VIEW: ‘Karachigate’: panic in Paris -Sikander Amani - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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Now the recent, and very shocking revelations, allege that the attack in Karachi in 2002 is not at all linked to al Qaeda, but rather, appears to be an act of retaliation, pure and simple, from grumbling individuals (or services), who would not have received the promised kickbacks

On May 8, 2002, a suicide bomber rammed into a bus in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi, killing 14 people, including 11 Frenchmen. Nothing quite out of the Pakistani ordinary, the alert reader will say. The interesting twist is that this very bomb is now threatening to derail the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and to engulf a large section of French politicians in one of the biggest scandals of the past decades. It could also spell bad news for Asif Ali Zardari, who is alleged to be involved in it up to his neck too.

Up until some months ago, everyone in France was blaming al Qaeda or the Taliban for the bomb, an explanation both likely and convenient. In France, the investigation slumbered along laboriously, led by a high-powered investigative judge who was, together with all the successive governments, seemingly very satisfied with both the al Qaeda hypothesis and the slow progress of the investigation. Now some months ago, this whole theory got severely shaken by new facts that surfaced in the French media: the bomb might have been linked to domestic politics, unpaid bribes, deep political enmity, and a flailing presidential campaign. All the elements of some American thriller, set in romantic Paris and seething Pakistan.

The 11 dead Frenchmen were all employees of the Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN — now DCNS), a French state-held company specialised in naval defence technology. Back in 1994, France was trying to convince Pakistan to buy French, rather than German, submarines — which they did thanks to the euphemistically-called “commissions”, aka bribes (at the time allowed under French law). The deal was for € 826 million in exchange for three Agosta submarines made by DCN, one or two of which would be assembled in Pakistan — hence the presence of French engineers in Karachi. 6.25 percent of the total sum, i.e. € 51.6 million, was allocated to the “commissions” to be distributed via an intermediary, a French state-owned company dealing in arms contracts, Sofma. Henri Guittet, at the time CEO of Sofma, formally stated in his sworn testimony that in this bribing total of 6.25 percent, 4 percent was reserved for Zardari and Bhutto. Funny how things come back to bite us.

Just when the deal was about to be signed with great pomp, the French government, led by pompous Édouard Balladur, whose Minister of Budget and right-hand man is a certain Nicolas Sarkozy, imposed a sudden and very odd change — an extra intermediary, in the form of two shady Lebanese businessmen. (Funnily enough, one is a known acquaintance of Sarkozy, and the other, a friend of Zardari’s). The price-tag for these new intermediaries amounted to an extra 4 percent of the contract, i.e. € 33 million.

So far, so good: a regular, boring corruption story, full of intermediaries and shady Middle-Eastern businessmen; in other words, no big deal.

Now the recent, and very shocking revelations, allege that the attack in Karachi in 2002 is not at all linked to al Qaeda, but rather, appears to be an act of retaliation, pure and simple, from grumbling individuals (or services), who would not have received the promised kickbacks. Indeed, 1994 was a crucial year in French politics, as it witnessed a fierce presidential campaign (bitterly) opposing the eternal contender, Jacques Chirac, and the sitting prime minister, Édouard Balladur. The claim is that the Balladur campaign received “retro-commissions” (commissions taken out of the commissions and sent back to the original sending country) through the Lebanese businessmen, and used as illegal campaign financing. As of now, at least € 10 million appear to have landed in Balladur’s campaign bank accounts, obviously located in some tax haven with an exotic name. The claim, the likelihood of which increases with every new revelation in Paris these days, is that when Chirac was elected in May 1995, he immediately ordered a complete review of all existing arms deals, and in particular, ordered a cessation of all bribes being paid; aware of the retro-commissions, he wanted to make his “friend of 30 years” Balladur pay for the political treachery of having run against him. It seems the bribes were perhaps paid continuously up until 2001, but in any event not in their totality. The working hypothesis is now that the intended recipients of the kickbacks in Pakistan, perhaps served by the ISI, got, err, annoyed about the missing money. And, as alleged by the confidential Nautilus report, commissioned by DCN in the immediate aftermath of the attack, they would have instrumentalised some dimwit to do a suicide bombing as retaliation against the French state. The attack occurred barely a few days after Chirac’s re-election in 2002.

Whatever the sordid details of the story, it is turning into an affaire d’état in France, with old friends turning into foes and old foes confirming their status as old foes. Sarkozy, who allegedly authorised the commissions and the retro-commissions back in 1994, and who strongly supported Balladur as presidential candidate, is doing everything in his power, which is not negligible, to prevent the investigation from proceeding. He publicly called the accusations “grotesque” and a “fable” (give it to him — the guy is good at indignantly and self-righteously posturing about his innocence on everything), but the reluctance of his administration to disclose documents and evidence to the investigators is troubling at best. His arch-enemy, former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, has publicly confirmed the existence of the retro-commissions, which is not very good news for Sarkozy — though the latest update is that Villepin has withdrawn his accusations. Villepin, also former Secretary General of the Elysée Palace under Chirac’s presidency, is himself cited by the judge as a possible co-conspirator in endangering the lives of the French employees in Pakistan: indeed, as soon as the bribes stopped being paid, the French intelligence services notified a heightened risk to all military or civil personnel stationed in Pakistan. The newly-appointed Minister of Defence, Alain Juppé, an old Chirac hand, might be served with a subpoena to disclose what he knew of the kickbacks. Meanwhile, the families of the deceased, who have been treated as annoying irritants over the years until the appointment of the new investigative judge, impress by their dignity and their will to pursue the matter until the truth is out.

So the drama is unfolding in Paris. Sarkozy’s situation is dire. His cabinet seems to go from one crisis to another, from one scandal to another, from one lie to another. His popularity rating has dropped to unparalleled levels. What is called “Karachigate” in Paris could well be his undoing. Another bomb, political this time, waiting to go off.

The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at

ROVER’S DIARY: Much ado about blasphemy -Babar Ayaz - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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A cursory view of the whole debate about the Blasphemy Law shows that there are many saner and more intellectually sound Muslims who do not support the existing draconian law. Except for a small extremist coterie of bigots, many politicians are all for removing Section 295-B and C

Way back on March 6, 1927, Bertrand Russell delivered a lecture to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall. It was subsequently published in pamphlet form that same year. This essay achieved fame when Paul Edward published a compilation of Russell’s essays on religion, titled Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays. In his lecture, he talked about his agnostic views about God and questioned certain Christian values.

The blasphemy and blasphemous libel laws were part of the British common law at that time. The laws had existed since the 17th century and were punishable by the common law courts. This law was not invoked against Russell by the Church or the British government, although a police case was registered against one rationalist, Harry Boulter, in 1908. He repeated the offence in 1909 and was jailed for six months for speaking against religion.

The last person sent to prison for blasphemy in Britain was John William Gott in December 1921. He had three previous convictions for blasphemy when he was prosecuted for publishing two pamphlets titled Rib Ticklers, or Questions for Parsons and God and Gott. While Russell’s intellectual criticism of Christ and God was tolerated by British society, Gott’s satire of the biblical story of Jesus was found punishable. He was sentenced to nine months hard labour. As he was suffering from some incurable illness, he died shortly after he was released. The case became the subject of public outrage.

There were outbursts by religious lobbies against the subsequent writing and art work, which they considered were blasphemous but the law was not invoked and freedom of expression was respected. The debate about this law gained currency when British author Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, was published in 1988. Strong reaction against Rushdie in Muslim countries and an Iranian fatwa sanctioning that he should be killed “stimulated debate on this topic”, with some arguing that the same protection should be extended to all religions, while others claimed the UK’s ancient blasphemy laws were an anachronism and should be abolished. Despite much discussion surrounding the controversy, the law was not amended. The law was however abolished in 2008. The lobbying for the abolition was done by the National Secular Society and was signed by leading figures including Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who urged that the laws be abandoned.

