How can one help? - Ardeshir Cowasjee - August 29, 2010

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THE National Disaster Management Authority and its provincial/local subsidiaries have justifiably come under fire for the woefully inadequate responses to the floods and the ensuing tragedy. Formed by an ordinance in the aftermath of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, no serious input and resources were made available to the Authority — it was and is a toothless tiger.

As we in Pakistan are unable to deal with what passes for normal lives in any coherent and organised manner (with a negation of law and order and permanent chaos on all fronts), how can we be expected to rise up to deal with overwhelmingly complex and `extraordinary` circumstances. This is essentially a fatalistic nation, submitting humbly to ` Allah ki marzi `, incapable of realising that people can actually be in control of their own destiny.

Establishing a disaster management system is akin to taking out an insurance policy against incidents that may never happen — and this nation with its scarce resources and grasping leaderships cannot afford insurance premiums.

But then, even the mighty US stumbled while tackling the unexpected: the slow and confused reaction to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the consequences. Violence erupted in pockets in New Orleans, sanitation deteriorated in survivor camps, and events exposed a broader social, political and economic system that does not work for the poor. President Bush`s statement that the military is the “institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations” was sad and unsettling for the affected citizens.

A blog written in 2005 ascribed the failure of the handling of Katrina to the lack of good governance: “Good governance is a catch-all phrase used by scholars of comparative politics. They define it differently, but in its most succinct form, the idea has four parts.

First, and most importantly, good governance means responding to the needs of your citizenry. That may seem painfully obvious, but the world is full of leaders who don`t get it — or don`t care to. Democracy is just as important — in it is embedded the all-important principle of self-government. Good governance also rests on the rule of law and a healthy respect for judicial independence. The final pillar is transparency — it`s inconceivable that we could govern ourselves well without keeping tabs on what our representatives are cooking up in our name.”

How aptly this applies to this unsettled country.

My friend and advisor on matters environmental, Engineer Roland deSouza, spent five days in Sukkur and Shikarpur last week with the Edhi ambulance team, trying to understand what was going on. Herewith an encapsulation of his findings and comments.

The situation is overpowering. Hundreds of camps, each with some 100-150 families (600-1,500 persons) have been set up by the government in and around small towns and cities in upper Sindh to care for the displaced from the affected districts, including Jacobabad, Kashmore, Shikarpur and so forth.

The state of camps established in schools, colleges and other concrete buildings is particularly pathetic as the environmental conditions are grossly unsanitary and unhealthy. Garbage strewn around Sukkur generates flies by the millions, sitting on the faces of babies as shown on the TV channels. The absence of adequate washing and sanitary facilities results in the proliferation of human faeces and water pooling within building compounds — a surefire prescription for flies, mosquitoes and water-borne diseases.

Camps established with tents (of which there is a shortage) in open areas around towns fare slightly better as occupants are able to use the surrounding fields to relieve themselves. The drainage of water away from the camp still needs to be implemented. Moving affectees from buildings to tent-camps should improve matters.

Most camps are managed by government servants, teachers and the like. In the confusion and chaos, registration/listing of inhabitants is questionable. One NGO, who took over a Shikarpur school camp, counted 160 families where the teachers had listed 240.

Food is being supplied by the government and NGOs, local and foreign. Area PPP workers go along with the government food-delivery teams in order to gain political capital for the next elections. Rice is served in many places, but is not to the liking of people who are used to roti .

Health issues have the potential of developing into major hazards: mosquitoes, lack of bed-nets and thus malaria; exacerbation of previous malnutrition in young children; prolific diarrhoea/dysentery deteriorating into a cholera epidemic; skin infections mushrooming through contact.

The UN agencies (WFP, Unicef, WHO) are organising government authorities and NGOs into `clusters` for relief action (nutrition, shelter, health, water/sanitation, etc) and will provide material resources, such as food, medicines and equipment. The WHO team in Sukkur is looking for well-established health NGOs to set up and man (24/7) diarrhoea treatment centres in affected districts to contain a cholera outbreak.Many persons of goodwill are trying to identify the most effective way to help. Roland suggests making cash donations to credible humanitarian organisations (for instance, Karachi Relief Trust, HANDS, SIUT). Contributions in cash allow aid experts, who are familiar with the problems and methodologies involved, to procure the exact items required near the site of distribution, thus reducing the necessity and costs of transportation/warehousing.

Relief goods reach faster and the economy of the affected district is stimulated. Additionally, aid can be tailored to the environment, culture, diet and actual needs of the recipients.

If those who wish to do good seek sincere hands-on involvement, they can volunteer to participate in the management of the camps or medical centres or engineering construction through credible humanitarian organisations such as those mentioned above.

We have to wake up and remain awake.

ANALYSIS: Dubious call to the military —Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi - Sunday, August 29, 2010

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It is easy for Altaf Hussain to raise the spectre of feudal domination because, in Sindh, the divide between feudal and non-feudal more or less synchronises with the Sindhi and Urdu-speaking divide

The worst floods in the country’s history have hit the people of Pakistan hard but the political leaders are engaged in a self-destructive war of words. The latest round of confrontation was initiated by the chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Altaf Hussain, on August 22 by making a highly controversial statement that negated the letter and spirit of the constitution and reflected his disrespect for the democratic institutions and processes.

All political parties and civil society groups condemned this statement. The print and electronic media took exception to this statement in varying degrees. Senior MQM leaders not only defended Altaf Hussain’s statement but also resorted to name-calling other political parties and leaders that questioned his statement. The disposition of the senior MQM leaders might have satisfied the MQM’s key organisational principle, i.e. total loyalty to the party chief, but it adversely affected the MQM’s reputation outside its strongholds in urban Sindh and generated unnecessary bitterness in politics at a time when harmony and cooperation were needed for addressing the humanitarian disaster caused by the floods.

Altaf Hussain’s contentious statement reads: “The MQM will openly support the patriotic generals if they take any martial law-type action against corrupt politicians and feudal lords.” He also said, “If these generals can topple political and democratic governments they can also take steps to weed out corrupt politicians and feudal lords.” Defending these statements, Farooq Sattar, a senior MQM leader, said that “the country [was] in the ICU (intensive care unit) and needs surgery.”

Altaf Hussain’s statement is objectionable for three major reasons. First, there is no provision in the constitution that allows the military to take ‘martial law-type’ action to purge what he calls corrupt politicians and feudal lords.

Second, the MQM is part of the coalition government at the federal level and in the province of Sindh. It should have used its influence with the ruling partners to deal with these issues. The MQM could have moved a resolution in both houses of parliament and in the Sindh Assembly in support of its demand. Alternatively, the MQM could have moved a bill in the National Assembly for making laws to strip the feudal class of their land. Instead, it has bypassed parliament and its coalition partners and made a direct appeal to the military for an intervention in the political domain. This weakens constitutionalism and democracy.

Third, why should Altaf Hussain think that he could use the military to fulfil his party agenda? The military in Pakistan does not play any political party’s game. It has its own view of politics and on politics. Whenever it assumed power it pursued its own agenda. It often tried to win over some political support to cope with the legitimacy crisis of the military regime or for civilianisation of military rule. General Pervez Musharraf used both methods and the MQM joined him in the 2002 civilianisation of his military rule.

An objective analysis of the present National Assembly will show that the big landed aristocracy does not dominate it. Neither do they dominate all political parties. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Awami National Party (ANP) and the MQM are not controlled by feudal elements. Non-feudal elements have a significant strength in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

It is easy for Altaf Hussain to raise the spectre of feudal domination because, in Sindh, the divide between feudal and non-feudal more or less synchronises with the Sindhi and Urdu-speaking divide. As almost all the feudal aristocracy is Sindhi-speaking, Altaf Hussain finds it convenient to raise this issue and build pressure on his political adversaries. There is no such linguistic divide in Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Altaf Hussain has also cautioned his political adversaries, including the PPP, who are perceived by the MQM as challenging its monopoly on Karachi politics. The ANP is more active in Karachi now than was the case three years ago. The Sunni Tehrik is also making inroads into Karachi. Further, militant/sectarian groups are beyond the control of the MQM. The same can be said about various gangs that engage in land grabbing and other criminal activities. Consequently, the MQM finds it hard to sustain its capacity to control reward and punishment in Karachi. The MQM’s anger is building not only against the ANP but also against the PPP. The latter is viewed as being unhelpful. The perception is that the PPP may either be encouraging some of these elements or it may be trying to strengthen itself.

