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  #81  
Old Friday, May 03, 2013
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Authoritarianism and governance

Tahira Mansoor


Governance is an issue in Pakistan as public representatives have never been allowed to rule the country independently in last 66 years. The entire governance culture has changed due to frequent martial laws starting with Ayub Khan'in 1958 till that of Musharaf in 1999.

In fact, during the past 50 years Pakistan was ruled for almost 35 years by military dictators that include Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervaiz Musharaf. Their word was law and they created a culture that has transformed our bureaucracy from a law abiding institution to the one that obeys anyone who is at the helm of affairs.

This is the reason that even during sporadic democratic rule, the elected representatives acted more like autocratic rulers forgetting their democratic credentials. This is the reason that accountability in Pakistan has always remained one-sided. Ayub Khan disqualified politicians from elections who dared to challenge him and allowed characters with dubious credentials that sided with him. So, in a way, we started allowing crooks in our government. The same mistake was made by Yahya Khan who denied the majority party in the National Assembly to take over power. This resulted in dismemberment of the country.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the elected representative of a truncated Pakistan, but his first act after assuming power was to declare himself the chief martial law administrator, although he enjoyed 2/3rd majority in the then National Assembly. But he had served for eight years under Ayub and knew the power that a dictator enjoys. Even after relinquishing the post of martial law administrator Bhutto ruled like a dictator that probably ultimately led to his downfall, as the military leadership thought that if the country is to be run in an autocratic style then why civilian and not military rule.

The uprising of the masses against Ayub's rule led to another martial law and this time the dictator changed the entire structure on which Pakistan was being run. There was parity in the National Assembly on seats between the then East Pakistan and West Pakistan. He changed it to one-man one-vote without approval from the electorate. He also restored the four provinces of West Pakistan that were formed by act of parliament. These authoritarian steps were accepted by the political leadership at large. This way it was accepted that might is right. The courts endorsed Ayub's martial law under the Law of Necessity and declared Yaha's martial law illegal after he was booted out of power.

By this time the economic growth was exceptional, particularly during Ayub's regime and the business class started liking the military rule of political stability against the uncertainty of democratic setups. Bhutto further alienated businesses by across-the-board nationalization of industries. The government not only took over heavy industries but even the small rice mills were not spared. This further convinced the businessmen that military dictatorship is better than a democratic setup.

When Zia-ul-Haq assumed power in 1977, he again liberalized the economy and started denationalizing the industries taken over by the Bhutto regime. Most of the nationalized units were in ruins and many former owners refused to take them back. They were right, in the sense that the liabilities of most of these units were higher than their assets. Moreover, they were not sure whether these units would not be nationalized again. Benazir assumed power in the elections held after the death of Zial-ul-Haq and she continued with liberalization of the economy admitting that nationalization by the previous PPP regime was folly. She was remote-controlled by the army and when she tried to assert herself, she was booted out of power by the then president. Nawaz assumed power after elections conducted under a caretaker regime. He accelerated liberalization of the economy. He denationalized a bank and almost all public sector cement companies. The foreign exchange regime was fully liberated during his tenure which again was cut short by the same president and with connivance of the army chief. His government was restored by the Supreme Court but ultimately he had to bow out along with the president on direct pressure exerted by the then army chief.

The game of musical chairs continued as the control of government remain fully in the hands of the army and the president. The next elected government was again formed by Benazir who this time booted out the president from the office and get one of her loyal party members elected as president. However, the grid between the office of the president and the army remained intact and she was again dismissed on corruption charges paving the way again for Nawaz Sharif. This time around, Nawaz was more assertive; he dismissed an army chief, forced resignation of the president and removed the chief justice of the Supreme Court. He enjoyed a 2/3rd majority in the assemblies. However, even this strength could not prevent General Musharraf from dismissing his government and assuming the office of the chief executive of Pakistan. Nawaz, however, committed the same folly of grinding his opponents in the name of accountability and sparing his supporters accused of similar wrong doing.

While all this was happening the bureaucracy remained a pawn in the hands of the power base controlled by the army. They shamelessly obeyed illegal orders, so much so that they were not afraid to humiliate the chief justice of the Supreme Court publically. The governing institutions of the state during the Musharraf regime became fully compliant under orders of the executive, irrespective of the fact whether the order was lawful or illegal. Nawaz was paid back in his own coin as accountability was now directed towards him and his supporters. His partners in alleged wrongdoing who joined Musharraf were spared. The same was done with the PPP, whose most tainted members were not only spared but rewarded with ministries when they supported the military regime. When Musharraf left, he had turned all government institutions into shambles; they acted on the command of the executive, obeying and executing all their illegal orders.

The Supreme Court did try to bring sanity to governance issues, but the few honest officers that tried to operate on merit were always transferred from their posts or transferred to remote areas of the country. The government resorted to legal delaying tactics when the court ordered their reinstatement and often succeeded in derailing the original investigation. This convinced the bureaucracy that the real power rests with the executive, irrespective of the fact that the orders are legal or not. No one is certain whether the politicians would be able to reverse the trend. When out of power they protest against illegality of orders. When they come to power they see maintaining status quo to their advantage. Without a positive change in attitude, the governance bar can never be raised in the country.

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Old Tuesday, May 07, 2013
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Five years of democracy: Good for future

Umm-e-Habiba


For the first time in history, Pakistan has experienced a complete democratic tenure. The transfer of political power from a democratic government to another through electoral process is likely to happen in May 2013. In Pakistan, democracy really turned out to be an exigent phenomenon; for, it took it almost six decades to at least start flourishing.

In the contemporary systems of political governments, a democratic regime is considered to be the most significant design for a state’s prosperity. On the one hand, it is for the first time that Pakistan has experienced a complete tenure of democracy, and on the other, it is also a fact that this likely democratic transition has left the masses somewhat curious about it. Since the masses of Pakistan have never experienced such a transition; therefore, curiosity and confusion are natural. In Pakistan, there exists a parliamentary democracy. This current democratic system, the country owns is output of an ongoing endeavor. Both the state and government institutions took a long than usual time to groom and flourish.

