Posts tagged ‘Pakistan’

July 15, 2012

Ali Dayan Hasan (HRW Pakistan) recants statement against ISI

by ravezjunejo

Ali Dayan Hasan at IPSMM2012

The newly appointed Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence may have attained an understated and unsung victory for his intelligence agency considering the recent and highly surprising statement by Human Rights Watch‘s Pakistan head Ali Dayan Hasan that the ISI may not be involved in the Saleem Shahzad murder AT ALL!

Mr Hasan made this statement at the recently concluded India-Pakistan Social Media Mela held at a local hotel in Karachi.  He was invited as a speaker for the session titled ‘Negotiating complexity: human rights and social media.’

Apart from his condemnation of ‘trolls’ (read his notoriously egotistical irritation on being questioned by critics in general and Twitter activist @Laibaah1 Marri in particular) on social media, Mr Hasan said “My position and HRW position is clear. We never say that he was killed by the ISI. Who killed him has to be determined by an independent probe.” Could we be correct in considering this latest statement by Mr Hasan a recanting of the previous allegations that HRW has made, all but implicating the ISI in carrying out the Saleem Shahzad murder?

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July 12, 2012

Shamshad Junejo (1927-2012) – The Story of My Grandfather

by ravezjunejo

At London Bridge; July 1998.

Adapted from:

My maternal grandfather (referred to as ‘Nana’ in South Asian languages) Shamshad Ahmed Junejo, Advocate, Sindh High Court, passed away on March 26 this year. Nana was survived by his three sons and two daughters, the youngest of whom is my mother. Both his wives died when he was still alive.

Since a very young age, I had learned that my Nana had lived a very interesting life. A member of a Sindhi freedom fighter’s organisation in his school days, he went on to become a successful lawyer and a local leader of the PPP at the invitation of its founding Chairperson himself, and many more interesting people in between! I shall now put down here all that I can remember about my Nana and his life that I learnt from him.

These rememberances have been reproduced chronologically.


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November 3, 2011

Journalism and the plight of Baloch

by Mureed Bizenjo

Not a single day passes without abduction, torture, arrests and enforced disappearances of the Baloch people in the largest but the most underprivileged province of Balochistan by the state-run institutions, military and Para-military forces.  Journalists in Balochistan are cleverly monitored, either threatened or forced to halt their activities if their publications happen to go beyond the content of journalism defined by the state. If not that, their bullet-riddled tortured or headless bodies may be found somewhere on the roadside. Studies by the nonprofit committee to protect journalists reveal that 16 journalists were killed in 2010, and 9 have died so far in 2011. The state perpetrates all

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September 14, 2011

Flood Victims 2011 Call For Help – by Pireh Memon

by Schimi

Pakistan Flood Victims 2011 Call For Help

Floods in southern Pakistan have caused more than 200 deaths, a million homes have been destroyed and more than four million acres of cropland have been affected. And still the devil is to come. More heavy rain is forecast in coming days. The coastal city of Karachi suffered the least where educational institutions have been closed for two days and work came to a halt the previous day after heavy rain. Unusual weather patterns caused heavy rains in Sindh and according to the BBC poor drainage exacerbated the problem.

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August 7, 2011

All for Ummah – by Zubair Khan

by Mureed Bizenjo

Islamic Republic of Pakistan or in Urdu as we say “Islami Jamhooria Pakistan” is a country mostly known for being the melting pot of different ethnic groups and of course our very own prized asset, The Jihadis. The thing is, our so called Islami Jamhooria Pakistan is not

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December 28, 2010

Necessity Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril – by Adam B. Ellick

by admin

Cross Posted from: New York Times

A supermarket provides transportation to female employees to protect them from harassment.

Rabia Sultana at McDonalds in Karachi

Her conservative brother berated Ms. Sultana for damaging the family’s honor by taking a job in which she interacts with men — and especially one that requires her to shed her burqa in favor of a short-sleeved McDonald’s uniform.

Then he confiscated her uniform, slapped her across the face and threatened to break her legs if he saw her outside the home.

Her family may be outraged, but they are also in need. Ms. Sultana donates her $100 monthly salary to supplement the household budget for expenses that the men in her family can no longer pay for, including school fees for her younger sisters.

Ms. Sultana is part of a small but growing generation of lower-class young women here who are entering service-sector jobs to support their families, and by extension, pitting their religious and cultural traditions against economic desperation.

The women are pressed into the work force not by nascent feminism but by inflation, which has spiked to 12.7 percent from 1.4 percent in the past seven years. As a result, one salary — the man’s salary — can no longer feed a family.

“It’s not just the economic need, but need of the nation,” said Rafiq Rangoonwala, the chief executive officer of KFC Pakistan, who has challenged his managers to double the number of women in his work force by next year. “Otherwise, Pakistan will never progress. We’ll always remain a third-world country because 15 percent of the people cannot feed 85 percent of the population.”

Female employment at KFC in Pakistan has risen 125 percent in the past five years.

Several chains like McDonald’s and the supermarket behemoth Makro, where the number of women has quadrupled since 2006, have introduced free transit services for female employees to protect them from harassment and to help persuade them take jobs where they may face hostility. “We’re a society in transition,” said Zeenat Hisam, a senior researcher at the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research. “Men in Pakistan haven’t changed, and they’re not changing as fast as our women. Men want to keep their power in their hand.

“The majority of the people here believe in the traditional interpretation of Islam, and they get very upset because religious leaders tell them it’s not proper for women to go out and to work and to serve strange men.”

More than 100 young women who recently entered service jobs told of continual harassment.

At work, some women spend more time deflecting abuse from customers than serving them. On the way home, they are heckled in buses and condemned by neighbors. It is so common for brothers to confiscate their uniforms that McDonald’s provides women with three sets.

