis in Pakistan has badly affected the overall manufacturing sector in the country; however, the worst sufferer of the situation is the textile industry, which may make it difficult to achieve country’s ambitious export target of 25 billion dollar for the current fiscal year.
The year’s textile export target was fixed at 14 billion dollar at the time of budget. Frequent closure of gas as well as announced or unannounced electricity load shedding has virtually brought activities to a standstill industrial.
According to officials at All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), textile exports have already slowed down due to persistent gas crisis and resulted in decrease by 40 percent during the month of January in terms of quantity. APTMA claims that about 20 percent textile manufacturing capacity in the Punjab province has been shut down permanently because of gas shortages and other issues like high debt costs.
“We have requested the government to give priority to the textile sector, otherwise it is difficult to meet the export target or even run the industries, which is labour-intensive and contributes largely in the national revenue,” says Mohsin Aziz, Central Chairman of APTMA.
Textile export proceeds of Pakistan are about half of the total exports of the country. Talking to The News on Sunday (TNS) on phone, APTMA chief says that in a recent meeting with the President and Prime Minister at Islamabad a delegation of the association has recommended to the government to put textile sector on the second priority, only after domestic consumers, in supplying sui gas. Presently, the textile sector is put on third or fourth priority and gas is closed for three to four days a week. In such a situation, how can we achieve the textile export target,” he asks.
Besides industrialists, industrial workers are also badly affected due to sluggish industrial activities in the country. Now most of the textile mills have cut down working hours and laid down surplus workers. The country’s textile industry employs more than 10 million people and the closure of manufacturing units has put the already inflation-hit workers in a difficult situation.
Energy crisis, inflation, and shortfall in revenue collection is adding to budget deficit, in addition to trade deficit, putting the economic managers of the country in a difficult situation. The GDP growth during the last four years has remained sluggish, mainly due to low performance of large scale manufacturing sector, bad law and order situation in the country and lack of investment. At the time of budget last year, the government had fixed GDP growth target for fiscal 2011-12 at 4.2 percent, which was later revised to 3.6 percent in the second quarter.
The country is facing acute trade deficit due to growing imports and declining exports. The current trade deficit has already crossed 14.6 billion dollar mark during July 2011-February 2011 against the annual target of 14.5 billion set for the whole current fiscal year. The trade deficit during the corresponding period of the last fiscal year was 10.337 billion dollar, showing an increase of 41.23 percent.
Textile export sector has been enjoying tax exemptions and other incentives from the governments in the past. Although the present government has made efforts to provide help to the textile sector by facilitating exporters and through lobbying to get concessions in the international market, the local energy crisis and increase in other input costs like fuel prices has put the sector in a shambles.
The WTO council members unanimously approved Pakistan-specific European Union trade package in the last month. Pakistani textiles are currently paying 7.19 percent import duty in the European Union and the waiver will apply until end-2013. “Within the span of two years, Pakistan is expected to benefit Euros 900 million (USD 1.2billion) worth of exports,” says a research report by Global Research & InvestCap. Currently, Pakistan exports to European stands at US $4 billion, including yarn, clothes, and garments.
“The main items of the textiles sector, i.e, bedware, ready-made garments and cotton fabrics, which hold 38pc, 20pc and 12pc respective share in textile exports to the EU, are, however, not included in the European concession package,” says Abdul Azeem, a research analyst at InvestCap.
After the concession from the EU, the sub-textile sectors of dishcloth/duster, knitted tracksuits-making units, Weaving industry, towel, gloves and socks-making units will benefit,” he adds.
But before exports to European countries starts under the concession package, the manufacturers needed factories to increase exports and this is difficult without uninterrupted gas and power supply. Furnace oil is already costly due to growing oil rates in international market and there is no alternative energy option available. The Iran gas pipeline project is facing snags due to the American pressure.
In such circumstances, Pakistani textile exporters are also facing tough competition from their counterparts in India, China, and Bangladesh whose products are more competitive in international market due to lower production costs.
