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  #281  
Old Sunday, October 13, 2013
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13.10.2013
Military and democracy
The more military officials get involved in issues of politics, governance, and national interest, the more blurred the line between national interest and hawkish national security becomes
By Dr Nyla Ali Khan


The road to Kabul from India and Pakistan runs through Kashmir, my homeland. Central and Southern Kashmir shares borders with India, Pakistan, and China. Pakistan-administered Northwest Kashmir shares a border with Afghanistan and China. China administers the Northeast Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram tract in the northeast. Various territorial disputes persist. Thus, a crucial step to winning the peace in Afghanistan is to ensure the empowerment and stability of Kashmir’s culture, economy, and democratic institutions.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is so geographically located that it depends for its economic growth on an unhindered flow of trade to both countries. Kashmiri arts and crafts have found flourishing markets in India for decades. At the same time, the rivers and roads of Kashmir stretch into Pakistan. Prior to the partition of India in 1947, Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, used to be Kashmir’s railhead, and Kashmiri traders would use Karachi, part of Pakistan, as the seaport for overseas trade.

Jammu and Kashmir has been marred by a long history of violent political and ethnic struggles. On September 25, at least nine people were killed when militants attacked a police station and an army camp.

As Kashmir is vigorously discussed at the United Nations General Assembly by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, I am of the firm opinion that the welfare of the people of the state can be guaranteed by securing the goodwill of the political establishments of both India and Pakistan, and by the display of military discipline and efficiency at the borders. The forte of the armed forces of a country, to the best of my knowledge, is national security, not national interest or foreign policy.

I recall a conversation that I had with an interlocutor nominated by the government of India about the role of the Indian Army in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I asked rather acerbically how the army had become a stakeholder in the Kashmir imbroglio, and she hurriedly and just as acerbically replied that, “there are good stakeholders and there are bad stakeholders, and armed forces are, inevitably, stakeholders in an insurgent zone.” I was rather ticked off by that response because I believed that a mediator should be open to diplomacy and peaceful negotiations to further the India-Pakistan peace process.

If the political evolution of a society is nipped in the bud by an all-powerful military establishment, state policies always fall short of becoming coherent. The more the military establishment makes incursions into democratic spaces, the more shaky institutions of state remain and the more fragmented the polity becomes. The “sovereign” role played by the GHQ in Pakistan is an example of such a scenario. The more military officials get involved in issues of politics, governance, and national interest, the more blurred the line between national interest and hawkish national security becomes.

Instead of deterring the growth of democracy, the goal should be to empower the populace of the state of Jammu and Kashmir sufficiently so that a disempowered populace does not succumb to ministrations of destructive political ideologies. In addition to addressing the political aspect of democracy, it is important to take cognizance of its economic aspect as well.

In order to restore peace in Jammu and Kashmir, people must learn to work together across ethnic and ideological divides and insist that everyone be included in democratic decision-making and be given full access to basic social services. It is an egregious mistake and one that has severe ramifications to allow the military of a nation-state to bludgeon its democratic processes.

The writer is a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network
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Old Sunday, October 20, 2013
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20.10.2013
Malala versus Malala
All conversation between the hero-worshippers and those who think of her as the tool of Western propaganda rings hollow in a society which still has millions of out of school children and where a 14 year old was almost shot dead for pointing this out
By Irfan Muzaffar

The run up to the Nobel Peace Prize this year has involved heated conversations on the social media about Malala and the prize. A good number of Pakistanis spent a great deal of keyboard time in supporting and opposing Malala’s nomination for Nobel Peace Prize. People’s comments during the run up to the prize are striking inasmuch as they reveal the cultural fissures in the Pakistani polity than anything else.

I have attempted to construct a conversation between two fictitious characters based on the comments I read on various Facebook pages. In accordance with the tenor of these conversations, I have named the fictitious characters as Enthusiastic Pakistani (EP) and Ambivalent Pakistani (AP). The conversation is followed by a brief epilogue that represents my own opinion on the subject.

EP: She is one of the bravest and most courageous girls the world has ever known. Her fighting spirit and resilience is extraordinary and commendable. Her speech betrays her firm belief in the cause she stands for. I salute her and hope that one day her efforts will bear the sweetest fruits. Pakistan and the world need more people like her. I fully support her and do not understand why you don’t. How can you fail to be moved by this rare combination of fearlessness, modesty, confidence, and commitment?

AP: How can you be so superficial in your opinion? There are many more children of her age who display similar spirit and are equally articulate. Malala is but one of them. Could she have made her mark on the world stage had it not been for Adam Elick, her dad, and the shots fired at her by the Taliban? Regardless of her own child like spirit and enthusiasm for education, the entire world is using her as an excuse. Why should the world need a poster child for education after all?

Can you not see that the same powers, which are perpetrating atrocities and injustices elsewhere in the world are also appropriating the symbolic Malala? Why do they not have poster children for such causes as stopping the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Burma? Where are the Palestinian and Kashmir’s symbols of resistance? Isn’t it also disturbing to see the United Nations privileging Malala and yet remaining largely silent in the face of injustices elsewhere?

EP: I think you are over-analysing this situation. All governments and supranational organisations do both good and also bad. It is a good thing to keep holding a mirror to them, to point out that their actions are unfair when they are indeed unfair, and to let them know that their response to an issue is inadequate when they are indeed not doing well enough. So when the United Nations is unable to respond adequately to the injustices inflicted on, say, the Palestinians, we should question its effectiveness. But when it attempts to support education we should welcome its actions. We should not get into the habit of throwing the baby out with the bath water. We can only work with what we have and try and improve the world we live in.

You are implying that Malala is a construction of New York Times. Far from it, I think. You are giving too much credit to a newspaper and not considering that she is, in fact, produced by a peculiarly unfortunate situation in our own country. Every injustice produces people who suffer and others who symbolise people’s outrage resistance against injustices. What part of her message sounds conspiratorial to you? Do you think a call for educating all children by a child is really such a bad thing? Her speech on the importance of education and her articulation, simplistic as it was, worked for me, as I am sure it does work for others like me to act.

AP: I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at your simplicity. Is lack of education alone the root-cause of all injustices? It is easy for us to talk about education as the panacea for all ills, when poor people out there are subjected to all kinds of injustices. Are these injustices going to be eliminated merely by education?

EP: I can begin to discern a common ground between us. Both of us want to live in a just society, don’t we? While I agree with you that education is not a panacea, both of us know that we are better equipped to make this world work for us because of a decent education. Our education helped us by making us aware of our rights and responsibilities. It taught us how to solve problems, think critically, and communicate effectively. It is true that education can also be seen as a means of creating a governable population. But isn’t it better to have a law abiding population in a just society than mayhem in an unjust society, or would you rather prefer the latter? So while education may not be a cure for all our social and economic ailments, we do know, at least from our personal experience, that it does help individuals understand and improve their condition.

EP (Continuing): I have a long list of questions that I could pose to you but I’d rather state a concern. I am concerned that Pakistanis are again dividing themselves in the liberal and not-so-liberal camps around Malala. Our judgment as a people is being impaired by this ongoing culture war. In the midst of this culture war, Malala will become a symbol of division and fragmentation when it should have been the other way round.

Both of us aspire for better education for our children. The dream for a better education is our own dream for our children. Don’t you think it is utterly unfortunate that even a call for better education works to divide us in opposite camps?

You argue that the goodness of her message is lost because of the way Western media and corporate world is rallying around her. But we do not and cannot control the preferences of Western media. We should focus on our self and just be fair to one of us. Just recall how shaken the nation was when she was shot? Do you remember that popular outrage against those who tried to kill her within Pakistan? So what has happened between then and now? You are a reasonable person, aren’t you? Why make an exception in this case?

