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  #11  
Old Sunday, December 19, 2010
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Default The status quo is no longer an option - Roedad Khan

The status quo is no longer an option

Roedad Khan


The writer is a former federal secretary.

A perfect storm is looming on the horizon. Islamabad is once again preparing for a collision between those who stand behind the Supreme Court — the defender of the Constitution, the rule of law, the protector of citizen’s liberties — and those whose hands are dirty, who have looted and plundered the resources of this poor country.

Three years ago, a judicial earthquake remade the political terrain of our country. On March 9, 2007, to be exact, began a new epoch in the history of Pakistan. On that day Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry defied the military dictator and refused to resign.

In Pakistan, the Supreme Court’s historical role has been one of subservience to military dictators. Chief Justice Chaudhry broke with the past tradition and changed all that. The nexus between the generals and the superior judiciary has snapped. An era of deference by the Supreme Court to the executive has given way to judicial independence. Isn’t it ironic that today the people of Pakistan, especially the poor, the disadvantaged and the voiceless, expect justice not from parliament, not from the presidency, not from the prime minister, but from an unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court? For once, the citizens of this benighted country have been assured that there is such a thing as true accountability.

They have the comfort of knowing that those who have grown fat and rich on ill-gotten gains at the cost of starving millions can be brought to book and shall be brought to book.

No military dictator and no corrupt civilian ruler can afford an independent judiciary or an independent media. They cannot co-exist. It is not enough to sit back and let history slowly evolve. To settle back into your cold-hearted acceptance of the status quo is not an option. The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. This is a delicate time, full of hope and trepidation in equal measure. Today it is a political and moral imperative for all patriotic Pakistanis to fight for our core values.

Ultimately, the true guardians of the Constitution are the people of Pakistan. People power alone can protect the Supreme Court from corrupt rulers. Our rulers know that the street is all they have to fear. Confronting them has now become a patriotic duty. Today there is no other path for our country, but the one, which led to the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other deposed judges. In this transcendent struggle between the Supreme Court and kleptocracy, neutrality is not an option.

You’re either with the people or against them. There is no half-way house. As we approach the endgame, the nation has to decide between two conceptions of politics, two visions for our country, two value systems, two very different paths. Every citizen must ask himself now: if our core institutions are to survive, if Pakistan is to survive, whether we can afford to let our corrupt rulers remain in power and destroy all our core institutions.

Today the Pakistan stage is clogged with bad actors playing lousy parts from commanding heights. Too many conflicting agendas. Too many egos. Too many so-called leaders with dirty hands. Major absentee on the stage: the people of Pakistan, barely mentioned by anyone. How can corrupt rulers occupy any place in the political order of Pakistan? This is equivalent to asking what place should be assigned to a malignant disease which preys upon and fractures the body of a sick man.

Every democracy needs a vigorous and vigilant opposition to give voters a choice. I have never seen an opposition so nonplussed, so impotent, so clearly without a shot in the locker. Today we have no opposition party, worth the name, with its own pathway to the future. As Hazlitt put it, “The two parties are like two competing stage coaches which splash each other with mud but went by the same road to the same place”. This doesn’t mean we have no opposition.

Today there is an intense anxiety on the part of ordinary people for decisive leadership. People are waiting for a stirring lead and a clarion call. It seems that while the nation craves for leadership, political leaders are equally determined not to lead them. Is it because they are all status-quo friendly and do not want to rock the boat? Isn’t it a great tragedy that today the destiny of Pakistan is in the hands of its reluctant leaders who refuse to draw the sword people are offering them?

What prevents the opposition parties and their leaders from joining hands and presenting a united front against corrupt rulers out to destroy all our core institutions? What prevents them from taking to the street as they have in other countries and as they have in the past in this country? What prevents them from putting national interest above petty selfish interest? Today we are at the crossroads of a historic choice. This is the last chance, the last battle. If we do not stand out into the streets, a long polar night will descend on Pakistan. Isn’t it a great tragedy that at a time when a window of hope has opened, our political leaders are dithering and cannot forge a united front against corrupt rulers? The time has come when the ultimate sovereign – the people of Pakistan – must assert itself.

Otto von Bismarck once said that political genius entailed hearing the hoof beat of history, then rising to catch the galloping horseman by the coattails. Today Nawaz Sharif is acknowledged leader of a mainstream political party and has a decisive role to play in the critical days ahead. The voice of history beckons him. Will he “seize the moment”? Will he “seize the hour”? Will he respond to the challenge or continue to prevaricate and stay on the fence? That is the question. On that would depend the future course of events in Pakistan.

The feeling of the nation must be quickened, the conscience of the nation must rouse; the proprieties of the nation must be startled, the hypocrisy of the corrupt rulers must be exposed.

Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk, www.roedadkhan.com
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  #12  
Old Sunday, December 19, 2010
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Default What prevents it? - Roedad Khan

Saturday, May 01, 2010

What prevents it?

Roedad Khan

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, shocked and saddened the people of Pakistan and of the world. The chain of events beginning with BB’s decision to return to Pakistan to participate in the election campaign, the unsuccessful attempt to kill her in Karachi, and her assassination on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi, evoked the demand, at home and abroad, for an explanation.

The intense public demand for facts was met by the establishment, and, on the request of the Pakistan government, a three-member UN commission of inquiry was formed. It was agreed that the international commission should be fact-finding in nature and that its mandate would be to determine the facts and circumstances of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The commission conducted more than 250 interviews – both inside and outside Pakistan. It is worth noting that the report does not include either a list of those interviewed or their statements.

The commission, though, mystified by the efforts of certain high-ranking officials to obstruct access to Pakistan’s military and intelligence sources, submitted its 65-page report to the secretary general of the UN in April. It made it quite clear that the duty of carrying out a serious credible, criminal investigation to determine who conceived, ordered, and executed this heinous crime remains with the government of Pakistan. Tragically, no such investigation has been ordered so far. Instead, to add insult to injury, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has set up another fact-finding committee composed of two civil servants and a major general of the Pakistan Army.