“If I leave this job, everything would be O.K. at home,” Ms. Sultana said. “But then there’d be a huge impact on our house. I want to make something of myself, and for my sisters, who are at home and don’t know anything about the outside world.”

So far, the movement of women into the service sector has been largely limited to Karachi. Elsewhere across Pakistan, women are still mostly relegated to their homes, or they take jobs in traditional labor settings like women-only stitching factories or girls’ schools, where salaries can be half of those in the service industry. Even the most trailblazing of companies, like KFC, still employ 90 percent men.

Pakistan ranked 133rd out of the 134 countries on the 2010 Global Gender Gap Report’s list of women’s economic participation.

While there is no reliable data on the number of women who specifically enter the service sector, Pakistan’s female work force hovers around 20 percent, among the lowest of any Muslim country.

Some women, like Saima, 22, are forced to lead secret lives to earn $175 a month. Her father’s shopkeeper’s salary does not cover the family’s expenses. Without a university degree, the only job Saima could find was at a call center of a major restaurant’s delivery department. But she impressed the manger so much that he offered her a higher-paying waitress job at a branch near her home.

She reluctantly agreed, but pleaded to be sent to a restaurant two hours away so she would not be spotted by family members and neighbors.

After three years, her family still thinks she works in the basement of a call center. On several occasions, she served old friends who did not recognize her without a head scarf. Her confidence has soared, but she is overwhelmed with guilt.

“I’ve completely changed myself here,” she said in the corner booth of her restaurant before her co-workers arrived. “But honestly, I’m not happy with what I’m doing.”

The women interviewed said they had to battle stereotypes that suggested that women who work were sexually promiscuous. Sometimes men misinterpret simple acts of customer service, like a smile. Fauzia, who works as a cashier at KFC, said that last year a customer was so taken with her smile that he followed her out the door and tried to force her into his car before she escaped.

Sunila Yusuf, a saleswoman who wears pink traditional clothes at home but skintight jeans at the trendy clothing boutique in the Park Towers shopping mall, said her fiancé had offered to pay her a $100 monthly wage if she would stay at home.

“He knows that Pakistani men don’t respect women,” she said.

Hina, who works the counter at KFC, said her brothers, who also work fast-food jobs, worried that she had become “too sharp and too exposed.”

“They can look at other people’s girls,” Hina said with a grimace. “But they want their own girls hidden.”

Mr. Rangoonwala, the KFC Pakistan executive, said: “Unfortunately, our society is a hypocritical society. We have two sets of rules, one for males and one for females.”

For Fauzia, the hardest part of the day is the 15-minute walk through the narrow alleys to reach her home. She wears a burqa to conceal her uniform, but word of mouth about her job has spread. Neighbors shout, “What kind of job is this?” as she briskly walks by with her head down.

As a solution, some companies spend up to $8,000 a month to transport their female workers in minivans.

A federal law, citing safety concerns, prohibits women from working after 10 p.m. It was extended from a 7 p.m. deadline last year.

Most companies, however, are unwilling to absorb the extra cost of employing women. Even most stores that sell purses, dresses, perfumes and jewelry do not employ women.

Kamil Aziz, who owns Espresso, the city’s most popular coffee chain, said he made it a point not to hire “the other gender” because women could not work the late shift and the turnover rate among women was higher. He said he also did not want to invest in separate changing rooms.

Nearly all of the 100 women interviewed said marriage would end to their careers. But many of them saw benefits along with the hazards.

Most women said that they had never left the house before taking a job. Many spent the first five months missing buses and getting lost. When they first arrived at work, they stuttered nervously in the presence of men.

Now they know better.

“I’ve learned never to take what husbands say at face value,” said Sana Raja Haroon, a saleswoman at Labels, a clothing boutique where men sometimes slide her their business card.

But the employed women are also approached by admiring young women who want to follow their lead.

“Girls envy us,” said Bushra, a KFC worker. “We are considered the men of the house, and that feels good.”

Huma Imtiaz contributed reporting.

December 24, 2010

Our Quaid-e-Azam – by Ahmed Iqbalabadi

by admin

Related articles: LUBP Archive on Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah

Millat ka pasban hay, Muhammad Ali Jinnah

When I visited India in the summer of 2004, just after the infamous and unsuccessful “Shining India” campaign of the Bharatia Janata Party, I couldn’t stop thanking Muhammad Ali Jinnah, affectionately our Quaid-e-Azam to have delivered Pakistan for us. I saw that though India was at that time beginning to stake its claim as an emerging global economic power, the situation on the ground was much different to what we have seen through TV and Films. Being on family visit, I got to visit various cities in UP, the capital New Delhi and Bhopal in Madhya Pardesh. Wherever I went, I realized how fortunate I was to have been born and brought up in Pakistan. The respect for Quaid-e-Azam and his followers grew stronger and stronger. If that was the Shining India, I dont know how the Dull India must have been,

If one scans various material on Quaid-e-Azam, one gets confusing vibes about him. Some call him an opportunist, others call him the most astute politician who carved a country without bloodshed. The bloodshed that took place was post independence and not pre-independence. He was a rich man, an accomplished professional and a known secular. Yet the nation he delivered was made up of poor people, deprived migrants, less educated class while the post independence shape of Pakistan was majority Muslims.