AP: You are discounting the fact that we live in a war zone and many of us think this war has been thrust on us by the Western powers. The Western media seems to be on a fault finding mission as far as Pakistan is concerned. Similar problems elsewhere, such as in the neighbouring India, are usually ignored by the same media. So you cannot blame people for being suspicious of the international reception of Malala as yet another ploy to embarrass Pakistan.

The same media does nothing to embarrass Israel, India, and Burma for atrocious violation of human rights. While we should be self-critical, such criticism is likely to lose its critical edge and credibility by using the privileged symbols of Western media.

EP: You are missing my point. I never said we should not chastise the powers of the world for not addressing the injustices elsewhere. We should also stand against the drone attacks and the violence perpetrated by the states on people everywhere. Indeed, we should make use of every opportunity to further justice wherever and whenever it arrives and Malala, I believe, does represent such an opportunity simply because she refocuses our sights on educational injustices.

Epilogue: Should we even be having this conversation? After the Nobel Peace Prize had been announced, I heard a number of statements from Pakistani politicians. A good many of them, including the cabinet ministers, said that although Malala did not win the prize we were still proud of her nomination. Are our politicians proud of the fact that an 14-year-old was almost shot dead? In fact, we should hang our heads in shame for bringing this country to a state in which a child had to go through this ordeal.

Let us get the facts straight. There is no possibility of a Malala volcano erupting in a society, which provides educational justice to its citizens. This is regardless of the perceptions about Malala as a tool of Western propaganda. It is no propaganda that we have millions of out-of-school children, girls and boys alike. It does matter to put them in schools and provide them with a quality education. The state and our political elite, more than anything else, are responsible for the circumstances in which Malala phenomenon is born. Is Malala a symbol of Pakistan’s strength? Certainly not! Does she represent an opportunity for reflection and action? Yes!!
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Old Sunday, October 20, 2013
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20.10.2013
Left in Pakistan — III
Issues of the moment
It is not the rebellious highlights of left history and thought but the paradoxes and conundrums that have most to say to us today. The need for reflective engagement being most pressing in the case of terrorism as well as privatisation of higher education
By Sarah Humayun

Should a ‘new’ left try to cater to expectations that it will take distinctive positions on some of the issues of the moment? To some extent this is a reasonable expectation from a political tendency that feels that its enfeebled presence in the political and public space has resulted in its degradation. It would be a welcome development to see forceful left-wing perspectives on issues such as the power crisis, privatisation, health, education and urban planning, among other things. With a perspective that privileges the collective over the individual, and looks at the aggregated force of social processes before the singular action, the left can surely provide persuasive arguments and examples against moving these concerns from the realm of the public to that of the ‘market’.

‘Public’ here indicates a collective but not mathematically or sociologically defined category which does not map on to the state, for one of the things the left now needs to do is find models of solidarity and collectivism that do not wish to coincide exactly with the state, but also refrain from uncritically rejecting the state form, with all the opportunities and limitations inherent in it.

It needs to do this because both the opportunities and the limitations of the state need to be continually rethought and restated in their relation ‘equality, solidarity and participation’, which political thinker Benjamin Arditi describes as ‘operators of difference imprinted in the cultural and affective jurisprudence of the left’ but which have ‘no relevant political existence outside efforts to singularize them in cases’.

To take one of the questions that came up in a conversation with a student activist: privatisation of higher education. There is considerable overlap between left and right stances on this issue, as historian Humera Iqtidar has pointed out. The Jamaat-e-Islami has opposed privatisation of education on the same ground – equality of access – as the left.

It would be interesting to know whether there has been significant recruitment in the left-wing National Student Federation from public sector universities, and, if so, to what extent is it happening in parallel with the educational reforms begun by the Musharraf regime. In the last few years it is private universities and lawyers’ movement activism that have served up some of the key younger members of the left. Public universities are still riper recruitment grounds for the right-wing IJT.

At first glance it might seem that the student left, in advocating state ownership, would merely stick to a traditional pro-public-sector position, and perhaps be able to make a bid to re-enter university politics with an agenda that appeals to lower-middle class and working class students. But this ignores that control by the state was also one of the reasons for the right’s exclusive ascendency in public universities; it was achieved on the back of not only martial law but also of the heavily-bureaucratised machinery of state-run universities, for which no single regime can be held responsible.

The right in the university as elsewhere has then learnt both from the left and from the state. From the first, it has learnt how to politicise religion by translating it into a platform for some demands usually associated with the egalitarian ideals. From the second, it has learnt to depoliticise religion by removing it from the context of debate and dissent; to use monopolistic violence as the basis for overriding the educational autonomy and modes of critical reflection proper to the university. Given similar circumstances, there is in principle nothing to stop this situation being replicated in private-sector universities except their defence of the same autonomy and their cautiousness with respect to the power they invest in administrations vis a vis the university community.

To support the state’s role as it presently exists in public education may or may not translate into a progressive political position. Debate on this is crucial. There can be no simple choices when it comes to the question of privatisation or state ownership. The particular form that state or private ownership takes and its suitability for the university, then becomes a question to be considered along with that of access. An intelligent student politics will concern itself with the autonomy and character of the university as well as with affordability of access.

It is questionable, therefore, whether any constructive politics of the left can assume that one social or institutional form can advance the interests of everyone.Indeed, it is not for nothing that post-cold-war writing about the left has stressed antagonism, dispute, contingency, and the transformation of political identity in the process of articulating and linking it with other identities in alliances that can effect change. Instead of universality, it has stressed hegemony. But hegemony, whether ‘organic’ (as with Gramsci) or contingent and reversible (as with Laclau and Mouffe), still remains aspiration for domination that is relevant to only a section of the political field.

It is possible to discuss this difficulty in the modernist-inspired language of fragmentation, and consequently to look for answers in the revival of pure forms of Marxian politics and in the search for hegemonic ‘alternative’ narratives that will seek to displace the dominance of existing ones. That’s one way to go. Another path is to recognise that there can be more than one left politics at the same time. ndeed, there has always been more than one: the putschist vanguard, the secessionist movement, the parliamentary party, the trade-union movement, the guild, the educational association, Christian socialism, ecological movements, etc. They have had different trajectories and not all have taken the overthrow of capitalist world-domination by the proletariat as their express object. In just-made history, spontaneous protests against sexual violence in India have arguably made a significant social impact. This considerable success has not interested anyone as much as the ambiguous Arab ‘revolutions’ or even the fortunes of the Maoist insurgency in India. Why not? Is it because its impact and its still-evolving meanings are hard to discuss in the orthodox vocabulary of left politics?

From the (sadly few) writings and interventions that one sees by left-wingers in mainstream public fora, it seems that most failures of left-wing politics can be explained away by state repression and the global ascendancy of capitalism, which have blurred class boundaries and so reduced the space for effective class struggles based on strong identities. Another familiar storyline recounts a history of the urban, cultural left of the intelligentsia and the conditions of its interactions with the state, with progressive loss of traction and space. More interestingly, it sometimes sheds light on how the left itself was shaped by hierarchical class or sectional interests, or had differences of opinion on critical questions that have not become irrelevant (as in the work of historian Kamran Asdar Ali).

These ways of making sense of left history are all relevant and illuminating; and perhaps one could do worse than live with the belief that given the right conditions, which are more or less identifiable, left political activity could have taken a different turn: that is, it could have stayed as once it was, more robust and promising. But there should be room to think, as Michael Freeden says, that ‘unintended consequences, ineffective intentions, and misinterpretations of the message are equally valuable insights … they are part of the continuous metamorphoses that ideologies experience’.

In my view what a revived conversation about the left should foreground is the more nuanced thinking that suggests not only that identity politics within the Marxian framework is improbable now but, furthermore, instances of it that are invoked are not easily decipherable in terms of the polemical claims made for them. Left polemic invested in the Marxian orthodoxies often appears to turn a face of brave defiance to those whom it feels it needs to educate in history and theory before they can grasp its ‘logic’.