Flash back to November 22, 1963, the day John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States was assassinated. On November 29, 1963, a week after the assassination, President Johnson, by Executive Order 11130, created a commission, with the chief justice of the United States as its chairman, to investigate the assassination. The commission functioned neither as a court presiding over an adversary proceeding nor as a prosecutor determined to prove a case but as a fact-finding body committed to the ascertainment of the truth.

The commission directed major departments of the federal government and intelligence agencies to submit all relevant information available with them. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted approximately 25,000 interviews of persons having information of possible relevance to the investigation. By September 1964, it submitted over 2,300 reports totaling approximately 25,400 pages to the commission. During the same period, the secret services conducted approximated 1,550 interviews and submitted 800 reports totaling some 4,600 pages. The commission reviewed in detail the reports and actions of these agencies and called their highest officials to testify under oath. The commission itself examined 552 witnesses having information of relevance to the investigation.

In sharp contrast, the lackadaisical manner in which the PPP government is conducting the inquiry into the assassination of its leader, without any sense of urgency, purpose or direction, clearly shows that it is not interested in ascertaining the truth and unmasking the killer. Isn’t it a great tragedy that after 28 months of Benazir’s assassination, the government has yet to carry out a serious, credible investigation to determine who conceived, ordered, and executed this heinous crime?

What is preventing this government from appointing a high-level judicial commission, with the chief justice as its chairman to ascertain the truth? Why this reluctance to face the truth? Who is protecting the perpetrators of this dastardly crime against a courageous woman full of promise, this crime against a family, a nation and all mankind.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk,
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Last edited by Viceroy; Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 03:26 PM.
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  #13  
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Default Murder will out - Roedad Khan

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Murder will out

Roedad Khan

Political crimes are far worse than common crimes because, in the former case, only individuals are wounded, whereas in the latter, the existence of free society itself is threatened. I was frightened for my country the day Benazir was assassinated and horror of horror, the scariest moment of all, when Zardari was elected as the president of Pakistan.

Who killed Benazir? Who cut short her life so full of promise? The UN commission assigned to enquire into the facts and circumstances of her death does not answer this question. For some inexplicable reason, its hands seemed to be tied. It was appointed, it seems, not to unmask the killer, but only to determine the facts and circumstances of the assassination! The duty of carrying out a serious, credible, criminal investigation to determine who conceived, ordered, and executed this heinous crime remains with the PPP government. Isn’t it tragic that even after 28 months of her assassination nobody knows who killed her?

“Men may lie. Circumstances never lie,” is a guiding principle of the law of evidence. Some facts and circumstances determined by the UN commission of inquiry speak for themselves and are worth quoting:

* “The Commission is persuaded that the Rawalpindi Police Chief, CPO Saud Aziz, did not act independently of higher authorities, either in the decision to hose down the crime scene or to impede the Post-Mortem examination.” -Section 259 (x)

* “The rapid departure of the only back-up vehicle in which Mr Malik and other senior PPP leaders rode, was a serious security lapse.” -Section 236. (It allowed Ms Bhutto’s damaged vehicle to become isolated?)

* “There was not an effective criminal investigation of either the Karachi or the Rawalpindi attacks. This is inexplicable.” -Section 238

* “Ms Bhutto was killed more than two years ago. A government headed by her party, the PPP, has been in office for most of that time, and it only began the further investigation, a renewal of the stalled official investigation in October 2009. This is surprising to the Commission.” -Section 247

* “The Commission’s effort to determine the facts and circumstances of Ms Bhutto’s assassination is not a substitute for an effective, official criminal investigation. These activities should have been carried out simultaneously.” -Section 247

Many questions arise in one’s mind that remain unanswered:

* Mr Zardari is on record having said – not once but a number of times – that he knew who the killers of his wife are. If so, why hasn’t he brought this vital piece of information to the notice of the police?

* The FIR is a very important document as it sets the process of criminal justice in motion. The success or failure of the prosecution in a murder case depends to a large extent on the contents of the FIR and when it was lodged. Why didn’t Zardari lodge an FIR in the police station at the earliest opportunity?

* The post-mortem, the examination of a body after death, is a legal requirement and is carried out by pathologists in order to identify the cause of death. Why did Zardari refuse to have post-mortem performed on BB’s body? Why was it refused by the police? Why were they not interested in identifying the cause of BB’s death?

* Why was General Musharraf, a known suspect in the murder of BB, allowed to leave the country by the PPP government which was firmly in position at the time of his exit from the country? Was it all part of some deal?

The assassination of Benazir, a stain on the nation’s conscience, still haunts me. Tragically, her death is fast becoming a non-event. It seems no one is interested in unraveling the mystery surrounding her assassination or unmasking the perpetrator or perpetrators of this dastardly crime. Should the high and mighty, with blood on their hands, get off so easily when ordinary people committing petty crimes are sent to jail?

“It is essential,” the UN report says, “that the perpetrators of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto be brought to justice. The government of Pakistan should ensure that the further investigation into the assassination of Ms Bhutto is fully empowered, and resourced and is conducted expeditiously with no hindrance.”

Is the PPP government prepared to do that? Even though it’s already very late, will the PPP government set up a high-powered judicial commission headed by a judge of the Supreme Court?

The blood of Benazir calls for justice, not revenge. The PPP government owes it to its martyred leader to unmask her killer, whoever he may be, and bring him to justice. Let an enquiry be held in broad daylight. We will not be able to live with ourselves if we do not see to it that the truth is unveiled. The interests involved are too great and the men who wish to stifle the truth are too powerful, and the truth will not be known for sometime. But there is no doubt that ultimately every bit of it, without exception, will be divulged.

Truth carries a power within it that sweeps away all obstacles. And whenever its way is barred, whenever someone does succeed in burying it for any time at all, it builds up underground, gathering such explosive force that the day it bursts out at last, it blows up everything with it.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk
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  #14  
Old Sunday, December 19, 2010
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Default Present at the creation - Roedad Khan

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Present at the creation

Roedad Khan

Addressing a large gathering at Garhi Khuda Bux on April 4, President Zardari said, “The 18th Amendment would ensure that no dictator could trample the Constitution again”. It has a ring of déjà vu to it.