In 2006, a Dalit intellectual Kancha Ilaiah, who is Head of the Political Science Department of Osmania University in Hyderabad (India) wrote Why I am not Hindu. He wrote with “passionate anger, laced with sarcasm on the caste system and Indian society”. The book criticises the Hindu gods and goddesses and provides socio-economic context to the Dalitbhujan gods and goddesses. There was indeed a strong reaction against the book from extremist Hindu organisations, but it was supported by many Hindu intellectuals and civil society activists. As Hinduism does not have the concept of blasphemy, such laws are absent in their tradition. Today, Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code punishes “hate speech, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of any citizen with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging religious feelings.” The law is not religion-specific.

There is enough literature written by Jews against Judaism. The Jewish right has always condemned such moves but has not been able to get them tried under any law. More recently, David Dvorkin published his paper Why I am not a Jew in the US. Nobody demanded that he should be tried and no attempt on his life was made. In any case, he could not have been tried in the US because freedom of expression is an inalienable right of the people under the First Amendment.

However, in 1995, a book was published in the US, Why I am not a Muslim. The writer used a pen name, Ibn Warraq, fearing the strong reaction from Muslim extremists. The question thus arises is why, in our Muslim society, is free thinking not challenged by rational argument by the Muslim theologists? Why do we need one of the most extensive and repressive blasphemy laws?

A cursory view of the whole debate about the Blasphemy Law shows that there are many saner and more intellectually sound Muslims who do not support the existing draconian law. Except for a small extremist coterie of bigots, many politicians are all for removing Section 295-B and C. To my pleasant surprise, even Rana Sanaullah, who is generally considered to be a fundamentalist, agreed to change in the law on a TV talk show recently.

Gutsy MNA Sherry Rehman is moving a bill in the National Assembly suggesting some changes in the Blasphemy Law. Her approach is pragmatic as she is of the view that the bill, demanding the abolition of the law, would not be possible at this juncture. Several sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Code comprise blasphemy laws. Section 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object. Section 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. Section 295-B forbids defiling the Quran. Section 295-C forbids defaming Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Except for Section 295-C, the provisions of 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused person’s intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) merits death with or without a fine.

The issue is that even according to Islamic history and tradition, the Prophet (PBUH) himself did not give the death sentence to anybody who opposed and even harmed him. Then are these bigots, who have endorsed section 295-C, justified to fight for it? These additions were made in Section 295 by General Ziaul Haq without any parliamentary sanction and thus should be deleted. Sherry’s proposed change is too soft because the courts are intimidated by Islamic extremists to give a verdict against the accused on technical grounds, as it did in the Aasia Bibi case.

Islamic teachings clearly say that Muslims should respect other people’s religions and should not hurt their feelings. This principle is precisely enunciated in 295-A, so the matter should rest there (unfortunately, all those Muslim invaders who destroyed temples and churches are revered in our Islamic history). So the problem is much more deep-rooted than the laws alone; there are psychological, historical, social and political reasons for the Muslims to be over-sensitive about the blasphemy issue. And, in this society where freedom of expression is limited, any intellectual discourse about these factors is risky.

The writer can be reached at

COMMENT: Collectivities and governance -Anwar Syed - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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Political parties are in the business of contesting elections. They hope to form a government or become partners in one that another party or coalition has formed. Party leaders need an intermediary between themselves and the voters, and that role is performed by the party workers

We often hear political commentators say that the people will do this, that, or the other. It is said also that parliament will take such and such measures. These statements are more misleading than accurate. The people as such, when persuaded to act, can destroy an existing arrangement of affairs but they do not build anything to replace it. They may become instruments of change when they are led by a party and its leader who has a vision and a plan for creating a new order.

Parliament in Pakistan is sovereign. It is the governing body that makes laws which say what a citizen may or may not do in interacting with others. Thus, it gives substance to the notion of a good society. The executive is a committee of its own members designated to implement the laws it has made. This committee, known as a cabinet, consists of a prime minister and his associates. It is answerable to its parent — parliament — for the adequacy if its conduct. It serves during parliament’s pleasure and may be discharged if it does not meet the latter’s expectations.

Curiously, parliament is a sovereign that cannot act on its own volition. It needs somebody to hold its hand and guide it to where it is to go. That somebody is the head of the executive, namely, the prime minister. He and his colleagues are the ones who create its business. It is noteworthy that the prime minister is the country’s virtual ruler. He can dismiss a minister in his cabinet if he does not approve of the latter’s performance. He can dissolve parliament and call for new elections.

It follows from the above that neither of these collectivities can do anything constructive by itself. The people can destroy but not build unless moved to action by a leader. Parliament needs a manager who will put it to work and give it a direction. Another similarity between the people and parliament may be noted. Neither of them takes its existence and function seriously. Only about 40 percent of the eligible voters in Pakistan turn out to cast their ballots on polling day. Members of the National Assembly come every day that it is in session, sign in, sit in the House for a few minutes, and then go out to chat with colleagues and friends in the lobbies or the cafeteria. Some of those who remain in the House have been found snoring instead of listening to the presentation being made.

We may now turn to another collectivity in the system of governance, namely, the political party. Political parties in Pakistan have several commonalities in terms both of their officially advertised organisational structures and operational styles. They all have offices and organs such as president/chairman, general secretary, treasurer, and a central executive committee. Many of them, especially those at the provincial and local levels, are appointed by the top party leadership. None of them, except the Jamaat-e-Islami, maintains updated lists of party members who may vote in the elections at the ward or mohalla level. There is an element of hereditary succession in the making of top party leaders. It goes something like this: PPP: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal; PML-N: Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza and Abbas (waiting in line); PML-Q: Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin Pervaiz Elahi; ANP: Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan), Abdul Wali Khan, Asfandyar Wali Khan; JUI: Maulana Mufti Mahmud and his son Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Altaf Hussain has been the chief of the MQM since the day it began its career and he has no apparent intention of retiring.

It is hard to say to what extent the internal management of the political parties in Pakistan is democratic. Mr Asif Ali Zardari, the PPP’s co-chairman, does periodically call meetings of his central executive committee. It may be assumed that the items he brings up are discussed but it is unlikely that the issue in discussion is put to a vote. The greater likelihood is that he has the final say and no member tells him that he is wrong. The same may be true of Mr Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in the PML-N and PML-Q respectively. Haji Bashir Bilour in the ANP appears to be Asfandyar Wali Khan’s co-equal. I understand that matters are discussed in the MQM’s coordination committee, but its members and other party notables give Altaf Hussain unquestioning obedience.

Political parties are in the business of contesting elections. They hope to form a government or become partners in one that another party or coalition has formed. Party leaders need an intermediary between themselves and the voters, and that role is performed by the party workers. They are party loyalists, and in some cases the party’s employees, who convey its message to the folks in their area of residence. They recruit persons as party members, collect funds, organise party meetings and assemble audiences for their leaders to address. If they belong to the party in power, they may be rewarded with jobs. The jobs in question are essentially superfluous positions, involving no real work to be done. This practice will sometimes create ugly and morally reprehensible situations for the government that resorts to it.

The PPP has had an interesting career in this country’s politics. Founded in December 1967, it functioned as the ruling party for about five years between 1972 and 1977. Its government, headed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was not believed to be corrupt or incompetent, but some of its economic policies may have been misguided. It survived intense persecution during the regimes of General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf. Its government during Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s two tenures (1988-90 and 1993-97) was believed to be both corrupt and incompetent and was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and President Farooq Leghari on these grounds. The party’s present government has the same reputation.