This may well be worth doing. But it leaves out what appears to some observers to be a critically important promise of the political left: not just to attach the notion of alternative, negativity, resistance, to a particular theoretical elaboration of a dominant economic or social system, but also to offer a site from which it is possible to think alternatives to the ‘alternative’.

******

Nowhere is the need for reflective engagement as pressing as in the case of terrorism, to which, I think, the left has largely avoided giving facile answers. But it has also avoided advancing the debate.

This is a thorny issue. The All Parties Conference of the AWP put out a statement on what to do about terrorism in February: the state and religion should be separate. The state should not have a religion. Intelligence and armed forced should be under civilian control; support for extremist organisations should cease and they should be disbanded. Only those negotiations are acceptable which can lead to the achievement of democratic goals; negotiations that weaken constitution, democratic goals or democratic state are unacceptable. On Balochistan, its public statements have stressed that the Baloch have been denied basic human rights and access to resources, and that no solution can be found without ending the illegal abductions, torture and killings carried out by the agencies.

Despite this clear stance, from time to time, concerns are voiced about the left’s position on terrorism and insurgency. There is unease that the sections of the left are pro-talks, that they choose to avoid the problem of fundamentalism by talking about class, or by seeing it as a consequence of American involvement in the region and the related use of proxies by the military. On Balochistan, too, the left has been criticised for going beyond support for Baloch rights to endorse the case for Baloch nationalism.

I do not want to enter a discussion on whether these positions are held by a significant number of leftists or none at all or whether they are tenable. In the polarisation or talks or operations, what is evident is a rift between those who demand a position on terrorism to address the present moment, and those who want to begin with the context which has created the space for terrorism. The argument is partly about immediacy.

The criticism of those who are in favour of negotiations, however qualified, targets their unwillingness to endorse solutions to terrorism understood as immediate threat; it argues that successful coercive action can create the space for addressing the context. Each side in the argument is prepared to pay a certain price: those who favour immediacy are willing to chance the deployment of the same war machine against nebulously-defined terrorist outfits that (they agree) inspired their formation; and those who favour addressing the context are presumably willing to maintain a stance of endurance on the immediate threats of attack.

I’m not sure that this division can be mapped on to the political left or the political right. But one thing that perhaps the left can contribute in thinking about terrorism and insurgency is to look beyond ‘what the state can do’, which is no doubt critical, to engage in reflection about what will in general lead to a reduction of violence, through deployment of state forces and apart from it. It can think about ways of reimagining the state in from the insights gleaned from Balochistan’s militant nationalism and the Taliban’s supra-state terrorism that treats the state as a shadow of an idea embodied in a yet-to-be-determined Islamic constitution.

The left is eminently placed to have this conversation because it shares the enlightenment legacy that understands freedom as autonomy and self-determination, and which it has also done much to complicate. At various times, it has sought out such figures of autonomy in nationalist movements, in the working class, as well as in the authoritarian state. Interesting work is now being done on climate of thought in the years preceding Pakistan and the philosophical lineages of some of the ideas that went into the imagining of the Islamic state. Kamran Asdar Ali has written a series of articles focusing on pre-partition left debate about Muslim nationalism and separatism in India (which documents opposing voices in the debate), the debates among left intellectuals about the nature of the Pakistani state and about the lessons of the 1972 Karachi strikes in Karachi.

Faisal Devji, who also counts the communism as a strand in the intellectual genealogy of Pakistan, has recently talked about how ‘religion was not a supplement to geography but its alternative’, in the ‘politics of radical non-coincidence between nation and state’ that envisaged its creation. These and other contributions tell us, not so much that Pakistan would have been a different place had everyone’s politics been better, but that there has always been a radical indeterminacy in the ways that states and nations are imagined that opens a door to violence.

In an interview after the events of September 11, Jacques Derrida, the French-Algerian philosopher, talked about ‘on the one hand, the positive and salutary role played by the “state” form (the sovereignty of the nation-state) and, thus, by democratic citizenship in providing protection against certain kinds of international violence (the market, the concentration of world capital, as well as “terrorist” violence and the proliferation of weapons) and, on the other hand, the negative or limiting effects of a state whose sovereignty remains a theological legacy, a state that closes its borders to noncitizens, monopolizes violence, controls its borders, excludes or represses noncitizens, and so forth?’ ‘The worst’, he continued, ‘it seems, is also the best. That is... the ultimate resource of all terrorisms.’

The ‘state’ — the ultimate figure of the free self-determining individual as imagined by liberalism — allows for divergent possibilities in the same time and place and the tension between them can be a fraught one. Each political intervention that bears the name of the state will produce an ensemble of effects, some of which will be more and some less conducive to violence. To operate on this territory of ‘less’ and ‘more’ will require considerably dexterity.

It is not the rebellious highlights of left history and thought but the paradoxes and conundrums, I think, that have most to say to us today. Does this mean that the left’s politics can give few easy answers and unequivocal positions? Is this a challenge it is ready to accept? Whatever the answer, perhaps it should be kept in mind that for every easy answer the left offers, there will be others willing to offer an easier one.

(Concluded)
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20.10.2013
Prospects and challenges
There may be several obstacles to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, but the stakes involved are colossal which demand its immediate construction
By Dr Raza Khan


The economic corridor which China and Pakistan have agreed to construct between Pakistan’s underdeveloped seaport of Gwadar to Kashghar border region in western China has colossal prospects of trade, investment and socioeconomic development for the entire region. Although the idea of economic corridor between China and Pakistan was conceived several years back, it started getting a concrete shape during the visits of prime ministers of both countries after the election of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister in June this year.

Pak-China economic corridor could be instrumental in increasing the trade between the two states and the South-Asia, Central Asia and Middle East manifold. At the moment, the total volume of bilateral trade between China and Pakistan is $12 billion. As the western part of China, which the economic corridor aims to provide with an outlet to the seacoast, is practically part of Central Asia while most of Pakistan is located in South Asia and Gwadar itself an outpost of Middle East, the economic corridor could increase the volume of inter-regional trade manifold. If Afghanistan is, somehow, provided a link to Pak-China economic corridor, it would further boost the prospects of trade with Central Asia. Apart from providing China’s northeast the shortest possible access to the sea the route, it could be an energy lifeline for the same region. Middle eastern and Gulf oil could be supplied efficiently and at a minimum cost to northeastern parts of China.

The economic corridor for Pakistan is critically important as it could trigger industrialisation in different areas along the route and could turn many areas into economic hubs. Consequently, the process could give rise to new cities and urban centres most importantly in some of the remotest parts of the country.

One of the key obstacles to the laying of a new trade route between Gwadar (Pakistan) and western China is the serious security problems in Balochistan. Area-wise the biggest province of Pakistan is facing active separatist insurgency by Baloch nationalist militant outfits. The interior of Balochistan, through which the road-rail route is supposed to pass, is nearly a ‘no-go’ region for Pakistani state functionaries. Only the military is operating in the area and it is also under attack. Keeping this in view, the security of the trade corridor would be a very tough task.

However, this does not mean that the route cannot be built. In fact, the route can be used to put an end or at least neutralise the insurgency by giving the Baloch nationalist a big share in the profit from the route like the transit fee charged from the trading vehicles. Only a big economic stake for the inhabitants of Balochistan, particularly those areas through which the route would pass as well as the surrounding areas, could guarantee the security of the route. Otherwise, no amount of policing or security apparatus could keep the route secure.

Not only the proposed Gwadar to China trading corridor route would face problems of security in Baloch-inhabited areas, the route is most likely to pass through upper Balochistan inhabited by Pashtoons. Although there are no separatist militant groups active in the region, there are pockets of Taliban present in these areas which could pose a serious threat to the security of the route. Likewise, in some areas of southern Pakhtunkhwa, which would be crosscut by the proposed road-rail route, the presence of Taliban would disturb smooth movement of trading convoys. Keeping in view the presence of Taliban militants across the KP, the security of the trading route throughout KP would be at risk with varying degree of intensity.