After independence, the state inherited a weaker infrastructure and administrative setup. A hostile neighbor-hood, poor defence and economic infrastructure, rehabilitation of refuges and lack of financial resources to regulate basic state affairs were the major issues which demanded immediate attention of the then government. The situation was not ripe for the development of a healthy political atmosphere. In early 50s, power tussles among politicians further exacerbated the situation. Pakistan already had no healthy political legacy; these political intrigues put the emergence of a participatory political system in serious jeopardy. Moreover, an excessive delay and neglect in the making of state constitution lead to serious repercussions for the political future of Pakistan. In regulating the affairs of a state, constitution provides basic guidelines for national policy making; while, in its absence, the development of political institutions, political culture, democratic and political behavior among the masses cannot be expected. This paved the way for the entry of non-political regimes into political arena. And military interventions in the political affairs became a common character of Pakistan’s political system. Dictatorships not only affected the state image in the international community but also damaged state’s national interest at times. For sake of vested interests, dictators took such decisions and made such agreements with external powers, which gravely threatened state’s sovereignty. It is obvious the one-man show can never secure state’s national interest; only elected public representatives, through a democratic regime can interpret and secure state’s national interest. Another major factor which badly affected the flourishing of a democratic culture in Pakistan was its higher illiteracy rate. Because of illiteracy public awareness regarding political system, about their right to vote and optimum use of their vote was negligible. In the form of electronic or print media, very few informative sources such as radio and few newspapers were available to public. As such, lack of proper access and availability of these sources to masses, was also a major hurdle in the way of the development of a mature public opinion regarding political affairs.

Now, when a new political setup is likely to be formed after election 2013, people are hoping change. And the graph of people’s hope from the upcoming system is quite high; especially the energetic Pakistani youth is quite interested to participate and its participation can give tough time to traditional political pattern. This literate/educated generation is ready to challenge the traditional political pattern. The political awareness in civil society, rise of new political parties, judicial activism and an active media, all explicitly show that democracy in Pakistan’s political culture has successfully passed through its initial phase. But the development of democracy and mature democratic behavior cannot be expected to prevail overnight. It has to be an evolutionary process, and Pakistan is yet to pass through a long journey of political maturation.

However, the good omen is that, the state and the political institutions have expressed their confidence in the democratic system. Recently, the military leadership also expressed its will for change through democracy. While addressing occasion of ‘Youm-i-Shuhada’ (martyrs’ day) on April 30th, 2013 Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani explicitly stated “I assure you that we stand committed to wholeheartedly assist and support in the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections; to the best of our capabilities and remaining within the confines of the constitution. I also assure you that this support shall solely be aimed at strengthening democracy and rule of law in the country” Although, in last five years many times, it was opined that the fragile democratic government would not last longer. Many times it was being said that state was on the verge of military intervention but throughout past five years, the military leadership remained away from political arena. Thus, the incumbent military leadership remained successful in developing a mature and non-political image of the military. This mature behavior shows that the political institutions have started grooming; therefore, the masses can hope that this transitional phase would lead to a better Pakistan. It is being hoped that after few regular terms, the democratic system will become mature. As soon as the system starts functioning regularly, it gradually leads to obliteration of major hindrances such as mismanagement; hence nepotism and corruption, etc would get reduced. An aware, educated and up-dated civil society would definitely play its role for the betterment of the system. This will not only create a healthy political atmosphere, but will also enhance public trust in electoral politics. Thus, with the passage of time, the fragile democratic setup will turn into a firmly-rooted democracy. Not necessarily, but the possibility of change is there, which had never been there before with that much potential. Nonetheless, to expect much from the new political setup would not be a rational act. But, as the initial phase is almost over, chances are there that at least in future Pakistani nation will witness somewhat mature democratic pattern in the political arena.

(Miss Umm-e-Habiba is MSc. International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan, and a research-analyst of Pakistan and global affairs specifically maritime affairs)


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  #83  
Old Friday, May 10, 2013
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Army, democracy and the war on terror

Nasim Ahmed



The Pakistan army has always played a central role in national politics, sometimes upfront and at other times from behind the scenes. For close to 30 years, it has ruled directly by imposing martial law. And even when civilian governments are in office, it remains active behind the screen, calling the shots, especially on security and foreign policy issues.

After the departure of General Musharraf from the national scene and restoration of democracy in the country in 2008, a major policy shift was noticed with General Kayani scrupulously keeping the army away from the din and bustle of civilian politics. In his speeches he openly voiced support for the democratic process and said it was for the politicians to sort things out. When the PPP government faltered and failed to deliver, he strongly rejected suggestions for a military takeover to set things right.

Against this background, General Kayani's speech on the occasion of Yaum-e-Shuhadaa at GHQ last week was notable for making some important points about the role of the army vis-a-vis the current democratic process and the ongoing war against terrorism. As some analysts have put it, General Kayani held out firm reassurances to dispel the doubts and apprehensions expressed by some quarters about the coming elections and the future of democracy in Pakistan: "Allah willing, general elections will be held in the country on the 11th of May. We must not harbour any suspicions or misgivings about it."
He pointed out that the next elections provided a historic opportunity to usher in an era of true democratic values in the country. He said the only way to strengthen the roots of democracy in the country was the free and true exercise of their right of franchise and participation of the masses in the electoral process. At the same time, he cautioned that for true democracy to flourish it was important that the people should rise above all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases to vote solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence: "Our salvation resides in transforming the government into a true platform of public representation. This would come to pass once the construct of public representation in Pakistan is oriented towards affording primacy and precedence to the larger public interest over personal interests. Otherwise, be it democracy or dictatorship, governance would continue to remain a means of self-aggrandizement and that of plundering national wealth and resources."