What shall we then say about the PPP as a political party? It has organisation and varying degrees of support throughout the country. It is a national asset, and it is hard to understand why its managers have allowed it to fall to depths of decay. It is not likely to be returned to power in the next election. Mr Zardari must take his large share of responsibility for its degeneration. But it is puzzling why men and women of good intentions and high capability in the party’s executive committee have not voted him out of office.

The writer, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, is a visiting professor at the Lahore School of Economics

ANALYSIS: The ‘cultural’ roots of liberal democracy —Ishtiaq Ahmed - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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A historical analysis of the origins of modernity would show that ideas did not always lead the way to modernity; on the contrary, the challenges posed by religious and nationalist wars, the scientific and industrial revolutions and concomitant social upheavals compelled governments, philosophers and thinkers to respond to them with solutions

Ahmad Ali Khalid’s op-ed, ‘Faith, reason and modernity’ (Daily Times, November 10, 2010), seeks to establish that “the roots of modern liberal democracy are in fact one dimensional — religious”. He leans on the authority of the noted German thinker Jürgen Habermas who reportedly observed: “Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.” Habermas’ sweeping statement is neither true nor false, precisely because it is a sweeping statement. It is not a systematic analysis of the much more complex and variegated origins and evolution of liberalism and liberal democracy.

I have tried very hard to grasp what exactly the author hopes to achieve by insisting that there is “in fact one dimensional — religious” origin of liberal democracy. If it is to prove that liberal democracy is possible or fit only for Christian societies then I am sure he would be hailed a great champion of fundamentalist Islam. On the other hand, if such a discovery is meant to set into motion a genuine search for Islamic roots of liberal democracy, then one should, on the basis of lack of evidence, be prepared to accept that no such roots exist. It is not logical to say that if we delve in Islamic heritage we will surely find liberal democracy hiding somewhere.

Ideas and ideologies must spring from somewhere, and indeed the long heritage of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love played an important role in the development of liberal thought. This was not because of theology as much as it was because of the plurality of laws governing different aspects of Christian existence. Church law was about spiritual and religious matters while economic and social relations were regulated by Roman law, English common law, Germanic law and other such sources. Christianity did not provide a theory of the state or government. Therefore, political theory always remained an independent branch of knowledge in Christian societies. Once the Renaissance revived ancient Greek philosophy, political theory proper became a major intellectual enterprise. Of the three or four earliest theorists of liberalism — not liberal democracy, which is a 19th century phenomenon that only in the 20th century became truly inclusive democracy — only one can be considered a believing Christian.

I consider Machiavelli a proto-liberal thinker because he favoured constitutional government once law and order had been established. His contempt for the Catholic Church was proverbial. Thomas Hobbes was also a proto-liberal thinker in the sense that he considered the state to be a human artefact, created by free men to protect themselves from harm that otherwise was always present in the state of nature. Hobbes did use biblical words and jargon but he was an atheist living in taqqia (dissimulation) to escape persecution. John Locke was a believing Christian. He believed in limited government and private property but also in slavery. He emphasised the importance of religious freedom but reserved political rights only for Anglican Christians. Catholics were excluded. Tolerance for Jews and the few Muslims who were then present in the English Isles was also emphasised by him. Rousseau advocated direct democracy in city-state republics. His relationship with Christianity was ambivalent, to say the least.

A historical analysis of the origins of modernity would show that ideas did not always lead the way to modernity; on the contrary, the challenges posed by religious and nationalist wars, the scientific and industrial revolutions and concomitant social upheavals compelled governments, philosophers and thinkers to respond to them with solutions. The first liberal constitution was that of the US. It separated the state and the church because the American colonies did not want the war of religions to continue in their New World. Obviously, the fact that there was no totalist shariah that Christian societies had to face meant that it was easier for thinkers functioning in a Christian cultural milieu to argue in favour of the separation of the state and church.

However, Christian societies became liberal democracies only through long drawn struggles. At least three routes — liberal-democratic, communist and fascist — were adopted by western societies to modernise. Liberal democracy did not emerge directly or easily in the west because of some distant link to Judeo-Christian theology as Habermas may appear to be suggesting. Even when liberal democracy did triumph in the wake of World War II, its institutionalisation in terms of distribution of powers and functions varied from country to country.

In the current times, non-Christian and non-Islamic societies have adopted liberal democracy as the framework for establishing a stable political community. India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are in different ways liberal democracies. Imagine them wasting time in a search for authentic roots of liberal democracy in their own historical baggage and not finding them or inventing them fraudulently. Would that have served any real purpose? I doubt it.

Intellectually, the more exciting and challenging task is to critically examine what the impediments are within the Islamic tradition to liberal democracy. The hard facts are that religious and sectarian minorities live in constant fear in Pakistan. Ever since the dreaded Blasphemy Law was introduced in 1982 and revised in 1986, Pakistan has been practicing its own variety of the Inquisition.

The latest outrage is that a poor, helpless, middle-aged Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who is the mother of five children, has been pronounced guilty by a Pakistani court on grounds of blasphemy. It is only in Pakistan that a district bar council — that of Nankana Sahib — can pass a resolution opposing the mercy petition she has submitted to President Zardari. Pakistani lawyers had recently gained a good name for opposing the Musharraf dictatorship but it is doubtful if it was a struggle for democracy and human rights.

An Islamic liberation theology has been attempted with disastrous consequences in Iran by Ali Shariati. What it facilitated was the coming into power of the Ayatollahs. The Iranian constitution is a mockery of liberal democracy. The fact is that liberal democracy enables not only Christians but also Muslims to live in peace and security in non-Muslim societies. Only a secular democracy can be a liberal democracy.

The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at

EDITORIAL: WikiLeaks shake the ‘ummah’ - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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WikiLeaks, a whistleblower non-profit media organisation, has taken the world by storm once again. On November 28, WikiLeaks began publishing 251,287 US embassy cables from 1966 to February 2010. As per its website, these are “the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain”. These cables are not only a blow to US diplomacy but have also shattered many a myth, especially in the Muslim world. From a Pakistani perspective, the Saudi monarch’s remarks about President Asif Zardari were quite revealing. A cable from US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), James Smith, to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “King Abdullah firmly believes that Asif Zardari is the primary obstacle to the government’s ability to move unequivocally to end terrorist safe havens there (“when the head is rotten, it affects the whole body”).”

Now, this is quite rich coming from the Saudi monarch when the leaked documents report that Saudi donors remain the chief donors of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia’s obsession with propagating Wahabi Islam has led to strengthening the fundamentalist mindset in the Muslim world. During the Afghan jihad, the Saudis funded most madrassas (seminaries) in Pakistan and also monetarily supported militant networks. The Saudis continue to do that to date. President Zardari and the PPP government have actually been trying to quash extremism in Pakistan. This government has not only owned the war on terror but has also built up a public consensus against religious terrorism. Thus, it was not just an uncalled for remark from the Saudi monarch but also factually incorrect. Traditionally, we have been beneficiaries of Saudi petro-dollars, which has led to relative influence of the Saudis in our local politics. Back in 2000, it was Saudi Arabia that negotiated with General (retd) Musharraf in striking a deal with Mian Nawaz Sharif, who then went into exile in the KSA. Though the KSA was close to the PPP back in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s days, after General Ziaul Haq came to power, their loyalties have shifted to the Sharifs. On the other hand, the UAE is now much closer to the PPP. As per the leaked cables, in July 2009, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed said that President Zardari was “dirty but not dangerous” while Mian Nawaz Sharif was “dangerous but not dirty” and hence he could not be trusted to honour his promises. It seems as if both the KSA and the UAE have their own interest in Pakistani leaders. Another interesting revelation made by these leaked cables is that Mossad chief advocated that General (retd) Musharraf be kept in power. So, it seems that Pakistani politics is not just of interest to the Arabs but Israel as well. When Musharraf was in power, there were reports that backchannel diplomacy was taking place between Pakistan and Israel. There are some within the establishment who think that we have not gained much by supporting the Arab cause and since India is close to Israel, we could benefit by recognising Israel. This idea did not go down well within the country and Musharraf had to give it up in the end.