On Oct 9, 1972, in the backdrop of a bloody civil war that resulted in the dismemberment of the country, a constitution committee met in Islamabad to prepare the draft of a permanent constitution for Pakistan. I was lucky enough to have witnessed the passing of the Constitution Bill and the emergence of the 1973 Constitution in the National Assembly. It was a momentous event in the chequered history of our country and I was not going to miss it.

As the people’s representatives, elected directly for the first time by adult franchise, the members of the committee strived to arrive at a constitutional arrangement which would preclude any recurrence of past failures. The draft of the Constitution, the committee hoped, would do away with the dichotomy between the fiction and reality of executive authority. The committee provided what it thought to be effective deterrents against any attempt to abrogate or subvert the constitution, declaring it to be high treason offence.

I still remember Mr Pirzada thanking the Speaker for conceding the floor to him and his words still ring in my ears. “Mr President, sir, first time in the history of Pakistan of 25 years, tragic history of Pakistan, tragic constitutional history of Pakistan, for the first time we are not only on the threshold of giving a constitution through the most recognised and cherished democratic process but we are almost over that threshold…”

Mr Bhutto, who followed Mr Pirzada said, “I hope that after a long and tortuous road we have reached a stage in our life which can be regarded as a culmination. For a long time we have not been able to find basic solution to many problems that affect the country. Again and again, the issues have been opened and reopened with greater anger and with greater bitterness. Among these problems the answer to the constitutional problems of Pakistan can be regarded as the most important. After 25 years we have, after many disputes and quarrels, come to a point where we can say that we have a fundamental law; we have a constitution and nobody can deny that this constitution does represent the will of the people of Pakistan; nobody can deny that this constitution is a democratic constitution by any definition of democracy; nobody can deny that it is a federal constitution; nobody can deny that there is settlement over the quantum of autonomy, and thank God for that; nobody can deny that it is an Islamic constitution; It contains more Islamic provisions than any of the past constitutions of Pakistan as well as any of the other constitutions of Muslim countries other than the monarchist Muslim countries.

“To the young law minister, I would say that he has done great service to Pakistan and it is a good fortune of history that on his young and able shoulders fell the task of giving Pakistan a constitution, of piloting the Constitution Bill. This is not a privilege which can be easily had in our circumstances in the conditions of Pakistan. He has worked with great zeal and with untiring devotion. He has been in touch with the opposition leaders at all times. He has kept his mind open. He has acted with dexterity, with finesse, with nimbleness and he has amply demonstrated great qualities of a legal mind, of a political mind.

“I have continued my speech longer than I thought it would be, but I would finish with only one note which is: is this constitution a viable constitution? Its viability lies in the hands of the people, its viability lies in the consciousness of the people, its viability lies in our understanding of our conditions. If we take stock of the situation, if we learn from what had happened in the past, if we do not repeat the tragic errors that we have made in the days not so long ago, if we pause to think and consider what a certain action will contain and what will be the consequences and repercussions of certain acts either made out of lack of knowledge or out of sheer ambition or greed, then I believe that this document will stand the test of time. But if we think that it can be cast aside and that there are simple solutions and all that one has to do is to sit on a white charger with sword in hand and settle problems with its flash, in that case the tragedy of the greatest magnitude will befall Pakistan. Therefore, this document is in the vault of the people, the people hold the key to its viability. No country has had to face as much of constitutional experiences and troubles as Pakistan — we would now consider this document to be a fundamental law worthy of respect of the whole nation and that the whole nation now and the generations following it will protect it with their blood and with their lives.”

That day I felt like I had a future. Pakistan was back on the rails, or so I thought. Disillusion was soon to set in.

It is unfortunate that Mr Bhutto violated the sanctity of the Constitution and the constitutional accord by a series of unilateral amendments in the Constitution in the teeth of opposition from his political opponents. In the process, he destroyed the delicate political compromise which formed the basis of the 1973 Constitution, weakened his position and exposed himself to vicious attacks. Ultimately, he was overtaken by the forces he thought he had neutralised and had in fact re-empowered.

Constitution-making is a hazardous business in Pakistan. On the eve the 1973 Constitution was passed, Mr Bhutto said: “Today we have passed through the dark tunnel, and I see the golden bridge.” Tragically, what he saw was not the golden bridge but an optical illusion and a mirage. On April 4, 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the prime minister of Pakistan and the architect of the 1973 Constitution, was taken to the gallows on a stretcher and hanged.

A written constitution makes sense only if people genuinely believe in its sanctity and supremacy and are prepared to protect and defend it. It makes no sense if people withdraw their support of the Supreme Court, the guardian of the constitution and are not prepared to defend it. A written constitution makes no sense if what it says is one thing and what actually happens in practice is another. It makes no sense if citizens allow it to be periodically abrogated, suspended or held in abeyance by people who have sworn to defend and uphold it. It makes no sense if it is treated as a parchment of dried leaves and torn to pieces whenever it suits the rulers. If that is how we are going to treat our written constitution, why have a written constitution at all? Whither, then, are we tending?

The Supreme Court should be the barrier that protects the citizens from the winds of evil and tyranny. If we permit it to be desecrated or demeaned, and it crumbles, who will be able to stand in the winds that follow? Obviously we have learned nothing from history. Isn’t it a great tragedy that today the democratically elected government has virtually declared war on the Supreme Court and is determined to defy it? This is the challenge that all of us now face. Every citizen of Pakistan must search his soul and decide where he stands. It has been rightly said that those who do evil are bad, but good men who do nothing to oppose it are equally so.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk
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  #15  
Old Sunday, December 19, 2010
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Default What is there to celebrate? - Roedad Khan

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What is there to celebrate?

Roedad Khan

Every year, we commemorate March 23 in remembrance of ‘The Pakistan Resolution’ passed in the historic city of Lahore. Memories come back to me like shards of glass. I was in Lahore, the city of my dreams, on that memorable day. Yeast was in the air. The idea of Pakistan was about to be born.