“I have seen textile industries in Faisalabad burning woods, coal, rice husk, and animal dung in their boilers to keep the turbines running because closure of sui gas for longer durations,” says Majyd Aziz, a textile exporter and industrialist in Karachi. “In Faisalabad,” he says, “the largest textile manufacturing city, mostly textile industries are running in single shift as previously they were running double shifts and even three.
The textile sector contributes around 56 percent, or about $13.8 billion in the overall exports of the country, according to industrialists.
Textile industrialists attribute mostly domestic factors behind sluggishness in the sector. Last year, Pakistan’s textile sector earned windfall profits because of increase in prices in international markets. However, last year’s floods in southern Sindh caused losses to cotton production, which has resulted in increase in cotton rates. Moreover, recession in the global market due to financial crisis has also hit the global textile market and exports. The situation could remain grim because of declining number of buyers’ orders.
It was July 2004 when I first time heard about 3G — Third Generation –telecommunication services during a summer school at Oxford University. It was the time when we, in Pakistan, were gradually moving from a monopolistic telecom sector to a competitive telecom market, switching from dial-up technology to DSL Internet connection, and evolving broadcast sector from one television channel to many broadcasting options. We were also experimenting with the Wi-Fi Internet technology at a limited level.
On the other hand, the developed world was debating on the issues pertaining to 3G technology. Few of the developed countries, like Japan and South Korea, were already experiencing the technology at the common man level. Broadband Internet ‘on the move’ was available to everyone using 3G technology in those countries and video call through cell phone was no more a dream. They were, at that time, thinking beyond 3G.
In the meanwhile, work on the evolution of online technology was also at a fast speed. Emergence of Web 2.0 revolutionized everything in the cyber space. Everyone living in developed and developing countries took benefit from the revolution and “now we are living in the age of Facebook, twitter, wordpress, google, and Wikipedia,” according to Shahzad Ahmad of Bytes for All (B4A).
At present, even in Pakistan, making video call while walking on the road and ‘broadcasting’ any incident/occurrence in the vicinity is quite possible for everyone. Without even having [licensed] 3G phone services, you just need to have a smart phone or Internet Tablet PC — IPad for example — with Internet facility. With the smart phone or IPad, you can shoot a video and upload the same through facebook, youtube, etc. (You might remember the flogging of swat girl video, which was made using a cell phone and uploaded on Internet and played a pivotal role in initiation of Swat military operation in 2009!) In fact, these are the main features of the 3G technology, which we are already enjoying. Ironically, our telecom regulator i.e., Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), has yet to issue ‘license’ for 3G telecommunications in Pakistan.
Regulator of the broadcast sector in Pakistan presents almost similar picture as very little seems to have been done towards ‘digitalisation of broadcasting’ in the country. In 2007, when the entire Europe was going to have digital TV, our ‘up-to-date’ and ‘modern’ regulator i.e. the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was thinking to have digitalisation by year 2015. (This was told by the then member executive and current chairman of the PEMRA to this scribe during an interview for MA thesis research).
PEMRA, which is responsible to ‘regulate the broadcast sector’ and has ‘sole’ authority to issue licenses for broadcasting such as radio station, television channel, cable services, is so ‘efficient’ that it has yet to make mind about the DTH or Direct to Home or Dish TV licensing despite having bidding process completed for the licenses back in 2005. Except for a few cities, licenses for MMDS or multi-channel multi-point distribution service — wireless channels distribution services — are still under process since 2005.
However, the point is not whether we have access to modern technology and tools of information. In fact, the prime concern is that the regulators – both PTA and PEMRA –, which are responsible to modernise the telecom and broadcast sector in the country, are either lagging behind the rest of the world in doing their job or jumping into each other’s domains. They also seem to work on similar/identical things but sitting at two different places.