This part of his speech has been interpreted as a censure of the PPP government's dismal performance with special reference to the spate of financial scandals that rocked it throughout its five-year tenure. Some commentators have analysed General Kayani's words as a response to the criticism directed at the army for remaining a passive spectator to the loot and plunder of the national exchequer as well as a veiled warning about the sustainability of a corrupt democracy.

General Kayani also took the occasion to dispel fears about the violence ahead of the May 11 polls, and assured that the militants would not be allowed to disrupt the electoral process. He said that the Pakistan army was committed wholeheartedly to assist and support the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections, to the best of their capabilities and remaining within the confines of the Constitution: "I also assure you that this support will solely be aimed at strengthening democracy and the rule of law in the country." He said that like every Pakistani, the Pakistan army has in the last five years played its role in strengthening democracy with the hope that the next elections would steer the country towards a better future. But he significantly added that democracy was not an end itself but a means to enhance the welfare and prosperity of the people. He emphasised that the success of democracy is intimately linked with the well being of the masses, and if this objective is not served, democracy loses its meaning and purpose.

The war on terror has sparked an endless debate in the country about its nature, scope and goals. While the conservative school of thought says it is somebody else's war, the secular parties take the stand that it is very much our war for our own survival. In his speech General Kayani spelt out the army policy line on this vital national issue. He pointed out that the menace of terrorism and extremism has claimed thousands of lives, including those of the Army, Rangers, FC, Police, Frontier Constabulary, Levies and innocent people of Pakistan. "If we include the injured and affected family members of the martyrs, the numbers increase manifold."

He regretted that some quarters were engaged in a futile debate about the causes of the war on terror and who imposed it on us. "While this may be important in itself but the fact of the matter is that today it is Pakistan and its valiant people who are a target of this war and are suffering tremendously." He clarified that there is a small group of misguided people who want to enforce their distorted ideology on the entire nation by taking up arms. They openly defy the Constitution of Pakistan and the democratic process and are committing all kinds of atrocities and bloodshed. In these circumstances, the fight against this enemy of the state cannot be interpreted as constituting someone else's war.

The army chief called upon the concerned quarters not to confuse the people of Pakistan and soldiers and weaken their resolve with such misgivings. "We must not hurt the sentiments of these saviours of the nation through our words and deeds." He said that it was a gross misrepresentation of the truth to consider the war against terror as the war of the armed forces alone. He said that the war was not being fought only by the FC, Rangers, Police, Frontier Constabulary and Levies, who have sacrificed tremendously in the struggle against terrorism and extremism and have kept the flag of Pakistan fluttering high. Sacrifices have also been rendered by the people of Pakistan, whose steadfastness and support has been a source of great strength for the armed forces of Pakistan.

In this connection he underlined the need to forge a consensus towards evolving a clear policy through mutual consultations which should be one of the major agenda issues of the democratic government. However, he said the door to reconciliation was not closed, provided all those who have strayed and picked up arms against the nation, return to the national fold. "This is only possible once they unconditionally submit to the state, its Constitution and the rule of law. There is no room for doubts when it comes to dealing with rebellion against the state." General Kayani's words should send a clear message to the terrorists challenging the writ of the State of Pakistan, and also to the political parties and forces who provide them ideological support.

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Old Friday, May 10, 2013
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A new Pakistan

Lawangin Khan

Calling for a new Pakistan confirms the fears that the existing (Old) Pakistan has failed to serve the purpose for which it was created in 1947. No one seems happy with political leadership, failing economic health, rise of fundamentalism, diplomatic isolation in a closely connected Global Village, nor satisfied with the future visions (if any) of our political parties. In such a gloomy environment, common people on the streets see the general elections in the country, an appropriate and perhaps precisely sharpen weapon to take revenge on those who, they consider, responsible for all this mess.

What is wrong with the existing Pakistan that forced us to dream of a new and better Pakistan? Before the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the Brits were well educated, the best of administrators, knew how to formulate the best state polices at least better than what the indigenous people could and above all governed a magnificent imperialist state, covering over two third of the known world. Why the political leadership of that time revolted against such a competent and well versed government under the British thrown.

The masses were expecting to have better governance, improved health facility, rule of law, tolerance, freedom of speech and above all political sovereignty. Once Pakistan came into being, the overzealous populace gradually realized how badly their leadership was doing. Their first and foremost failure was no move on a constitution which could truly reflect the people aspirations, the state structure, role and responsibilities of each organ and future vision. The absence of constitution and political stability paved the way for Martial law in 1958. Rule of law and constitutional sovereignty was replaced by a despotic and opportunist regime. One man and one vote order was replaced with a weird form of Basic Democracy. Once the primary reason of the state got failed, the rest of the functions started falling apart.

Bhutto, the man who helped the dictator Gen Ayub Khan for years in 1960s as his party General Secretary and Foreign Minister all of a sudden realized the importance of democracy and came out with Islamic Socialism. His candid acknowledgement of going off the established religious taboos in social interaction made him an idol for the so far rejected pseudo intellectuals and armed chairs revolutionaries. No one realized that the situation by then was nearing total annihilation because of denying the majority part of the then Pakistan every possible civil right.

General Elections in 1971, under General Yahiya Khan’s regime though manipulated in some ways but threw the expected results. Sheikh Mujeeb won it with thumping majority from East Pakistan but could not find any member to represent him from the Western wing. It was delicate situation and needed higher caliber of political maneuvering & management skill to deal with. On the contrary the political leadership from the Western wing behaved like a bull in the glass house. It was not the desire of Easter Pakistan to go their own way rather it was the manipulation, jointly worked out between the Army higher echelon and the short sighted Bhutto clique. It was very easy to have kept the integrity intact. Transfer the power to the winning party without any ifs and buts and send the army to the Barracks.