From the KP, the trading route would enter the Karakorum Highway in Pakistan’s northern areas. Traditionally, this has been a very secure route but some events in recent years and particularly recent months including the killings of Shiites and the rare incident of killing of foreign mountain climbers in Gligit Baltistan are alarming. The incident of killing of nine foreign mountain climbers, including Chinese, at a time when the proposed route was to be announced formally, is extremely significant. The incident was followed by the killing of a lieutenant colonel, a captain and a senior superintendent of police in Chilas which is also very alarming. These incidents suggest that some forces are against the construction of the new trading corridor. In this situation the security of the trading corridor in the traditionally peaceful northern area of Pakistan would be a daunting task.

Apart from security challenges to the new China-Pakistan trade corridor, the construction of physical infrastructure and the development of the existing infrastructure is very important. Road and railway infrastructure has to be laid down right up from Gwadar in the extreme Southwest of Pakistan to the north. There does not exist any road or railway track linking Gwadar port even to its provincial capital, Quetta. Whereas, there does exist a road from Quetta on the border with Afghanistan further northwards linking Balochistan province to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. However, the road is narrow and in a dilapidated condition. It cannot be used for heavy vehicles transporting goods. Likewise there is a railway track from Quetta to Zhob on border with KP but there is a missing link between the two provinces. However, this track is not usable in its present form as it is of narrow gauge and has since long been abandoned.

More importantly the pressure of traffic is already huge on these roads. Therefore, they could not be of significant help in making the new trading route a success. In order to make these roads facilitate the trade they need to be reconstructed and their width needs to be doubled. In this regard, the construction of a motorway from Peshawar to DI Khan in the South and from Hasanabdal interchange on Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway (M-1) to Mansehra could be instrumental.

There may be several obstacles to the construction of China-Pakistan economic corridor, but the stakes involved for both the countries are colossal which demand that it should be built on war footing. Apart from both the countries, the potential benefits of the project for the entire region are numerous. Therefore, all the regional countries must also contribute to the expeditious completion of the corridor.

The writer is an expert on South Asia and Afghanistan. He can be contacted via email:razapkhan@hotmail.com)
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20.10.2013
Can humans live forever?
Though advances in medicine and existing technology do promise ‘longevity’, immortality will only be a distant dream at best
By Syed Mansoor Hussain




Immortality has been the ‘holy grail’ of medical thought over millennia. However, humans cannot live forever and it is for this reason that religion is so popular. Frankly as a Muslim, all I can really say about this issue is that be a good Muslim, follow the commandments of our faith and then hope for the best in the life hereafter. But even so in our lives today, physical immortality is still something that science is sort of looking for.

Perhaps the nearest thing to immortality is the concept of ‘cloning’. Cloning is the creation/production of an animal (human?) that is identical to its ‘genetic’ parent. To produce such an offspring, the cells from the parent are used to create a copy. The most famous cloned mammal was Dolly, the sheep who was born after cloning in 1996 and died after only six years from multiple problems. So far human cloning is not allowed, but it is quite possible that some attempts have been made and were not successful enough to be publicised. But in science fiction, cloning is a popular topic.

I remember reading about a ‘maharaja’ in the days of the ‘Raj’ who would always buy two Rolls Royce cars, one to drive and one that could be cannibalised for ‘spare parts’ when needed. Of course getting new spare parts from England in those days took time. That reminds me of the movie, “The Island”. This movie is based on the idea that the ‘rich and the famous’ invest in genetically identical clones that are kept on an island, available for the transplantation of organs for the sick ‘originals’.

Besides cloning, the other area that tremendously excites people interesting in immortality is ‘stem cells’. These cells have the capacity to differentiate into almost any organ and when such an organ is developed it does not produce ‘rejection’ when implanted into a human. The major use of stem cell technology at this time is to augment failing organs. As we stand today even if cloning and stem cells can eventually develop an entire human being, we will still have major problems.

It is unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future, to clone ‘us’ from when we are in the prime of our lives and put the clone in the ‘bank’ for a time when our present body falls apart and then transfer ourselves into the clone ad infinitum. The first major problem with cloning is that many, if not all, major ‘non-acquired’ diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune disease probably have some genetic basis. As such any clone will also ‘inherit’ that tendency for such disease and that was probably what did Dolly in at the age of only six.

But even if we can detect and fix all genetic tendencies for disease, the battle for a perfect human clone is not over. The next major problem is that of the ‘mind’. We as people are, besides our bodies, also made up of memories, experience and emotions that define us as humans and unless we can transfer our minds to the ‘clones’ we will never be able to produce another ‘us’. And even the most optimistic predictions at this time do not foresee such a development. And if we cannot ‘transfer’ the mind to a clone, immortality will only be a distant dream at best.

But advances in medicine and existing technology do promise ‘longevity’. As it is the average human life span in the ‘advanced’ countries is approaching the mid and high ‘eighties’. To put this in perspective, in 1965 the Medicare Act was passed in the US that provides government medical insurance for all Americans after the age of sixty five. At that time, the average life expectancy of an American citizen was in the high sixties. The idea was to provide ‘old’ people with healthcare over the last few years of their life. But then the ‘law of unintended consequences’ came into effect.

Because of government support of healthcare, there was a tremendous improvement in medical care and research into diseases of the elderly funded by the government and within a generation the life expectancy was pushed by a couple of decades. That is one of the major reasons that today the entire medicare system in the US is under tremendous financial strain. As it is said in the US only half in jest, sixty is now the new forty.

Clearly if a person escapes what I called ‘premature death’ in a previous article, eats well, exercises a lot, avoids bad habits, stays happy and seeks timely medical help then such a person could live well into their eighties or even nineties and enjoy good health along the way. And if they do develop problems, transplants both organic and mechanical can prolong life. The most advanced concept in such a machine-human interface is the ‘cyborg’.

Here again science fiction is full of such beings but even in real life we are seeing human bodies being augmented by mechanical devices and replacements. Cardiac pacemakers and artificial joints are already an everyday reality, but newer innovations are helping the blind to see, the deaf to hear and even the paralysed to walk. One of the most exciting areas of research and development is the interface where the brain can directly control a mechanical extension like a mechanical limb.

Based upon the way humans are living longer, it is predicted that soon there will be a lot of people living into their nineties and even beyond. But that brings us to two important problems. First, of course, is that with advancing age many people start losing their physical strength and often require what is euphemistically called ‘assisted living’. In other words even without being sick, the elderly require physical assistance to perform ordinary acts of life. This will place a tremendous strain not only on the families and care givers of such people but also place an increasing financial burden on society.

The other problem is the pesky brain. As populations get older, brain degeneration often sets in and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease become prevalent. So far medical research has been unable to come with any treatment for this disease or even any way to slow it down. The best that has been accomplished is earlier detection. So what seems to be happening is that even if we live longer, the chances are that we just might end up as living organisms incapable of intellectual function. Not all that pleasant an idea.

So, there is always a market of pseudo scientific clinics that offer ‘rejuvenation therapy’. The rich who wish to live longer and find their lost youth are attracted to such establishments. After paying often exorbitant sums of money, they are provided with treatments of dubious scientific value, based on stem cells or other such stuff. Also, some of the very rich are supporting research into methods that will prolong life. So the search for immortality goes on and just as ancient ‘Alchemy’ with similar aims gave us chemistry, perhaps such modern research will also yield real scientific breakthroughs.