According to the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, 1996, PTA is responsible to “regulate the establishment, operation and maintenance of telecommunication systems and the provision of telecommunication services in Pakistan.” Telecommunication service are “the service consisting in the emission, conveyance, switching or reception of any intelligence within, or into, or from, Pakistan by any electrical, electro-magnetic, electronic, optical or optio-electronic system, whether or not the intelligence is subjected to rearrangement, computation or any other process in the course of the service.” There is nothing in the law, which authorises PTA to ‘regulate’ the content being run through the telecommunication services.
The PEMRA on the other hand, is ‘responsible for regulating the establishment and operation of all broadcast media and distribution services in Pakistan.’ According to the PEMRA Ordinance, 2002, broadcast media “means such media which originate and propagate broadcast and prerecorded signals by terrestrial means or through satellite for radio or television and includes teleporting, provision of access to broadcast signals by channel providers.” Similarly, Distribution service ‘means a service which receives broadcast and pre-recorded signals from different channels and distributes them to subscribers through cable, wireless or satellite options and includes Cable TV, LMDS, MMDS, DTH and such other similar technologies. In layman perspective, the PEMRA regulates the content being run by the media organizations.
As mentioned above, both regulators are not doing what they are supposed to do and doing what they are not supposed to do. For example, delay in 3G licensing, DTH licensing, MMDS licensing are a few of the instances of their inactiveness. Since the world has moved way ahead from 3G to 4G, the PTA has recently announced the auction of the spectrum for 3G in Pakistan. DTH or Direct to Home — Digital TV or Dish TV — is a popular phenomenon even in India, but Pakistani audience is still deprived of having their local DTH. PEMRA is also silent about the issuance of further licensing for MMDS and, therefore, denying access to high definition cable television services to a vast majority of the population.
Similarly, IPTV — Internet Protocol TV — licensing is the case where one regulator seems to enter into the domain of the other. IPTV is an Internet based television facility and does not require any up-linking facility for transmission. It requires a high speed broadband Internet connection only. Technically, it does not need to have any permission from the PEMRA to upload its content on the Internet as the Internet is not under the control of PEMRA.
Tripe-play — telephone, Internet, and cable TV — licensing by PTA and MMDS by PEMRA are quite identical things being done by two different regulators at the same time. Wateen telecom is providing internet, telephone and cable service through a license from the PTA whereas the Pakistan Telecom Company Limited (PTCL) is providing all these services through a license for telecom and Internet services from PTA and for cable service from PEMRA. Mobile TV is another example of ‘regulatory overlap’ where all the cell phone operators, which are operating under the license from PTA, have got license from PEMRA to broadcast TV channels through mobile phones. (By the way, how will a layman understand who should he complained to in case of quality of services — phone and Internet — issue or violation of ethical values through content provided by Mobile TV or PTCL?)
Quite ironically, the regulators, instead of minding their own business and focusing on their actual role of providing ‘efficient, reliable, and transparent’ regulatory environment to the stakeholders, is busy in building a ‘Great Firewall’ to block internet in the country and PEMRA is introducing new broadcast regulations to curb media freedom.
In many cases, both the regulators are duplicating each other’s efforts due to their vague and ambiguous overlapping roles and functions. Both are a unique example of ‘duplicity of efforts’ for the same tasks. Both are not performing their roles to provide efficient, reliable, and transparent regulatory environment to the stakeholders; however, both are doing what they do not mean to do i.e., restricting the right to access to information — through building Great Firewall — and right to expression — through introducing stringent media regulations. Practically, both are a huge burden on public exchequer and consumers. Both, the state and the citizens, are paying at two different places for similar services. The inefficiency cast of the regulator is also very high as both are not serving the citizens but the government.
This situation necessitates having a serious and thorough review of the performance of the both. The case is ready for either abolishing both PEMRA and PTA and introducing a new regulatory regime for the entire communication sector, covering both broadcasting and telecommunications or merging them into one ‘Communication Commission’ on the pattern of the Office of Communications in the UK. This will not only help eliminating duplicity of efforts but also reduce costs of regulations. The licensee will not have to go for license at two different places. Consumers will be at ease to file their complaints to the concerned office instead of ‘searching the relevant’ forum to submit the requests and queries. The proposed commission should regulate the sector horizontally — transmission and content — and not vertically — broadcasting and telecommunications.
writer is Islamabad-based media law and policy expert and Executive
Director of the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA).