He was a skilled negotiator who got what he wanted – a country for the people he led. It was unfortunate that the country he got for his people could not become a nation that he would have liked to see. It was the future generations misfortune that he died within 390 days of independence. He was already 72 when Pakistan got its independence. What he lacked was a team of people who had experience of governance. Be it Liaqat Ali Khan, Sardar Nishtar, Khwaja Nazimuddin or even his sister, Fatima Jinnah. All of the above and many more were always opposition politicians who had never ruled an area pre-partition. It was all but natural for the bureaucracy, especially those belonging to the ICS cadre that ruled the roost. Already Muslims were less educated and only the very accomplished background people reached the bureaucracy in those days. So whoever was in the ICS, got everyone of their liking into key positions. Nepotism started then and that is what we see till today. Similarly, immediately after independence, the key issues that faced the nation was being resource strapped, a biased partition done by a Britisher, the Kashmir conflict and the migration of millions. What he was unable to do was to develop a plan as to what he saw of Pakistan. He couldn’t provide the necessary targets and even if there were, the same were not conveyed to his people. If only he had lived for 3-4 years, at least a constitutional framework could have been set up. After all, he was a lawyer of great repute. All the nonsense that we see till today and all that we hear in his name about what sort of a Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam wanted to see, would have for sure been different.

The way Pakistan has moved on 63 years post independence can be called by critics as a failure. I am an optimist and I see that Pakistan has moved forward, but not as much as it had potential. Having witnessed the situation in India in my visit 6 years ago, there is no one day that I don’t pray for the Quaid and his and my beloved Pakistan. The onus is now on us to make a pakistan that stands out in the world for all the right reasons and not the wrong ones and give Quaid-e-Azam the real reason to rest in peace.

Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad- Pakistan Paindabad!

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December 13, 2010

Beyond nation states: Union of South and Central Asia (USCA) – by Shiraz Paracha

by admin

The death and destruction in name of nation state has taught the West to discard the narrow concept of nation state, however, in some parts of the world, the West is encouraging separatist movements and ethnic groups which aspire to create new states driven by ethnicity.

The idea of ethnocentric nation states is a recipe for disaster in regions where ethnicity is a form of tribalism and societies are under developed in social and economic terms.

The institution of nation state emerged in Europe nearly 300 years ago and has been the cause of bloody conflicts. Millions of Europeans died in useless wars when narrow ethnic nationalism turned the continent into a sea of hatred.

Since the 1789 French Revolution, Europe went through many wars in which different European nations fought against each other for the ethnic and racial superiority of their states.

The French Republic gave a new and sacred place to the State in the lives of ordinary citizens and loyalty to the State became important than all other loyalties. Citizens and soldiers lived and died for the State.

Nationalism was at its peak in the 19th century newly industrialized Europe. European powers competed for influence and colonized vast areas of the world. In the first half of the 20th century two World Wars were fought, mostly among Europeans, to settle the issue of racial superiority and prestige of nation states.

The Second World War, however, weakened imperial Europe. Consequently, maintaining direct control of colonies became very costly. Nonetheless, before receding from the colonies, European masters sowed seeds of hatred in the occupied regions. The European nation state model was applied to colonies, which were pre-industrial societies with different historical and cultural experiences.

The nation state experiment divided cultural and ethnic communities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and led to conflicts around the world that exist till date.

After the end of the Second World War, several dozen newly independent states emerged on the foundations of mistrust, hatred and division. The creation of India and Pakistan is just one example.

Western colonial powers used religion as well as ethnicity to establish new states.

A new Jewish state should have been established in Europe as Christian Europe was guilty of crimes against Jews but with the American support, the British created the artificial state of Israel in the middle of the Arab world, using faith as a pretext. Since the birth of Israel the Middle East has been bleeding.

The British oversaw the creation of Israel and Pakistan, in both cases faith was the main motive behind the establishment of the new states, interestingly, the same United Kingdom denies rights of Catholics in the British occupied Northern Ireland.

The West applies different principles in different situations and regions. NATO separated Kosovo from Serbia by force but, paradoxically, Basque nationalists in Spain and France are denied the same right. Basques want a separate state but the French and the Spanish governments proscribe the Basque party, ETA, as a terrorist group. Western ‘terrorist lists’ are not objective. As long as an ethnic group serves Western interests it can be labelled as freedom fighters even if it is involved in violence and human rights violations.

Europe and the United States encourage and support the Chechens separatist in Russia, the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Kurds in Turkey, Iran and Iraq in their struggles for separate states. The above mentioned ethnic groups use violent means to achieve their goal.

The West supports creation of new ethnic states but the institution of nation state is in crisis because much has changed since 1789. In the 20th century dozens of new states sprung up on the world map and older nation states remodelled themselves yet the ‘crisis of nation state’ continues. Despite modernization, nation state seems to be a redundant institution in its purist or classical form.

Globalization is the biggest threat to nation state as global markets have replaced national markets. Privatization has given immense power to corporations and now they transcend national borders. Capital knows no boundaries and can flow from one part of the world to another with one click. Instant and the free flow of capital and economic interdependence have reduced the power and prestige of nation states. Global trade and travel demand new structures and revision of social contracts.

Moreover, communication revolution that started in the second half the 20th century has changed the world and in many ways. The pace of the change is very fast and increasing number of people feel that they can simultaneously belong to global and local cultures.

The above factors have provoked a debate about the future of nation state. Nation states may not diminish completely but their power to control or influence national economies and governing systems will certainly decrease dramatically.

Against this backdrop, Europe has moved away from the strict concept of nation state by establishing a supranational body, the European Union (EU). Now European nationalism is culturally different from the political nationalism of the 19th century. The EU members showcase nationalism in cultural expressions but the key political decisions are made at international bodies and are not the sole prerogative of national state institutions. National boundaries and territorial issues no longer cause hysteria in Europe.

Ironically, though, in non-Western regions demands for new ethnocentric states are encouraged. Pakistan is an interesting example where some groups, including a section of the Taliban, are using religion and ethnicity to create a greater Pushtoon state comprising Pushtoon areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some reports suggest that NATO and the United States support the creation of Pushtoonistan or Pukhtunistan.