In this fight for domination in Karachi, Altaf Hussain’s statement is a subtle message to the political rivals, including the PPP, that the MQM could invoke the military as its trump card.

Another possible explanation is that Altaf Hussain must have come to believe the latest speculative reports that the PPP federal government is going to be set aside soon in view of the mismanagement of the floods, either by the Supreme Court or under military pressure or both. If President Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP government are on the way out (far from settled), then the MQM may be thinking of pre-positioning itself for the post-PPP era.

The MQM leaders are wrong to assume that if the military can fight terrorism and manage rescue and relief work for the flood-affected people, it can also weed out feudal and corrupt politicians. These are two different domains requiring different strategies. For fighting terrorism or relief work the military relies on its organisational skills, discipline and technical know-how. However, the military cannot fulfil the MQM wish list without violating the constitution and parliament.

The experience of four military governments in Pakistan shows that the military cannot implement far reaching socio-economic changes and address the problem of fragility of political institutions. Military rule causes the atrophy of civilian institutions and processes and the military ends up spending more energy in sustaining its rule rather than changing the socio-economic and political status quo.

The military has restored its image by staying on the sidelines and letting the political process unfold. Its counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency work has won respect within and outside Pakistan. The flood relief work is the latest example of its positive role. These achievements will be neutralised if the military steps directly into politics on the assumption that some political leaders would support its expanded role. The top brass should not entertain political ambitions because it will trap the military in a no-win situation.

Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi is a political and defence analyst

PPP will try to sabotage NA session: Ch Nisar - Muhammad Anis - Sunday, August 29, 2010

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ISLAMABAD: Raising a question mark over the government’s silence on the statement of MQM chief Altaf Hussain, opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Saturday expressed the apprehension that the ruling party would try to sabotage the National Assembly’s session requisitioned by the PML-N.

“We have reports that the government will raise the question of quorum in the National Assembly whenever it gets an opportunity,” Chaudhry Nisar said, while addressing a press conference here at the Punjab House.

He said the silence of the government on Altaf Hussain’s statement was meaningful andshowed its mindset. The PML-N leader said none of the political parties had supported the unnecessary and uncalled-for statement from the “foreigner leader” of the MQM, which is a Pakistan-based party.

“My party is ready to withdraw the privilege motion against Altaf Hussain if he withdraws his statement. I feel it will be the best way to resolve the issue,” he said. “If Altaf Hussain does not withdraw the statement and his party leaders continue slamming the PML-N leadership, the MQM leader would be exposed during the National Assembly’s session on September 2.”

Chaudhry Nisar said the privilege motion submitted by the MQM against Nawaz Sharif for leaving the country 10 years ago was not valid because the question of privilege of a member or of the House could be raised only on a recent incident. “As to why the MQM did not raise this question, when they were in the last assembly?” he asked.

He said the PML-N had requisitioned the National Assembly’s session on a one-point agenda i.e. the flood situation in the country, but “we will now take up the statement of Altaf Hussain first, as it is a question of the constitutional image of the country and the image of the armed forces.”

“If the MQM leader is so worried about corrupt politicians, he should first part ways with the government and support the opposition’s stance on the accountability bill, which is pending in the House standing committee for the last year.”

Nisar said as to why Altaf Hussain did not talk about corrupt politicians when his party members were sitting with the beneficiaries of the NAB in the federal cabinet during the Musharraf tenure.

He said he would once again bring on record the words used by Pervez Musharraf against Altaf Hussain when he was the Army chief, not in the government, during a meeting with him (Nisar) and Shahbaz Sharif.

The PML-N leader said the MQM would curse every Army general like Asif Nawaz and Jahangir Karamat, who exposed the party leadership and sat with Perez Musharraf who provided it a cover. “Altaf Hussain ignored corruption when he was in the Musharraf government and is giving such statements when there is a democratic government in the country,” he said, saying Altaf had no right to talk about national politics.

“The MQM leader should tell the nation from where he got millions of pounds to purchase his house and party office in London. There are no two opinions about the fact that the MQM runs a militant wing and believes in politics of Bhatta,” the PML-N leader added.

He said he had to address this press conference after the criticism on the top PML-N leadership by MQM leaders. To a question, the PML-N leader said the military spokesman should also have responded to the irresponsible statement of Altaf Hussain as it was an attempt to create a rift in the Army and in the national unity.

About his meetings with the Army chief, he said he stopped meeting General Kayani after feeling that the practice was not giving a good impression. Nisar said the government should take parliament into confidence on the flood situation, the amount of foreign assistance and relief and rehabilitation work. He regretted the federal government had provided not even a single penny to the Punjab government as part of relief and rehabilitation of flood victims.

PPP govt defies SC again in new promotion rules - Ansar Abbasi - Friday, August 27, 2010

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ISLAMABAD: The federal government has finally notified the rules for the promotion of government servants to BS-22 at a time and in a manner that perfectly suits some of the influential bureaucrats, including the principal secretary to the prime minister.

While the Supreme Court had desired the revival of the promotion rules rescinded in 1998, which set the condition of at least three years service in BS-21 to make an officer eligible for promotion to BS-22, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has reduced it to two-years, ignoring the SC directives.

It is interesting to note that the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Nargis Sethi, who too got demoted to BS-21 after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, completed her two years in BS-21 on Wednesday, August 26, 2010. The new rules were notified on August 16, only 10 days back.

The Supreme Court had handed down its decision in April this year but it took the government quite a few months to frame the new rules.

Initially, the government had given an indication of reviving the 1998 rules containing the condition of minimum three-years of service in BS-21 but later it changed its mind despite the fact that the Federal Public Service Commission chief Justice (retd) Bhagwandas, when consulted, had fully supported the condition of minimum three-years of service in BS-21.

The 2009 promotions of 54 bureaucrats to BS-22 by Prime Minister Gilani were nullified by the Supreme Court as these promotions grossly negated merit and resorted to the policy of pick and choose. While the fact remains that quite a few demoted secretaries were promoted to BS-22 within a few months of their promotion to BS-21, several demoted officers would have been ineligible even today for promotion if the 1998 promotion rules had been revived.

These include Principal Secretary to the prime minister, Nargis Sethi, who was promoted to BS-21 on August 26, 2008; Ahmad Bakhsh Lehri, promoted to BS-21 on 26-06-2008; Ghulam Ali Shah, 26-06-2008; Javed Mahmood, 02-01-2008; Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, 02-01-2008; Sami Saeed, 02-01-2008; Sohail Ahmad, 02-01-2008; Sayyed Jawed Ali Shah Bukhari, 29-05-2009; Azhar Ali Farooqui, 30-04-2008; Ghulam Muhammad Rind, 23-05-2009; Ghulam Rasool Ahpan, 28-02-2009; Ahmad Mahmood Zahid, 18-12-2007; Abdul Shafiq, 16-05-2009; Neelam S Ali, 29-12-2007; Khalid Idrees, 18-12-2007; Inamullah Khan, 18-12-2007; Taweed Akhtar, 17-11-2007; Agha Sarwar Qazilbash, 19-12-2007 and Mansoor Suhail, 15-05-2009.

But the rules notified by the government now suit most of the above officers, many of whom are holding key positions. While nullifying the promotions of 54 officers, who were elevated purely on the whims of the prime minister and in the absence of any promotion rules, the Supreme Court’s decision said: “It would be appreciated that to ensure fairness and justness, the rules rescinded on April 4, 1998 are re-enacted accordingly.”