He can be reached at
Winter this year has been a little longer with unprecedented snow and rainfall. According to Pakistan Meteorological Department, in the first two and a half months of 2012, precipitation remained 15-20 percent above normal average.
Similarly, record shows higher level of snow compared to snow during the same months in the last ten years. Fog and unusual cold waves also indicate higher level of climate trends in the northern and southern parts of the country.
Dense fog in different areas of Punjab also occurred. Till mid-March, two weather systems have affected the country with mostly weak to moderate intensity. Heavy rainfall and snowfall occurred in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These trends show serious shifts in climate and causes of global warming.
Snow and cold waves are expected to continue till late March in certain parts of the country. The process of melting of snow will also be late, hence water from upstream mountains will start coming down to plains later than the usual time. Melting of snow normally starts in April and the bulk of it goes down the hills till June/July and is the main source of water in rivers and reservoirs that feeds agriculture and farms in both Rabi and Khareef crops.
This year the cycle of snow and melting will be delayed for several weeks and may coincide with the early monsoon spells. The amount of snow is higher than usual and will create much larger water discharge in rivers. Coupled with an expected hostile monsoon, the water splash may cross the average limits of river and barrage systems. This might create another situation of floods during the monsoon season.
A look at the level and scale of government preparedness for any such situation reveals that the river system is still not fully equipped to face an above average water discharge. This may create another humanitarian situation which, if not prevented timely, may cause problems for the already ailing economy and people.
In recent years, several natural disasters hit mainland Pakistan causing great deal of irreplaceable damages to lives, natural and physical resources of the country. These resources provide bread and butter to more than 180 million people inhabiting this country and any further depletion in these resources will change their lives permanently.
Our ability to prevent natural hazards determines the level and scale of disaster. Unfortunately, such matters get little attention in the planning of our rulers, hence the scale of damages increases manifold. The magnitude of flash floods and torrential rains was multiplied because of decades of neglect, flawed planning, dilapidated infrastructure and systemic inefficiencies. All these factors added miseries to the people living in the catchment areas.
In 2011, the devastation was more pronounced in middle and southern parts of Sindh, southern Punjab and KP. In 2011, at least seventeen districts were badly hit by torrential rains but Mithi, Mirpurkhas, Diplo, Chhachhro, Nagar Parkar, Benazirabad, Badin, Chhor, Padidan, Sanghar, Nausheroferoz, Dadu received record rainfall.
According to NDMA, health, education and communication infrastructure was substantially damaged with at least 1.1 million houses destroyed. These rains affected 7.4million people, while twenty million people were still struggling to cope with the devastation caused by floods in 2010. One is forced to question whether the scale of the destruction could have been averted if the government had genuinely prepared for flooding after 2010 massive flash floods.
For instance, in low-lying parts of the world where flooding is routine, people build their homes on stilts or on large rafts. As the water rises, the home rises with it and when it recedes, the houses move back to the ground, making them more resilient to disasters like floods. This has been done in neighboring countries like Bangladesh.
According to different progress reports of NDMA and other humanitarian agencies, the amount of damages to river systems, canal, barrages, flood protection infrastructure and massive landslides in riverine areas of KP, Punjab and Sindh was massive and a net PKR 350 billion were needed to repair, reconstruct or rehabilitate these structures. Ironically a small percentage of these structures have been either partially or fully recovered.
Large parts of damaged river beds, protection walls, barrage heads and other related infrastructure is still waiting for government’s attention. Despite government claims of investments and rehabilitation efforts, site verification can reveal the gap between government claims and actual reconstruction in flood areas.
Due to the relatively flat land gradient in southern Sindh, rain water inundated large areas in southern districts and the situation became more serious due to breaches in Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD), and caused loss of life and extensive damage to property, agricultural produce and livestock. Wrong design, poor civil work and neglect in maintenance of LBOD channels cause more damages to local population than rain itself.