At the same time, struggle for the establishment of a new Baloch state that will be home to ethnic Balochs of Iran and Pakistan continues.

Separate Muslim identity had played a key role in the birth of Pakistan; however, the Pakistan movement was an expression of political nationalism as different ethnic groups from across the Indian Subcontinent had taken part in the Pakistan movement.

Nonetheless, areas included in Pakistan were also home to culturally homogeneous ethnic communities. In the following years, the Pakistani nationalism, which was political in nature, found itself at odds with the cultural nationalism that existed in Pakistan before the creation of the country.

During the most part of its 63 year turbulent history, Pakistan has been governed and controlled by the military. The Pakistani military believes in the centralization of power and has been playing the fear card to maintain its grip over power. The military has been trying to manufacture a common national identity using religion and suppressing cultural identities.

The policy of fear backfired and disenchanted ethnic groups revolted against coercion, and the centralization of power and resources. The Bengalis in East Pakistan took the lead and succeeded in establishing Bangladesh in 1971. It was a bitter lesson for the Pakistan Army.

During the Cold War, Pukhtunistan was a sensitive issue between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan claimed that the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan was part of Afghanistan as people on the both sides of the British drawn Durand Line were the same, Pushtoons.

Since the 1950s, the fear of Pushtoon and Baloch states has played a central role in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan has been seeking influence in Afghanistan to neutralize the demand for a Pushtoon state.

Since the NATO occupation of Afghanistan, suggestions of Pushtoon and Baloch states have resurfaced. This time the United States and NATO seem to be endorsing the plans for the new ethnic states. India, too, has obtained full access in the NATO-controlled Afghanistan. Islamabad obviously feels bewildered.

But redrawing political map in the parts of South and Central Asia with the help of foreign forces is an absurd idea. It will result in endless bloodshed and instability in the whole region. NATO which is looking for ways to escape Afghanistan could be stuck into ethnic conflicts for decades.

NATO and the US presence in the region is the root cause of tensions. If Western masters pushed an agenda that would divide Afghanistan and Pakistan along ethnic lines, it will be a grave mistake and will create problems that would be beyond anybody’s control.

Pushtoons are not a nation in political terms as they do not adhere to a single political ideology and values. For example, a large number of Pashtoons support the Taliban. Due to the mass support in the Pashtoon areas of Afghanistan, the Taliban are still key players in the Afghan politics. At the same time, secular and nationalist Pashtoons are another shade of the same ethnic group. Therefore like any other ethnic and cultural community, Pashtoons are a distinctive cultural group which exists for hundreds of years. They speak common language and have their own traditions.

Pakistan and Afghanistan, on the other hand, are political nations. An Afghan could be a Pushtoon, Uzbek or Tajik. And people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds are members of the Pakistani nation. The majority of Pakistanis follow the same faith and common languages of communication are Urdu and English. All regions of Pakistan are economically interdependent and there are other strong political and cultural bonds that make Pakistan a nation.

Pashtoon or Baloch states can be created either by the will of all Pashtoons and Baloch or by military means.
Many Pushtoons and Balochs are very proud Pakistanis and all of them may not support the creation of separate Pushtoon or Baloch states.

Former East Pakistan was geographically apart from the West Pakistan and Bengalis had strong political aspirations and yet the powerful and popular Awami League had contested the 1970 election on the slogans of more political autonomy rather than complete independence.

At the moment, no separatist or nationalist political party in the provinces of Khyber Pukhtoonkhawa or Balochistan enjoys popular support that would translate into the establishment of separate states.

On the other hand, if created with the help of foreign military support, the new ethnic states will be security states dependent on their foreign sponsors for a long time.

Similarly, the survival of the new landlocked Pushtoon state, for instance, will depend on Pakistan, but maintaining friendly relations with a foreign sponsored breakaway part will not be possible for the remaining Pakistani state.

Most important of all, future new and smaller states are unlikely to stand up to pressures of international monetary and trade systems and will be unable to defend their national interests unless they are part of strong groupings of states. To meet the challenges and pressures of globalization, nations and communities that share land and resources or other common grounds will have to form alliances to defend their interests in a globalized world.

The Scottish Nationalist Party, for example, hopes that Scotland will become an independent state very soon. Even so, the independence will not make a big difference for the citizens of the new Scottish state because being EU citizens, they will still be able to live and work in Scotland as well as in England. In future, EU member countries are likely to manage local affairs, including promotion of local cultures. Major decisions will be taken at international bodies and by supranational states.

In the 21st century, the South and Central Asian region can develop its own model of integration. Geography, natural and human resources as well as cultural and historical similarities offer opportunities to forge new economic, social and political bonds among the countries of the South and Central Asian region.

Europeans are strangers in the region but people of Central Asia share culture and history with South Asian people. There is a great potential of mutual trade and economic connectivity that would lead to social and cultural harmony in the region.

If South and Central Asian states could introduce internal reforms guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities to different ethnic and cultural communities living within those states, it will be a move towards stability and bright future of the whole region.

On the external front, the South and Central Asian states can engage in a serious dialogue on the possibility of establishing a supranational body or alliance of South and Central states that could be a Union of South and Central Asia (USCA) or South and Central Asian Union (SCAU).

The proposed block can include the six Central Asian and the seven South Asian countries plus Iran. The Union can develop partnership with China and Russia and could be a sister organization of the Shanghai Corporation Organization (SCO).

The new alliance should form a single trade zone with uniform custom duties and taxes, and flexible immigration rules for traders and labour.