Had a sagacious decision been made by the then political and military leadership and had the value of vote and worth of free speech been considered, the state of Pakistan would have been kept together. We would have not gone through the humiliating scenes of 100,000 military and civil servants surrender to the Indian general. The world would have not been cursing us of Bengalis massacre. Our political history have safely been through of a very turbulent phase and a foundation of politically maturity, tolerance, democratic culture and the sense of co-existence have been laid down.
Unfortunately, even the aftermath of this disaster did not make them realize what they did. A new Pakistan was born; the old Pakistan was buried deep down under the piles of around a million dead Bengalis. A state with new boundaries, cut off from its history of lunacy and political bankruptcy was about to take start. It was good that the new state after a long time got its consensus constitution in 1973; however the rapid opportunistic amendments created a bad taste. A sense of shame and humiliation kept the crazy media and political leadership, including the adventurist generals down for few months but soon a new spate of political victimization and deprivation set in. This time, however the victims were different. Bengalis were replaced by Pashtun and Baloch Nationalists.

The New Pakistan after the 1971 breakup proven worse than the old one. Previously it was only Bengalis alone who faced the brunt of the state reign of terror, but because of long distance between the oppressors and the victims, the intensity was not that strong. Here Baloch and Pashtun were next door and their suppression cost them cheaper and easy. Bhutto’s fascist regime collapsed and followed by another brute and reactionary Martial Law under General Zia. General Zia made democracy, rule of law and respect for state constitution a joke. This time however, the general went beyond the traditional limits and invited terrorists from across the world to push his political cum Jihad agenda in Afghanistan.

Whatever is happening today in Pakistan is not the outcome of our short term fallacies. This deep and dreaded mess has been predicted by some sane voices half a century ago, but none had the heart to have heard them. For social changes the short term possible rout is armed struggled to bring down the prevailing regime and replace it with the ideals, the victorious revolutionaries had in mind. Time and again such revolutions proven short lived rather often paved the way for a chain of bloody takeovers.

Pakistan went through many ups and downs but not yet ready to reconcile with itself. Off late we are hearing the noises from PTI folks to build a new Pakistan. How many times we are going to sail through this sea of blood and fire. Is Pakistan Tehrik Insaf has thoroughly, investigated, diagnosed the illness and prepared the potion we are supposed to drink for cure. Would this not be the repetition of what our previous generation saw during 1970s?

How can we have this new Pakistan, the recipe is very simple. We need to decide once and for all that who rule this country of 180million souls. Who should control the lethal (Nuke) weapons and a million-man standing army? We have to reassess our foreign policy and give up the dream of conquering the weaker nations, particularly Afghanistan. Jihadist is synonymous to terrorism now and the new state of Pakistan must forego the bad and good Taliban alike. People need to have this life in good shape in this mortal world, and the state should forget how they would be treated in the world hereafter. No discrimination on the basis of faith, gender, color or language should stay in our statute book and all those articles barring the minorities from becoming Prime Minister and President must go.

Corruption is, no doubt a grave issue, as per our PTI folk’s assertion but not the lone or the only bone of the entire malady. We have to build a new Pakistan, while learning from developed and people friendly states around us.
Let me remind you that the stakes are high this time too just like 1971.
Separatist movements in Balochistan and Sindh and the TTP knocking at our Northern door are becoming louder and louder. Any unwise decision or step at this critical phase of our political history would lead us to nowhere.

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Old Sunday, May 19, 2013
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Bringing FATA into the national mainstream

Nasim Ahmed


Numerous research studies have proved that poverty is the root cause of extremism and terrorism. A poor and hungry person has nothing to lose and in a state of desperation would risk his very life to get what he wants.
This is best illustrated by what has been happening in FATA. Due to years of persistent neglect by successive governments, indescribable poverty is the fate of this unfortunate area. No wonder, FATA has become a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, with an endless supply of suicide bombers striking out of the area to rain death and destruction in different parts of Pakistan.
Statistics and figures tell their own story. Knowledgeable quarters claim that over 67 per cent of FATA's population is living below the poverty line. Tragically, this ratio is at par with Congo and Liberia, two of the poorest nations in the world. Education and health facilities are scarce and job opportunities non-existent.
FATA is a special area which is controlled by the Federal government through the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions. From the beginning the FATA region has been treated like a step child by various governments in Islamabad. Both population and area-wise FATA is bigger than AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), but in budget allocations its share is always much less. This is best illustrated by the fact that during the last five years, FATA was given only Rs. 91 billion as compared to Rs. 207 billion for AJK and Rs. 71 billion for GB whose population is one-fourth of FATA.
Comparative figures for public sector spending in FATA as compared to AJK are also revealing. As is well known, AJK has its own local resources, but it was given a whopping Rs. 153 billion during the last five years for operational expenditure such as salaries of regular staff and maintenance of the service delivery network, mostly education and health. But FATA, whose needs are much greater in all sectors of society, was given only Rs. 46 billion for paying salaries of regular staff and maintenance of the service delivery network. This translates into FATA having fewer number of schools, colleges, hospitals, water supply and sanitation schemes and roads, but it is also starved of essential funds to expand the social sector infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population.
According to available figures of government staff strength in FATA, the number of teachers, paramedics, public health and other menial staff is over 51,000. It is clear that this number is much less than what is required to meet the multifarious needs of the population of the area. If the federal government allocates more budget commensurate with the population of FATA, not only will the public staff strength go up by four times, providing employment to two-thirds of the 341,114 households in the region; more development funds will also mean more educational, health and allied service delivery institutions for the benefit of inhabitants of the area.
Turning to development funds, during the last five years, FATA got only Rs. 45 billion. This amount is 64 per cent less than that provided to GB during the same period. If population is taken as the benchmark, FATA should have got Rs. 124 billion instead of Rs. 45 billion. This would have translated into improved livelihood, more education and reduced poverty and extremism. And one would have rarely heard of suicide by an employed person from FATA.
This is not the only example of neglect and discrimination against FATA. We can refer here to the lapsing of funds provided to FATA by the Federal government. It is a strange bureaucratic decision that while AJK and GB have their own special accounts and the funds transferred to both of them are non-lapsable even if they remained unspent during a financial year, the unspent funds of FATA are lapsed and are returned to the federal government.
Given this policy of open discrimination, it is easy to see why the people of FATA are poor and the young people of the region feel increasingly alienated and turn to extremism in retaliation. But this simple fact is not understood by the wise heads sitting in Islamabad who continue to subject FATA to crass neglect.
This attitude, perhaps, springs from the fact that FATA lacks a political identity and without a constitutionally mandated political structure. Unlike AJK and GB which have a full-fledged governmental set-up with chief minister, ministers and local bodies, FATA has no assembly, no local government and even no bank account.
Worse still, the laws are also different for FATA. Despite repeated announcements, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) has not yet been done away with. These laws are a legacy of colonial days and should have been scrapped after independence. But this was not done. Why have different laws for FATA? Isn't this a clear violation of Article 25 of the Constitution? Why is the Constitution of Pakistan along with its civil and criminal laws not extended to FATA?
It seems that the Federal government has deliberately kept FATA economically backward and politically disenfranchised so that it can keep exploiting the region through political agents and the so-called elected representatives who are responsible for the status quo in the region. Investment in posting of PAs in FATA and horse-trading in the elections are open secrets. FATA will remain a bleeding wound until its root-cause is eradicated. If the rights of the people of FATA are restored and a comprehensive development plan is undertaken, there will be no place for exploitation in an educated, enlightened and prosperous FATA.
The Pakhtun belt in general, and the tribal belt in particular, has become a battle ground for international forces. The US, India, Israel, Russia, the Arabs and Iranians all have a role in what has been going on in the region. Our own agencies play their own games. All this plays into the hands of extremists elements who exploit both external forces and the local population for their own selfish ends.
The violence and extremism in FATA can only be uprooted through education and economic revival. The need is to launch short and long-term socio-economic development plans to generate new employment opportunities for the young men who in the absence of viable economic options join the league of suicide bombers and grenade throwers. The situation can go from bad to worse if the status quo is maintained and policies not changed. It is time to bring FATA into the national mainstream.