The government was not and is still not prepared to deal with disaster of this scale due to an inadequate disaster management system, poor emergency relief coordination and overlapping mandates of different organisations. A disaster management framework and policies are already in place but is important to transform them into effective management systems.
Clarity on the roles and responsibilities of government officials at the district, provincial and federal levels is strongly urged by international agencies working on the ground who felt it would help prevent duplication in relief projects.
Despite last year’s hurdles, the NDMA claimed to have a contingency plan for floods in 2011 yet it was unable to organise efforts for the 750,000 people who became displaced after initial rains in Sindh. Meanwhile, UN agencies remained on standby until an official request for emergency support was released and UN and other agencies were asked to intervene. Nearly three weeks after the initial floods, Prime Minister appealed to the international community and to philanthropists. This shows fragility of government efforts and preparedness to deal with any such emergency.
The NDMA claims that it spent around 6.7 billion rupees on relief efforts and this number is other than 3 billion spent by UN and other humanitarian agencies. The UN conducted a multi-million dollar humanitarian assistance programme in Sindh along with other international organisations helped the government focus on issues related to health, food security and sanitation. This amount is a mere fraction of the total estimated damages and resources needed to repair and reconstruct the damaged infrastructure. The backlog still persists and will create a volatile situation in case another disaster takes place.
The opposition parties have also slammed the government’s inability to adequately prepare for floods. These factors highlight the need for a coherent policy on relief and rehabilitation efforts so there is clarity among government and relief organisations.
Flood Control Plans were developed in 1978 and have not been revised ever since. The whole landscape has undergone several changes over the years and living with three decades-old flood management system indicates institutional bankruptcy.
Many factors that hindered previous relief and rehabilitation efforts are still present. These institutional challenges must be resolved as soon as possible if the government wishes to avoid a repeat of the last year’s disaster.
writer is Deputy Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global
A patent of Tuberculosis (TB), treated for free in all government hospitals of Pakistan, poses no hazard to people around him after taking medicines for 15 days as germs remain contained. But a treatment left in the middle makes the disease untreatable as germs develop resistance to drugs so it is important to take medicines regularly. These are some of the messages from doctors working for the eradication of TB all over Pakistan. They met with The News on Sunday in a local hotel in Lahore last week.
A doctor at the conference pointed out that if Global Funds stops working then the provision of medicines for Multidrug-Resistant (MDR) TB patients will come to an end with it. If purchased privately the medicines are very expensive, hence unaffordable. Sponsors are needed here to build a sustainable system. There are 9 percent MDR patients.
Other messages that came from them are; “tuberculosis spreads only through air so there is no need to separate utensils of tuberculosis (TB) patients, neither should they be asked to wear a mask for it would single them out. Social stigma must be avoided. TB patients are advised to put a handkerchief before their mouth when coughing, stay outdoors and in the sun.” One active untreated TB patient can infect 10 to 15 in one year.
In 22 high disease burden countries in the world, India stands number one while Pakistan is number eight. It has 44 percent of total caseload of Eastern Mediterranean Region. According to estimates, 300,000 new cases are added each year.
“Yearly turnout of TB patients in the country is four lakh eighty thousand but half of the TB cases reported are that from Punjab as 231 cases per hundred thousand are in Punjab,” says Dr. Darakshan Badar who is heading the government’s TB Control Programme in Punjab.
“There are 498 diagnostic centres working under TB Control Programme in Punjab, including 32 in prisons. TB treatment has now been reduced to six months only,” says Dr. Badar. The treatment is uniform, standardised, throughout the world.
“If we keep detecting 70 percent cases and treat 85 percent of them, let 5 percent by default, we will achieve the next target of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — that is, the burden will be halved by 2015,” she says, adding, “Ninety percent of TB patients are getting treatment at home while only 34 in one hundred thousands die of TB.”