The writer is former professor and Chairman Department of Cardiac Surgery, KEMU/Mayo Hospital, Lahore: smhmbbs70@yahoo.com
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20.10.2013
The Indo-Pak peace paradigm
With an under-performing government, an opposition hinged on majoritarian fundamentalism and a shrill electronic media, Pakistan bashing remains the most potent point-scoring plank
By Asma Khan Lone


The Kafkaesque reality of the Indo-Pak relationship plays out once again as the region advances towards a political re-alignment. A milieu symbolised by cross-LoC violations, bureaucratic wrangling, diplomatic reticence and proxy bids in Afghanistan delineate the course for the foreseeable future. With a determined leadership at the helm, somewhat mellowed by the exigencies of its domestic threats, Pakistan’s forthcoming overtures fail to find the requisite response in India. An array of factors prevails.

A confluence of myriad dynamics, the current contours of India’s Pakistan policy spell a ‘toughened’ approach. An election year and its attendant arithmetic form the immediate momentum for the ‘casus belli’. Unlike the recently concluded election in Pakistan where the Indo-Pak hostility hardly figured in the campaign trail, the jingoist rhetoric looms large on the Indian electoral horizon. With an under-performing government, an opposition hinged on majoritarian fundamentalism and a shrill electronic media, Pakistan bashing remains the most potent point-scoring plank India’s answer to Pakistan’s political Islam?

Events such as the furore over the tit-for-tat beheading of soldiers along the LoC (why not the uproar on past such occurings) and the ill thought-out hanging of Afzal Guru earlier this year form the corollary to the approach of keeping sentiments simmering and in response whetting nationalist credentials. The revised statement of the defence minister over the killing of Indian soldiers along the LoC in early August betrayed the duress to compete with the ultra-radical posturing of the main opposition party ‑ BJP.

The hardened posturing of the Indian prime minister for a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of an upcoming UN General Council meeting in New York further belied the compulsion to compete with the histrionics of the far-right especially in the light of the meeting eventually taking place.

Notwithstanding the Indian propensity to play to the electoral gallery developments within Pakistan also stoke the trending radicalism. The attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan earlier last month was perceived as the handiwork of Pakistan-based militants in tandem with Pakistani intelligence agencies.

According to sources in India, “It was Pakistan’s way of signaling to India”. Marking Pakistan’s Defence Day on September 6, 2013, Hafiz Saeed, head of Jamaat-ud Dawah, openly led an anti-India rally in Islamabad. The sensitivity attached to Hafiz Saeed and his brazen show of power in Pakistan’s capital didn’t go down well in India. Then there’s the Damocle’s sword of the Pakistani military undermining the civilian government’s accomplishments with India, if for nothing else, to destabilise the government domestically. The revival of the NSC by the new Pakistani dispensation is a step towards allaying such fears and extending the impression of a unified approach. It, however, fails to cut the ice in India.

Developments in neighbouring Afghanistan also cast a long shadow, hardening positions in both countries. India fears a raised level of violence on its territory once the US departs from Afghanistan after the 2014 drawdown. There already exists the perception of an alignment between the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Haqqani group in Afghanistan against Indian targets. The receding US presence, and with it the restraint on the outfits, could well extend the liaison into mainland India.

An assumption finding credence by the admission of a veteran LeT member to Reuters earlier this year: “Jihad is being stimulated and various militant outfits are cooperating with each other under one umbrella”. The alienation in Kashmir, which India cared less to address over the course of the ‘last decade’ (2003-2013), provides fertile grounds for such an enterprise.

Already the violence is up in Kashmir with 103 militant-related violent incidents being recorded in the first eight months of this year against 57 such incidents occurring in the corresponding period of 2012. Ceasefire violations across the LoC are also up by 80 per cent from last year. Against this backdrop, India elects to follow a ‘wait and watch’ policy towards Pakistan.

Pakistan too is wary of extended Indian influence in Afghanistan which it views as part of its larger design of ‘strategic encirclement’ of Pakistan. It perceives India’s juxtaposition with a hostile Karzai government, in particular its assistance in training the Afghan National Army, with suspicion. Pakistan conceives such moves as directed at destabilising its western border, further undermining its efforts against the homegrown terrorists in the adjoining Waziristan region.

It has reservations regarding the perceived Indian interference in its restive Balochistan province through its various consulates in Afghanistan. It further perceives India’s foot dragging on peace with Pakistan as a link in the scenario wherein stability on its eastern front will enable it to better focus on its western border and hence India’s resistance to move forward with Pakistan.

The recent ‘revelations’ by the former Indian Army Chief V.K Singh regarding the ‘foreign operations’ undertaken by the controversial ‘Technical Services Division’ only fuel such perceptions. The emerging contours of the new proxy battlefield in Afghanistan are evidently shaping into another caustic conflict between both the neighbours, aggravating the already acute security dilemma.

Recent books by leading western academics and policy-makers such as Stephen Cohen and Bruce Reidel also underline the prognosis as did visiting US dignitaries to Delhi Joe Biden and John Kerry by stressing the need to resume the stalled peace process. Against this backdrop, the accentuated track two gambit between both the countries betrays the imprints of a ‘nudge’ by western powers towards engagement between both the neigbours. Such ‘facilitation’ is, however, an anthema to New Delhi and it remains keen to both underplay and undermine it.

The Fidayeen attacks in Jammu on the eve of the Manmohan Singh-Nawaz Sharif talks on the sidelines of the UNGA meeting in New York further undercut any substantive engagement. Like the Mumbai attacks proving a basis for blunting the momentum of the ‘Obama thesis’ in 2008, there are parallels being drawn how in the wake of the rising western interest in the region once again, India is searching for pretexts to circumvent renewed forward movement with Pakistan.

Any ‘photo opportunity’ like the New York meet is only a means of relieving (nagging) US pressure. Unlike Pakistan where there exists an extended public opinion for peace with India, there is no parallel peace constituency in India.

asma_sgl@hotmail.com
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20.10.2013
“There is no singular centre of power in Pakistan”
Marc-André Franche
Country Director UNDP Pakistan
Interview by Aoun Sahi


Marc-André Franche was appointed as the Country Director UNDP Pakistan in January 2013. Prior to his assignment in Pakistan, he was the Deputy Director UNDP in Haiti, a position he held since 2008. In this capacity, he oversaw an extensive portfolio of projects addressing governance, rule of law reform, improvement of livelihoods and environmental protection.

Between 2004 and 2008, Franche worked for the UNDP in New York as Program Adviser for Conflict Prevention Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean. In his capacity as Program Adviser, he was part of a team supporting consensus-building and dialogue in the region. Prior to that, he worked on applied research and policy initiatives in conflict prevention for the UNDP in Colombia from 2001 to 2004, and poverty reduction and local governance for the UNDP in Bolivia from 1999 to 2001.

He holds an MSc in Development Policies from the London School of Economics, an MSc in European Studies from Lund University and a BSc in Political Science from Université de Montréal. Excerpts of his interview with TNS follow.

The News on Sunday (TNS): What is the role of the UNDP in Pakistan?

Marc-André Franche (MAF): The UNDP is a key development partner supporting the government of Pakistan in achieving its own development objectives as well as the internationally agreed anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UNDP promotes transformational change by fostering strategic partnerships with national counterparts in the federal, provincial and regional governments, civil society, the private sector and the local and international community. We support transformational change by providing technical assistance focusing on developing capacity within national and local authorities, providing solutions with strong monitoring and evaluation tools, and delivering programmes with maximum efficiency, transparency and accountability.

The ultimate goal of the UNDP is to improve the lives of the people of Pakistan through the broad thematic areas of democratic governance, environment and climate change, crisis prevention and recovery, development policy, poverty reduction and the empowerment of women.

TNS: What was the idea and outcome of the recently-held UNDP’s international conference on participatory federalism and decentralisation?