Many countries in the region spend huge sum of their resources on defence but if the new alignment turns into a reality defence budgets can be heavily reduced and the money can be diverted to social and economic development of the people.

The West may consider the new block a threat to its strategic and economic interests because such a development could reduce Western influence in the region. The West could also be deprived from Central Asian natural resources as the energy would flow eastward to South Asia and China. Therefore the West is likely to oppose the creation of such a block and may use divide and rule tactics to stop it.

Besides, it would be naive to ignore the existence of serious clash of interests or conflicts among the countries of South and Central Asia. Also ethnic divisions and other misunderstandings in region are serious challenges but future economic and political benefits of establishing an alliance of South and Central Asian states outweighs such differences and divisions.

Shiraz Paracha is a journalist and analysts. His email address is:

December 3, 2010

An opportunity that Pakistan missed -by Sandeep Dikshit

by admin

Leaked secret cables from the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, just after the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai, reveal a more complex narrative than that chronicled so far.

The Pakistan government was willing to work with India; New Delhi was not painting Islamabad and the military nerve centre in Rawalpindi with the same brush, and the Europeans were initially keen on dousing any tensions that might have erupted.

Three cables form the basis for the initial account. The fourth and the last cable, sent three months later, details how the media in India and Pakistan, along with the Opposition in Pakistan, led to erosion of enthusiasm in Pakistan to get at the bottom of the Mumbai attack conspiracy.

The four WikiLeaks cables, though forming a narrow window, are a story of a missed opportunity for Pakistan to step up the friendship with India, being constructed through the comprehensive dialogue process.

The cables begin disclosing the story through American eyes on the day National Security Guard commandos ended the bloody holdup in Mumbai, and Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab had been captured. It begins with Pakistan making all the right noises.

“President [Asif Ali] Zardari, PM [Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza] Gilani and FM [Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood] Qureshi have made all the right public statements…Government of Pakistan (GoP) is sending ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] chief M.G. Pasha to India to participate in the investigation…[Mr.] Zardari is meeting with appropriate Cabinet members to discuss further possible GoP reaction and NSA [National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali] Durrani forwarded a message on the need to jointly fight militants that threaten both Pakistan and India.”

The cables list at least a dozen GoP initiatives that suggest it was in sync with the feeling of awfulness and revulsion felt by the rest of the world. Apart from telephonic commensuration at the highest levels, Islamabad was willing for hotlines between the two intelligence chiefs, saw the attacks as a threat both countries needed to fight together and agreed to an Indian request to send ISI officers to Mumbai.

However, the British got alarmist even before India and Pakistan could begin discussing the modalities of their cooperation. They agreed with the rest of the world for quick, credible action by GoP. But among the U.K.’s fears were “increased [where there was none] proxy action” by India in Balochistan and aerial attacks on Lashkar-e-Taiba training camps in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The cables later reveal that the large PoK-origin population had coloured British views.

The Americans felt London was “overreacting,” but agreed on the need for a coordinated message urging concrete GoP action against Lashkar. And in a forecast, that remained true for over two years, noted: “If the militant plan was to ensure that the Pakistan Army would not shift troops from the eastern border to the tribal areas, the horrific Mumbai attacks may have succeeded.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistani media “reacted predictably” with denials of Pakistani involvement and demands for proof.

Internally also, the GoP was trying to form a similarity of opinion with other stakeholders — the Army and the Opposition parties — and succeeded to some extent. But the Pakistan Army, according to the Americans, while not moving more troops to the Indian border, had started increasing alert levels. Mr. Zardari saw the attacks as “an opportunity” to crack down on militants, but criticised the “Indians” for statements that pushed Islamabad to make a defensive response and “made my job harder.” He also told the British Foreign Minister of not having had “any specific information about the individuals named in the information passed [by the British] to ISI.”

The third cable chronicles the erosion of the resolve in Islamabad to act jointly with New Delhi, and the growing hawkishness in the Indian media that had a reverse effect across the border. “Mr. Qureshi complained about the negative effect of the Indian media hype.” Despite the Indian media reporting plans of pre-emptive strikes, troop movements and severing of diplomatic contacts, the Government’s views remained balanced. It felt the GoP was in the clean, while the same could not be said about the ISI. The fourth cable, after a gap of a couple of months, reveals hardening of the GoP’s stand. “President Zardari said he would have no choice but to respond militarily to an Indian attack.” Meanwhile, his chief political opponent Nawaz Sharif and his brother appeared to be playing a double game, the U.S. thought.

“Zardari also discussed his increasing frustration with Sharif’s government in Punjab, whom he believed had tipped off the Jamat-ul-Dawa about the assets freeze ordered by the federal government.”

Mr. Zardari continued to attempt trying to work with the Indians. He approved the release of information to New Delhi and reminded the U.S. “that it had only taken a phone call from the U.S. to ensure that Pakistan did not oppose the U.S./India civil nuclear deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.”

Source: The Hindu

December 2, 2010

Who's Most Interested In WikiLeaks? Pakistan, Says Google Trends

by admin

Internet users in Pakistan led the way in Google searches for the term “WikiLeaks” in the build-up to and the first two days of releases of secret diplomatic cables.

Google Insights for Search
through Monday show that people in Pakistan and Italy seem to have had the most interest in the first batch of documents.

Google is the most-used search engine in every major country, except for China and Russia.

Several other European countries did a lot of searching for WikiLeaks, including Turkey, Poland, Israel and Spain. The U.S. doesn’t crack the top 10; Americans do lead the way in searching for “cables.” The overall interest in searching for cables is way lower than for “WikiLeaks.”

There’s good news for the five newspapers which received special access to the documents. Google searches worldwide for the websites of the N.Y. Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El Pais have skyrocketed since this weekend’s release of the first documents. Comparing them, the Guardian and El Pais are attracting the most searches.