A day earlier, on March 22, 1940, Mr Jinnah had arrived in Lahore by the Frontier Mail to preside over the Muslim League meeting. When he entered the packed pandal, he faced a sea of humanity – all his admirers who had converged on Lahore to hear what he had to say. The Nawab of Mamdot, Chairman of the Reception Committee, presented Mr Jinnah to the vast multitude. It was Jinnah’s largest audience, his greatest performance to-date. On that day, the Muslim League led by Mr Jinnah declared its support for the idea of Pakistan. His Lahore address lowered the final curtain on any prospects for a single united India. It was a ringing repudiation of Sikander Hayat’s Unionist Party’s basic platform of Hindu-Muslim-Sikh co-existence. That is why generations of Pakistanis will always remember March 23 with profound reverence and respect. Seven years later, on August 14, 1947, thanks to the iron will and determination of Mr Jinnah, I was proud citizen of a sovereign, independent country – a country I could live for and die for.

As he left the constitutional convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an admirer, “Dr Franklin what have you given us”. Franklin turned to the questioner and replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it”. Not too long ago, we too possessed a great country earned for us by the sweat of the brow and iron will of one person. Where giants walked, midgets pose now. Our rulers, both elected and un-elected, have done to Pakistan what the successors of Lenin did to the Soviet Union. “Lenin founded our State”, Stalin said, after a stormy session with Marshal Zhukov.

The German army was at the gate of Moscow. “And we have …it up”. This is exactly what we have done to Jinnah’s Pakistan. Today it is neither sovereign, nor independent, nor democratic. Today it is not just a “rentier state”, not just a client state. It is a slave state, ill-led, ill-governed by a corrupt, power-hungry junta running a puppet government set up by Washington. The dream has morphed into a nightmare.

Sixty two years after independence, are we really free? Are the people masters in their own house? The kind of Pakistan we have today has lost its manhood and is a ghost of its former self. Our entire political system has been pulled into a black hole caused by periodic army intervention and prolonged army rule. Today if Pakistan were to look into a mirror, it won’t recognise itself. The contrast between Pakistan in 1947 – idealistic, democratic, progressive, optimistic, and Pakistan today – leaderless, rudderless, violent, besieged, corrupt, uncertain about its future – could not be sharper or more disheartening. If you want to know how a people can survive despite their government, or leaders, well, visit Pakistan.

What is there to celebrate? There is no reason to celebrate! But there are myriad reasons to reflect. We lost half the country in a suicidal civil war in 1971. Like the Bourbons of France we have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Today Pakistan is dangerously at war with itself once again. The federation is united only by a ‘rope of sand’. Sixty two years after independence, we have a disjointed, dysfunctional, lopsided, hybrid, artificial, political system – a non-sovereign rubber stamp parliament, a weak and ineffective prime minister, appointed by a powerful accidental president.

This is an eerie period, the heart of the nation appears to stop beating, while its body remains suspended in a void. What has become of the nation’s core institutions? The militarised state has destroyed the foundations of all our political institutions. The army has been enthroned as the new elite. The level of fawning and jockeying to be merely noticed and smiled upon by any pretender in uniform speaks of a nation that is loudly pleading to be crushed underfoot.

The independence of Pakistan is a myth. By succumbing to American pressure, we managed to secure a temporary reprieve. But at what price? Everyday American aircraft violate our airspace, and bomb our villages. In 2009 alone, they killed 667 innocent men, women and children with impunity. No questions asked. No protest. No remorse. Today Pakistan is splattered with American fortresses, seriously compromising our internal and external sovereignty. American security personnel stationed on our soil move in and out of the country without any let or hindrance. Pakistan has become a launching pad for military operations against neighbouring Muslim countries. We have been drawn into somebody else’s war without understanding its true dimension or ultimate objectives. Nuclear Pakistan has been turned into an ‘American lackey’, currently engaged in a proxy war against its own people.

Parliament is one of the chief instruments of our democracy. Today, it is cowed, timid, a virtual paralytic, over-paid and under-employed. Parliamentary membership is the key to material success, a passport and a license to loot and plunder. Who says it is a check on the arbitrariness of the executive? Nobody takes it seriously. Today it is the weakest of the three pillars of state. It has suffered a steady diminution of power and prestige. Its image is tarnished and has been turned into a fig-leaf for unconstitutional and illegal practices.

To no nation has fate been more malignant than to Pakistan. With few exceptions, Pakistan has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership: predatory kleptocrats, military dictators, political illiterates and carpet-baggers. With all her shortcomings, Benazir Bhutto had undoubted leadership qualities – charisma, courage, political acumen and articulation. After her tragic assassination, Mr Zardari’s sudden ascension to the presidency caused panic among the people. His record since then hasn’t exactly been an exercise in the glories of Pakistan’s democracy.

To settle back into your cold-hearted acceptance of the status quo is not an option. The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. This is a delicate time, full of trepidation. Today it is a political and moral imperative for all patriotic Pakistanis to fight for our core values, to resist foreign intervention in our internal affairs and to destroy the roots of evil that afflicts Pakistan. That is the best way to celebrate March 23.

“Every country has its own constitution”, one Russian is alleged to have remarked in the 19th century. “Ours is absolutism moderated by occasional assassination”. The situation is not so very different in Pakistan. In democracies, constitutional amendments are especially solemn moments; in Pakistan they are easier than changing the traffic regulations. After 62 years, a parliamentary committee is busy rewriting the Constitution of Pakistan! If you want to know what happens when constitution, the fundamental law of the land, is periodically decimated, disfigured, defiled with impunity and treated with contempt, well – visit Pakistan.

