Mar 29, 2009

‘Let’s be friends once again’: Zardari

President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday all but lifted governor’s rule in Punjab in an apparent peace deal with an estranged Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) whom he offered to be ‘friends again’ after a month of bruising confrontation and conceded its right to rule the province.

In an address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate marking the start of a new parliamentary year amid a blooming spring, he called for ‘no further delay’ in finalising constitutional amendments to empower parliament by curtailing powers he inherited from former president Gen Pervez Musharaf.

The announcement of the decision to lift governor’s rule imposed on Feb 25 came in the president’s extempore remarks at the fag-end of a 30-minute speech whose beginning was marked by a protest walkout by PML-N’s rival Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) against alleged horse-trading in Punjab by the other to buy loyalties of provincial assembly members.

‘As we move towards a better future, I wish to announce that we shall recommend the lifting of governor’s rule in Punjab,’ the president said as he struggled to find the right words for his unwritten remarks, which actually seemed to mean that he was asking Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to recommend to him to end the 32-day-old direct federal rule in Punjab through Governor Salman Taseer.

The Feb 25 presidential order, which meant the dissolution of a year-old provincial coalition government of the PML-N and PPP, came after a Supreme Court ruling the same day disqualified PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother and provincial chief minister Shahbaz Sharif from holding any elective public office.

While both the Sharif bothers have gone to the Supreme Court for a review – one seeking restoration of his Punjab administration and the other his right to seek election to a National Assembly seat – President Zardari said the PPP, which he leads as its co-chairman, would support a PML-N candidate for chief minister ‘whoever he might be’ though it will no longer be part of a ruling coalition.

But PML-N chairman Raja Zafar Haq told Dawn his party, which emerged as the largest single party in the Punjab assembly and second largest in the National Assembly in last year’s general election, would prefer a restoration of its provincial government rather than form a new one.

That is a course that could protect Mr Shahbaz Sharif from the mischief of a controversial Musharraf-era decree that bars two-time prime ministers and chief ministers from seeking a third term.

But President Zadari made it clear the PPP would not join even a restored provincial government in a tit-for-tat to the PML-N’s departure from the PPP-led federal government after a brief association last year.

‘We shall sit in the opposition, but we shall participate on all bills and will not let down the government of Punjab and will close the door to horse-trading forever,’ he said, practically giving up PPP’s efforts to lead a new coalition in the province with the possible support of the PML-Q rather than play second fiddle to the PML-N.

’There will be no need for a forward bloc,’ he said, apparently referring to a strong ‘forward bloc’ of PML-Q members in the Punjab assembly who are supporting PML-N without joining the cabinet, sparking charges of horse-trading from PML-Q leadership.

The PPP leadership could have been happy with the PML-N embarrassment caused by the walkout by slogan-chanting PML-Q law-makers that was led by party president and newly elected senator Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and ended soon when some members of the treasury benches brought the protesters back to the house.

Mr Zardari’s off-the-cuff remarks also seemed to be scratching old wounds when he said ‘there will be no need to have another Changa Manga’, in a reference to a forest resort in Punjab where PML-N had allegedly lodged parliamentarians in a confrontation with the PPP in the 1990s to prevent the other side approaching them.

The president said the two sides could ‘still meet as friends and fellow democrats’ to take Pakistan to ‘new heights’ after the PML-N has a chief minister to its satisfaction and after all irritants between them were settled in parliament and courts of law. ‘Pakistan has many challenges. What it does not need is a challenge from within to its democracy.’

In a reference to the PML-N agitation and its crucial role in a lawyer-led ‘long march’ that led to the restoration of the remaining 11 superior court judges out of about 60 sacked by General Musharraf under a controversial Nov 3, 2007, emergency proclamation, he said: ‘Let not democracy challenge itself on the ground of one reason or the other, whether on the streets of Lahore or on the streets of Islamabad. Let’s put an end to challenging each other. We have challenges enough from around the world and from our enemies within. Let’s be friends again and forever.’

PML-N cold-shoulder But despite earning concessions as a reward for its public agitation for about a month, the PML-N did not join desk-thumping by the treasury benches to greet Mr Zardari’s second address to a joint sitting of parliament in a little more than six months after he was elected president by a parliamentary electoral college.