December 2, 2010

Time to let go Mr. Bond – by Sindhyar Talpur

by admin

Government of Pakistan is currently trying to introduce a RGST, a reformed General Sales Tax. One can’t help but think that as so much of energy is being put into reforming tax system and increase revenue. Government may be exhausting its political capital but yet be missing a trick.

The primary reason why the government has been made to introduce this RGST is because of IMF’s pressure. It may be recalled that in 2008, when the country was about to default on its loans, the GoP decided to renegotiate with the IMF to get some loans, which would allow it to balance its budget. As a consequence of that loan agreement, the treasury was expected to ensure an increase in revenue, which would then lead to paying back the loan with interest.

Pakistan is regarded as one of the most tax evading countries in the world. Simple fact is, it is easier and cheaper not to pay tax than to pay. The system is contrived in such a way that millions of rupees in profits are hidden and protected. Many of the tax evaders are small and medium enterprise, that numerically are in millions. Larger corporations are not free from blame either. While most of them are happy to deduct tax of their employees from source, who in turn, having no other choice, never forget to mention this contribution to the nation. But large corporations too “invest” their profits into subsidiaries and projects that seem to have no returns – but give out many benefits to those involved.

Conveniently, these organisations are mostly related to directors, large shareholders and such. Because of such and even less palatable schemes of tax evasion, treasury introduced a regressive tax in form of General Sales Tax. This taxes affects both rich and poor equally, on whatever they buy. Notwithstanding tax evasion involved here as well, this has proven to be more easier and so far more successful way of tax collection in Pakistan. It is no surprise then that we are being pushed into reforming this GST, to get more revenue, at expense of the people.

I say this because, and this is uncontroversial, GST affects poor more than the rich – thus the term regressive tax. If Rich spend more on something, due to it being taxed, they conversely shall have less leftover to spend on luxury items. Poor, who always have little and no savings, would have less to spend on much needed amenities. Thus the choice for them is between nutritious meal or clean attire.

Effectively RGST is going to increase the items that are subject to GST. An addition of 15-20% to price automatically causes 15-20% inflation. In Macro-economics, inflation is something that a government is duty-bound to curb. Increasing it by taxation is effectively an own goal. This lowers the purchasing power, devalues currency, causes opportunity cost for certain business, which affects many industries that are affected by decrease in sales.

RGST is at risk of increasing this further, and arguably it will only hurt the economy more – at least according to Keynesian economic. It is, according to neo-liberal economics, likely to however salvage some private parties, eventually. In long run, it is likely to help the business that weather this storm and can also allow them to exploit cheap labour that would come due to increased inflation. Supply and demand, if there is increasing unemployment, stagflation if you will, due to more and more companies going bust, there would be competition for jobs. This would let employer dictate the pay scales. However neo-liberal economics is ruthless in that it doesn’t take into account the social loss. Such a loss in lowering standards of living is not something pure capitalists care about!

Such is the predicament of a left leaning party, which is being made to introduce these measures. But it is arguable that a principled Leftist party would instead tax proportionally and progressively. The long term solution and way forward would be to tax on high pays and profits. But as argued above, the revenue collection is low. There is need for a fundamental change in the policing of the tax collection. This includes changing the higher echelon of Federal Board of Revenue.

Bringing in new recruits and re-training to current staff. It also includes bringing in independent accountability mechanism, especially that of an independent body, and also parliamentary accountability on the activities of the department. There is of course need to revise the current tax law, in that to seal the loopholes that exist in the current system and to make it more air-tight. This would initially cost more both in monetary and political terms, but the results would yield high dividends.

But why is there need for Pakistan to tax its citizens in first place? Fundamentally the answer you would get for this is; to maintain and possibly buoy credit- rating of Pakistan. If we default on our loan, we become a credit risk, our credit rating goes down and we get loans only at higher interest rate. It is at junctures like this one misses a visionary strong leadership at Islamabad. In the last three decades Pakistan has been ruled by for twenty years, or two-thirds of era, by Army chiefs who have had, to put mildly, catastrophic understanding of basic macro-economics and of international politics. This has led them to let others, primarily technocrats, control these domains. These then themselves have micro-economics credentials.

For example, the previous prime minister, whose credentials for office of Finance ministry was his position at Citi Bank. This Bank claims to be involved in many financial activities, but even they would agree those activities are not concerned with inflation, unemployment and such. A cursory look at list of Finance ministers of past three decades shows that, apart from Mr Shaikh and Burki, we have hardly had people at top who have grasp of macro economics. Those who have been experts, have had no grasp of politics, being technocrats.
Simply here is a difference between micro economics and macro economics- when a company defaults its creditors, it has to face legal actions, it has to face increased interest rates, has to find almost no other credit options and effectively faces ruin. When a country defaults, it depends! Some countries have, by pure brazen tactics and resolve, along with taking advantage of international politics, taken full advantage of their default. A country’s only form of credit is not only other countries, but it can also be international institutes like IMF. Further, governments can also raise revenue from their own citizens and finally also by selling assets.

In certain circumstances, default on loans such as bonds or foreign loans is actually a better decision because it allows you to free yourself from large debts. Increased inflation may allow for bonds to be of lesser value, and paying them then, at height of inflation along with a calculated default can go long way to lower the national debt. Default on singular but large debt is better.

Technocrats being only versed in economics would never conceive such a thing, a politician with financial background or advise would! Such a default then would allow you to use the freed up funds into something of national interest. Public infrastructure that would create returns, or organisations that would create jobs and revenue etc. Tactical default closes one door but opens another, these are the competitors of one who has just faced default. A default can also lead to national cohesion, which if propagated properly would initiate people to contribute and stand in with solidarity.