The recent spontaneous demonstrations and outpouring of anger witnessed in and around Islamabad are ominous. With such ripples do tidal waves begin? Who will tap the anger, the frustration and the resentment among millions of our people? Both military dictatorship and corrupt, fraudulent democracy, have failed them. The country is impoverished and humiliated. Democratic forms remain, but democracy itself is in effect dead or dying.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk
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Default Hope for the country - Roedad Khan

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hope for the country

Roedad Khan

No authoritarian or corrupt ruler can afford an independent judiciary. The two cannot coexist and are bound to collide. Without an independent judiciary, the Republic cannot be made to endure. But when government falls into perfidious hands, it becomes itself the instrument of counter-revolution. No wonder, all those who do not believe in the rule of law and all those who represent the forces of darkness and counter-revolution have joined hands once again to reverse the judicial revolution triggered by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The proposed constitutional mechanism for selection of judges is a thinly disguised attempt to undo the gains of the judicial revolution. Counter-revolution does not give up easily. With the restoration of the deposed judges we thought we had reached the summit and our problems were over. Alas, the ascent of one ridge simply revealed the next daunting challenge. In retrospect, it seems it was naïveté to have imagined that the restoration of judges alone would defeat the corrupt system and criminals and mafiosi who have found in our democracy the perfect Trojan Horse for preserving their power.

In Pakistan, as in all federations, the Supreme Court plays a crucial role. It is the sole and unique tribunal of the nation. The peace, prosperity, and very existence of the federation rest continually in the hands of the Supreme Court judges. Without them, the Constitution would be a dead letter; It is to them that the executive appeals to resist the encroachment of parliament; parliament to defend itself against the assaults of the executive; the federal government to make the provinces obey it; the provinces to rebuff the exaggerated pretensions of the federal government, public interest against private interest, etc. They decide whether you and I shall live or die. An awesome responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Supreme Court. Their power is immense. But they are all-powerful only so long as the people and the government consent to obey the laws.

In every period of political turmoil, men must, therefore, have confidence that the superior judiciary, the guardian of the Constitution, will be fiercely independent and will resist all attempts to subvert the Constitution. It is our misfortune that from the country’s first decade, our judges tried to match their constitutional ideals and legal language to the exigencies of current politics. The superior judiciary has often functioned at the behest of authority and has been used to further the interests of the rulers against the citizens. Their judgments have often supported the government of the day. This was their chosen path through the 1950s and during the martial law period of the 1960s and 1970s. When the history of these benighted times comes to be written, it will be noted that the superior judiciary had failed the country in its hour of greatest need.

On March 20, 1996, the dark clouds on the judicial horizon lifted and the situation changed dramatically. On that fateful day, the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, delivered the landmark judgment in the Judges’ Case which made the arbitrary appointment of inexperienced, ill-trained, ill-qualified persons of doubtful integrity and party loyalists to the court almost impossible. We all thought this decision was a major divide in the constitutional jurisprudence of Pakistan and in the decisional philosophy of the Supreme Court. It was hoped that it would fundamentally alter the character of the court’s business, the nature of its decisions, and will help restore public confidence in its independence and objectivity.

Our euphoria did not last long. On Nov 28, 1997, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was attacked by thugs organised and led by the government. Gen Jahangir Karamat, the chief of the army staff, to whom an appeal had been made by the chief justice for protection, stood aside and watched the fun. The attack on the Supreme Court was launched in broad daylight. The Honourable Justices had to flee for life. The same day Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was forced to go on leave and then officially retired on Feb 16, 1998.

In the darkest hour in the history of our country, Fate had found the man who had the character, the will and determination to speak truth to the military dictator. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry appeared on the scene like a deus ex machina and changed the course of history. He broke with past tradition. The nexus between the Generals and the superior judiciary has snapped. Isn’t it ironical that today the people of Pakistan, especially the poor, the disadvantaged and the voiceless, expect justice not from the parliament, not from the presidency, but from an unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court? This has not made the court very popular with the executive.

It follows that Supreme Court judges must not only be good citizens and men of liberal education, sterling character and unimpeachable integrity; they must also understand the spirit of the age. Their appointment is dealt with by Articles 177 and 193 of the Constitution. Article 177 (1) provides: “The Chief Justice of Pakistan shall be appointed by the President, and each of the other Judges shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice.” The question of consultation has been dealt with extensively in the well-known Al-Jihad Trust Case, wherein the Supreme Court held that “consultation in the scheme as envisaged by the Constitution is supposed to be effective, meaningful, purposive, consensus-oriented, leaving no room for complaint of arbitrariness or unfair play. The opinion of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Chief Justice of a High Court as to the fitness and suitability of a candidate for Judgeship is entitled to be accepted in the absence of very sound reasons to be recorded in writing by the President/Executive.” This is now the accepted method of selection of Judges. A crude attempt was made to deviate from it but it failed.

Why disturb the status quo? Why circumscribe the discretion of the chief justice? What is wrong with the present method of selection of judges? It has stood the test of time and has the full support of the people. Why involve the law minister, the attorney general and the Bar Council in the selection of judges of the Superior Courts? Why involve parliament and the political parties in the selection of judges? Why politicise the judiciary? Is the proposed method for selection of judges consistent with the principle of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution? Why not leave the matter to the discretion and good sense of the chief justice, as is the case today? Why reopen the controversy? The reason is not far to seek. Independent judiciary suits nobody in this country. It only suits the people, especially the poor and the exploited. It does not suit the tiny minority which rules this country and is virtually above the law. They want to clip the wings of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and take the country back to the bad old days when the superior judiciary functioned at the behest of authority and was used to further the interest of the rulers against the citizens.

Today there is hope for the country.

“The President may slip, without the state suffering, for his duties are limited,” Tocqueville wrote in 1837. “Congress may slip without the Union perishing, for above the Congress there is the electoral body which can change its spirit by changing its members. But if ever the Supreme Court came to be composed of corrupt or rash persons, the Confederation would be threatened by anarchy or civil war”. This is exactly what would happen in this country if the proposed mechanism for the selection of Judges is adopted.

The judicial revolution triggered by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is irreversible. Let there be no doubt about it. Any attempt to undo it will be resisted. The people have planted an independent judiciary in the path of our turbulent democracy. No longer would the executive be a law unto itself. Today there are many now willing to spill their blood to defend their heart-earned independent judiciary. Try to destroy the independence of judiciary, and the moment is not far off when this beautiful country will be plunged into a civil war.

The writer is a former federal secretary.Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk
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On celebration and introspection

Sher Afgan


Two recent articles in The News (August 12 and August 24) have prompted me to comment on Independence Day celebrations. Let me begin by stating that the former is known to my family since 1958 when he was posted as Deputy Commissioner in Dera Ismail Khan; the latter is a friend from 1971, when the newly inducted officers of the Information Service of Pakistan (ISP), joined us in the Civil Service Academy – Lahore.