On another note, many people in the Muslim world still believe in the erstwhile concept of a Muslim ‘ummah’. Nothing could be further from the truth. All the Muslim states are interested in protecting their own vested interests rather than looking out for each other. This was proved by a shocking revelation that Saudi Arabia had urged the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear programme. Apparently, Saudi King Abdullah told the US to “cut off the head of the snake”. Saudi Arabia’s enmity with the Shiite Iran is an open secret, but going so far as to ask the US to bomb Iran is a serious matter. The hypocrisy of the Saudis cannot be more obvious since they are themselves funding the hydra of terrorism. The so-called Muslim world has been up in arms against the US and Israel for threatening to bomb Iran but another Muslim country supporting and asking the US to go ahead with its plans should serve as a wake-up call to the Muslims that every country is out there to save its own skin. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Reconciliation within the PPP

The holding of an ‘unofficial’ 44th Founding Day convention of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the subsequent suspension of Naheed Khan’s membership for making remarks against the PPP leadership indicate deep divisions within the party among some ‘old’ workers and the ‘new’ leadership that rose after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The reason given for suspending Ms Khan’s membership was that she had violated party discipline. Due to her credentials as a longstanding party worker and having served as Benazir Bhutto’s political secretary, Naheed Khan is considered a strong voice of dissent within the party, along with her husband, Senator Dr Safdar Abbasi. Although her comments about late Benazir Bhutto’s murder probe at the convention have irked the PPP leadership, they reflect the sentiments of many PPP workers and supporters. Party and public office holders of the PPP, none of whom attended the convention, may feel constrained because of the party ‘policy’, but Ms Khan finds herself under no such obligation, and has been outspoken about the policies and practices of the new leadership that replaced many party veterans. Being a close companion of Benazir Bhutto, she has candidly spoken about how Pervez Musharraf has been let off the hook by the current government.

Having sidelined the old workers, the group around President Zardari is busy relishing the fruits of incumbency. However, this situation may not last forever. Even if the PPP’s government survives till 2013, the elections are not too far. The PPP will have to unite to be able to compete against all shades of opponents in the elections. At that time, PPP will need the support of party workers to reach out to the public. People like Naheed Khan and Sajida Mir may not have influence with the top leadership of the PPP right now, but they retain outreach at the grassroots. The top leaders will need the support of these alienated members then. It is ironic that the PPP has consistently followed the policy of reconciliation with other political parties, but ignored its own workers. The official party convention on the Foundation Day is going to be held today. It will be in order that this occasion is used to take the initiative to reconcile alienated workers. Rifts in the party are in no one’s interests except its diehard opponents. *

Our lovely image - Kamran Shafi - November 30, 2010

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JUST back from a trip to lovely old England — oh how I love England! — and the usual experiences: the immigration officer at Heathrow falling off her chair at the mere sight of my green passport, then getting up and after brushing off her clothes settling down for a detailed scrutiny, referring to her computer, sussing me out for the nth time, and so on.

All with the greatest courtesy and respect I must add.But do we even know, indeed do we even accept, the trepidation with which we are seen in other countries, that the name we have given ourselves, by our own actions most of all, is not a very good one? Do we ever pause and think why it is that in the time it takes an immigration officer to process one of us, his or her colleagues process up to seven or eight passports of other countries, yes, including India?

These are important questions which we Pakistanis must ask ourselves, about which later. Let us first of all go to the latest outrage, nay monstrosity, which we have chucked at the world — the sentence of death pronounced upon Aasia Bibi a poor Christian woman of Sheikhupura district for a crime she simply could not have committed.

I mean, for heaven`s sake, don`t we know our own country, our own Sheikhupura, our own people? Is it at all possible that a Christian woman, belonging to a tiny minority which is already severely tormented by the very vast majority, its Muslim neighbours, would commit blasphemy in the manner alleged?

Every single time that a Christian has been accused of blasphemy I have said that the person should first of all be taken to a psychiatrist to determine whether he or she is mentally sound. For it makes no sense at all for members of the weak and dispossessed Christian community to commit this crime in this hard and pitiless country.

As to the specific charges in Aasia`s case that she committed blasphemy after some Muslim women working in the fields with her refused to drink water from her glass, she would not on her own offer her glass in the first place. For, as yet another example of our intolerance, indeed plain hypocrisy, it is not done that a Muslim would use a Christian`s utensils to drink or eat from. (And we have the gall to blame Hinduism for the caste system!) Ae hookah peenh alay

Two anecdotes come to mind. Once, in those far-off days when I was farming in Sheikhupura district, I was supervising some work in a field next to a track which led from our village to the next one. A man passing by saw a hookah belonging to one of my workers and asked if it was (literally) `smokeable`, in Punjabi “”.

I did not understand the question so asked what the man had said. “He is asking if this is hookah belongs to a Christian,” one of them said. I then said to the man that ours was a Christian village; that if he wanted to smoke the hookah he was welcome, otherwise he should be on his way. The fellow quietly sat down on his haunches and after a satisfying smoke walked on to his village. wangaar wangaar degh

The second was when I had asked for a , a great system prevalent in all farming societies in which neighbouring farmers gather to help one of their number get urgent work out of the way quickly. In Punjab, the farmer who asks for cooks a or two to provide sustenance to his helpers. munshi

It was at lunchtime that I noticed everybody else tucking away into their food and young Mehnga, Baba Qadir`s son, sitting a little way away, not eating. When I asked why, my took me aside and said in low tones that Mehnga was waiting for his little brother to bring him his own plate so that he could eat.

Since all of them were eating out of my crockery, I immediately served Mehnga myself, and then announced that the plates being used were those that had been eaten from by Christians many times, indeed, my American and German and Swiss and Brit friends who would often come for weekends to my farm, sometimes for extended lunches, and which everyone present knew about.

What was it about Mehnga, I asked, the colour of his skin that he was not eating with them? There was not a squeak out of any one of them, I can tell you, and never again any such nonsense in Kot Hyat Khan.

So then, it is simply not possible that Aasia Bibi herself insisted that her Muslim co-workers drink from her glass, and when they did not, commit blasphemy. It is time that this horrendous law was amended to make it less harsh and one-sided. For we know that it has very often been used to victimise opponents and people who do not conform to the dictates of someone, not only Christian but many Muslim unfortunates too.

Let us all of us then, support the courageous Sherry Rehman in her efforts to amend the blasphemy laws by tabling a private members` bill in the National Assembly. Let us petition our political leaders to support this amendment so that the Damocles sword hanging above our poor and powerless minorities is removed once and for all. We must ensure that what happened to so many Pakistanis such as little Rehmat Masih`s uncle, Manzoor Masih, who was shot dead in broad daylight while waiting for a bus after his nephew`s court hearing); or to Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti who was shot dead after acquitting Rehmat Masih. n

Let us transform Pakistan from an ugly and cruel and merciless country to one that is beautiful and kind and compassionate.

VIEW: The Ilam Din fiasco and lies about Jinnah —Yasser Latif Hamdani - Monday, November 29, 2010

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Jinnah’s record as a legislator tells us a different story altogether. He was an indefatigable defender of civil liberties. He stood for Bhagat Singh’s freedom and condemned the British government in the harshest language when no one else would

In the recent debate over the blasphemy law, a group of Jamaat-e-Islami-backed right-wing authors have come up with an extraordinary lie. It is extraordinary because it calls into question the professional integrity of the one man in South Asian history who has been described as incorruptible and honest to the bone by even his most vociferous critics and fiercest rivals, i.e. Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The lie goes something like this: ‘Ghazi’ Ilam Din ‘Shaheed’ killed blasphemer Hindu Raj Pal and was represented by Quaid-e-Azam at the trial who advised him to deny his involvement in the murder. ‘Ghazi’ and ‘Shaheed’ Ilam Din refused and said that he would never lie about the fact that he killed Raja Pal. Quaid-e-Azam lost the case and Ilam Din was hanged.