Nothing brings people together better than common threat and concern as long as there is a clearly defined goal in sight. Finally the paradox of the markets is that, once a default has occurred, after the initial mess and chaos, the markets begin to actually see the defaulting country in better light, especially if the country is seen to have a good financial history and has used justifiable reasons for default. This is because, once it is clear a default has occurred, and consequently the country has begun to invest into lucrative assets, that would yield more.

It is also clear that the government is now no longer aiming to default any time in future. They seem to have begun to balance the accounts and, with the large debt gone, have again begun to see green. Thus the markets begin to see the country in better light, ironically more than they had when the poor country was paying of large interest rates but taking the honourable road of ensuring no default occurs. But this is how markets work, and if you are in it, one needs to play its rules to one’s advantage. What of course markets are responding to quite favourably is the resolve and financial direction, twinned with political stability and resolve of people. These create a favourable impression, not only for the lenders but also investors who are always looking for untapped investments.

Pakistan then if is adamant on increasing its taxes, it must do it with a long term strategy. This strategy must be based on the left of centre ideals of progressive taxation, efficient public services, good tax collection and well maintained balance books, even if this includes taking some hard decisions. Any change, especially on the neo-liberal proposals, would only leave a sour taste in mouth and question mark to leftist credentials of PPP.

December 1, 2010

Leaks show US government always knew that Pakistan was misusing US taxpayers' money -by Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

by admin

The deal President Bush struck with Pakistan’s General Musharraf seemed straightforward enough: Pakistan would fight terrorists, and the US would pay for it. Islamabad promised to train, equip, and deploy its army and intelligence service in counter-terrorism operations. Washington promised to reimburse it with billions of dollars in weapons, supplies, and cash. And so, over the last eight years, up to $22 billion of US taxpayers’ money flowed to Pakistan.

Last year I published a paper arguing that the results were nothing short of a scandal (download). There have been hardly any real counter-terrorism successes. The money has enriched individuals at the expense of the proper functioning of the country’s institutions. And it has incentivized a co-dependency between the two countries to which, the WikiLeaks cables now reveal, US diplomats admit.

Pakistan’s army is conditioned to regard its raison d’etre as defending Pakistan against India. Never mind that its foreign ministers meet each year, the last skirmish between the two was over a decade ago, and the last war much earlier. The idea that it should now spend money on fighting terrorists – many of whom of course are Pakistani – did not sit easily with them.

So they ignored it. Much of the US taxpayers’ money was spent on conventional weapons which are useless against terrorists. As I revealed in the paper, it spent $200 million on an air defense radar system even though the terrorists in the frontier region have no air capability. It spent $1.5 million to repair damage to Navy vehicles even though they have no navy, either. $15 million was spent on bunkers that were never dug, $30 million paid for roads that were never built; $55 million to maintain helicopters that were not, in fact, maintained, and $80 million per month for soldiers to fight during periods when there was a cease-fire.

For most of this period, the US Department of Defense was given certain — albeit insultingly limited — information about this expenditure, and signed it off.

At the same time — the Pakistani army seemed to remain badly equipped. One reporter found the Pakistani Frontier Corps “standing … in the snow in sandals,” another found soldiers wearing World War I-era pith helmets and carrying barely functional Kalashnikov rifles carrying “just 10 rounds of ammunition each.”

The deal, it was clear, had not worked. The US was paying, but Pakistan was not fighting in any serious way.

My report was sent to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as the National Security Council and State Department. I assumed such revelations would be controversial. After all, up to $22 billion of taxpayers’ money had been at best misspent, at worst stolen. It is not a headline that any government or population is normally particularly happy about hearing.

So imagine my surprise when last month, the Obama administration announced another generous package of aid to Pakistan with no strings attached — pouring more money into the black hole.

Well, this week it became clear why my previous report did not evoke a stronger reaction. And the truth is, in a way, even more alarming than the details of Pakistan’s misuse of US taxpayers’ money. The reason lawmakers did not seem surprised by the revelation was that they already knew exactly how badly your money was being spent. They just didn’t want to tell you.

The WikiLeaks files reveal that Pakistan’s General Ashfaq Kayani allegedly admitted to US diplomatic personnel that most of the funds the US had given to Pakistan for military purposes — amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars — had been ‘diverted’ to the federal government. This ‘diversion’ sounds like a polite way to refer to something which most people would call theft. Back in 2007, US diplomats already knew about multiple instances where this had happened, or where the claims that Pakistan made for reimbursement had been seriously inflated: $26 million was claimed for barbed wire. After spending $335 million on medical care and a fleet of 26 helicopters, the troops at the frontier still had no medical rescue service.

The leaks also show us who knew what, and when. It seemed that in January 2009, when the flows of funds from the US to Pakistan slowed down, General Kayani gave an explanation to General Petreaus as to why Pakistan kept needing more. The reason he gave? The federal government had taken it.

In an ideal world, the result of these revelations would be that taxpayers’ money would stop being misused like this. But I think that in the current political climate, that is actually far too ambitious. Any politician who suggested such a thing would be accused of being soft on terrorists. And so I think that in the short term, the best we can hope for is that the American public begins to understand what the government is doing with their money in Pakistan, and that we have a debate about whether it is the right way to spend it. I would be intrigued to hear anyone argue that it is value for money.