According to the just notified promotion rules, the conditions setting the eligibility of the officer for his promotion to BS-22 include (i) Twenty-five years service in Basic Scale 17 and above, excluding the period of suspension not counted as duty and extraordinary leave, and has completed at least two years in a post in Basic Scale 21; (ii) at least three “very good” reports during the last six years; (iii) No penalty under Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 1973 or under the Removal from Service (Special Powers) Ordinance, 2000 (since repealed) has been imposed upon him during his tenure in BS-21; and (iv) possesses sufficient variety of experience.

Under these rules, the promotions to BS-22 would be considered by a high powered selection board comprising the prime minister, who would be the chairman of the board, and members including principal secretary to the prime minister, cabinet secretary, secretary establishment and administrative secretary concerned, who would be co-opted member.

The constitution of the board reflects one strange fact that all the permanent members of this high powered selection board are those three top secretaries, who work directly under the prime minister and do not report to any minister.

The principal secretary to the prime minister, secretary establishment and secretary cabinet are considered as the top bureaucratic aides of the chief executive. These rules shall apply to all posts in Basic Scale 22 in the All Pakistan Service or, as the case may be, civil service of the federation or posts in connection with the affairs of the Federation, including the post in BS-22 as secretary in the secretariat group or equivalent in the regularly constituted occupational groups and services.

HUM HINDUSTANI: Mamata’s metamorphosis —J Sri Raman - Friday, August 27, 2010

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The new Mamata was born the day — October 20, 2005, to be precise — she protested against the state government’s grant of land in Howrah to the Indonesia-based Salim Group of Companies

We know how leaders can evolve from heroes and heroines, if not quite to zeros, certainly to vote-losing villains for their parties in electoral politics. Indira Gandhi, once hailed as the brave liberator of Bangladesh in 1971, lost her halo after the episode of an unpopular emergency and the general election in 1977. Her son Rajiv, riding to power on a popular wave in 1984 after her assassination, fell to the Bofors gun scam five years later. India has known many other examples of such transformation on both the ruling and opposition sides.

Seldom, if ever at all, however, have the battles of the ballot resulted in the reverse of this phenomenon. After covering parts of a dozen general elections down four decades and more, this reporter can recall no instance of any politician of a seriously sullied image acquiring a second avatar as a people-sought saviour.

What we are witnessing today is an exceptional case indeed. Whoever would have expected, just a few years ago, to see Mamata Banerjee as the white hope of West Bengal — and that too of the part of the state’s political spectrum that claims to speak for the least compromising section of the Left?

Fifty-five-year-old Mamata, familiar to all television-watchers today as the shrillest voice of the country’s ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and its government, was not like this always. Far from it. She, in fact, was one of the faces of what quite a few of her present-day admirers of a pure Left used to characterise as ‘semi-fascism’, especially in the 1970s.

The metamorphosis of Mamata is brought out clearly in the columns of Frontier, a Kolkata-based periodical that has given itself the role of a radical crusader against the mainstream Left, particularly the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or the CPI (M), ruling West Bengal for 23 years now. Frontier, a fierce critic of Mamata and other firebrands of the anti-Left Youth Congress two decades ago, is currently her warm friend and campaigner.

Columnist Sankar Ray is among the many engaged in the campaign. In a recent article, ‘Why Mamata differs from Mayawati, Jayalalithaa’ (Express Buzz, August 16, 2010), he takes up cudgels against those comparing her with other ‘strong’ women leaders of regional politics. They might all be “authoritarian”, he says, but “on one point Mamata is distinctively different and qualitatively higher. That is the support she enjoys from well-known intellectuals comprising scientists, former...officers of unquestioned integrity, academics of standing, artistes, civil rights activists and litterateurs of repute.”

Octogenarian writer Mahasweta Devi, with outstanding works on tribal communities to her credit, goes even further. In a recent media interview, she says: “Acceptability to the masses is a politician’s greatest test and (Mamata) has passed this test with panache. And it is this acceptability that makes Mamata a great leader of the people. It is a very rare quality we found in another great leader of our country — Mahatma Gandhi.”

All this august company may be uncomfortable even to Mamata, who started her political career in the West Bengal stable of Sanjay Gandhi. Indira’s younger son took advantage of the emergency to rise to premature political stardom at the head of a Youth Congress that supplied anti-Left storm troopers in the state.

Installed as the general secretary of the Youth Congress, she joined the P V Narasimha Rao government in 1991 as minister of state for human resources development, youth affairs and sports, and women and child development. She lost this job in 1993, but she has ever since been returning to the cabinet in New Delhi, regardless of political dispensations, and making her mark in rather muscular ways.

At a public rally at Alipore in Kolkata, in the aftermath of her exit from the Rao regime, for example, Mamata wrapped a black shawl around her neck and threatened to make a noose with it. In July 1996, she squatted at the well of the Lok Sabha — the lower house of India’s parliament — to protest against a petroleum price hike, though she was part of the government. In the heat of the moment, she shook Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party by his collar, with the victim’s then impressive size adding to the countrywide applause for her spirit.

In February 1997, when Minister Ram Vilas Paswan was presenting the railways budget, Mamata threw her shawl at him for ignoring West Bengal’s demands and announced her resignation. She quit the Congress and launched her Trinamul — grassroots — Congress, which soon became the main opposition to the Marxist-led state government.

In 1999, she joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was allocated the prestigious and politically attractive railways ministry. Presenting her first railways budget next year, she fulfilled many of her promises to her home state.

In early 2001, she walked out of the NDA regime, proceeding to ally with the Congress in West Bengal’s 2001 elections, only to return to New Delhi as the coal and mines minister in January 2004 and held the post until the general election in April-May that year.

She continued to entertain the gallery and the country when she had no portfolio. In August 2006, she hurled her resignation paper at the Lok Sabha deputy speaker to protest the rejection of her adjournment motion on ‘illegal infiltration’ by Bangladeshis in West Bengal.

She might have gone on in this fashion if the issue of land acquisition for industrialisation had not taken the Left Front government in her state and the Left as a whole in the country unawares and unprepared. The new Mamata was born the day — October 20, 2005, to be precise — she protested against the state government’s grant of land in Howrah to the Indonesia-based Salim Group of Companies.

In November 2006, Mamata Banerjee was forcibly stopped on her way to Singur for a rally against a proposed Tata Motors car project. Mamata reached the West Bengal Assembly and addressed a media conference right there. While she called for a 12-hour shutdown of the state, her party men damaged furniture and microphones in the House.

Her next opportunity came with the plan of the state government to start a chemical hub in the Nandigram area for employment generation. Mamata’s call for a months-long blockade of the area to prevent the project led to clashes between the police and the local people. This was the time she began to acquire the halo and stature of a saviour of the people in the eyes of human rights activists and the non-party Left.

Meanwhile, Mamata became railway minister for the second time in 2009. During her new tenure, the Indian Railways has set a new record of about 200 accidents in 14 months, according to an unofficial estimate. The safety of her political journey in West Bengal, however, seems assured.

There was a time when a section of the mainstream Indian Left used to warn against the ‘blind anti-Congressism’, meaning opposition to the Congress of the kind that did not see the larger threat from the far Right. Mamata’s deification by intellectuals frustrated and disappointed with the Left, functioning with all its limitations, may illustrate a similar danger.

The writer is a journalist based in Chennai, India. A peace activist, he is also the author of a sheaf of poems titled At Gunpoint

Anatomy of brutality - I.A Rehman - August 26, 2010

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THE brutal killing of two young brothers by a mob in Sialkot while some policemen watched the incident without any sign of disapproval has exposed serious flaws in the working of law-enforcement agencies and public views on crime and punishment that cannot be ignored.There is some consolation in the fact that this ghastly affair has sent shock waves across the country. Similar incidents have occurred in the past but none of them made the people so angry as this one. The difference has surely been made by the live TV coverage of the incident. But the basic issue is: will all the parties concerned derive the correct lessons from the outrage? One may assume that the people wish to receive guarantees that incidents like this will not recur. But such assurances cannot be offered unless the factors contributing to the conduct of the culprits are identified.