To start with, the story is entirely wrong. First of all, Jinnah was not the trial lawyer. Second, Ilam Din had entered the not guilty plea through his trial lawyer who was a lawyer from Lahore named Farrukh Hussain. The trial court ruled against Ilam Din. The trial lawyer appealed in the Lahore High Court and got Jinnah to appear as the lawyer in appeal. So there is no way Jinnah could have influenced Ilam Din to change his plea when the plea was already entered at the trial court level. Nor was Ilam Din exactly the ‘matchless warrior’ that Iqbal declared him to be — while simultaneously refusing to lead his funeral prayers. Indeed Ilam Din later filed a mercy petition to the King Emperor asking for a pardon.

The relevant case — in which Jinnah appeared — cited as Ilam Din vs. Emperor AIR 1930 Lahore 157 — makes interesting reading. It was a division bench judgement with Justice Broadway and Justice Johnstone presiding. Jinnah’s contention was that the evidence produced before the trial court was insufficient and the prosecution story was dubious. To quote the judgement, “He urged that Kidar Nath was not a reliable witness because (1) he was an employee of the deceased and, therefore, interested. (2) He had not stated in the First Information Report (a) that Bhagat Ram (the other witness) was with him, and (b) that the appellant had stated that he had avenged the Prophet. As to Bhagat Ram it was contended he, as an employee, was interested, and as to the rest that there were variations in some of the details.”

The court rejected this contention. The judgement continues that “Mr Jinnah finally contended that the sentence of death was not called for and urged as extenuating circumstances, that the appellant is only 19 or 20 years of age and that his act was prompted by feelings of veneration for the founder of his religion and anger at one who had scurrilously attacked him.” The court rejected this contention as well referring to Amir vs. Emperor, which was the same court’s decision a few years earlier. Interestingly, the curious reference to 19 or 20 years deserves some attention. Why did Jinnah as one of the leading lawyers refer specifically to an argument that had been exploded by the same court only two years earlier? That only Mr Jinnah can answer and I do not wish to speculate. Perhaps he was trying to argue what Clarence Darrow had argued successfully a few years ago in the famous Leopold and Loeb case involving two 19-year old college students who had committed the ‘perfect crime’. Clarence Darrow’s defence converted a death sentence to a life sentence.

Another corollary of the argument forwarded by our right-wing commentators is that since Jinnah defended Ilam Din in this murder trial, he favoured the ‘death sentence for blasphemy’. It is an odd derivative even for average intellects that most Pakistani ultra-rightwingers and Islamists possess. First of all, it is quite clear that Jinnah did not defend the actions of Ilam Din. He had attacked the evidence on legal grounds. Second, it is clear that there was no confession and Jinnah did not ask Ilam Din to change his plea. Third, when the court rejected Jinnah’s contentions, Jinnah’s argument was simply that a death sentence was too harsh for a man of 19 or 20, with the obvious implication that sentence should be changed to life imprisonment.

We can only conjecture as to what Jinnah’s reasons as a lawyer and politician to agree to be the lawyer for the appellant before the high court were. In any event, a lawyer’s duty is to accord an accused the best possible defence. Just because a lawyer agrees to defend an accused does not mean that the lawyer concurs with the crime. One is reminded of the famous Boston Massacre in 1770 when British soldiers opened fire and killed five civilians who were protesting against them. The British soldiers hired John Adams as a lawyer, who got five of the accused acquitted, arguing that a sentry’s post is his castle. Does that mean that John Adams was in favour of British rule in the US? If so, it is rather ironic that he was the prime mover and the guiding spirit behind the American declaration of independence. Similarly, when Clarence Darrow defended Leopold and Loeb, was he in any way suggesting that the crime that those two young men had committed was justified?

Jinnah’s record as a legislator tells us a different story altogether. He was an indefatigable defender of civil liberties. He stood for Bhagat Singh’s freedom and condemned the British government in the harshest language when no one else would. In the debate on 295-A of the Indian Penal Code, a much more sane and reasonable law than our 295-B and 295-C, Jinnah had sounded a warning against the misuse of such laws in curbing academic freedoms and bona fide criticisms. I have quoted that statement in my previous two articles.

There cannot be any question that Jinnah the legislator would have balked at the idea that his defence of a murder convict is now being used by some people to justify a law that is ten times more oppressive and draconian than the one he had cautioned against. To this day, I have only found him alone to have had the courage to state in the Assembly on September 11, 1929: “If my constituency is so backward as to disapprove of a measure like this then I say, the clearest duty on my part would be to say to my constituency, ‘you had better ask somebody else to represent you’.”

The writer is a lawyer. He also blogs at and can be reached at

COMMENT: High aid hopes stay unfulfilled —Muhammad Aftab - Monday, November 29, 2010

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The restrained PDF funding attitude and the partial response of the IFIs to help Pakistan come out of ‘the trough’ created by the floods, and accentuated by the ongoing business slowdown, presents a less-than-happy picture for the Islamabad rulers

Western and Muslim aid donors and international financial institutions (IFIs) have left the Pakistani government’s high aid hopes largely unfulfilled at a time when it needed hard cash — and lots of it — the most urgently. This is the net outcome of the latest round of the Pakistan Development Forum (PDF), a group of 34 western and Muslim countries and international financial institutions that has just ended in Islamabad. It was previously know as the Aid-to-Pakistan Consortium.

Instead of offering a big package of fresh economic aid, the group sent a critical signal regarding the prevalent poor governance, corruption and lack of cohesive business policies. The PDF leaders asked Islamabad to “mobilise its own resources” and stressed that “the wealthy class needs to share the burden of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the flood victims” and “not to expect from foreign taxpayers to meet all the needs”.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, urging larger aid commitments, assured the donors to give Pakistan “more time to carry out structural reforms, including widening the tax base, as it struggles to recover from its worst floods this summer.” Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said, “Pakistan needs all the financial help it can get since the floods inflicted almost $ 10 billion in losses but donors’ mistrust over the transparent use of money has slowed donations.”

Still the good news is that some of the donors did commit fresh aid. Richard Holbrooke, the US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, announced the diversion to recovery and rehabilitation of $ 500 million assistance from the already committed amount of $ 1.5 billion under the Kerry-Lugar Bill for this fiscal. Saudi Arabia committed $ 500 million in concessional loans to rebuild the flood-hit areas and $ 100 million to enhance the export of Pakistani products to Saudi Arabia. The Japanese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, M S Makiko Kikuta, announced $ 500 million assistance, including $ 233 million soft loans for the rehabilitation of roads and bridges in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and to import farm inputs like fertilisers and seed for distribution among the farmers of the flood-hit areas. It will also include $ 267 million assistance for flood-related works to be carried out by international organisations. Italy will provide 53 million Euros.

However, the PDF promised more funding, if the government succeeds in getting its own act together in the field of improving governance, elimination of corruption and misuse of aid and domestic funds for flood-related and other economic projects, and raised more cash domestically.

What is Pakistan’s response over these concerns? Finance Minister Sheikh assured the PDF that policy reforms would be undertaken in several fields to raise domestic resources not only for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the flood devastated areas, but to make the economy grow at a faster pace. He agreed with the criticism that fiscal policy dominated the monetary policy, which pushed up interest rates and upped the cost of borrowing both for the government and private businesses. This, in turn, is raising the cost of production of private businesses, turning exports costly and uncompetitive.