The contents of the article by the redoubtable Roedad Khan make for sombre and realistic reading and end on an optimistic note expressing the hope to get the country back on track. The fact that Khan was Information Secretary at the time does not necessarily make him solely responsible for the expulsion of foreign journalists from Pakistan — especially when the country was under martial law and decisions were being taken elsewhere.

Also, at a time when the new practice of embedded journalists has been introduced by the greatest democracy in the world, the 1971 action does not seem that draconian after all. Let me also mention that Roedad Khan is not known for lionising or projecting General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan as was done in the case of General Pervez Musharraf when Mahmood was at the helm of the Information Ministry. As mentioned by the latter, limitations do exist on the freedom of action of senior bureaucrats working under military regimes, but keen observers have a fairly good idea about the degree of loyalty exhibited by some civil servants towards leaders of the day — whether they were legitimate or otherwise.

My friend Mahmood goes on to say that he does not agree with Khan’s contention that Pakistan’s independence is a myth. This can only be when one refuses to see the ground realities. What independence and sovereignty is being talked about when drone attacks are the order of the day and US civilian and military advisors come calling at will to accommodate their demands, disregarding Pakistan’s own long-term interests and stability of the region. In such an environment, what is there to celebrate anyway?

It is good that Mahmood has not taken issue with Khan’s scathing comments on our parliament and the case of failed leadership. He talks about the sacrifices made by our officers and soldiers. This is gratefully acknowledged. He, however, objects to Roedad Khan’s billing of the military action in Malakand and Swat as a proxy war. May one ask who has brought this war upon us? Is it not because of the NATO-ISAF action in Afghanistan? Are we not furthering the interests of the US? The brunt of this military action is being borne by the hapless and poor people of the NWFP. It can only accentuate the sense of alienation felt by the local population.

It is very pertinent to recall the meetings of former President Musharraf with the OIC leaders that I covered as Additional Secretary MFA, at the Doha Summit in November 2000. The former President would never tire of praising the Taliban for ushering in a period of stability and how unwise it would be to topple them. Such an action, he said, would bring back the days of warlordism and internecine warfare in Afghanistan, thus threatening the stability of the region. Perhaps he was clear about the consequences of dislodging the Taliban but could not say no to Colin Powell. Therefore, he readily agreed to facilitate America’s attack on Afghanistan. We are now reaping the consequences of the US action.

Mahmood writes that “retrospection and self-criticism is helpful only if they (these) are blended with a recipe for improvement.” His wise counsel has already been heeded by Roedad Khan when he clearly gives a recipe for improvement and writes that “today we need a leader who has the vision, the skill and the courage to pull Pakistan together as one nation and inspire the people. We need a president whose hands are clean and who has the capability to steer the ship of state through the rockiest shoals our country has ever known. Our nation has the heart of a lion. But who is there to give it the roar? Pakistan is not a case of failed state. It is a case of failed leadership.”

Let me end by saying that Roedad Khan took a leading part in the struggle for the restoration of the judiciary. He has a very clean reputation and a distinguished service record. He is a fearless person who speaks his mind even if it entails the censuring of the high priests of temporal power. People from the NWFP know that his late brother Raziq Khan was a leading light in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s PPP, but this has not deterred him from being critical of the party’s leadership.

In my view Roedad Khan will not be remembered only as a great environmentalist of Islamabad as Mahmood has hinted in his article, but he will have a place in the pantheon of outstanding civil servants of Pakistan. Keep up the great work, Sir.
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In pursuit of failure

By Tareq Fatemi

NINE years of occupation, over 2,000 lives lost and billions of dollars wasted, yet the US is still in the process of determining what its strategy in Afghanistan should be.

The Obama administration’s year-end review of its strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan was more an exercise in diplomatic obfuscation than an objective assessment of ground realities. Its cautiously reassuring message is belied by a close reading of the public summary which stated that the Taliban insurgency has been slowed, but admitted that this achievement remained “fragile and reversible”. In Pakistan, progress has been “substantial” but not enough to deny either Al Qaeda or the Taliban the havens that shelter them. The president asserted that “we are on track to achieve our goals” but the reality remains grim, with a record number of American casualties and fears of Taliban resurgence.

These fears were confirmed by US intelligence agencies which remain sceptical of the military claims, suspecting them to be politically motivated. The influential International Crisis Group has also dismissed them, pointing out that dozens of new districts have come under Taliban control. The respected Council on Foreign Relations, too, warned recently: “We cannot accept these costs unless strategy begins to show signs of progress.”

What then explains America’s continuing reluctance to seek a negotiated settlement and look for politically acceptable safe-exit options? After all, Obama’s intelligence and political instincts cannot be doubted. Yet acknowledging mistakes and abandoning failed policies is neither easy nor pain-free, particularly for superpowers that are convinced of their “manifest destiny”. It was belief in its invincibility that humiliated the US in Vietnam and destroyed the Johnson administration.

More worryingly, the review confirmed that the president remains torn between the ambition of his generals and the fear of his advisors. For those who may doubt the extent to which individual ambitions and institutional interests are clouding national objectives, one need only read Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s Wars.

It is fascinating on many counts but more importantly for the portrayal of the infighting in Washington’s corridors of power. The jealousies and rivalries he exposes are treacherous.

Obama comes out a lonely and frustrated figure, failing to garner the support of even his defence and state secretaries who, the author hints, see long-term political advantage in supporting a more robust military posture.

Recall what President Eisenhower wrote some 50 years ago. Though America’s most celebrated soldier, he cautioned against the military’s enormous growth, fearing that the economy risked becoming a subsidiary of the military.

In his farewell address, Eisenhower warned that the influence of “the military-industrial complex was economic, political, even spiritual”, and exhorted Americans to break away from their reliance on military might as a guarantor of liberty and “use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment”.

As James Ledbetter points out in his book on Eisenhower, the former president was no pacifist but he deeply feared the consequences of what he called a “garrison state”, in which “policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite”. Obama’s failure to get the generals on board with regard to his preferred political strategy in Afghanistan is a painful confirmation of Eisenhower’s fears.