Tuberculosis is a disease of the poor as overcrowding and lack of nutrition are the main reasons for its spread. Eighty percent TB is of the lungs. The population most affected by TB is between 15 and 50 years of age — the most productive age.
Model Chest Clinic at Ganga Ram Hospital in Lahore has a pamphlet to inform patients all about TB. “If there is continuous cough for three weeks, malaise, loss of appetite, low grade fever in the evening, sweating at night, chest pain, loss of weight or blood in sputum — any or some of these symptoms — it is strongly advised to have a check-up.” Dr. Aamir Nazir, who is heading this clinic, says mostly people come to a doctor on detecting blood in sputum and are unaware of the other symptoms.
“Do not kick out your servant on detection of TB. The sputum becomes free of germs within 15 days. Rather, help him with the treatment. Also, do not stop treatment during pregnancy.” He has found mother-in-laws stopping TB treatment during pregnancies. If a woman has TB, she should take care not to become pregnant but if she does she should consult a doctor and get treatment”.
The doctor lays stress on safe disposal of sputum in the first 15 days after detection of TB and advises paper or tissue paper for that which should be folded and burnt. He points out that one person can spread TB to the whole family living in a compound if he is not aware and does not take care. “Once I treated seventeen people of a family living in one house,” says Dr. Aamir. A senior doctor at Mayo Hospital’s TB clinic, Dr. Abdul Aziz, finds it extremely important to educate people in order to eradicate TB. He suggests giving information about prevention of TB in school curriculum.
Gulab Devi Hospital in Lahore, the biggest hospital for Tuberculosis, not just in the region but probably in the world, is a 1500 bed hospital that treats 95 percent patients for free while all the general patients are given free diagnostic facilities, treatment, diet and surgical operations — all under one roof.
The beds are all occupied these days. There are 1000 TB patients, 300 non-TB patients and 200 cardiac patients. Gulab Devi receives 1000 patients daily in the out-patients department who get free anti-TB treatment here.” At Gulab Devi Hospital the cure rate is 85-90 percent,” says Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr. Muhammad Akram.
Gulab Devi is not a government hospital. It is run by an independent managing committee, which has 22 members, mainly donors and philanthropists who donate to the hospital on a regular basis in cash and kind. The budget is met by the Punjab Government grant in aid, zakat from the Punjab Government but mainly through donation from philanthropists and zakat from the public.
Dr. Akram says, “You need three things to eradicate TB: political will of the government, expertise, whether it comes from the government or NGOs and media. The political will and expertise is there, we need media’s support because only media can create awareness among the masses.”
About the disease, he says, “It is a disease. Do not take it as a stigma.”
Medical social officers at the hospital were worried for those who leave treatment in the middle. A patient who came to the hospital recently had TB at an advanced stage. The MDR patient was given medicines after tests but instead of continuing medicines his family took him for dum to a ‘spiritual healer’.
DOTS remains at the heart of fighting TB. There are 5,000 health centres where TB is diagnosed for free and treated for free, apart from government hospitals. TB is completely curable, the important thing is not to delay the treatment.
In a small room of almost two-century-old Gurdwara Bhai Beasa Singh Sahab, situated in Jogiwara locality of Mohalla Ghazi Abdur Rasheed Siddiqui in Peshawar, you will see an elderly woman.
At first sight, you may mistake her for a helpless being who has taken shelter under this roof with her belongings comprising few clothes, some household items and a pile of books. After a brief chat with her though, her elegance, polite way of talking and maturity of thoughts will defy your first impression. She is 78-year-old Shafqat Ara, who is among the pioneers of technical and vocational training for girls in the province and has been imparting various skills for four decades.
Sharing the story of her life, Shafqat Ara said she was born on September 12, 1934 in Jallandhar, East Punjab in India. She had to leave her hometown along with her family and relocate to Faisalabad. After completing education and undergoing several courses of technical education and vocational training, she was sent to Peshawar with a group of five other teachers, a headmistress, a watchman and clerk by the Punjab government to launch the first vocational training institute of the then North-West Frontier Province named, Government Vocational School at Jogiwara inside Hashtnagri.