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Elections throw up new challenges

Muhammad Hassan


The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is set to form the governments in Pakistan, and in the largest province of the Punjab after it emerged as the biggest party in the general elections.
The other major gainer in the polls was Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf while the biggest loser was the Awami National Party which was almost wiped out in its home province Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The former ruling Pakistan Peoples Party almost suffered the same fate in the largest province of the Punjab.
However, the next government faces some tough and complex challenges, which will need a long-term strategy, dedication and political will.
Today, the biggest problem of Pakistan is terrorism, which has also badly affected its economy. According to an official report submitted to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the country has lost over 49,000 lives since the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States on September 11, 2001. More than 24,000 people, both civilians and troops, were killed in terrorist attacks during the period between 2001 and 2008. The last five years have proved costlier, in human terms. Another 25,000 people died during military offensives against Taliban insurgents in the restive tribal regions since 2008. There is no end in sight to the US war on terror, which the military calls its own. Its complex nature and the involvement of national and international players will make it the toughest nut to crack for the next government. Analysts say the PPP failed to receive credit for military operations against militants inside Pakistan as violence in the run-up to the election increased.
More than 120 people were killed in violence in the election campaign.
However, the Taliban failed to disrupt the election. Both Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif favour talks with the Taliban and an end to US drone strikes.
Widespread corruption, large fiscal deficits, low expenditure on education and health, chronic electricity and energy shortages, high inflation and soaring unemployment and low economic growth are other issues. To reduce the fiscal deficit, the new government will have to widen the tax net. Landowners will also have to pay taxes along with retailers and all professionals. For it, the government will require strong political will. The challenge of the shortage of electricity and gas has brought the life of the common man and economic activities to a grinding halt. The PPP's attempt for re-election derailed over the issue as it failed to resolve the issue for five years and the next government will also not be able to resolve it soon. However, the PML-N is expected to perform better on this front because it blew up the issue and made it part of its election manifesto with the catchphrase "Shining Pakistan". According to the experts, the next government can secure two consecutive terms if it only reduces power and gas outages.
The PPP also became unpopular over widespread allegations of corruption. President Zardari has repeatedly been accused of corruption. The stigma also badly hurt his party in the election.
Imran Khan seized on the public anger over corruption and vowed to get rid of it within 90 days of taking power. His manifesto included a series of measures to improve accountability and reinvestigate past scandals. Nawaz Sharif's manifesto also supports the establishment of an independent body to deal solely with corruption. Yet, it is difficult to see how a deep-rooted culture of patronage, corruption, nepotism and bribery can be eliminated in a short period of time.
The PML-N and the PTI were the only major political forces that were able to launch a nationwide campaign after the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan warned to target leaders and rallies of the PPP, the ANP and the MQM which were part of the last coalition government. The threats curtailed their campaigning and the PPP's campaign was particularly lacklustre as its Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari could not address even a single rally due to threats to his life. The ANP had coined a new campaign slogan - "Watan ya Kafan" (homeland or coffin) - after the Taliban repeatedly targeted its workers and leaders both in Karachi and its home province, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Hours before electioneering ended, militants kidnapped former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's son in Multan. There is no doubt that an uneven playing field in the election was also a major factor in the disaster for the former coalition partners.
The priorities of the next government will become clear in few months, but until recently, foreign policy, decision-making on major national issues and budget allocations have been at the sole discretion of the establishment. All previous prime ministers of the country had certain limitations. The people of the country have been deprived of basic rights and amenities since the inception of the country in 1947. No prime minister, even the most popular Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, could provide relief to the people of the country.
The people have been deprived of even clean drinking water and all basic rights, including education, healthcare, employment, law and order. They were left to languish in abject poverty and ignorance while political parties and leaders spent all resourses on their luxuries. However, it has been a practice in Pakistan to malign politicians and launch a smear campaign against them so that people lose trust in politicians and democracy. That is why most people still blame politicians, political parties and prime ministers for their plight, rather than holding the 'hidden hands' accountable, which have ruled the country with absolute authority for 66 years.
Undoubtedly, politicians are subjected to criticism for corruption and inaptness throughout the world and Pakistani politicians too are not angels. However, they had to shoulder the burden of failures and misconduct of the establishment, which brought a bad name to politicians and democracy in Pakistan. It is high time the new government used powers to serve the masses, rather than just coming to power. If the people of the country are still deprived of their rights, they will lose trust in democracy and democratic parties.
Before the election, experts predicted a hung parliament and a split mandate, but in Pakistan, nothing can be said with certainty, especially when it comes to elections and results. Governments in Pakistan are made, or broken by the establishment at the behest of the US. Some people say the US needed a pro-Taliban government in Pakistan before its pullout from Afghanistan, so that it could start negotiations with the militants, and punish the PPP for its handover of Gwadar Port to China and launch a gas pipeline with America's archrival Iran. Some fear the Nawaz government may end the gas pact with Iran under pressure from the US and some Gulf states.
The ANP has accepted defeat in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, but the PPP is silent on its drubbing. The PTI Chairman has alleged rigging in the election and said his party would bring out a White Paper. However, the PML-N government has a huge task ahead. Until recently, the PML-N government in the Punjab shifted the blame of all problems in the country and the province on President Zardari and the former PPP government at the Centre. With its government at the Centre, in the biggest province of the Punjab, may be in Balochistan and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, it will have no excuse if it fails to deliver. It will have to learn from the bitter experience of the former coalition partners or be ready to face the same fate.