There are more assurances to placate the donor’s mistrust. “The government is also working hard to eliminate subsidies that are helping the rich at the cost of the poor,” Sheikh said. Monetary injection into Pakistan International Airlines, for instance, he said, “does not benefit the poor. Subsidised power used by the rich for heating swimming pools and rich farmers benefited through commodity procurement by the government.” Sheikh said, “The elimination of subsidies does not mean that we do not care for the poor, but we have to use better ways to identify the poor.”

How do we generate more domestic funds? In order to do so, the government has decided to levy VAT-type Reformed General Sales tax (RGST) on a wide range of goods and services, impose 10 percent flood surcharge on annual incomes of more than Rs 300,000, and a one percent increase in special excise duty on dutiable items. The key objective of introducing these measures is to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio from the present 12 percent, in two years, to 15 percent by 2015. The budget deficit target has been set at 4.7 percent of GDP, in consultation with the IMF. Budget restructuring will provide Rs 361 billion, while government spending has been slashed by Rs 295 billion, following the floods. The new taxes will yield Rs 66 billion.

Alongside the PDF session, the IMF, which is assisting Pakistan through a $ 11.3 billion Standby Arrangement, issued a statement on the present and future prospects of the economy so that the government can formulate policies to do the task. It projects inflation at 14 percent and a real GDP growth of just 2.75 percent in the current FY-2011. The balance of payments is expected to weaken in FY-2011, due in part to the impact of the floods. Imports will rise as food and other basic goods will need to be brought in from abroad. Imports of capital equipment for reconstruction will increase. Textile exports may decline, although the industry escaped flood damage.

But the higher trade deficit will be compensated in part by rising home remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis. But the current account deficit may widen by 0.8 percent of GDP to 2.8 percent. “Given Pakistan’s large flood and development needs, additional donor financing will support the government’s efforts to finance flood relief and reconstruction as well as development and social spending,” the IMF said. It pointed out that prior to the floods, “growth was picking up, but inflation was high and persistent. This summer’s floods have led to sharp deterioration in the economic outlook.”

The restrained PDF funding attitude and the partial response of the IFIs to help Pakistan come out of ‘the trough’ created by the floods, and accentuated by the ongoing business slowdown, presents a less-than-happy picture for the Islamabad rulers. This is particularly so because they are enmeshed and embroiled in numerous domestic problems — ranging from poor image, to inflation, the ongoing energy crunch, the political parties, including their coalition partners, in a perpetual threatening mode to quit and workers and consumers already hitting the streets. This is the current domestic picture.

On the international side, although the PDF has yet to contribute sufficient funding and the IMF’s assessment calls for a greater domestic effort, the task, though difficult, is clearly set for Islamabad. Is the ball not in the government’s court?

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and former Director General of APP

COMMENT: Banning medical drug reps from public hospitals —Dr Syed Mansoor Hussain - Monday, November 29, 2010

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As far as the public sector in Pakistan is concerned, the major arena for corruption occurs at the level of whatever ‘authority’ is responsible for buying medicines or devices in bulk for government-run hospitals and dispensaries

The Punjab government has banned the entry of medical representatives (reps) into public hospitals. Medical reps or drug company salesmen have always been a part of every medical establishment. In the hierarchy of people that work for pharmaceutical companies and suppliers of medical equipment, medical or drug reps are the foot soldiers of the industry.

“Big Pharma”, as it is often referred to in the US, has had a long and often corrupt relationship with providers of medical services, including hospitals and doctors. Recently stringent limitations have been placed on what ‘free’ supplies and inducements pharmaceutical companies can provide to physicians. But Pakistan is not the US.

For most of my life I have dealt with medical representatives, also known as ‘drug reps’. As a child I remember going to my father’s clinic at the end of his work day to pick him up. While I waited for him to finish, the last thing on his agenda was the visiting drug reps. They would show him the latest literature on new drugs they were selling and then leave a few drug ‘samples’ for him to try out on his patients. These samples often came in very handy to treat the very poor who could not afford even the cheapest medicines.

During my years in medical college many drug reps used to hang around the King Edward (KE) canteen. Some of them were originally medical students who took up this profession to support themselves till their suspension from medical studies was over. They had been suspended for varying number of years for involvement in student activism. Getting to know some of them made me quite sympathetic to the grunt work done by them while trying to make a living.

Coming back to the relationship between medical suppliers and the physician community, there is much collaboration, some collusion, and considerable corruption. Almost all important medical developments take place as a collaborative effort between doctors and medical entrepreneurs. In my own specialty of cardiac surgery, most artificial cardiac valves that we use are named after the physician that designed them and the engineer or engineering company that built them. So far so good.

Problems start arising when a new product moves out of the realm of the laboratory and has to be tried out on actual patients before it is approved for general human use. Here then a large number of physicians have to be recruited who are willing to try out a new product in what are called ‘controlled’ trials. This can lead to some form of inducements in the form of direct or indirect monetary benefit to those who are recruited to ‘study’ these products on actual patients. This might be called collusion of sorts but the end result is often beneficial as far as the new product and its usefulness for patients is concerned.

Things start getting sticky when the product has been approved for human use and now has to be marketed. Here the business mentality takes over and corruption steps in. Many inducements are then offered to physicians who can prescribe or use these products for patients or are in a position to recommend that hospitals that they are attached to should buy them often in bulk. In the US, as a result of the above problems, considerable efforts are being made make the relationships between physicians and medical suppliers as transparent as possible.

In Pakistan there are no drugs or devices being developed or going through trials for acceptance by any regulatory authority. All the efforts of the pharmaceutical industry are therefore focused on getting physicians to prescribe their medicines or use their devices on patients. Here considerable corruption does take place. Busy private practitioners are offered direct or indirect financial inducements to prescribe a particular medicine or use a particular device. The ‘cleanest’ of these inducements are probably offers of foreign trips to clinical conferences, all expenses paid, and a few dollars on the side for shopping. If nothing else, the physician might at least learn something useful.

As far as the public sector in Pakistan is concerned, the major arena for corruption occurs at the level of whatever ‘authority’ is responsible for buying medicines or devices in bulk for government-run hospitals and dispensaries. Billions of rupees are spent and therefore significant amounts of money are passed ‘under the table’ to those who are in a position to decide about what particular product to buy. This also often leads to the purchase of substandard products at inflated prices, or expensive alternatives when cheaper ones are equally useful.

One of the areas of physician ‘enticement’, especially at the junior level, is the medical education expenditure of most pharmaceutical companies. This includes two types of activities: first, subsidising medical conferences and seminars and second, paying for lunch and perhaps passing around a few free pens or key-chains after a medical presentation aimed at ‘educating’ medical trainees. And it is in these two areas, especially the latter, that most drug reps are involved when they visit ‘teaching’ hospitals. Providing information about drugs or devices that are already in use or have been recently introduced to young physicians is in my opinion definitely not a waste of anybody’s time.

What, however, is a real waste of time for most doctors in public hospitals is the interference in patient care by bureaucrats, politicians and other self-styled VIPs. Such people routinely send in patients for treatment. These patients are called ‘protocol’ patients and demand special treatment. This diverts meagre resources and physician attention from other patients. Worse, these protocol patients reinforce the idea in the minds of young physicians that sycophancy and catering to the whims and wishes of powerful people is the best way to get ahead in life.

Many things can and should be done to improve our public hospitals and minimise corruption during these difficult economic times. Banning the entry of medical reps is definitely not one of them.