As if it was still nursing its grievance about the imposition of governor’s rule and the Supreme Court ruling disqualifying the Sharif brothers, a source in parliament said the PML-N law-makers also did not turn up at a tea party hosted by National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza after the presidential address.

The president spoke only briefly in the beginning of his speech about what is going to be next focus of the political forces: empowerment of parliament as envisaged by the famous Charter of Democracy signed in 2006 by assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto and Mr Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Zardari had only vaguely offered to have his authority curtailed by proposing in his Sept 20, 2008, speech to a joint sitting that a parliamentary committee ‘revisit’ the constitution’s Musharraf-era controversial 17th Amendment and article 58 (2) (b) that gave the presidency powers that should be exercised by the prime minister in a genuine parliamentary system of government, but no move made even to form that body.

After a lot of criticism for allegedly having second thoughts about clipping his powers as he did about his promise to restore the deposed judges before their reinstatement order on March 16, the president urged the National Assembly speaker to constitute this ‘committee of all political parties’ to propose amendments to the constitution ‘in light of the Charter of Democracy’ and said: ‘The amendments should be finalised without any further delay.’

In the rest of his speech, the president cited an ailing economy, growing extremism and militancy and the judicial crisis among the many problems he said the present government had inherited on taking office by the end of March last year and said significant progress had been achieved in different areas during the last one year. ‘But much more needs to be done,’ he said, adding that a ‘heavy national agenda awaits you’ to protect democracy, fight militancy, heal the ‘wounds’ of the past, and build infrastructure.

While talking of a ‘situation of near economic meltdown due to the inherited problems and a global recession in the face of a massive shortfall in energy, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and rising inflation, he said difficult decisions and a home-grown economic reforms programme had started showing results.’

He said inflation had declined from over 25 per cent in Aug 2008 to 21 per cent and that it would be brought down to a single digit by the next year. Since the second quarter, there had been no net borrowing from the State Bank and the rupee had recovered some of the value it lost in Oct 2008.

In the first eight months of the fiscal 2008-09, he said, remittances had grown and foreign exchange reserves stood at $6.4 billion in November last and were over $10 billion a week ago. Citing reconciliation as a vision of the late Ms Bhutto, he said this was ‘the only way forward’ and added: ‘We must not remain hostage to the bitterness of the past. We need to bring together the federating units in a spirit of mutual accommodation.’

Referring to the problems of Balochistan, he said ‘ways and means may be explored for the voluntary return of exiles and grant of general amnesty to the political prisoners’.

He said these issues needed to be discussed in parliament, to which he urged to frame a ‘Balochistan policy which is sustainable and acceptable to the people of the province. Give them the autonomy they have been demanding for 60 years’.

Among the guest to watch the joint sitting, which was prorogued after the president’s speech, were provincial governors and chief ministers, armed forces’ chiefs and foreign diplomats.

The president’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is the designated PPP chairman while still studying in Britain, was present in the President’s Gallery along with some friends from Oxford.

Abuse of children

In Pakistaour it is believed to be far greater than indicated by the 2,447, 2,321 and 1,838 — figures compiled from the print media — cases in 2006-2008 respectively. — Reuters Official statistics on child sexual abuse in the country are conspicuous by their absence. Thus, the occasional NGO report on this least-acknowledged form of child abuse is important to expose the reality about a hidden but menacing phenomenon. Significant in this respect is the latest annual report and data on child sexual abuse in Pakistan produced by Sahil, an organisation that works exclusively on the issue.

Although the number of child abuse cases appears to have declined in the past two years, the actual prevalence of this curse in our society is believed to be far greater than indicated by the 2,447, 2,321 and 1,838 — figures compiled from the print media — cases in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively.

In most cases, the victims’ acquaintances were found to be involved in their abuse. Since the most vulnerable group in this category comprises child labourers, millions more are believed to be at risk of sexual abuse. This picture underscores the importance of ensuring the implementation of existing legislation on the issue and of speeding up the promulgation of proposed laws on child protection.