The primary culprits are the beasts in human garb who pounced upon the victims and beat them with lathis with such force and venom that the boys` limbs were broken and they were drained of blood. Then these brutes played a leading role in exhibiting the dead bodies of their victims and hoisting them on a scaffold in medieval style.

They could do all this because the theory of instant and private justice has gained wide acceptance in Pakistan. There has been so much talk of the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the investigation and prosecution agencies and the fall in conviction rate that reliance on legal remedies is considered, by a large section of society, as a sheer waste of time and resources. The defence of the jirgas/panchayats as vehicles of criminal justice has tended to legitimise informal tribunals. Finally, the failure of the state and society both to condemn and stop killings in the name of belief has converted a large number of immature minds to the concept of private retribution.

Since these factors have influenced the psyche of many people besides the goons of Sialkot the danger of similar incidents taking place in other parts of the country cannot be ruled out.

The second culprit in the dock is the police. The reason the policemen present at the scene looked on with ill-concealed delight while the two victims were being clubbed to death and did not intervene is not far to seek. No serious effort has been made to persuade the police force to give up extra-legal killings as a preferred way to deal with criminals, suspects or personal rivals. Every year scores of people are killed in so-called encounters and most of the perpetrators of these murders go scot-free. There have been instances of policemen killing persons in their custody because they thought they were enjoined to do so by their faith.

Further, police officers themselves started the practice of putting the bodies of their victims on an open truck and driving through the town and being garlanded for this feat. Thus, when they find the community following a precedent set by them they consider their tactics vindicated and their licence to kill renewed.

On this charge the senior police officers in the city also stand indicted. The grisly affair continued for quite some time. If the senior police officers did not come to know of it they deserve to be penalised for presiding over an inefficient system, and if they did not act in spite of learning about the enormous crime they are liable to punishment for not knowing their job. In any case their attitude too stems from their belief in instant and private justice.

The third accused party is the public that saw the young men being tortured, joined the procession of the corpses, and clapped when the lifeless frames were strung upside down. They are perhaps bigger culprits than the lathi -wielding rogues and the policemen on the watch because their callousness emboldened the former and disarmed the latter.

Their attitude confirms the view that Pakistani society has been brutalised over the past few decades to the extent of losing not only respect for the human person but also all sense of right and wrong. The Sialkot outrage has again presented a microcosmic image of the insane violence that is eating into the vitals of Pakistani society. Unless coordinated efforts are made to stem the rot, and these efforts may be required over a considerably long period, this affliction could prove fatal for our society.

It has been noticed that the public attitude towards extra-legal killing is determined by the perception of the victim`s guilt or innocence. If the first reports, however reliable or unreliable, say the victim was innocent he does receive some sympathy. If the victim is branded a criminal, and often this is done by the police, he is believed to have met with a just end.

That this attitude is wrong is obvious. Even the worst criminal is to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. Unfortunately, the state has been contributing to violence against suspects by consistently upholding the theory of retributive, as against reformative, justice. Moreover, the further Pakistan moves from the secular imperatives of governance the greater the chances of Sialkot-like incidents recurring will become.

The primary responsibility for demolishing the cult of violence of course lies with the state. But a state whose writ is based solely on its capacity for violence cannot rear a peaceful society. The repeated spells of authoritarian rule have obliterated whatever tradition or capacity for civilised life we had and the need to restructure the state on the principles of peace and justice can hardly be exaggerated.

The task of de-brutalisation of Pakistan cannot succeed, cannot begin, until the main pillars of civil society — political parties, trade unions, the media, human rights and social activists — start playing their vanguard role. They must move beyond politician-bashing all the time. They need to ask themselves how many of them felt hurt when a poor worker was killed in the name of belief, or protested when a police officer offered reward for anyone who killed a `dacoit`? How many have the courage to denounce the killing of couples by militants on suspicion of immoral behaviour?

The dictum that silence in the face of injustice amounts to connivance has been turned into a meaningless cliché. The stark reality is that the whole nation is responsible for each act of injustice or cruelty that affects any member of the much-scattered Pakistan family and each citizen has to do something to ensure that peace and justice are restored.

The aviation factor - Ikram Sehgal - Thursday, August 26, 2010

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The catastrophic cyclone that hit East Pakistan in November 1970 resulted in over 300,000 confirmed deaths (some estimates put the figure at more than one million). The two populated islands of Hatiya and Sandwip escaped without much deaths and destruction, but Bhola and Manpura took the brunt. Numerous small islands off the coastal areas were wiped almost clean. Rivers flowing into the Bay of Bengal were blocked with human bodies and carcasses of animals. The disaster became real only after Army Aviation pilots from the Logistic Flight Eastern Command flew out two days later. The area seemed to have been flattened by a nuclear device. The 10-12 million survivors needed shelter, food, medicine and, above all, potable water. Launches, tugs, barges and fishing boats were swept away. The immediate need was helicopters (and more helicopters), followed by boats of all kinds.

The greater catastrophe of disease and starvation was avoided mainly because of an outstanding heli-borne effort led by Col (later Maj Gen) Naseerullah Khan Babar and Maj (later Brig) Tirmizi. That outstanding spirit of selfless dedication is manifest in the Army Aviation of today. The single runway at Tejgaon (Dacca International Airport at that time) soon became choc-a-bloc with aircraft bringing in relief goods, the shortage of space severely shortening the aircraft turnaround time. Requiring unloading, relief goods needed sorting before their being loaded onto trucks, then onto river boats, launches and barge, till they reached the affected people. To overcome this logistics nightmare and simultaneously maintain security, the army did a magnificent job. I saw this being repeated during Earthquake 2005. The prime factors were simplicity of planning, circumvention of red tape, effective implementation, plenty of flexibility and, above all, accessibility.

In 1970, as now, the US reacted quickly by airlifting thousands of tons of relief supplies, a fleet of heavy-lift helicopters supplemented our small fleet of two Alouettes and two MI-8s. Some Russian, British and Saudi helicopters joined later. We worked our hearts out, flying out from Dacca (Dhaka) before dawn and seldom coming back before dusk. More than 50 per cent of the effort for transportation of relief by helicopter came from abroad. The shortage of helicopters reinforced the adverse perception, both among the intelligentsia and the masses in East Pakistan, of indifference towards them in the face of catastrophic tragedy. That had grave political repercussions, affecting the general elections only 20 days later, and it was one of the catalysts (if not the prime one) leading to East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh a year later. The army's hear-and-soul effort notwithstanding, civil administration seems to have fallen apart in 2010, emasculated by politics of the worst kind. The absence of Local Bodies eliminated the infrastructure capable of shouldering the effort. Part of the slack has been taken by NGOs and other groups, some having militant origins. In 1971 the split was on ethnic grounds, the deprivations and widening economic disparity today could lead to a class war, the religious militants are assiduously exploiting religious ideology. Other than dangerous permutations, connotations that could lead to outright anarchy are going the rounds in the provinces. We seem oblivious to the impending dangers. It is shocking to see the prime minister using badly needed helicopters to engage in electioneering, and that also for a fake-degree holder. Talk about priorities!

To quote from my article, "The Chinook Factor again" (Jan 19, 2006): "The image one carries from 1970 and 2005 is that wherever the physical communications network is weak, or even non-existent, a strong aviation effort is a necessity. Helicopters are certainly not a luxury unless misused as a luxury." We may add that VIP visits must be limited, because it diverts badly needed helicopter capacity.