The writer has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at

COMMENT: A nation divided —Shahzad Chaudhry - Monday, November 29, 2010

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An unfair socio-economic system, built around the denial of education and social security, reflects a total disconnect between the leaders and the led. The rich hordes exploit the market and then squeeze profit through price manipulation

Our biggest challenge today remains a nation divided along its fault lines and fissures. To any observer, it appears the most disconcerting indicator; a nation not at peace with itself, instead pulling in each and every other direction. That takes us increasingly close to a failed state status — something Pakistani observers are not loathe to propound. It remains another matter that Pakistan always muddles through. Ask Pakistanis and many will readily agree that a lot of that has to do with God’s grace rather than any deliberate design of recovery postulated through exquisite short to medium term recovery plans. To the Pakistanis’ credit, one may add resilience, though more likely that too can be qualified as the absence of any choice but to live or perish.

Most nations have their fissures: the Americans have their race and colour issue, the Chinese have their east-west divide and the Indians have a blatant rich and poor distinction. Other than Scandinavia where, discounting the migrants, a single cultural entity may exist, most others are multi-racial and multi-cultural. Yet these do not exhibit the fissiparousness that weak states perpetually threaten. What keeps disparate socio-ethnic creeds tied to a singular identity is none else but a dominating ‘parallel’ paradigm of success, of hope and promise, which assures each that remaining tied to the system offers the best chance of survival.

In Pakistan, for too long we have not had the paradigm of hope. We have had only short spurts: an earthquake, a war, a glimmer of hope attached to economic promise, but we have let all wither away, lost to incompetent stewardship or insincere and exploitative elites. Identities that were imposed were at best falsely contrived and did not stand the test of time. Divided nations usually are victims of conflicting narratives, leadership having failed to provide an alternative that could help coalesce into an engaging and sustainable paradigm of success. Such a paradigm, in essence, will have to lie in the wider domain of economic opportunity, recovery from difficult internal security dimensions, or institution of a social safety net that the people can relate to and which can bring succour to their impending fears for sustaining life and enabling hope and promise. None other will suffice in these challenging times. There seems neither realisation nor an effort in this direction.

Four major fault lines impinge upon Pakistan’s national fabric, some inherent in the structure, some self-created.

First is the religious divide that now seems to have lain dormant relative to our current travails. The Shia-Sunni divide was seasonal and episodic, yet has remained of nightmarish proportions due to the vulnerability of being exploited by elements looking to create ruptures. Iran, since 1979, only emphasised the challenging nature of this historical baggage that Islam as a religion has had to bear through the centuries. Iraq exacerbated the divide while Afghanistan and Pakistan today are living examples of how Islam’s subset factions have used the context to further independent agendas. Even more ominous, this exploitative trend has not yet seen its full fire and fury and is still geographically restrained. Pakistan has been rocked by religious strife for decades and has continued to pay the price in life and blood. The American presence in Afghanistan has exacerbated acute religious conflict and disparate voices each seek their own pound of flesh as opportunity presents itself to further political and financial gains.

The second affliction is regional. Pakistan was born with it. Most other nations have overcome this challenge via a shared national culture. If the going was rough for them, all were in it equally; when times become better — as in India — progress is as uniform as is the capacity of a state or the region to benefit. Somewhere resources helped, somewhere it was innovation in economic activity that generated opportunity, special economic zones and inter-state investment that helped. While others celebrated diversity, we converted it into a stigma and tried imposing a uniform identity. We achieved neither. Imposed identity fell through its false base while regional sensitivity has only reinforced fissiparity. In a weak economy and socially fractured polity, regionalism gains sustenance. In the absence of a promising paradigm, centrifugal forces prevail. Balochistan presents one such travail.

An acute divide between the rich and poor is our third self-generated chasm. An unfair socio-economic system, built around the denial of education and social security, reflects a total disconnect between the leaders and the led. Large swathes of the Pakistani populace, perhaps now exceeding 50 percent, live below the poverty line; 10,000 are added daily to the jobless; 40 percent of those between the ages of five and 14 remain outside the enrolment schemes. The rich hordes exploit the market and then squeeze profit through price manipulation. Only one percent pays taxes. When the Reformed GST is proposed, most dither because they wish to remain undocumented and therefore outside the tax net. The rich have excused themselves from wealth tax while a large presence of the landed elite in the country’s parliament ensures that agriculture, a significant segment of the GDP, remains untaxed. Tax that gets collected is frittered away by callous expenditure with the poor never getting to see any return on their payments. Eighty percent of taxation is indirect, forcing a chain of price hikes whenever a tax gets levied. The rich and poor divide remains the most telling challenge for Pakistani society, and after terrorism the second biggest threat to Pakistan’s internal stability.

The fourth divide that we force on ourselves is institutional confrontation. More importantly, the civil-military divide and politico-judicial acrimony are both getting institutionalised on the back of historical experience and pervasive insecurity. Of the two, the former has found deeper roots while the latter appears sporadically and is incidental. A vibrant media too gets pitched as a threat, at times with sufficient reason in contriving an institutional stand-off. In this free for all among the elites, there is little thought spared for the nation, its institutions and the people. We are ruthless in our treatment of other classes, stereotype happily, and in our bid to prove ourselves right, with a sense of passion deride all else. We remain unaware of the longer term damage that we cause to institutions. This remains a literal case of ‘Rome decaying from the inside’.

Structural deformities in our electoral political system manifest themselves in power politics, which remains the end-all of any democratic exercise. Since elections are fought on the basis of group and tribal allegiance, there is never the need to bring issues to debate. Poorly educated aspirants to the legislature, however moneyed, do not possess the wherewithal to fight issue-based elections. A fractious polity thereafter becomes a perfect umbrella for a patron-client allegiance culture that only reinforces the divisions within society. As a consequence, we continue to rot and edge ever closer in giving meaning to a failed state.

The writer is a retired air vice marshal and a former ambassador

EDITORIAL: Resolving Balochistan the sane wayResolving Balochistan the sane way - Monday, November 29, 2010

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PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif hit the nail on the head when he said that the situation in Balochistan cannot be resolved at gunpoint and Balochistan’s stability is vital for peace in Pakistan. Mian sahib’s words are critical in the present situation because he is heading the leading political party in Punjab, the province that the Baloch have come to dislike because of its disregard for other provinces. Mr Sharif condemned the increasing incidents of target killings of the Baloch and acknowledged that the recovery of bullet-riddled bodies in recent days has “further aggravated the political situation”. He urged the government to take “concrete and revolutionary steps to resolve the problems in a political manner”.

Balochistan is on fire, more so in recent months. As if thousands of abductions of the Baloch was not enough, now they are being killed brutally and mocking notes like ‘Eid gift for the Baloch’ are being attached to their dead bodies. The Baloch leadership, including Balochistan’s chief minister, have pointed fingers at our security establishment. The only ‘sin’ the Baloch have committed is to ask for their just rights. This has made our security establishment fear the Baloch nationalists, who have been dubbed as a threat to the country. Our intelligence agencies seem to have their own way of dealing with perceived ‘threats’ to the undefined ‘national interest’. It is the same highhanded manner in which our establishment dealt with the Bengalis in the past, which finally ended up in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. If our establishment thinks that it would be in our ‘national interest’ to further separatist sentiment in Balochistan, then they are on the right track. Otherwise, the only sane way to deal with this situation is to bring about a political solution by addressing the grievances of the Baloch people.

Mian Nawaz Sharif rightly blamed General (retd) Pervez Musharraf for the current wave of unrest in Balochistan. Musharraf not only started another military operation in the province, he also killed Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. What is worse is that Musharraf does not even regret his mistakes. As Mian sahib pointed out, Musharraf is “publicly saying that he would repeat his actions if faced with the same situation”. Instead of apologising to the Baloch people, Musharraf is adding fuel to the fire by giving such statements. A man who has just launched a new political party — the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) — and is vying to get back into politics through the power of the ballot, as opposed to a military coup through which he came to power previously, needs a reality check. Before contesting the next general elections, Musharraf should be put on trial for the murder of Akbar Bugti and other crimes against humanity.