The retired educationist said the school started functioning in the spacious building of the gurdwara or Sikh temple which was lying vacant after the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947 and was under the control of the Auqaf Department. “Initially, there was no electricity, no water. The teachers made contributions to ensure basic facilities such as water and power connections,” recalls Shafqat Ara, while reminiscing about the initial days of her career.
“The women teachers were accommodated in a room of the school building. Keeping in mind conservative environment of the province, our high-ups asked us not to go outside the building. A comparatively aged teacher, Ghulam Fatima, accompanied by the watchman, used to go to Karimpura Bazaar and run errands for all of us,” recollects Shafqat Ara.
Pointing to lack of interest by the people in girl education, she says they were least willing to get daughters educated. Getting them schooled till the 5th grade was deemed enough. But slowly and gradually, they realised the importance of vocational training and students of the adjacent Jogiwara Primary School started to enroll for the courses after finishing the 5th grade, says Shafqat who is called amma (mother) by other dwellers of the building for her politeness and affectionate behavior as her leitmotif is jani and laal.
She said with 80 sewing machines, the school in its early days offered three year-diploma. In first year, the girls were taught to stitch knickers, bib and feeder cover; in second, shirt, frock, pyjama and in third year, waistcoat and men’s shalwar qamis.
Recalling and appreciating the help extended by the government of Punjab, Shafqat Ara said, even thread and cloth for students was provided by the neighbouring province although the skill learning was free of cost. Most of the girls used to leave school after first year, but gradually their interest level raised and they started going for three years’ training.
When asked if she was satisfied with the state of technical and vocational education that she had co-pioneered 58 years back in the province, Shafqat who had joined the department in scale five and retired as deputy director technical education, says today there are scores of vocational centres in various parts of the province; teachers and the students have facilities which is really a great source of satisfaction for me.
Drawing a comparison, she said: “I kept performing my job for Rs34.50 per month salary in the initial days of my service while now a teacher gets a minimum of Rs 25,000. We sometimes used to work till evening under the sky as we did not have electricity. It was the fruit of hard work of the pioneers of technical education that such institutes were later set up in Nowshera, Mardan, Karak, Kohat and Abbottabad, and Dera Ismail Khan districts. Today every district has one such institute with nine teachers, two clerks and a headmistress each,” points out the elderly woman who retired from service in 1994.
Shafqat Ara has no close relative after the demise of her only sister and brother. She still lives in a small room of the building, pays rent and utility bills willingly as a responsible citizen. In year 2006, a portion of the building collapsed and the school was shifted to Gulbahar. Keeping in view her services, she was offered a furnished room in the new building of the school, but she declined the offer as she loves the institute she co-pioneered. She was offered five years’ extension in service by the government at her retirement, but she refused to accept it, saying that would be something unfair to the serving employees.
About the people of the province, Shafqat Ara says they are sincere and loving people with great respect for women. “When a portion of the school building fell down in 2006, the people gathered and offered me to live with them but I declined the offer with thanks. I have lived in this place for 58 years and have developed love for it. Only the first of every month is the day when I leave this room as I have to go to the bank on the Grand Trunk Road to get pension. Leading an honourable life is a great blessing. I was a young woman when I came here. Today, I am 78. I thank God for the respectable life I have lived despite being single. I wish to spend last moments of my life here and I want to be laid to rest in Peshawar after my death as this adopted city has given me respect and satisfaction,” she said.
The fertilizer crisis which was on its peak during the last sowing season is far from over. It is feared the never ending shortage of natural gas and its supply to fertilizer companies will again result in fertilizer shortage.
Continuous supply of natural gas to fertilizer units is necessary as it is not only a fuel but a basic raw material as well. While others can switch to other fuels like furnace oil, coal, etc, this sector cannot.