Our present rotary aviation inventory has French Pumas and Russian MI-17s for heavy-lifting, Bell 412s usefully augment the fleet but have a small lifting capacity (two tons). The price of an MI-17 ($6-8 million has gone up to $8-10 million), and its lifting capacity (4-5 tons) compares favourably to a Puma's ($10-12 million; three tons), but its engine life is half that of a Puma (3,000 hrs), its airframe life one-fourth (1,500 hrs compared to the Puma's 6,000). Fuel consumption (700 litres/hr) is more or less the same as that of the Puma (600 litres/hr). In contrast, a Chinook (CH-47) costs more than $30 million but carries a payload of 12.5 tons.

One can calculate operating costs by converting all costs into a proportion related to each hour of flight, which can in turn be calculated as cost per mile. The formula can be adapted to local conditions, considering skills, maintenance practices, prices and accounting methods. The basic costs are (1) fixed costs, calculated as annual costs, irrespective of the number of hours flown and including depreciation, crew costs, overheads, capital equipment (to include facility, tooling, equipment and major components), etc., the figures varying with helicopter type and method of operations; and (2) hourly costs, varying with the number of hours flown and including fuel and oil, maintenance and labour, engine overhaul, airframe overhaul and airframe-fitted items. Combining fixed cost with hourly direct costs, cost per flight hour can be determined and converted into cost per mile. Total operating costs will reduce as flying hours increase. Direct costs for fuel play a large part.

With a payload of 12.5 tons, the Chinook, with an enviable flight-safety record, has the lowest cost per ton-mile than any other helicopter in this category. Expensive to purchase and to maintain, the cheaper alternative is to go for the Pumas and/or the M1-17s, both excellent workhorses. The downside is the US track record of imposing embargoes could hamper helicopter operations. The Puma can carry about three tons and the MI-17s maximum of four tons. They will have to do three or four trips for every one the Chinook makes. With the MI-17 (or its newer version MI-14 now being inducted into the Pakistani army, courtesy of the UAE), the big disadvantage is the engine life being very limited as compared to that of the Chinooks and Pumas. Wear and tear being far more pronounced on helicopters, more trips by the M-17s would force-multiply the helicopter's physical degradation.

Given that it is an expensive proposition, the cost-effective way would be to set up helicopter-production facilities at Kamra with a buyback clause. Four or five more heavy-lift squadrons (preferably a combination of Chinooks, Pumas and MI-17s) are needed, 60-75 helicopters capable of lifting 200-300 tons of relief supplies at any one time. Compare this cost to purchase and maintenance of about 10 F-16s. Wars do not come every year, but a natural calamity does happen every other year.

When I raised the issue of shortage of helicopters in a select gathering just before the Swat operations started about 15 months ago, my submission was politely deflected. Soldiers die during manmade disasters due to lack of necessary equipment. Unfortunately, so do their helpless countrymen during natural disasters. Who will be held accountable?

The human cost of not having more helicopters is far too expensive for us to morally sustain. Why not put aside a fraction of our budget to protect the lives of our citizens from such recurring dangers?

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:

COMMENT: Politics in the midst of natural disaster —S P Seth - Thursday, August 26, 2010

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Pakistan’s human tragedy requires international help as a human gesture, and not as part of an anti-terrorist strategy. It is the duty of the government to requisition all internal and external resources to deal with the situation, without making it another front against terrorism

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader in self-exile Altaf Hussain’s call for a military coup to depose the country’s civilian government is another nail in the country’s political culture — or what is left of it. Indeed, Pakistan’s enormous tragedy is highlighting the poor state of its institutions and leadership. Only in Pakistan can you have the spectacle of its president undertaking a foreign trip when the country was drowning. President Asif Ali Zardari’s European trip seemed to breathe new life into the old proverb of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.

For President Asif Ali Zardari to leave the country at such a time to tread foreign pastures was not only an act of political stupidity but also showed total lack of empathy for the plight of his suffering countrymen. He was in the UK to talk about the adequacy — or otherwise — of Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism, when he was needed to set an example for his administration by being on the frontline of this natural disaster.

On the other hand, as his critics have pointed out, Zardari was in the UK to promote his son’s political prospects back home by making party-political speeches in Birmingham. If so, it simply beggars belief.

Zardari is an accidental president; he became one when his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was tragically gunned down in 2007. Having become president (following the elections) against the backdrop of such national and personal tragedy, it was hoped that he would rise to the occasion to prove all his critics wrong, especially those who called him Mr 10 percent when he was a minister in his wife’s cabinet.

After a long army rule, Pakistan is finally under a democratic dispensation with an elected president and prime minister. Since Pakistan’s civil institutions have tended to be weak, the proper functioning of its nascent democracy is very important. Without it, the army will continue to dominate national affairs. Some politicians, like Altaf Hussain, will always seek political advantage in courting the generals. Judging by reports, the army still continues to maintain a controlling role. For instance, it has been reported that the government ministers often make house calls on the army chief when so summoned.

There was widespread scepticism when the tenure of the army chief was extended for three years, supposedly by the country’s civilian government. Apparently, they were told what was required of them.

With such deep-rooted popular cynicism in the country’s institutions, restoring faith in the supremacy of the civilian political order is a tall task. But it gets even harder when President Zardari decides to go on a foreign trip in the midst of the country’s worst floods. It is important to stress that the president of a country symbolises the nation. And if he tends to function by betraying a lack of empathy for his people, it brings into question the entire edifice of a nation.

In its present predicament, it is quite natural that Pakistan should seek international help. And the aid is now starting to flow, though it will have to be on a larger scale. And it is quite natural that Pakistan’s leaders should be canvassing the global community for more generous aid.

But it is jarring to see President Zardari overplaying the terrorist card and reportedly saying that if aid is not forthcoming, militants will exploit the situation to further destabilise the country, even to the point of taking away orphaned babies and putting them in terrorist camps. This is the kind of rhetoric that makes Pakistan look like a failed state. Pakistan’s human tragedy requires international help as a human gesture, and not as part of an anti-terrorist strategy. It is the duty of the government in Pakistan to requisition all internal and external resources to deal with the situation, without making it another front against terrorism.

Human disasters of the kind Pakistan is facing are also an opportunity to do some soul searching. If Pakistan were to have an effective government committed to providing economic and physical security to its people, the terrorists would not find fertile ground for creating mayhem. In other words, the rise of the Pakistani Taliban is, to a large degree, an indictment of the Pakistani establishment’s (both military and civilian) failure to govern in the interests of its people.

The military establishment, for instance, has taken a disproportionate share of the country’s financial resources, which might otherwise have gone into developing the country’s woefully neglected education and health sectors, and other nation-building activities. In addition, it has devoured a large share of the foreign aid Pakistan has been receiving for the last 30 years, first to beef up the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets and, secondly, to help the US fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s border areas.

This never-ending Pakistani involvement with the US’ strategic objectives has not only eaten into the foreign aid Pakistan has received over many years (much of it pocketed by corrupt military and political elements), but has also brought its governing establishment into disrepute with its own people by making the country look like a US puppet.

In an article titled ‘Pakistan on the Brink’, Ahmed Rashid wrote in the New York Review of Books last year: “Under (President) Bush, the US poured $ 11.9 billion into Pakistan, 80 percent of which went to the army.” And where did all that money go? According to Rashid, “Instead of revamping Pakistan’s capacity for counterinsurgency, the army bought $ 8 billion worth of weapons for use against India — funds that are still unaccounted for.”

No wonder many people in Pakistan do not trust their government with the aid now filtering into Pakistan for relief and recovery programmes. As one victim of the floods reportedly said, “They (the government) are taking all the aid for themselves. They are pocketing it. There is nothing coming to the people.” Even if this is an exaggeration, Pakistan’s suffering people cannot be blamed for dumping on their government when they hardly see any real improvement in their lives. And no wonder either that sometimes the Taliban look like a better alternative than their corruption-ridden government. When people are suffering, even the bad alternative seems appealing.