Since the 1996 Stockholm Declaration on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, of which Pakistan is a signatory, we have taken some steps to address the issue of child abuse. Measures have included introducing legislation and drafting a national policy and action plan on the subject.

A group of seven NGOs conducted a study on child sexual abuse in Pakistan which helped the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development design a national policy and action plan against child sexual abuse and exploitation. Legislation has including the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance and the Destitute and Neglected Children’s Act in Punjab.

However these laws have not been properly enforced nor has the action plan been implemented. A child protection bill is also waiting to be introduced in the National Assembly and a draft child protection policy has yet to be approved. In the meantime, greater efforts are required to sensitise society to child sexual abuse by spreading awareness in schools and at the community level.

Islamabad not happy with Obama strategy

Pakistan has decided to convey its concerns through diplomatic channels over certain aspects of the new policy for the region announced by President Barack Obama on Friday.

’We will speak to them (the United States) on issues of concern in subsequent diplomatic negotiations,’ the President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn on Saturday.

A similar impression was given by senior officials of the foreign office, who said the concerns would not go unnoticed and would be taken up at an ‘appropriate level’.

President Obama had announced several incentives, including an increase in aid to Pakistan, passage of a legislation on the reconstruction opportunity zones and commitment to democracy in the country, but at the same time he was quite ominous in his tone when he categorically said that there would be no ‘blank cheques’ for Pakistan.

Mr Babar said misgivings about Islamabad always existed in Washington’s approach, but the positive elements were new and it was decided that they needed to be hailed.

He denied that the presidency’s position contradicted the thinking in the foreign office, saying the FO was consulted while devising the response.

But sources in the foreign office insisted that the FO’s reaction was mixed, guarded and not effusive. ‘There are pretty big problems in the policy about which our leadership is not speaking, a senior FO official said. Another senior official said there were no consultations with the FO.

No Kashmir talks: US

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser James Jones listen during President Barack Obama's meeting with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.—AP WASHINGTON: US National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones has said that the United States will not get involved in resolving the Kashmir dispute despite its desire to lessen tensions between India and Pakistan.

But top US military official Admiral Mike Mullen acknowledged that lessening tensions over Kashmir would allow Pakistan to focus on fighting the militants hiding along the Pak-Afghan border.

The two US officials were briefing the media on President Barak Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan he announced in a nationally televised speech on Friday.

‘We don’t intend to get involved in that issue, but we do intend to help both countries build more trust and confidence so that Pakistan can address the issues that it confronts on the western side of the nation,’ said Gen. Jones.

‘But no, Kashmir is a separate issue,’ said the US national security adviser if the United States would also help resolve the Kashmir dispute to enable Pakistan to focus on its western border.

‘But we think that the times are so serious that we need to build the trust and confidence in the region, so that nations can do what they need to do in order to defeat the threat that I discussed a few minutes ago,’ he said.

Admiral Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN he hope the new US ‘regional approach’ would try to reduce tensions over Kashmir, allowing Pakistan to re-deploy troops away from arch-enemy India and to Afghan border areas.

In the new policy, President Obama stressed the need for developing a ‘regional approach’ for defeating extremism and said he would like to involve India, Iran, China, Central Asian republics and the Gulf countries in this fight.