December 1, 2010

No minority rights in Pakistan —by Shahid Saeed

by admin

We live in such an ideologically insecure country hell-bent on maintaining our brand as an Islamic Republic that we undercount and under-report the percentage of minorities in our census. There is a barrier the size of the Great Wall of China that prevents minorities from becoming successful citizens in Pakistan

Amidst the outrage over the sentencing to death of Aasia Bibi, a 45-year old mother of five, over charges of blasphemy that seem difficult to prove and have triggered a debate on the blasphemy law itself, what has been conveniently ignored is the fact that the said incident occurred after people refused to drink water brought by Aasia Bibi, considering it to be napaak (impure). Ironically, it is socially acceptable that people belonging to the poor Christian community are treated despicably, considered unhygienic, called names such as choora (sewer cleaner), regardless of their actual profession. The accusers who refused to drink water brought by Aasia Bibi were somehow acting within religious guidelines. I would like to ask them whether they would act in the same manner if Aasia Bibi and her likes were to be replaced by white Caucasian Christian women. I am pretty positive that there would be no qualms in accepting that glass of water or food touched by Christians who are not chooras. Clearly, then, it is not a matter of religion but socio-economic status that makes people discriminate in such an outrageous and horrific manner in the name of religion.

A few years ago, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had put up a banner on the Islamabad Expressway inviting the Christian biradari (community) to apply for janitorial jobs vacant at the CDA. Historically, Christians from poor backgrounds have served as janitors and cleaners, and many continue to do so whilst fighting social injustice, but for a government department to declare janitorial jobs solely reserved for Christians is disgusting. Our society tolerates, accepts and practises shameful, abominable and repulsive behaviour every day, all in the name of religion. My head hangs in shame.

We live in a country where, for a long time, elections were carried out under religious apartheid as minorities were denied their right to universal franchise by forcing separate electorates on them. The freedom to profess religion guaranteed by Article 20 of the constitution has been meaningless in the light of the legal and social discrimination against minorities. Article 20 grants people of all faiths freedom to “profess, practice and propagate” their religion, but the Second Amendment and Ordinance XX prohibit the Ahmedis from practising their religion openly and denies them the right to call themselves Muslims by categorising their faith for them. We guarantee them freedom of religion, only as long as the majority can feel secure by calling itself the constitutional Muslims and prohibiting the Ahmedis from nearly everything that they believe in, including the right to name their small town of Rabwah, as it has been rechristened Chenab Nagar. The insecurity of the majority sects has been written down in the Second Amendment and Ordinance XX and continues with constant court cases against the Ahmedis.

The fact is there are no minority rights in Pakistan. Minority members of parliament have to begin their speeches by first praising Islam and the government of Pakistan for guaranteeing them whatever limited rights they have, and still they are looked down upon by the ulema (sitting mostly on the treasury desks). It is as if we are doing a favour to them by extending basic humanitarian rights. The Hindu community has faced constant harassment and the number of forced conversions in Sindh has been on a constant rise. The Christian community faces social barriers of enormous proportions and has been the target of innumerable terrorist attacks too. Starting from partition when the Sikh and Hindu populations were killed in massive numbers, minority faiths have suffered immensely. The anti-Ahmedi agitation of 1953 started the wave of mass harassment and persecution that continues to this day. Temples have been razed, churches have been burnt and poor people lynched and killed in the name of religion.

From Shantinagar to Gojra, the history of this land is full of the murder of minorities at the hands of the self-proclaimed righteous guardians of religious boundaries. In a country where sectarian terrorism consumed thousands of lives and minorities have been forced to live in fear, Article 20 is nothing but hollow words.

We live in such an ideologically insecure country hell-bent on maintaining our brand as an Islamic Republic that we undercount and under-report the percentage of minorities in our census. There is a barrier the size of the Great Wall of China that prevents minorities from becoming successful citizens in Pakistan. The wall has been raised by legal and social measures that persecute them and discriminate against them. The majority Muslim population, hijacked by a significant number of hardline religious leaders and their followers, has made life for the minorities a living hell. They use mosque loudspeakers for telling them that they will inevitably go to hell in their afterlife.

With the passage of the Objectives Resolution, the fate of minorities in this country was sealed forever and the dream of the state envisaged in Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech had died. The report of the Court of Inquiry constituted under the Punjab Act II of 1954 to enquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953, commonly known as the Justice Munir report, had then answered some valid questions about the role of religion in the state. The ulema — disunited as they are on a million issues and unable to come to a single definition of a Muslim — were then nearly united, and still are, on how to treat minorities: they shall be zimmies and “will have no say in the making of law and no right to administer the law” and would not be allowed to propagate their religion. Summarising, the good Justices Munir and MR Kayani wrote: “It is this lack of bold and clear thinking, the inability to understand and take decisions which has brought about in Pakistan a confusion which will persist and repeatedly create situations of the kind we have been inquiring into until our leaders have a clear conception of the goal and of the means to reach it…The sublime faith called Islam will live even if our leaders are not there to enforce it. It lives in the individual, in his soul and outlook, in all his relations with God and men, from the cradle to the grave, and our politicians should understand that if Divine commands cannot make or keep a man a Musalman, their statutes will not.”

These words have proven to be prophetic and stand so apt for today, albeit with the caveat that we no longer have liberal judges who did not think secularism was a bogeyman. The 11-year rule of ‘Islamisation’ has changed our attitudes, ideologies and beliefs immensely, and now we teach our children lies that never were a part of our history. We are confused about the very ideology behind the creation of this country, what it was meant to be, what it has become and what it should be. The confusion persists, but with laws that demand a blind Safia Bibi to produce four witnesses to support her claim of rape, laws that allow honour killings to take place through forgiveness granted under diyat and laws that sentence people to death over fake blasphemy charges, we have arrived at a point where it is clear that theocracy has failed us. Only a secular, progressive and democratic Pakistan can guarantee social progress for the people of this country. Rest assured, the future looks bleak if things are to continue the way they are now.
Source: Daily Times