MAF: It is clear that the issue of the management of the federation and the implementation of 18th Amendment is going to be increasingly important for the future of Pakistan. Any success in soothing poverty, achieving the millennium goal, any sort of positive result related to growth will largely depend on how it is implemented. So, because it is so important for the country, it was natural for the UNDP to support the government of Pakistan, the IPC and getting an intelligent and informed discussion on the different challenges of the federation and for the implementation of the 18th Amendment.

We also have to realise that Pakistan is a young federation. There are 28 federations around the world with all sorts of good and bad experiences from which Pakistan can learn. It was particularly important for us that it was for the first time in Pakistan that we brought together politicians, academics from Pakistan and from around the world public policy specialists, civil society and media together to discuss the 18th Amendment. I think this shows the enormous enthusiasm through discussing the amendment.

The purpose of the conference was to highlight different trends, level and indicators of institutional interplay between democracy, federalism and decentralisation and global and regional case studies and lesson learnt on the subject to provide a technical baseline to inform and facilitate the process in Pakistan.

There is no subject of public life in Pakistan that is not influenced in the 18th Amendment. That is why it was important for us to organise the conference as a first event to get the conversation going. In parallel, we are giving scholarships to study federalism and are working with a group of universities as well to continue this kind of debate and dialogue. We will give some publications to engage the media also on this subject related to federalism and we are working on happy implementation of it.

TNS: Let’s talk about the time of holding the conference. Don’t you think it was too early to hold such a conference as the new government has taken charge in Pakistan only a few months ago?

MAF: I think it was the best time. This was a perfect opportunity for the new government to start conversation. The conference was held at a time when an elected government completed its term and smooth transfer of power to the new administration was witnessed. It was a momentous step forward for democracy in Pakistan. The UNDP also took the opportunity to support the government and people of Pakistan in this process. The conference was particularly relevant in Pakistan’s democratic transition process. We also have a very interesting political scene in Pakistan; there is no singular centre of power in Pakistan. The electoral trends indicated that power in Pakistan is distributed among diverse ethnic and ideological dispositions.

TNS: What would be the role of the newly-established policy support and reform unit in Balochistan by the UNDP?

MAF: The unit is part of the strengthening participatory federalism and decentralisation project recently launched by the UNDP which aims to facilitate and support the process of transition-management at federal, provincial and grass-root levels to develop and strengthen systems and mechanism for improved delivery in social sector at relevant tiers of governance in Pakistan.

The unit works under the guidance of the Balochistan chief minister. Its main focus is to provide technical assistance and analyses and facilitate policy research to develop post-18th Amendment policy and institutional framework for an effective transition management in the province. The unit will also study the legislative, institutional and fiscal spaces provided to Balochistan by 18th Amendment and 7th NFC award. The unit will explore new ways to increase provincial revenue. It will explore ways to broaden the entire rules of business structures of different ministries in Balochistan.

We will also set up a local government support unit in KP province which will assist the provincial government in implementing local government laws.

TNS: Why does Pakistan lag behind other developing countries in the Human Development Index ratings?

MAF: Let me give you an answer to this question in three parts. We looked at the country that you mentioned do well in development. First, they have all stuck to a plan; there was a national consensus which was acted upon. You see China has made a tremendous progress in poverty reduction and for this China has developed a plan.

We think that Pakistan needs to agree on a strategic plan and should stick to the plan and this is not government’s five-year plan. This is 15-20 year plan to which the society should stick. This is the first step.

Second, every country should invest in its people by investing in education and technical training — there is no country which cannot achieve the desired goals by significantly investing in its people. We are encouraged by the decisions of provincial governments to massively invest in education and by the declarations of the prime minister to double the investments in education and health over the next five years. But, still Pakistan will have to do a lot on this front.

Third aspect is integration. All the countries that have done well have developed on their regional economic opportunity. Pakistan could do much better with India, which is potentially the bigger commercial partner with one billion people. So, regional integration is also fundamental for human development and good governance. Every country that has done well has done well because of significant improvement in governance. I don’t need to elaborate too much on Pakistan. We need institutions to work for general interests of the people and not for the private interests and not for the interests of a few individuals.

TNS: Pakistan has a dismal Gender Inequality Index. What can Pakistan do to improve it and how can it learn from other countries in this regard?

MAF: Pakistan loses 30.9 per cent of HDI due to inequalities in life expectancy, education and income. This loss is more than the South Asia’s average of 29.1 per cent. Loss due to gender inequality in education which is 45.2 per cent is the highest contributor to the overall inequality index of Pakistan followed by inequality in life expectancy. So, how can a country do well in HDI without addressing the issue of gender inequality.

Unfortunately, South Asia’s performance as a whole on gender equality is not that good. None of the countries in the region is on track to achieve MDG5: to cut maternal mortality by three quarters. Similarly, the proportion of women employment in non-agriculture wage employment is quite low. Studies show that infant mortality rates are lower when mothers are educated. Economic development and gender equality are closely interlinked. Compulsory education, training, paid maternity leave, flexible working conditions and protection against sexual and workplace harassment are important enablers of women economic empowerment.

TNS: How do you see Pakistan’s performance regarding Millennium Development Goals. Do you think natural and man-made disasters are responsible for Pakistan’s poor performance?

MAF: Yes, these are obviously some of the main factors for slow progress on MDGs in Pakistan. The government has estimated a cost of around USD100 billion on the account of terrorism alone and other implications like stoppage of foreign investment. Huge costs were incurred on natural disasters. Therefore, there is no doubt that external factors have had negative impacts on progress towards MDGs in Pakistan.

However, I would not say that external factors are the only reasons for weak performance. The performance could have been better had some structural and systemic issues were properly addressed. Pakistan has adopted 16 targets and 41 indicators against which progress towards achieving the Eight Goals of the MDGs is measured. Time series data available for 33 of these indicators reveal that Pakistan is on track to achieve the targets on 9 indicators, whereas its progress on 24 indicators is off track.

Punjab is leading in achieving MDGs as compared to other provinces. Targets for 2015 have been achieved or are on track to being achieved for one or more indicators in each MDG. In Sindh, at the current rate of progress, no MDG will be achieved in entirety. While the province has made substantial progress in certain indicators of MDG 7 and MDG 3, the floods of 2011 and the declining national economic and security situation post-2007 may adversely affect the progress that has been made. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has made significant progress in MDG 7, reflected in its achievement of targets for indicators of forest cover and land area protected for the conservation of wildlife. Progress in other MDG areas, however, has suffered in part owing to the unprecedented natural as well as manmade calamities which have afflicted the province. Balochistan is the worst performing province in most if not all areas of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As available data shows, at the current rate of progress, no MDG can be achieved in entirety in the province.

TNS: What happens after 2015?

MAF: The UN is in the process of developing the post-2015 development agenda. More than 1 million people have been consulted across the globe to gather their feedback and inputs in this regard. The emerging post-2015 agenda builds on MDG Framework and aims to address some of the current challenges which were not there at the time of developing the MDG Framework in 2000.

For example, there has been much progress on poverty reduction. The world’s poor ($1.25 per day) decreased from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 1.3 billion in 2008. However, income and wealth inequalities, access to productive assets, social outcomes and services remain widespread. For example, child death rates and stunting are 2-4 times higher between the lowest and highest wealthiest quintiles.

Similarly, around 1.4 billion don’t have access to sustainable energy. The frequency of natural disasters has increased. The 2008 global financial crisis has reminded us the need for a responsible global governance system. Therefore, the new development agenda tends to address these and other issues including peace and security, national and global governance, inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, sustainably energy, disaster preparedness and recovery etc.

The post-2015 agenda will seek to eradicate poverty rather than reducing it. It will be universal in nature, yet adaptable to national situations and will have special emphasis on what is called a “data revolution” for increased accountability. The new agenda will seek global partnerships in a much broader sense.

TNS: What does Pakistan need to do on the environment front?