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Perilous road towards progress

Ahmad Khan


11 May, 2013, is the day for Pakistanis to be celebrated for years. The much-anticipated transition from one civilian government to another is now almost complete. The majority of Pakistanis went to polls, and elected their rulers for next five years. By coming across all the odds, the resilient Pakistanis audaciously went to polling stations for voting out their previously elected rulers.
The unprecedented 60 % election turnout of the Pakistanis showed a rock sold faith on the democratic process to elect their new civilian government, despite allegations of rigging on the election. The 60 % election turnout was issue-based e.g. bringing reforms in education system, curbing electricity shortage, and ending deeply entrenched terrorism and extremism from Pakistan. The high turnout on 11 May incorporated bulk of the newly registered young Pakistani voters, who also succeeded to bring their elders to voting booth. Regardless of long waiting voter’s lines and hot weather, people remain determined to bring change all the way through ballot papers. The only thirst of voters was to end the slavish, deceitful and devious rule of previous government, who did not left any choice for Pakistanis except to vote them out through ballot papers/power. At the end, in spite of the fears and threats of terrorists attacking the polling stations, the majority of polls went quiet smoothly, except for the heinous bombs attacks in Karachi and other parts of the country killing more than 60 people.
Pakistan Muslim League (N) once again puts up a brilliant show in Punjab and gain over its political adversaries with a huge margin. Here, congratulations to Sharif brothers for grasping the highest numbers of seats in both Provincial Assembly and National Assembly, paving way for PML-N’s solo fight to Islamabad. However, we must not forget Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf in KPK, PPP and MQM’ majority in Sindh, respectively.
During the election campaign, all political parties promised their voters to make Pakistan more economically stable and progressive-Naya Roshan Pakistan. Particularly, PML (N) gave word to the nation that it’ll build roads, infrastructure and more importantly will bring Pakistan out from the long shadows of darkness by resolving the pending issue of energy shortages.
Now, an important question arise here, that how PML (N) will be able to resolve the all these gigantic problems, currently faced by Pakistan. Can it resolve these issues or it still need to develop national consensus on these subject. Will it able to create national consensus with other political parties on the subject of terrorist, which is now the prime issue of Pakistan. By revisiting its party manifesto and all election campaign and people’s verdict against the previous government, it seem plausible from the majority they have in National Assembly and Punjab that PML(N)’s leaders will be able to answer all these national question.
Pakistan is currently facing many problems both from inside as well as from outside the country, ranging from non-kinetic to kinetic threats. Right now, the biggest problem is of U.S. and allies’ exit from the Afghanistan in 2014 and post 2014 scenarios, which would be a major challenge to the security of Pakistan. Likewise, the relationship with neighbors, like Iran and India is another challenge to the PMLN government. Having said this, formulation of Strategic Relationship with United States and Europe would be hard task for the government.
Despite the external challenges, the non-tangible security challenges include the political instability, economic situation and terrorism in Pakistan. It is quite obvious from its 3E’s policy that PMLN have already prioritize its goal to improve the economic situation of the country, and also looking towards improving the present security situation in FATA, Karachi and Baluchistan. Right now, having a clear majority in Parliament, it’s simple that the political situation in Pakistan is now relatively stable, however terrorism can become a headache for the government in future, if it fails to contemplate a stringent policy which could curb terrorism from all across Pakistan. Similarly, another challenge this government will face is to end insurgency in Baluchistan.
In conclusion, the road towards progress is very long and full of boulders. It would not be easy to tackle multidimensional and multifaceted internal and external threats to Pakistan. The new administration will have to bring aggressive reforms to the present tax structure in order to reduce the current debt. This could manage the crippling power sector, which could be achievable with researching a multi-party consensus. Pakistan’s economy and security situation is already on a perilous road, and people of Pakistan have already given their verdict through ballot paper. There are speculations that 2013 elections will have foreboding effects leading the country toward factionalism and increased ethnic politics. Therefore, an immense responsibility lies on the shoulders of PML (N) leadership to bring Pakistan on the right track, which they can do with patience, consensus and reconciliation with institutions all across Pakistan.