Drone strikes are effective: US

US drone attacks inside Pakistan were ‘having an affect,’ said US National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, adding that Washington and Islamabad will decide ‘collaboratively’ whether to continue those strikes.
In an interview to Dawn after President Barak Obama announced his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gen. Jones defended the drones strikes as effective and said they were causing low collateral damage.
‘They are having an affect (but) whether they continue or not will be up to the Pakistani government and our government working side by side in a collaborative way,’ said the general.
‘The attacks have done a couple of things: One, they have been targeted very specifically against al Qaeda, two, they produce very low collateral damage,’ he said.
This marks the first time a senior US official spoke on record on the drone attacks. US officials usually do not acknowledge their involvement in these attacks and instead urge journalists to contact Pakistani authorities whenever such an attack takes place.
The drone attacks were first ordered by the Bush administration. The Obama administration has not only continued those strikes but some Obama officials have indicated recently that the drones may attack targets inside Balochistan as well.
Meanwhile, another US official, Assistant State Secretary Richard Boucher, assured Pakistan that his country had no plans to send American troops inside the Pakistani territory.
Mr Boucher said Pakistanis, a US ally in the fight against terrorism, were operating on their side of the border. ‘We operate differently on the other side of the border.’
The US, he said, understood that the Pakistanis did not want American forces inside Pakistan. ‘We’ll respect that, but at the same time we want to make sure we are them supporting properly,’ he said.
Another US official charged with implementing US policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, acknowledged frustrations, calling the fight to bring stability to Pakistani border areas ‘the most daunting challenge’ of the new regional plan because Pakistan had imposed a ‘red line.’
‘The red line is unambiguous and stated publicly by the Pakistani government —no foreign troops on our soil,’ he said.
Gen. Jones said the new US policy focused more intensively on Pakistan than in the past, and said this was ‘normal, because it’s a newer problem.’
He said that Washington’s relation with Pakistan, were ‘in a restart mode; that is to say that we are having very intensive dialogues. We’re building trust and confidence between the armed forces.’
At a separate White House briefing, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and Middle East and South Asia expert, who chaired the White House review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, said: ‘Al Qaeda operates within a very sophisticated syndicate of terrorist organisations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.’
President Obama wants to make sure that this mission has a focus and a clear, concise goal, he said. ‘And that goal, as he spelled it out, is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, and to ensure that their safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot threaten the United States anymore,’ Mr Riedel said.