MAF: Pakistan is among the most vulnerable countries facing climate risks and mechanisms need to be devised for greener, more resilient options for growth and sustainable development. Adaptation to climate change has been singled out as one of the top most challenges by the developing nations and Pakistan is ranked as a country highly vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change.

The UNDP supports national efforts in undertaking vulnerability assessments, institutional capacity-building and implementing climate change adaptation measures across different eco-regions of the country. A national programme will be implemented to comprehensively address the adaptation needs of various institutions and communities.

The livelihoods of majority of population of Pakistan are dependent on the use of natural resources including land, water and fisheries. In the remote mountains, arid/semi-arid and coastal areas, the dependence of local populations is almost entirely on the natural assets. Some of these eco-systems are also of global significance and home to the plants and animal species that are rare and endemic. To protect the livelihoods of the local communities and the natural capital, it is imperative to promote sustainable use of natural resources in these eco-systems. The UNDP, through targeted interventions, will promote this sustainable use by providing better alternatives to the local communities to transform them from resource users to resource managers.
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20.10.2013
Consensus with divergence
For the Pakistani government, the task of holding talks with militants appears to be alarmingly difficult because state ideology is essentially not different from what the Taliban subscribe to
By Tahir Kamran

The consensus that has been forged between various political actors of Pakistan to hold talks with Taliban is, generally speaking, a good omen. One can hardly dispute the fact that negotiation is the only way to resolve and disentangle all issues.

The ulema of various hues have also put pressure on all parties, primarily the Taliban, to bring the frenzy of killing innocent people to an end. Such a call coming from Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman is indeed a welcome development. One may hope that he, along with Maulana Munawar Hassan, will soon start condemning the suicide bombing. It would have been of huge consequence had Sami-ul-Haq said something to that effect too. His condemnation or even a mere statement would have carried far more weight than anybody else. Obviously, he is Taliban’s eminence grise and openly embraces this role.

Yet one can only speculate as to how effective the pleadings of these ulema will prove. Both parties are still keeping their respective cards close to their chest. The parameters of the prospective talks are yet to be determined and the government of Pakistan, as it seems, is in a state of ambivalence.

It is really disconcerting that the Pakistan government is not likely to hold these talks from the position of strength. It is not because the government of Pakistan has any inherent weakness vis a vis the Taliban (TTP). In any case, if the latter put forward such preconditions which the Pakistani government cannot agree to, like promulgation of sharia or in the eventuality that the talks are held but somehow fall through or fail to yield the desired results, the stakes for Pakistan government will be of entirely different kind.

As a government of a sovereign country, it is obligated to provide protection to its people by safeguarding their lives and property. That will be, as is the case even now, a gargantuan task, given the geography of Pakistan. The danger of the whole process of development coming to a halt is extremely deleterious for a democratically elected government. Democratically elected governments, if bogged down in such a situation, are looked at by the electorate as incompetent and devoid of any political sagacity.

For the Pakistani government, the task appears to be alarmingly difficult because state ideology is essentially not different from what Taliban also subscribe to. The difference is only a matter of scale. The difference between the two positions of the parties engaged in talks will at best be that of a literalist (Taliban) and exegetical (Pakistani government).

However, despite such a tiny difference may impede the process of dialogue because Taliban may not be amenable to a rather modernist approach of the Pakistan government. We have not allowed other ideologies to flourish rather they were ruthlessly muzzled. Consequently, in the whole of Pakistan the voices mounting ideological challenge to Taliban are few and far between.

A large majority of Pakistanis subscribe to what the Taliban profess and believe. Thus, the categorical resistance to the Taliban’s way of thinking in certain sections of society is virtually non-existent. Besides, the method of carrying out violence, too, has assumed new levels of subtlety, which has made the task far more arduous for the states to deal with the perpetrators of such ‘globalised’ violence. On top of it, the Taliban spokesperson keeps putting pressure on the government by accusing it of being a band of US lackeys.

The current government, many thought, enjoys a semblance of legitimacy in the eyes of Taliban but the events unfolded so far prove otherwise. Reverting to the point of violence and its different trajectory, one is forced to assume that the methods employed henceforth to deal with it, are far from effective any longer.

Ever since the violence along with other things has gone global, nation states are finding it extremely daunting to come to grips with this illusive opponent. Protagonists of theories of violence such as Arjun Appadurai, a world renowned anthropologist, contend that it no longer has any spatial or ethnic specificity. They are mobile, resourceful, equipped with technical know-how and thus they can launch their operations from multiple sites simultaneously. Unlike any state or country, they have no obligation towards the people at large, and indeed paradoxically while using the language of conscientious global citizenship they put members of society at risk.

The global network which these groups are often plugged into is illustrated in Pakistan by the example of the Sipah-i-Sahaba which used to operate in the 1990s. Immediately after carrying out an act of attrition anywhere, its operatives wasted no time in disappearing into the urban jungle that is Karachi, or finding refuge in the remote parts of neighbouring Afghanistan. Thus, the Jhang-Karachi-Afghanistan nexus worked to the benefit of offenders who perpetrated crimes in the name of religion.

Karachi was, and still is, a safe haven for such criminals, where they lived and did all they wanted with impunity. Now Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, one of the most feared militant organisation, is employing the same tactics rather it has perfected the art of their deployment. One question that arises, therefore, is how to engage in talks with a group that is so undefined and whose presence is not local but global?

The writer is a noted Pakistani historian, currently the Iqbal Fellow at the University of Cambridge as professor in the Centre of South Asian Studies
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27.10.2013
Pride and justice
A reappraisal of the past five years and the Lawyers’ Movement as the
day of Chief Justice of Pakistan’s retirement is fast approaching
By Huzaima Bukhari
&
Dr. Ikramul Haq

“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us”

— Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

As the day of retirement of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) is approaching fast, some serious controversies are looming large — especially in the wake of a complaint filed before Supreme Judicial Council by Lahore High Court Bar Association. It reflects sadly on his journey from an admirable icon to a controversial figure among the politically divided legal fraternity but the more serious concern is the possibility of tarnishing the image of higher judiciary in Pakistan in the eye of the common Pakistani who is totally disillusioned about rule of law and dispensation of justice in the country.

At this critical juncture, it is time for a reappraisal of the past five years. Undoubtedly, the year 2007 will ever remain a dark patch in the judicial history of Pakistan. On March 9, 2007, Pervez Musharraf summoned the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, to the Army House and asked him to submit his resignation in the presence of five army generals that also included heads of intelligence services.

Refusal to abide by the orders of a President whose rise to power was through no legal means, led to a series of vindictive actions against the CJP, who was not only suspended from office but was also kept under house arrest and was mistreated by inferior pawns of the administration. Such appalling treatment of a public figure representing the highest echelon of judiciary raised a severe furore that mobilised the masses to come out in the open crying out for his restoration and rising like a formidable wall in defence of prestige of Judiciary, an indispensable arm of the government. The forerunner of these protests was the Lawyers’ Movement followed closely and enthusiastically by members of the civil society as well as all leading political parties.

It was perhaps the first time since 1947 that the nation stood up in complete solidarity against a very despicable act committed by none other than a man in uniform and so-called guardian of the country’s honour. After all, what was the most motivating factor that led to such an uprising?

Was it the persona of the incumbent, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry or the sanctity of the Chief Justice’s office that compelled the legal fraternity, men, women and children belonging to all social classes to come out onto the roads in massive protests all over the country in general and more particularly in the Punjab. Even those who did not actively participate sat glued to their television sets as media covered moment to moment news about the countrywide agitations along with topical talk shows. People were heard saying that they were no longer interested in daily soaps or other entertainment programmes but were keen on learning about developments on the restoration of judiciary.

The media also had a significant role in creating hype and gauging the popularity of the subject — every news channel was vying with each other in providing breaking news. Many members of the legal fraternity, who were even not very fond of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, laid aside their personal likes and dislikes only to render their complete support for the restitution of the office of CJP.