(The Writer works in Strategic Vision Institute)

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Under Nawaz Sharif dark clouds would disperse

Asif Haroon Raja


The heavy mandate Nawaz Sharif’s rule came to an abrupt end after two years eight months as a result of military coup by Gen Musharraf on October 12, 1999. He was later on exiled for ten years. After 9/11, Musharraf was coerced and induced by the US and led to believe that partnership with the USA would uplift Pakistan’s depressed fortunes and pave the way for prosperity.
He was assured that unlike the past, this time Pak-US alliance will be long lasting, mutually beneficial and based on mutual respect. American officials admitted that the US had wrongly left Pakistan in a lurch on several occasions and promised that it will not be abandoned again. Lure of advancement of his selfish interests and material benefits as well as patronage of sole super power numbed his rational thinking.
Feeling thrilled at the prospects of earning legitimacy and staying in power for a long time and making Pakistan modern and prosperous, Musharraf forgot the dark history of USA how it had ditched Pakistan repeatedly at critical stages and that too at a time when India was in Soviet camp and an opponent of US policies. He forgot that India had become a strategic partner of USA and both had consistently maintained a hostile posture against Pakistan. He also lost sight of the fact that all the governments in Kabul had remained friendly with India and had pursued unfriendly policies against Pakistan and that it was only under the Taliban that Pakistan’s western border had become safe for the first time.
It didn’t occur to him that by taking a u-turn on Afghanistan and joining hands with USA to destroy Afghanistan, the people of FATA in particular and of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general as well as the religious right will get antagonized. He believed whatever Colin Powel told him on phone and readily agreed to all his seven demands. He did so since he at his own concluded that there was no other way out. The explanation he later gave in defence of his hasty and unilateral decision to grant so many concessions was that in case of his refusal, the US would have solicited Indian support and destroyed both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also presumed that the US was genuinely hurt on account of 9/11 attacks and was sincere in its resolve to eliminate terrorism from the face of earth.
No sooner he threw Pakistan in the tight embrace of the USA in September 2001; he got the first rude shock three months later when India stage managed the drama of terrorist attack on Indian Parliament. In that timeframe although the US and its allies had succeeded in toppling Taliban regime and capturing Afghanistan, the situation was still hazy since none of the wanted al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders could be captured. Pakistan had deployed 70,000 troops along its western border on the request of USA to nab the fleeing militants from Afghanistan.
Pakistani origin US national David Headley who is a CIA agent and had got himself enrolled in Lashkar-e-Taiba was used by RAW with the connivance of CIA to execute a fake terrorist attack on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 to give an excuse to India to exert maximum politico-military-media pressure on Pakistan and force it to yield to Indian demands the way it had succumbed to the US pressure. India’s major concern was to make Pakistan change its policy on Kashmir. For ten months India’s full military might remained deployed along our border in a threatening posture.
Our equally aggressive response took the heat out of India’s bellicosity and it decided to back off. However, the prolonged confrontation had a telling effect on Gen Musharraf. Under US pressure he agreed to soften up Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir and to get detached from Kashmiri freedom movement. He banned Kashmir focused six Jihadi groups. While signing peace treaty with India on the insistence of the USA in January 2004, he agreed that cross border terrorism was taking place in occupied Kashmir and gave his assurance that he would not allow any Jihadi group to misuse Pakistan soil.
The people were misled into believing that peace treaty with India and CBMs would help in solving all the disputes including Kashmir issue. He further damaged the cause of Kashmir when he downplayed UN resolutions and suggested out of box solution. Whatever gains made by Kashmiri Mujahideen through armed resistance from 1989 onwards at an extremely heavy price were wasted away by Musharraf. He obsequiously bowed to each and every command given by Washington. Battle with tribal militants resulted in loss of considerable space in FATA. Flames of low intensity war spread out from FATA to settled areas including Peshawar and creation of TTP and tied down over 100,000 troops. Marrying up of resentful Jihadi groups with Al-Qaeda and TTP brought the war into urban centres.
In order to ensure continuation of war that both the militants and Pak security forces got bled, the US started to level unsubstantiated accusations against Pakistan. Most spiteful allegation was that either Pakistan was complicit with the militants or was incompetent. Such an aspersion was cast on an ally that had staked its security and economy in fighting the US war and suffered the most and is paying the highest price. While the US officials and media made malicious allegations against Pakistan, no evidence to support their contention were ever produced, which clearly indicated its mala fide intentions?
The PPP led coalition regime of liberal parties installed by the USA in March 2008 pursued Musharraf’s US centric policies and made no effort to ameliorate the living conditions of the have-nots who had attached high hopes in the democratically elected government. But for the poor governance, massive corruption, insensitivity of ruling regime and its subservience to Washington, neither the US could have spread its perverse influence in Pakistan, nor could the anti-state extremist groups play havoc. War on terror coupled with breakdown of law and order in FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Karachi, which made the state fragile, facilitated easy entry to foreign agents to fish in troubled waters and deepen the chaos.
At the sunset of the year 2012, our fashion loving former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was upbeat on account of self-perceived assessment that Indo-Pak relations had come out of the bad patch and were steadily improving. Composite dialogue that had been suspended in the wake of 26/11 had recommenced after a break of almost two years. She strongly felt that CBMs would help in resolving core disputes of Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and Wullar Barrage. Liberalization of visa regime, grant of MFN status and grant of land route via Wagah to Afghanistan and beyond in the backdrop of Indo-Pak trade talks in her view would give a quantum jump to bilateral trade between the two countries and would help in removing distrust and antagonism.
She was equally optimistic about Afghanistan asserting that there was significant improvement in bilateral relations as a consequence to Pakistan readily agreeing to all the four demands put forward by Salahuddin Rabbani, Chairman Afghan High Peace Council. These included release of 16 Taliban prisoners from detention. This conciliatory gesture in her view greatly helped in lessening bitterness and distrust and has paved the way for closer cooperation between the two neighbors.
She was particularly over excited over fast improving Pak-US relations that had hit rock bottom after series of offensive acts by USA in 2011 and its continued haughtiness and application of coercive tactics till reopening of NATO supply routes in July 2012. Her optimism concerning steady improvement in Pak-US relations is proving correct because of diametrically changed security situation in Afghanistan. Change of security team in Washington bringing friendly faces like John Kerry and Chuck Hegel raised Pakistan’s hopes of betterment of relations.
Hina’s buoyant assessment about improvement in Indo-Pak relations however proved short-lived. The 2013 saw steady deterioration in Indo-Pak relations because India purposely heated up the LoC over an engineered incident of beheading of an Indian soldier. Tit for tat crude response by India over death of convicted Indian spy and terrorist Sarabjit Singh in the form of clubbing to death Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay have once again tensed relations. Likewise, despite Pakistan going out of the way to keep Kabul friendly, its relations with Afghanistan dipped because of eccentric behavior of Hamid Karzai.
The power that was illegally snatched from Nawaz Sharif has once again fallen in his lap after 14 years. The one who ousted him is under house arrest and charged with murder and treason charges. Although Nawaz went through lots of trials and tribulations which reformed and matured him, after bouncing back at the centre stage on May 11, 2013, he seems to be in a forgiving mood. Political analysts are of the view that he and his team would not adopt the lifestyle of his predecessors and would make genuine efforts to take the country out of the woods.
Indo-Pak relations currently at a low key would improve. PM Manmohan Singh has already extended an invitation to Nawaz. Imran Khan’s PTI has emerged as the second strongest party in May 11 elections. Notwithstanding Nawaz-Imran tiff, both are likely to work towards ending the war on terror. The US is not likely to interfere since it is in its interest to have stable Pakistan during the crucial transition phase of US-NATO forces from Afghanistan. I see the dark clouds over Pakistan dispersing and a new dawn promising better days emerging.