Therefore, the Pakistani government has a lot of work to do to establish its credibility and legitimacy with the people. And the country’s present calamity is the time to prove that the Pakistani state is up to the task of helping its people cope with the country’s flood-ravaged disaster.

The writer is a senior journalist and academic based in Sydney, Australia

WASHINGTON DIARY: Lack of common societal goals —Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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Religious indoctrination did nothing except ruin the national identity and a collective consciousness to address societal problems. Now, Pakistanis pretend to be more religious but when it comes to self-interest they cling to the most primitive of identities

Instead of being a melting pot, Pakistani society is more like a sieve through which unity and tolerance travel before reaching the people. India, despite having competent institutions, has struggled to become a melting pot as well. As Pakistan’s sieve filters out nationalism and unity, what reaches the public is a schizophrenic identity with various divisive paths — much like India.

Pakistan has not been a pot in which different ethnic, racial or caste groups submerged to give birth to a single national identity or collective societal consciousness. Instead, it has functioned as a sieve with several filtering holes of class, caste, ethnicity, linguistic grouping, tribal allegiances, etc. A poisonous mix of divisive identities comes out of the sieve. Then, another extra-fine filter of religion is put in, making the toxic mix into a lethal killer of collective societal thinking.

From very early on, Pakistan’s ruling elite thought that a single national identity could be carved out by imposing religion and the Urdu language. However, within a year this ideological model started showing its destructive power when Bengali Muslims protested against Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s desire to impose Urdu as a required language. No lessons were learnt from Dhaka’s Shaheed Minar’s emergence as a symbol of the Bengali Muslims’ desire to preserve their linguistic identity. By the 1970 elections, it became abundantly clear that national identity could not be built through the imposition of religion. A collective mindset could not be created on the ruins of nationalistic aspiration.

1970 is a very important historical threshold for Pakistan. On the one hand, the emergence of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) created a movement that could create a national identity through economic and political reforms but, on the other, undermined itself by imposing religious dictates. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s manifesto and election campaign impacted West Pakistan in such a deep way that the voters rejected caste, tribal or sectarian identities in most parts of the country. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman achieved the same goal in cutting through the divisive identities in East Pakistan for his six-point manifesto. However, both leaders undermined themselves when they came into power in their respective countries.

In the 1971 civil war in East Pakistan, only the religious parties, specifically the Jamaat-e-Islami, helped the army on the ground. Therefore, after the creation of Bangladesh, the military got wedded to religious parties like never before. Ayub Khan was always ready to rein in the religious political parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami. Maulana Maududi was sentenced to death and later pardoned on international appeals during the Ayub regime.

It is interesting to note that after Bhutto’s religious dictates, and later on Ziaul Haq’s theocratic rule, all the old divisive identities started re-emerging with a vengeance. Religious indoctrination did not create a mindset that could go beyond class, caste, ethnic, racial, sectarian and linguistic identities. As a matter of fact, religious indoctrination did nothing except ruin the national identity and a collective consciousness to address societal problems. Now, Pakistanis pretend to be more religious but when it comes to self-interest they cling to the most primitive of identities. Even villages, known for being tightly knit communities, have lost to narrow individual interests.

India has gone through a similar process where the rise of Hindutva led to the carnage of Muslims in Gujarat, honour killings, caste and all other divisive differentiations. Apparently, India has secular state institutions but it is not clear if they can stop the religion-created tornadoes of varying and conflicting identities. Such tornadoes have been hitting the Northern Cow Belt but they have started ruining the harmony in southern India as well.

It is very hard to compare an industrialised US and impoverished South Asia but there is an intriguing similarity. The US’ Bible belt, comprising the southern states, is home to religious extremism and racial differentiation at the same time. On the contrary, in the industrial north and west — where secularism is taken very seriously — the cities and communities are melting pots. Of course, home to all kinds of the world’s sub-groups, there are hundreds of identities but collective societal goals overpower them.

Pakistan has been drifting away from common societal goals with every passing day. Socio-economic changes brought about by commercialisation and mechanisation, along with the uneven distribution of wealth, may have exacerbated the unifying mechanisms. Nevertheless, the imposition of religious ideology by the state has definitely accelerated the process of disintegration. The irony is that the ruling elites and the most powerful institutions of the state are not prepared to recognise their self-created destructive system.

Sometimes it feels like Pakistan is beyond repair. Pakistan’s ruling elite is neither capable nor willing to take the Chinese or the western routes. But societies have a self-preservation instinct that can overwhelm present dysfunctional ideologies or identities. However, no one knows if Pakistan’s map will change or remain the same in this painful process.

The writer can be reached at

Wanted: WikiLeaks - Anjum Niaz - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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Yes, yes, I know that the founder of WikiLeaks website Julian Assange is in deep water with Pentagon and his own home government Sweden. The former want to stop him from posting another 15,000 additional secret documents that could be even “more explosive” for the US administration; the Swedish prosecutors first charged him on two rape cases but later dropped the allegations. No government, be it from the ‘First World’ or the ‘Third World’ likes outsiders exposing its wicked ways. But imagine if we didn’t have guys like Assange in the world, we’d never really discover the truth of how contemptible rulers can be.

Take Pakistan.

Is there anyone with his/her calculator out counting up the dollars coming from abroad? Where is the money going? Okay, even if it’s safely lodged in the State Bank or whichever bank our rulers have decided to garage it in, who is pocketing the interest? More importantly, who is in charge of minding the store making sure that the money is not being pilfered by the President’s House, the PM Sect, the federal and provincial ministers, chief ministers, governors and their toadies?

You know, during a national crisis such as this, there are so many ‘takers’ who suddenly show up to clean up the kitty before you can say ‘Jack Robinson.’ And why should I leave the defenders of our homeland out of this list? They are no angels either. Just to give you one small example of our former army chief cum president, our very own Gen Musharraf, the man Bush gave $10 billion to fight the Taliban after 9/11. You all know the former dictator now lives in royal style, jet setting between London and Boston. One’s told he has recently acquired a farm in Boston. A farm? Why would he want a farm unless he wants to up his status in society and considered a blue-blooded Boston Brahmin?

In Pakistan, we are badly in need of whistleblowers and website founders like Assange who can invite anonymous posts from people in the know…for example, who is stealing the money meant for the flood victims. We need reporters in the shape of sniffers equipped with long schnozzles to smell a scandal and hopefully catch the thief with his/her hand in the till. Why not catch the billionaires and millionaires who poach the state resources shamelessly? Needed then are more investigative reporters to follow the money trail and not just report on the plight of victims left in the lurch by our government. That story has run its course a hundred times over. We now need forensic accountants – the more the better – as independent auditors looking at how the funds are being spent and by whom. This will be a lengthy, massive process.

“Why would I contribute to the Bilawal and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari relief fund being operated by their dad?” says a Pakistani investment banker in New York. “How do I know that the money I send from here will not be re-routed back to a bank account in the US owned by the president?” The Pakistani-American who has lived in Manhattan and earned his millions through sheer hard work and sacrifice knows well the swashbuckling days of our president when he lived in ‘self-exile’ in the swanky Trump Towers.

“By the way what became of the penthouse in Belair Apartments, a 42-storey building with panoramic views of the East River in Manhattan purchased a year before Benazir’s tragic death?” another Pakistani sitting silently so far chips in. “If the sale proceeds of that “jinxed penthouse” were donated by the heirs of BB for the flood victims in Sindh, just imagine the love and respect the family would earn in an instant.”

How true!

“What about the Sharifs’ millions?” asks another. “We know that the brothers have for donkey’s years evaded paying the income tax that they owe to the government when they first got rich and later powerful thanks to their godfather Gen Ziaul Haq. But before they achieved ‘greatness’, according to an eye-witness report, the two brothers along with senior Sharif would regularly turn up at the income tax office in Lahore with a hamperful of freshly-squeezed orange juice or whichever fruit was in season in a giant flask along with mouthwatering goodies, and sit patiently outside in the verandah until the orderly told them that the ‘sahib’ would see them now.”