Just as was the case in the past, once again the gap will have to be filled by import of fertilizers and its supply to farmers at a subsidized price. The imported fertilizer is expensive and once subsidized does not reach the deserved in most cases.
Economists believe fertilizer shortage is not a crisis of one sector. It affects the whole economy as Pakistan is an agricultural country and its economy is agro-based. If there is less than required application of agricultural inputs, like fertilizers, the yield is bound to go down. This means less food to feed the bulging population and less raw materials like cotton for textile industry.
In order for a plant to grow and thrive, it needs a number of different chemical elements. The most important are carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These are available in air and water. Besides, it needs macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which are present in fertilizers.
So, it is a challenge for the economic managers of the country to devise a workable plan that ensures smooth apply of this important input and helps all stakeholders involved with agriculture.
A look at the fertilizer group’s performance of last quarter of 2011 shows a steep fall in the production of different companies. The major reason was that the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Company (SNGPL) had disconnected gas supply to major fertilizer companies like Dawood Hercules, Agro Tech and Engro Urea plants.
The price of urea fertilizer which was Rs840 per 50 kg bag in 2010 reached between Rs1800 to Rs2000.
There was discriminatory treatment to different companies in gas supply. For this reason, fertilizer was sold at four different rates in the country. A 50 kg bag by Fatima Fertilizer was available for Rs 1380, a bag of Engro Fertilizer for Rs 1580, Agri Tech for Rs 1800 and Daud Hercules for Rs 1750.
Head of Marketing of National Fertilizer Company (NFC), Uzair Abu Bakar, says in view of 5 percent increase in agricultural growth every year, there is an urgent need to increase the production of fertilizer, “Fertilizer companies should be asked to import quantities of fertilizer, equal to the shortfall in their production, to ensure its availability in the market. NFC imports urea fertilizer whenever there is a shortage in the market.”
Uzair insists there is enough quantity of urea fertilizer available in the country and they are the stock holders who have created an artificial crisis. “They are trying to get more profit by holding the urea stocks in their own private god-downs.”
Once there was a major shortfall in fertilizer production during the regime of ex-president General Ziaul Haq. The fertilizer companies were ordered to import urea fertilizer and fill the gap between its demand and supply during the season.
Managing Director, Sui Northern Gas Pipe Lines (SNGPL) Punjab, Arif Hameed, says as far as providing gas to the fertilizer companies is concerned, they can do only once they have surplus gas after serving domestic users.
He tells The News on Sunday (TNS) that the first priority is the domestic supply, then industry and CNG stations. Even then the SNGPL supplied gas to them for a long period, a proof of which is that owners of fertilizer companies gave bonus to their staffers on the occasions of Eid.
Whereas, Chairman Agri Forum Pakistan, Ibrahim Mughal, does not agree with the Manager Marketing that a farmer is not buying imported urea at government rate, he has to purchase it at Rs1800 instead of Rs1300 as offered by NFML after subsidizing it.
The government imported urea but its total distribution is in its own hands and dealers’ mafia. The imported urea is only distributed to political supporters due to election campaign who fill them in empty bag of local companies to earn undue profits, he alleges.
Ibrahim fears that if Indian agricultural products get a free pass to enter Pakistan, our farmer will have a bad time. “If we compare prices of agricultural inputs in Pakistan and India, we find that a 50 kg bag of urea fertilizer is available to our farmer for Rs1800 whereas a 50 kg bag in India costs just Rs520.” So, he says, Pakistan fears double challenge in this season. Wheat production will be less due to fertilizer shortage and expensive due to rise in the cost of fertilizer,-a major agricultural input.
Tariq Bucha, President Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP), claims the subsidy on imported fertilizer promotes black-marketing and rise in prices. He urges the government to ensure that only farmers get it in required quantities.
It’s strange that imported fertilizer is available at lesser price in the market than the local one. Profiteers fill imported fertilizer in empty bags of local companies to fool buyers, he adds.
Bucha urges the government to revise its priority plan and give fertilizer sector importance because fertilizer cannot be passed without use of gas as a raw material.