Obama’s generals already appear to have succeeded in moving the goalposts. Their ambition, as well as the appetite of the defence industry, is enormous. This explains why Biden was constrained to warn that America would withdraw by 2014, come “hell or high water”. The president is caught between Scylla (the military) and Charybdis (his supporters), unable to break away from either.

There is little evidence of the president being able to listen to experts who call upon the US to radically change its strategy and negotiate directly with the Taliban “now rather than later, since the Taliban will likely be stronger next year”.

Characterising the 2014 deadline as unrealistic, they have stated that “like it or not, the Taliban are a long-term part of the Afghan political landscape”. A genuine role for the Taliban in a new political dispensation in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly inevitable.

With the Republicans determined to reset the domestic agenda, Obama’s room to manoeuvre even on foreign policy issues is narrowing.

He has to decide soon on a strategy that actually enables him to declare a ‘victory’ to pull out troops, without allowing the Republicans to accuse him of abandoning Afghanistan and being soft on national security issues.

If the American policy is succeeding as the administration claims, then it should have no problem in steadily drawing down its forces. But if the strategy is not working, as critics claim, then it is even more important to abandon the Petraeus-advocated counter-insurgency in favour of a lighter counter-terrorism strategy. In fact, the Petraeus strategy is alienating civilians and intensifying anti-American sentiments while aiding the Taliban in recruiting new fighters.

America has to abandon the false notion that the more intense the operations, the greater their effectiveness. While there are major differences among the stakeholders about the modalities for the peace process, there is no doubt that the US has to give primacy to political strategy that is complemented by military tactics, rather than the other way round.

What Obama decides is not a matter of mere academic interest to Pakistan. The Americans continue to demand that we ‘do more’, while Admiral Mullen speaks of his “strategic impatience” with Pakistan. There is also credible evidence concerning Washington’s growing inclination to expand its operations to Pakistan. This is likely to be far more disastrous than Nixon’s decision to seek salvation for Vietnam in Cambodia and Laos.

Let our leaders beware that any show of pusillanimity at this time will unleash the dogs of civil war deep within Pakistan. We have already paid an enormous price in furtherance of US goals; let us not slide into this quagmire. The Americans have the luxury of walking away from the mess but we will remain stuck in it.


The writer is a former ambassador.
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Robber's Hospital

By Yasir Pirzada


On November 29, 2009 at 3 a.m. in the morning, a three year old baby girl named Imanae, spilt hot water on her wrist. Her parents immediately took her to a '5 Star' kind of a hospital, well known for its hefty charges, located in Johar Town, Lahore. Although it was a very small burn, the parents chose to go to the hospital as their baby was in terrible pain. At the hospital, they were met by the emergency ward staff, which applied an ointment on her hand and gave her an injection to soothe the pain. However, Imanaecontinued to cry after which the nurse called the doctor on duty. The doctor, who had just been woken up from sound sleep, instructed the nurse to give the baby another injection. Imanae, however, continued to cry. Fifteen minutes later, the sleepy doctor again instructed the nurse to give Imanae a 3rd injection. All in all, 5mg of this anaesthetic/pain killer was given to the three year old baby girl. This was the moment when that little baby tried calling out her dad and said that everything was getting blurred and she couldn't see clearly. Little did her parents know that these were the last words their daughter would ever say. The girl then went silent and started losing consciousness and in few minutes she was dead.

The matter was reported in local media and on 02 December, the Punjab Chief Minister constituted a committee to probe into the incident. As per media reports, the three member Committee concluded, inter alia, that it was due to the criminal negligence of the doctors which took the life of three year old baby, hence, a case should be registered against the responsible doctors while the hospital should be shut down. The Committee also recommended to the Government to register a case against the MD of the hospital. As a result of all the uproar, pharmacy of the hospital has also been sealed because expired medicines were being sold there. However, there are still some questions which need to be answered; but before putting up those questions, let's have a glance on the paraphernalia of the Health Department of the largest province of the country:

The Punjab Health Department is headed by a Secretary under whom there is a Special Secretary and four Additional Secretaries and a Director General Health Services. Under each Additional Secretary, there are 2-3 Deputy Secretaries and 4-10 Section Officers while Personal Staff Officers, Planning Officers, Law Officer, Superintendents and Chief Drug Inspector are in addition to this. DG Health Services has its own "estate". S/he is supported by the Directors: Communicable Disease Control; Expanded Program of Immunization; Basic Health Services/Headquarters; Reproductive Health / Maternity and Child Health and Planning & Evaluation; and several Additional and Assistant Directors Health Services at the provincial Directorate and by Directors Health Services at Divisional headquarters plus District Health Officer, Deputy District Health Officer, Medical Superintendent and large number of other health officers. In short, the Health Department enjoys all kind of powers which are supplemented by a plethora of Rules and Acts ranging from The Punjab Medical and Health Institution Act, 1998 to Vaccination Ordinance 1958. The website of the Punjab Government, which according its own counter, has been visited by more than 3.2 million visitors till 06 December'09, was last updated (Health Department section) almost a year ago on 06 Jan'09 and ironically it is silent about the budget of the Health Department.

The Mission Statement of the Department is also quite interesting as it says "To improve the quality and coverage of Health Services with special focus on Primary Health Care to achieve Millennium Development Goals." And the Vision Statement is even more interesting: "Health population with a sound health care system practicing health life style, in partnership with private sector including civil society, which is effective, efficient and responsive to the health needs of low socio-economic groups especially women in the reproductive age." Despite my utmost effort, I have not been able to make head and tail of this "Vision Statement."

Now the questions which still need answer:

What is the use of army of health officials if it cannot even monitor/regulate/check the most expensive hospital, which should better be called "Robber's Hospital", situated in the heart of the provincial metropolis?

If this is the state of affairs and level of efficiency of the officers of one of the most important departments of the Government, right under the nose of a hard task master like Shahbaz Sharif, what would be the situation in the far flung areas like tehsil Rojhan of district Rajanpur? How a Medical Officer of a government hospital would treat the child of a poor farmer there? Not much intelligence is required to answer this question.