We are being made to pay for the sins of our rulers today. Nobody in the world, and I really mean nobody trusts the president, the prime minister and the political biggies. Their gestures and their talk make them appear like empty vessels lost at sea. Irrelevant references to auctioning off designer suits worn by Zardari and Gilani will not do. The two gentlemen are showing off their wardrobe to the poor starving Pakistanis -- still our intelligentsia should cold-bloodedly be sizing up the government propaganda. This is no time to joke but to demand answers from the rulers.

“Pakistan will appear as a stronger nation from the flood tragedy that has triggered a massive humanitarian crisis,” wrote Zardari’s spokeslady Farahnaz Ispahani on these pages in a column titled An activist president. “The devastation is heavy, but our spirit and courage are superior. With high hopes and visionary strategies, one hopes the nation will soon start its return to normalcy.” Pious thoughts but it would have been better had the MNA spelt out what measures her government is taking in making every dollar transparent that it receives from abroad. Merely to say, “In times of challenges like this the coming together of our people is more important than any debate or argument politicians or intellectuals can frame” is sheer government gobbledygook -- hypothetical and inconsequential.

The New York Times in its recent editorial exposed the so-called ‘Friends of Pakistan’ as ‘fair weather friends’ without using this term when it provided a breakdown of pledges made by them towards helping Pakistan. The wealthy Saudis plan to give us $ 110 million, “mostly in donated goods”, the Kuwaitis will give a meager $10 million, the UAE has “promised $ 5 million” while “China, Pakistan’s longtime ally and the world’s second-largest economy has pledged about $9 million in supplies and cash” and Indians say they will give us $ 5 million.

What a shocker! Just to give you an idea what the worth of a million dollar is – well, the CEO of Goldman Sachs recently sold his apartment in Manhattan for $ 12 million. This is no great shakes. Senator John Kerry of the ‘Kerry-Lugar Bill’ recently bought a luxury multimillion-dollar yacht. The rich here buy and sell property numbering millions. And yet just look at the niggardly amounts rich countries, supposedly our best buddies, have pledged to Pakistan, especially the UAE and China, the former being Zardari’s second home and the latter a business partner frequented by him religiously.

Why is there such a trust deficit? Who is to blame? We know the answer or don’t we?


Gory symptom of decay - Raoof Hasan - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones! Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so that heaven’s vault should crack. (King Lear)

What happened in Sialkot about a week ago provides a microcosmic indicator of the extent to which violence has penetrated our society. At the same time, and as a consequence of its utter lack of performance over prolonged periods of time, it is also symptomatic of the complete obliteration of the writ of the state and the decomposition of its institutions beyond a stage of recognition.

According to reports, two young boys were “mistaken” for robbers and lynched by a frenzied mob. When they died, their bodies were tied, dragged, paraded through the streets and hung by a pole. All this was done in broad daylight as a large group of people stood around watching the gory scene. According to credible reports, and as can be seen on the footages telecast by various television channels, the sordid drama was enacted in the presence of police personnel. The utter barbarity with which the hapless victims were ravaged by one after the other perpetrator is beneath human dignity to be described:

In the last night’s storm I such a fellow saw,

Which made me think a man a worm. (King Lear)

The germs of the syndrome of violence having been institutionalised and the consequent emergence of a culture of intolerance can be traced to innumerable factors. In essence, it is the outcome of the gross inequality and inequity that mark our society, of the divide between those who have fraudulently accessed the tools to exploit a predominant majority of the national population and those millions who have continued to suffer mercilessly at the hands of one bunch of exploiters after another. This divide has only widened and has now reached a point where it finds expression in its own kind of savagery. The Sialkot incident is one degrading manifestation of frustration and anger at the state and its institutions having been corrupted and rendered irrelevant, even active partners in the enactment of crimes. The manner in which fake police encounters have been systematically glorified makes a horrible mockery of the rule of law by the very same people who are supposed to be its guardians. One recently reported incident pertains to a senior police officer having ordered that the dead bodies of the victims should be paraded through the streets of the city–and they were, with no one raising a finger.

There is patent lack of legitimacy in the manner the country is being governed. A gang of thugs, opportunists and alleged criminals has secured power in the country and is using all illegal, immoral and unconstitutional means to perpetuate its hold. While it does so, the institutions that are still functional, and which owe their current empowerment to the will and sacrifice of the people, seem to have languished into stupor. Day after day, sequence after sequence, it is a repeat of inane and inconsequential comments by leaders of all hues and colours, while decision on issues that would have a bearing on the fate of a nation are being consigned to the dust bin. Parliament has always been totally irrelevant. The judiciary is seen procrastinating in adjudicating on matters that require to be addressed without loss of time. The executive has been corrupted irremediably and has become an extension of the illegitimacy of the leadership that rules the country. In this context, the statement of the MQM chief that his party “would openly support the patriotic generals if they take any martial-law-type action against corrupt politicians and feudal lords” would, indeed, find takers across the spectrum.

The utter lack of organised effort to provide effective relief to the flood-stricken people by the civil administrations is another indicator of the nature and extent to which the malaise has penetrated. While an effort to project individuals is distinctly visible, the aid is nowhere seen getting to the people who have been ravaged by the gushing waters. To make matters worse, the entire leadership seems to be out with the begging bowl crying for mercy and morsels with utter disregard for national dignity. This effort is further afflicted with a distinct credibility issue as the world has expressed its utter lack of faith in the governmental mechanism to use the aid for the benefit of the people who actually deserve it. Consequently, aid is only coming in kind and at a halting pace. No one is paying cash. The donors are also interested in using the route of the NGOs in preference to the one that goes through the corrupt corridors of power in Islamabad.

What a pity! Natural disasters combined with those that are man-made have rendered a country ungovernable, forcing the people to take law in their own hands and cultivating a culture of violence and brutality that does not make for a civilised society. These are symptoms of a polity that has decayed into a putrid state and they call for extreme measures to address the situation. Ordinary remedies are not relevant any longer.

The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad. Email: raoofhasan@

VIEW: Institutional radicalisation of public schools —Ali K Chishti - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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There are millions of ‘non-state actors’ whose handlers could prod them into doing anything by evoking emotions through misquoting Quranic verses

“Hindu pundits were jealous of Al-Beruni” (Social Studies, Class VIII, Punjab Textbook Board, page 82). Another textbook reads, “The Hindus who had always been opportunists” (Social Studies, Class VI, Punjab Textbook Board, page 141). Still another reads, “The Hindus had always been an enemy of Islam.” (Urdu, Class V, Punjab Textbook Board, page 108). An e-mail I got from a Pakistani Hindu friend asked me what did they do to deserve this treatment. I had no answers. It is probably a classical example of our state’s deterioration because of its relentless pursuit of a destructive foreign policy agenda, and also abdicating its role in education to the jihadi organisations. Worse, whatever little education the state provides is not much better than what is being provided by the madrassas or by a school system like Al-Dawa (run by Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT)) in terms of producing enlightened citizens. One, therefore, does not need a very active imagination to figure out the direction in which the country is headed. In fact, schools like those run by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (a new name for LeT), which received Punjab government’s funding of Rs 30million, systematically replaced the mainstream curriculum. Now Allah instead of anar (pomegranate) is used to teach the sound of the Urdu alphabet letter alif; bandooq (gun) instead of bakri (goat) for bey and jihad instead of jahaz (ship) for jeem. These jehadi public schools manufacturing Kasabs and Shezad Tanvirs who, when asked about their identity, class themselves as Muslims first and Pakistani afterwards. There are millions of ‘non-state actors’ whose handlers could prod them into doing anything by evoking emotions through misquoting Quranic verses.