(The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst)

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The former general’s era

Muhammad Omar Iftikhar


Pakistan was facing ample crises when the armed forces took over the country in 1999. The state institutions were falling apart, Pakistan’s newfound status as a nuclear power took a controversial stance in the region, and the tense situation at the Kargil border was edging Pakistan and India towards a possible confrontation.
The political arena of the country could not produce anyone who could resolve these challenges. This compelled the armed men in boots to make their presence felt in Islamabad on that fateful night of October 12, 1999.
Democracy in Pakistan never bloomed to its full potential as military coups halted the process more than often. These takeovers sent Pakistan in a downward spiral when East Pakistan was lost in 1971 under General Yahya Khan’s military rule. Later, General Zia-ul-Haq and his concept of Islamization introduced in the country the other side of religion which was backed with radical forces and extremism. However, the country’s political and economic side remained balanced under Pervez Musharraf’s government. It was during the latter half of his tenure when the country experienced turbulence due to his unsound decisions. Musharraf emerged as a visionary leader during the early years of his tenure. His image from a military leader turned into a statesman during the Agra Summit in 2001, when he verbally defeated the Indian press at the Breakfast Table Conference. The erstwhile general had a logical and practical reply to every question which the Indian press was throwing at him. It is certain that a democratically elected leader would have shown signs of cold sweat and dizziness if placed in a similar situation.
Musharraf’s leadership was then tested when the United States asked for Pakistan’s support in its war against terror following the 9/11 attacks, which occurred within two years of Musharraf’s rise to power. Many considered Musharraf’s alliance with the U.S. an imprudent act, but it was not a choice which Islamabad had, but the need of the hour. Had Pakistan not extended its support to Washington, then Pakistan would have been in a worse state than it is now, and the U.S.-Pakistan relations would have become sore years ago.
People have been evaluating Musharraf’s 9-year era of dictatorship with the five-year tenure of the PPP-led government, which began in September 2008 and ended in March 2013. For a fact, every sector flourished during the general’s rule as the GDP reached to 8.96 in 2004. In contrast, the PPP-led government couldn’t make avenues to reach a 4% GDP growth. In addition, during Musharraf’s rule, a stable foreign exchange rate led the business class and the entrepreneurs take a sigh of relief as the value of the Pakistani Rupee against the U.S. dollar remained between PKR. 44.55 to PKR. 58 that resulted in economic and financial firmness. In contrast, the value of the Pakistani Rupee as against the U.S. dollar touched the historic 100-mark in April 2013, which is raising anxiety among the business community, specially the traders. The State Bank reserves in 2002-03 stood at $9.52 billion while in April 2013 they fell to $6.64 billion. Education sector, which is the least focused in the country, got a robust growth under Musharraf’s presidency, as the literacy rate increased by nearly 11% and opening of various technical colleges and universities across Pakistan was a beacon of hope for the children of Pakistan. The country’s foreign exchange reserves amplified from U.S. $1.7 billion in 1999 to U.S. $13 billion in 2006 while the public debt as a share of GDP reduced to 54% from 80% in 2000. Furthermore, Pakistan’s external debt in 2008 was $45 billion while it touched the $65 billion mark in 2012. Moreover, the agricultural output during Musharraf’s era augmented by 7.5 percent, services sector grew at 6% per annum, and foreign investment increased from $0.5 billion to $8.5 billion. The foreign direct investment coming in Pakistan during 2007-08 was 5,409 million which fell to 812 million in 2011-12.
The lawyers are also standing against Musharraf for his decision to sack the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2007.
Moreover, the implementation of the Provincial Constitution Order (PCO) and the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) has put a dent on Musharraf’s image. Furthermore, his decision to grant permission to the U.S. to carryout drone attacks on Pakistani soil has marred his political acumen. Giving an interview to an international news channel following his return, Musharraf admitted that his government did seal a secret pact with the United States, which granted permission to the U.S. to conduct drone attacks in Pakistan. During the interview, Musharraf said, “Pakistan gave permission only on a few occasions, when a target was absolutely isolated and [there was] no chance of collateral damage”.
Even with a military stamp on his existence, Musharraf’s rule was better than the democratic setup which followed after he resigned as the country’s President in August 2008. A democratic government did complete five years in office, the first time in Pakistan’s history, however, people still consider that keeping Musharraf’s unwise decisions aside, the era of 1999 to 2008 was significantly better than the one which the Pakistanis endured from 2008 to 2013.

(The writer is a regular columnist for various English dailies and writes on regional issues)


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