In Pakistan’s peculiar milieu, where people, despite “democracy”, are condemned to suffer at the hands of politicians as Legislature, powerful military-civil complex as Executive, the only source of hope remains the Judiciary that gives them a sense of security and if that is threatened then obviously their last resort would be by way of protest to safeguard their only sanctuary. This is the reason why movements for deposed prime ministers could not restore them whereas the Chief Justice regained his lost stature within two years as on March 22, 2009. What a triumphant victory that was for the people of Pakistan and the Judiciary!

The people’s power was overwhelming. It was all due to masses of Pakistan that the periods from March 9, 2007 to July 20, 2007, from November 3, 2007 to March 16, 2009 and from March 9, 2009 to July 31, 2009 became a milestone for blocking any future military takeover. The second restoration of the CJP on March 22, 2009 was not a triumph of an individual but a victory of democratic forces. It paved way for revival of democracy and independence of judiciary. The decision of July 31, 2009 consolidated it when a categorical finding was given against unconstitutional acts of Musharraf and action was taken against all judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) of November 3, 2007.

As long as support for Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was pouring in from within and outside Pakistan for his defiance against the mighty man in khaki it was commendable, but when his unwise proponents started attributing victory to his persona, the scenario turned into culture of sycophancy. It was as if, had the Chief Justice been someone else, the movement would not have mustered the same magnitude. Such flattery and misleading praises are sufficient to fan anyone’s ego, turning pride into vanity. Even the expectation of people was being transformed into believing that now the independent judiciary would stand up for them with the same boldness as it did for its own prestige. To what extent has this expectation been fulfilled can be adjudged by the people from the subsequent decisions.

On reminiscing the past, one tends to think what would have been the position, had the Chief Justice tendered his resignation the day he was fully restored? This suggestion was fiercely countered by one of the leading advocates of this country and right hand of the struggling Chief Justice and who has now visibly distanced himself from him. One thing is definite that Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry would have become a much acclaimed national hero had he opted to retire voluntarily after restitution. It could have avoided many controversies — both political and personal, especially in the wake of his son, Arsalan’s, alleged involvement in a high profile case and the way it was handled souring the aspirations of the people of Pakistan.

Much has been written about personal controversies and desire to be in the corridors of power but the more important aspect has been ignored by all, i.e. rise and fall of State institutions which are intrinsically linked with personalities. The oft-repeated notion that institutions must rise above individuals is more a cliché than reality. History shows that institutions rise because of good individuals and not otherwise. One cannot divorce working of any institution from the quality of human fabric. The best of the institutions built over years are destroyed by even a single individual who is either incompetent or becomes arbitrary in discharging his duties.

People will never respect an institution if its custodians fail to uphold its propriety and sanctity. Institutions rise and fall with their custodians as leaders and nations rise and fall together.

The writers are Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)
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27.10.2013
A matter of seconds
Scientists in Japan and elsewhere have developed earthquake
early warning systems. Where do we stand?
By Akseeb Jawed


What does preparedness for an earthquake actually mean? Can there be an effective earthquake warning system? Before we look into the questions let us first briefly see what is an earthquake and how does it come about?

According to definition, earthquakes are the result of shifting or movement of earth’s tectonic plates. Earthquakes occur when the frictional stress of gliding plate boundaries builds and causes rupture at a fault line. As a result, elastic strain energy is released and waves radiate, shaking the ground.

As we know, major earthquakes affect large areas of population either by generating tsunamis or leveling the entire cities. Comparatively speaking, minor earthquakes can also be induced or caused by human activities like extraction of minerals from the earth and the collapse of large buildings.

Scientists can predict where major earthquakes might happen in a general sense, but research does not yet allow forecasts for specific locations or accurate predictions of timing.

Approximately, two-thirds of the total area of Pakistan is on fault lines, putting the lives and property of more than 170 million people at risk. Now and then, experts have expressed concerns that neglecting the fault lines while making big structures in cities might be the cause of massive destruction.

Pakistan has been hit by some forty earthquakes to this day, some of them deadly. Recently, Pakistan was jolted by an intense earthquake of 7.7 magnitude. The epicenter of the earthquake was 69km north of Awaran district in Quetta and some 270km north of Karachi. The shocks were also felt in Turbat, Panjgur, Chaghai, Khuzdar, Gwadar, Quetta, Hub, Kharan, Jhal Magsi, Qalat, Sibi, Mastung, and Jafferabad, and even in Karachi.

Four major tectonic plates — Arabia, Eurasia, India, and Africa — and one smaller tectonic block — Anatolia — are the cause for tectonic activities in the Middle East and the adjacent regions.

In geological terms, the Aawran earthquake occurred due to oblique north-south to northeast-southwest strike-slip type motion at shallow crustal depths that is primarily accommodated on the Chaman faultline, with the earthquake potentially occurring on one of the southern-most strands of this fault system.

The Chaman faultline runs along Pakistan’s western frontier with Afghanistan from Kalat, in the northern Makran range, past Quetta and then on to Kabul, Afghanistan. A faultline also runs along the Makran coast and is believed to be of the same nature as the west coast faultline along the coast of Maharashtra, India.

We cannot totally escape from an earthquake but we can be a survivor if given a 60 seconds head start before an impending earthquake due to an early-warning system. How is it possible to issue a warning of the phenomenon that cannot even be predicted?

The statement of seismologist, Richard Allen, director of the Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, aptly resolves this paradox. Generally, when people talk about prediction, they’re talking about when an earthquake will occur — when rocks in a fault slip past each other. Most seismologists say we won’t be able to predict this for the foreseeable future. We’re predicting the shaking that comes from when the earthquake ruptures. So, basically, an earthquake has already started.

People think of an earthquake as being an instantaneous occurrence. It’s not. The energy that radiates out from an earthquake is what causes the shaking that people feel. P waves come first and S waves come next, as they carry most of the energy so they do most of the damage. The intensity of the shaking that’s carried by the S waves can be estimated, and that’s the basis for an early warning. Basically, the warning provides an advantage of sixty seconds which, in turn, also depends on the distance from the epicenter.

Earthquake early-warning system is designed to detect the first strong pulse coming from an earthquake, which carries information about its size. This shockwave travels faster than the slower waves that do most of the shaking damage during an earthquake. The farther you are from an earthquake’s epicenter, the more warning you get. Therefore, the governments in some of the earthquake-prone countries, like Japan, Mexico, and the State of California, institute early warning systems to alert the public to expect potentially hazardous shaking.

In 2007, Japan launched a comprehensive nationwide online earthquake early-warning system. It is considered as one of the most advanced systems as yet. It detects tremors, calculates an earthquake’s epicenter and sends out brief warnings from its 1,000-plus seismographs scattered throughout the country via mobile phones, radio, TV, and sirens. Area Mail Disaster Information Service disseminates earthquake early warnings issued by Japan Meteorological Agency.

The subscribers of the service receive the information via mobile phones either in the form of pop-up display or special emergency tone. In California, the scientists are in the early stages of developing the techniques and framework of earthquake early-warning system. They are following the lead of Japan in developing their warning system.

Although the early warning systems can only give warnings from seconds to one or two minutes before the powerful S-waves hit and shaking gets serious, it can mean the difference between life and death. It can be just enough time to take cover, drive a car to the side of the road, step back from getting on an elevator or stop medical surgery, turn off gas burners, or duck preparedness, move away from windows, etc, to reduce the risk of injury and minimize damage.

Experts say most of the major cities of Pakistan are located on the faultline, which also crosses the centre of Margalla Hills. Therefore, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) should work on developing an effective earthquake warning system. Moreover, PMD should enhance the potentiality of the existing National Seismic and Tsunami Monitoring System that is responsible for disseminating earthquake information.

The writer is a researcher based in Islamabad
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