Why we are always moved after loss of precious lives? What stops the government department to act well before time?

Why the concerned health officer/drug inspector of the area who was responsible for checking the pharmacy/hospital has not been taken to task? Had he done his job properly and honestly, a precious life could have been saved.

Health Department officers would definitely come up with all kinds of plausible explanations to these questions and one can't beat them on this account as they are well trained to defend themselves against all odds. They would give fancy presentations to the Chief Minister which would persuade him that due to scarcity of resources, it has become almost impossible to govern a province like Punjab; hence, they are doing wonders under the circumstances. So guys, as far as the government departments are concerned, everything is hunky dory for them till the time an innocent child lost his/her life and an inquiry is ordered. Hence, the moral of the story is, "if we want the government departments to take action on any issue, we should sacrifice some lives before that, preferably of the children."

Email Address: yasirpirzada1@gmail.com


NOTE: Yasir Pirzada appeared in the Central Superior Services Examination (CSS) and stood 78 all over Pakistan. He joined Civil Services Academy in 1996 as Assistant Commissioner Income Tax. As a federal officer, he has served as Deputy Commissioner Income Tax and Deputy Program Director in the federal and provincial government respectively.
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Default From Crisis To Crisis - Shakeel Ahmed

From Crisis To Crisis

Shakeel Ahmed

Islamabad this morning is enveloped in a thick rolling fog. There is no gas in the house. Earlier in the morning there was load shedding of both the scheduled and un-scheduled type. Life appears to bring no relief— misery having started from the first day of the new year when a steep increase in POL prices was announced. The earlier price increases, specially in the price of diesel oil led to conversion of public transport wagons from diesel to CNG. Shortage of CNG developed and has forced the closure of CNG stations for two days in a week. There are huge waiting lines at the CNG stations not witnessed before. It would not be surprising if an announcement in the increase of CNG prices is made as soon as the Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar wakes up to take advantage of the situation.

The government of President Zardari does not possess a magician such as private banker Shaukat Aziz who could perform abra cadabra with the economy and actually convince the outside world that Pakistan was attaining great economic heights. Shaukat Aziz could not have been a reality. Like him, his much vaunted economic miracle has come and gone. It was with Gen. Musharraf’s approval that the unprecedented and mysterious step of a 30% upward revision in the GDP was undertaken. It was Shaukat Aziz who claimed that he had doubled per capita income from $400 to $800. This was a cruel joke played on a hapless nation. It was obvious to everyone except the General that for the claim to be credible, per capita income would have to grow at 25% plus the rate of growth of the country’s population. It is true that mobile phones became popular. It is also true that banks lent billions for the purchase of cars and other toys. But such developments simply conveyed to the world that some people had become very rich and poverty was rising. The manipulated economic data did nothing to enhance the well being of the common man. The biggest disappointment is that the magician Shaukat Aziz was unable to change the structure of the economy.

The rich became richer and managed to remain out of the tax net. Their ill gotten wealth was stashed away in foreign banks. Agricultural incomes were not taxed. Land reforms did not take place. The problems that plagued the economy in October 1999 persisted through the Musharraf regime and were there for the new democratic government to face—a task to which they were supremely unqualified. The economic crisis was building up during the Musharraf era. The widening trade gap would have forced a decline in the value of the domestic currency. POL prices were artificially maintained at unsustainable levels. Most of the unpleasant decisions were left to be taken by the popularly elected government. Private banker Shaukat Aziz packed the few belongings he had and evaporated in thin air. The new government had to tackle multiple economic crises. It found itself totally ill-prepared and clueless in addressing the challenges arising out of the shocks. While rest of the world was taking corrective measures and adjusting to higher food and fuel prices, Pakistan lurched from one crisis to another. For a protracted period after the 2008 elections, there were no finance, commerce, petroleum and natural resources and health ministers in the country.

The government lost six precious months in finding its feet. Mr. Zardari was ill-equipped to lead the nation. With effort and devotion he could have managed a country farm. Pakistan was never easy to govern. He gave the impression of having little sense of direction and purpose. A crisis of confidence intensified as investors and development partners started to walk away. The stock market nosedived, capital flight set in, foreign exchange reserves plummeted and the Pakistani rupee lost one-third of its value. In short, Pakistan’s macroeconomic vulnerability had grown unbearable. It had no option but to return to the IMF for a bailout package. There were no road maps, no contingency plans, no options. There was only one plan, that is, to return to the IMF.

The fact is that Pakistan’s economic problems are chronic, endemic and systemic, beyond the capacity of Pakistan’s present rulers to fix. Military rule simply brushes the problems under the carpet. Due to lack of vision and leadership qualities, Pakistan’s democrats have failed to solve these problems which are becoming insurmountable year by year. Debt has become the ugly hallmark of Pakistan’s economy together with rising poverty. This debt burden which has simply increased over time has now reached the tipping point where it is overwhelmingly suffocating and crushing Pakistan’s economy. As the debt crisis in Europe currently shows a point will come when lenders will stop lending to indebted borrowers; in Pakistan’s case the much hyped ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ has been an abysmal failure with only $700 million materialising.

Pakistan has so far failed to cut the budget deficit. Even cosmetic changes have not been made. The economy continues to remain in intensive care unit and is breathing thanks to the injections from the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The economy is not on the radar screen of the government and as such the economic managers have no relevance in the current political set up. That could be a prime reason for the invisibility of the current Finance Minister, Mr. Hafeez Sheikh.

Action needs to be taken quickly to bridge the budget deficit. As pointed out by the State Bank of Pakistan in its latest report, the printing of notes at their current levels cannot be sustained. If resources cannot be increased in the short run, government can take measures for a drastic cut in expenditures. This does not seem to be on the cards. Pakistan does not deserve to face another crisis on this account. Should Mr. Yusuf Raza survive the present crisis he should move to correct some of the structural imbalances.

—The writer is a member of the former Civil Service of Pakistan.

Source:
http://pakobserver.net/201101/05/det...s.asp?id=69715
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