I was on a television programme discussing radicalisation when one of the panellists boasted how one mard-e-mujahid is equal to 10 infidels. This compelled me to ponder how and when did the radicalisation of Pakistanis really start. The popular myth is that Ziaul Haq sowed the seeds of radicalisation but, in reality, institutionalised radicalisation of Pakistanis started in the late 1950s when the Iqbalian concepts of mard-e-momin and shaheen were promoted, much like the Nazis originally promoted the concept of the superman of Nietzsche. Interestingly, the security establishment promoted Iqbal’s idea post the 1958 coup to undermine civilian rule and tried to revise the status of Allama Iqbal as one of the original founders (note that Iqbal was not the national poet until 1958) because the army had traditionally been uneasy with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a staunch secularist, as head of the state. Ayub obviously had a bone or two to pick with Jinnah due to Jinnah’s tough stance on the role of the armed forces.

And we transformed ourselves to Nietzsche’s idea when Pakistan, a newly born ill-equipped nation 1/5th the size of India, confidently initiated Operation Gibraltar and later Kargil, intoxicated by the one Muslim equals 10 Hindus syndrome. We all know what happened next. The expulsion of the USSR from Afghanistan and the failure to produce adequate secessionists in our immediate neighbouring countries to further our lofty and godly foreign policy designs led to a total breakdown of the strategy of using non-state actors as instruments of foreign policy execution, but we never learnt lessons from history. In fact, the ideology of religious radicalism mixed with political secessionism which we used to promote ‘strategic depth’ and manufacture the Frankenstein’s monster of the Taliban post-9/11 came back to haunt our country. Today, only because of this radicalisation of over half a century, Pakistan is forced to use its armed forces and wage a war on its own population in order to reintegrate them into the mainstream. The situation now is such that the ideological spillover of fundamentalism has led to a radicalisation of the polity within Pakistan. The earlier political phenomenon of having opposition parties supporting fundamentalism now has an armed dimension too, making things even more dangerous.

If this institutionalised radicalisation was not enough, Zaid Hamid, our very own Bill O’Reilly, was unleashed upon us as a propaganda-machine, who just would not stop talking until he waves a sabz hilali (a green flag with a crescent) on the Red Fort. This wannabe messiah, who is absolutely immune to logic, would give out sermons at universities and on television promoting a revived caliphate, pan-Islamism and inciting hatred against minorities. Anyone who monitors him closely would know that he has got a nuisance value and quite a bit of fans. He has transformed himself as the new messiah of generation-X with a good 40,000 fans on his Facebook page.

Institutionalised radicalisation is haunting us now. It is an open question how much further would we go down this path. And for how long. As Pervez Hoodbhoy once wrote, “It is also virtually certain that the social forces set into motion over the years through the education system will make most of Pakistani society — barring pockets of liberalism in the upper crust of society — more conservative and orthodox relative to the previous generation.” Sad, but something we are witnessing in the Pakistan of today. A de-radicalisation programme for Pakistan is the need of the hour.

The writer is a political analyst and can be reached at akchishti@hotmail.comm

ROVER’S DIARY: Politics of floods and meeting the challenge —Babar Ayaz - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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Two major reasons for the lack of trust in the government in developing economic polities are: the level of corruption is higher than the developed countries, and there is a demand and supply gap when it comes to the people’s aspiration level and what a government can deliver

Unfortunately the Phoenix does not rise from the ashes in the real world, although all major mythologies — Greek, Persian, Arabian, Chinese and Egyptian — claim so. And sadly I do not see the Pakistani nation rising from the flood-submerged plains of the four provinces to face the challenge of the colossal calamity. Already, political point scoring and bickering has started although everybody is claiming that they are not politicking.

But once again the silver lining is the response of the people from the non-flood affected cities and towns. The reaction was indeed slow because as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said, “The flood is a slow-motion catastrophe — one that builds over time. And it is far from over.” But once the Pakistani electronic media moved from their insatiable appetite for politics to focus on the floods, the people could fathom the enormity of the calamity. Their strong philanthropic trait has woken up.

On the political front the meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif was generally welcomed when both declared that this was not the time for political point scoring. The prime minister readily accepted Nawaz Sharif’s suggestion to set-up an independent flood relief commission headed by individuals who have a high credibility to supervise the relief and rehabilitation task. The suggestion was on the premise that the donors and people do not have much trust on the transparent use of flood relief funds. I believe that Nawaz Sharif did not do this purposely to trap the government and by implication establish that people have no confidence in the government. But there is also no doubt that the prime minister fell for this supposedly unintended trap. The sharp political cookies in his party, I am told, warned him of the implications.

However, there is no denying the fact that a trust deficit between the people and the government exists. From a young 25-year-old professional to the corporate chiefs of local and foreign big business, I hear that they want to donate but not through the government agencies. All said the same thing: we do not trust our donations would actually reach the people affected by the floods. So most have either supported individual initiatives or reputed non-governmental organisations (NGO).

Taking a broader perspective of the issue of lack of trust in the government, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leadership should not feel lonely. The fact of the matter is that in developing democracies the people’s trust in their respective governments is low. This can be confirmed from a number of surveys done by international agencies and papers written by eminent political scientists like Larry Diamond and Richard Gunther. Two major reasons for the lack of trust in the government in developing economic polities are: the level of corruption is higher than the developed countries, and there is a demand and supply gap when it comes to the people’s aspiration level and what a government can deliver. In this age of information, people’s inspirations in less developed countries are almost the same as that of their counterparts living in rich developed economies. As a matter of fact, the people had expressed little trust in the Bush administration when New Orleans was hit by hurricane Katrina and more recently when Obama was put on the mat for the BP oil spill disaster.

This does not mean that the government should be complacent; on the contrary, this situation gives an opportunity to the government to prove its critics wrong. The decision to make an oversight committee to supervise the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was a wise move. There was no need to create yet another new institution. Yes, the NDMA’s performance has been poor, but that does not justify creation of something new from scratch. The need to provide relief is urgent; there is no time for building new institutions. The government should immediately re-promulgate the NDMA Ordinance, since a session of parliament is not possible when the elected representatives are back in their constituencies.

The oversight committee should not only have people of high integrity, they should also have expertise in management to guide the NDMA and establish a transparent communication strategy. It is only through effective communication that the perception about an institution can be changed and the trust of the people regained. Induction of efficient and transparent management is the issue, not duplicating of existing organisations. Politicians and media critics are unfortunately widening the trust gap, instead of giving a helping hand. They are also playing a dangerous game by projecting the army’s efforts as an extra-governmental effort.

The second more dangerous aspect of the politics of floods is the intra and inter-provincial disputes about where breaches should have been made to ease the pressure on the barrages and save major cities. Already a dispute has started between Sindh and Balochistan over making a difficult choice of saving the largely populated Jacobabad or less populated Jaffarabad. An international political dimension has been added here by the allegations that the whole town of Jaffarabad was sacrificed to save the US-managed Shahbaz Air Base. And boy! We love US-bashing, while forgetting that it is by far the largest donor of flood relief. Within Sindh the issue of breaches has become contentious because each elected representative wanted to save his land and constituency disregarding the technical requirements. In Punjab, the southern areas have been hit hard, which would further fuel the separate province demand in the post-flood period.

Another contentious issue that has started resurfacing is the demand for building the Kalabagh Dam (KBD). The supporters of the KBD tend to forget that this flood has happened once in a century. There have been floods, but of lesser magnitude in the last three decades. There is not much water available for huge dams, particularly after the work has started on the less controversial Bhasha Dam. In any case India is building dams for producing electricity on the rivers allocated to Pakistan as provided in the Indus Water Treaty. Pakistan should join in on this venture with them and benefit, instead of fighting over the rivers.

In these disturbing times the signs of galvanising the nation to face the ongoing crisis and the post-flood rehabilitation and reconstruction task are still cloudy. Let us hope when the monsoon clouds thin out, the Pakistani phoenix proves me wrong and it rises from the rivers of the country. Amen!

The writer can be reached at