We cannot afford another East Pakistan debacle. We are fighting terrorists in every nook and corner of the country, there is a terrorist insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, the jihadi networks in Punjab and Sindh are getting more active and the nationalist insurgency in Balochistan is gaining momentum. The political leadership must recognise the gravity of the situation. The PML-N’s solidarity with the Baloch cause would go down well but Mr Sharif also needs the PPP and its coalition partners on board. For starters, the government must put its foot down and stop the military operation in Balochistan. The Baloch leadership, both living in exile or inside Pakistan, must be brought to the negotiating table. Resolving Balochistan the sane way is the only solution to end the current imbroglio. Saving Balochistan would in effect save the country. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Intolerance is blasphemy

Aasia Masih’s blasphemy case is not just gaining momentum, it is leaving a torrent of controversy in its wake, where extremism and draconian views are being upheld instead of endorsing basic human rights and tolerance. After being sentenced to death by a district sessions court in Nankana Sahib, Aasia’s case has become the poster-child issue for civil society, private NGOs and the international community, all of whom are appalled by this medieval and harsh punishment because of a controversial law. However, it is saddening to see that some of our politicians are coddling the mullahs who have found in Aasia’s case a reason to once again froth at the mouth.

Babar Awan has said that the blasphemy law can only be altered or repealed “over his dead body”. It sounds as though the federal law minister is taking some direct lessons from the extreme right and intolerant hate mongers who have been directing our society towards the brink of anarchy due to their regressive ideas about religion. In the same vein, activists of different religious parties including the Jamaat-e-Islami, unleashed their anger at the accused and even Governor Salmaan Taseer who is campaigning for the president to pardon the poor Christian woman. They protested against any possible pardon and swore that if such a compromise took place, there would be a countrywide backlash. For the law minister to voice the same message puts him in the same league as these venomous mullahs, many of whom are responsible for riling up angry mobs and murderous vendettas against the minorities. It is unfathomable that a man of Mr Awan’s standing in the government should come off as no better than a hate spewing cleric himself.

The last thing Pakistan needs right now is any vindication granted to the clerics. It is these people who have condoned the extra-judicial murder of anyone accused — many falsely — of blasphemy. It is these clerics who support Taliban-like causes and even outrightly provide ideological and, at times, strategic support to the militants who are ravaging our nation. If members of the ruling party side with their inhumane verdicts on religious matters, little hope is left for our minorities and the cultivation of a society that protects the rights of its citizens. Someone needs to knock some sense into those who mollycoddle the intolerant. They have done enough harm to Pakistan already. *

Dirty electricity - Ardeshir Cowasjee - November 28, 2010

Source :

WE now know that Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretin (KKEU), a Turkish power company, has anchored a barge-mounted power station in the Korangi Creek, connecting it to KESC’s thermal powerhouse transmission lines to deliver 220MW into the starved electricity network (the powerless awam expect much from the bijli ka jehaz).

At the inauguration ceremony of this furnace oil-guzzling smoke-belching mini-monster, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, our ‘knowledgeable’ minister for water and power, informed us that the “ship-borne system is a state-of-the-art power plant to provide electricity to Karachi”.

He is only partly right: although the barge has been rented for five years by Lakhra Power Generation Company (GENCO-IV) and its electricity is being ‘wheeled’ into the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC)/Pepco’s nationwide system, its output will be utilised by the KESC as a low-loss part of the 650MW supply to be provided by
Wapda. With proper relaying, this output will remain available to KESC even if the inter-tie to Wapda drops off.

On Nov 24, this newspaper reported that KESC will pay some Rs9/kWh to Wapda/NTDC, with KKEU’s sale price to Wapda/NTDC being around Rs16/kWh. In its January 2010 rental power review report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) found “the Rental Service Agreements (i) are weak in their legal structure; (ii) do not balance the risk sharing between the seller and buyer; and (iii) have many inconsistencies”. It also calculated that KKEU had the highest cost among the 12 furnace-oil rental power plants reviewed.

What Raja Pervaiz Ashraf did not mention was that the barge will horrendously pollute the habitations, air and sea around Karachi.

In mid-March 2010, my advisor on environmental engineering affairs, Shehri’s Roland deSouza, attended a public hearing held by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by KKEU and emerged sceptical.

This report essentially stated that whatever environmental problems emerged during the operation would be studied/tackled by KKEU as they occurred. This is unbelievable. If such a procedure is to be accepted for scrutiny by EIAs, then Sepa’s NOCs and public hearings are meaningless.

As per Section 9 of the Review of IEE & EIA Regulations 2000, Sepa must conduct a “preliminary scrutiny” to confirm that the EIA is complete for purposes of initiation of the review. It obviously was not. Had it been, the agency should have insisted that all environmental issues be assessed in detail, technical studies and accurate analyses be conducted, and detailed mitigation measures finalised in advance.

For instance, without engineering studies, KKEU vaguely stated that plant noise would be tackled with acoustic enclosures only “if the noise levels exceed the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) guideline values”. An unrealistic figure of 85dB(A) was quoted as the standard, although residential areas (e.g., Ibrahim Hyderi Goth) should not be subjected to more than 45dB(A) of sound at night.

Further, KKEU loosely promised that seawater temperature-rise thermal-plume modelling of their once-through cooling-system would be undertaken “in case the temperature difference is found to be beyond the NEQS”.

The NEQS prohibit the discharge into the sea of any effluent (without regard to concentration of pollutants or
temperature-rise) within 10 miles of the mangroves (in Korangi Creek). ADB reported in 2006 that the average temperature rise of the sea cooling water at KESC’s Korangi power-house was 7Ú°C (exceeding the maximum 3Ú°C allowable). Excessive heat from the KKEU barge will exacerbate this situation, and further adversely affect marine life and the livelihood of fishermen in adjacent goths.

No details were provided of the complex treatment/disposal required for the contaminated wastewater generated from washing the furnace-oil or from other hazardous chemicals. (Polluters in Pakistan tend to isolate themselves from this process by using sub-contractors who, after bribing officials, remove contaminated waste for remote dumping.)

With the burning of dirty furnace oil, bereft of de-sulphurisation equipment, increase in air-pollution is a major concern in the already degraded air shed around the KESC power house. The coloured contour maps generated by KKEU’s air-dispersion modelling fraudulently show the prevailing wind as coming from the northwest rather than the southwest.

Thus, the deposition of pollutants from the barge is stated to be over the Korangi Creek rather than onshore onto the thickly populated areas of Ibrahim Haidery Goth and Korangi Township.

The EIA report states that the alternative Chinna Creek and Bin Qasim sites were not considered suitable as habitations existing close to the barge locations would be adversely affected by the power plant. How then is the Korangi location, with millions of people downwind within a few kilometres, acceptable?

Myriad other details and mitigation measures that should have been spelled out and examined by Sepa and the public have not been addressed.

A perusal of the pathetically drafted, conditional NOC issued by Sepa in April makes incredulous reading. It vaguely and generally states that the project proponent “shall do” this or “shall do” that; that standards of the World Bank “shall be observed”; that emergency/contingency plans shall be made; and equally meaningless directions. For example:

“Temperature, TSS and pH of all effluents and gases being released will be controlled through effective equipment and technologies.” Is it not the function of Sepa and the public hearing to evaluate and approve the effectiveness of the proposed mitigation measures?

Does the government realise that degradation of the environment at the World Bank-determined rate of six per cent of GDP is far greater than the three to 3.5 per cent increase in GDP being brought about by ‘economic development’ with dirty electricity? Do they expect the impotent environment ministry or the corrupt EPAs to rectify this? Are we not on the path to ecological suicide?