Ever changing scenario

A roundup of the Nato plans about Afghanistan and the entire region
By Aimal Khan
With the change of weather, the political temperature in and around Afghanistan is changing too. A new round of decisive offensive is on the cards and both sides are preparing for war. The ongoing policy revision drill in the United States is near completion and observers expect some drastic changes not only in its Afghanistan but Pakistan policy as well.
The US policy makers have started considering Pakistan a central front in the 'war on terror.' The policy has yet to be unveiled but the recent statements of US high-ranking officials suggest that the new policy envisages a tighter control of the Afghan-Pakistani border, raising non-military assistance to Islamabad and linking military aid to Pakistan's performance in fighting against extremism. Pakistan could face mounting pressure in the coming days over its role in the 'war on terror'.
Amid the US announcements of military and civilian surge in Afghanistan, one thing is crystal clear that the new US administration is poised to say goodbye to the Bush-era policies.
The US has recently ordered the deployment of 17,000 additional troops in Afghanistan on top of the 38,000 already positioned there. Other countries have about 30,000 soldiers helping the Kabul government in stabilising the country. The US is also planning to send hundreds of civilian officials to Afghanistan as part of the new strategy in a sort of "civilian surge." The focus is gradually shifting from military to political solution of the Afghan crisis.
The new Afghan policy will contain an exit strategy, reconciliation and greater emphasis on economic development. The strategy will also include boosting the size and quality of the Afghan police force for reducing the burden on the US and coalition forces over time.
The growing pressure for an honourable exit strategy from Afghanistan is visible not only in the US corridors of power but also in the capitals of its NATO allies. A key NATO meeting is scheduled in the first week of April and crucial and important discussion regarding Afghanistan is expected.
Talks with the Taliban and the withdrawal option, once considered unfeasible and outrightly rejected by the western countries, are being discussed at the highest policy level. Even a top United Nations envoy has advised US President Obama to start a dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan. "I am favourable to that. Reconciliation is an essential element. But it is important to talk to the people who count," Kai Eide, the U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan told France's Le Monde newspaper.
The strategic game, ensued for control over the natural resources in the region and its transportation routes, is entering into a new phase. Besides grand designs of global powers, regional actors have their own agendas. Afghanistan has turned into a battleground for proxy wars between global and regional actors. It is yet to be seen whether the results of new policies will drift towards more regional and international rivalries or reach some kind of accommodation of each other's genuine strategic interests.
The presence of suspected militant networks and bases in tribal areas and illegal cross-border movement, however, is inviting US and allies' anger and criticism and is putting pressurise on Pakistan for taking effective measures against militancy and extremism.
While narrowing the focus on Pakistani border areas, President Obama recently said that the "destabilising border" between Afghanistan and Pakistan was a big military challenge and the hiding al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives using the region as a staging ground for attacks in Afghanistan were a big problem. "This is going to be a tough nut to crack. But it is not acceptable for us to simply sit back and let safe havens of terrorists plan and plot," he said.
Officials in the USA and the UK did not rule out a 9/11 like attack on its positions emanating from these areas. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown disclosed that the core of al-Qaeda has shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan and UK will take the war against terror "to a new level". He added that al-Qaeda is still active in Afghanistan, but the threat has crossed the border and that over two thirds of the plots threatening the UK were linked to Pakistan.
Recently, the US arranged extensive high-level deliberations between Afghan and Pakistani officials. Besides diplomats and ministry of foreign affairs' highups from US, Afghanistan and Pakistan, high-ranking military and intelligence officials also participated in these deliberations. It was aimed at increasing intelligence-sharing among Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan and boost border surveillance and improving coordination between all the stakeholders concerned. With US assistance, more Torkham-like "coordination centers" are expected to be built on the Pak-Afghan border. The results of these deliberations are still to be seen.
But the recent US announcement about the extension of drone attacks to Balochistan suggests that the US has so far failed to achieve the required level of cooperation from its non-Nato ally.
With the 'war on terror' entering into a critical phase, the US administration seems to be losing faith in the present political setup in Pakistan.
The disturbance and unease, demonstrated by some powerful western quarters during the recent political crisis and triggered by the disqualification of main opposition leaders by the Supreme Court, was worth-seeing. The western powers cannot tolerate instability in Pakistan where they need Pakistan's full attention and cooperation in the 'war against terror.'
Once again the US authorities' reliance on the military establishment has increased in this regard.
The new US administration is facing a dilemma; neither can it ignore the importance of Pakistan's role in the 'war on terror' nor is it satisfied with Islamabad's role in countering and rooting out the al-Qaeda. Also it does not want to push Pakistan to the wall by pressurising it to do more.
After getting disappointed with Pakistan's performance and growing suspicious about some of its "rogue elements" alleged links with militants, the US is reportedly developing its own channels rather than completely relying on Pakistani agencies. The precision rate of drone attacks has significantly increased. It is open secret now that two of Pakistan's air-bases, put under the control of US Special Forces, are being used for attacks in Pakistani border areas.
Apparently, the Obama administration is opting for a regional approach to the Afghan crisis and it envisages some kind of role for Iran, China and India. The US administration has invited Iran to a regional conference on Afghanistan expected to be held later this month. The Indian involvement in Afghan affairs remained one of the critical points of interest for Islamabad. Keeping its interest and potentials in view, the new American administration is asking the Indians to share some of the security related responsibility in Afghanistan besides reconstruction.
On many occasions in the past, Pakistan has formally and informally registered its concerns to US authorities over India's alleged role. Due to this, Washington has reportedly asked India to keep a low profile. Even the Afghan government has been advised by the US to keep its ties with India within certain limits.
Pakistan has not heartedly welcomed the appointment of special envoys by its western allies which excluded Kashmir from their agenda and mandate. Also, some of the countries did not even bother to consult Pakistan in these appointments.
Whether these new policies will bring the desired results or not, the emphasis on political options and favouring the regional approach are steps in right direction.

Development and resistance

People in villages around Kot Addu have been holding people's tribunals or Saths to discuss the issues confronting them and formulating strategies to further their cause
By Ammar Ali Jan
Despite a heroic struggle and morale-boosting victory for the lawyer's movement, there are little expectations for substantial structural changes in our society. At the grassroots level, despite the advent of the "independent" judiciary, there seems little trust in the lower courts and the judiciary is still viewed as part of the oppressive state apparatus which includes the police, the army, bureaucracy etc.
Little attention has been paid by the media to the resistance movements in central and southern Punjab as the peasantry in this region has been in a constant state of revolt. In order to better understand the problems faced in this region and the resistance to them, we reached Kot Addu (Southern Punjab) with a group of students and researchers. We were hosted by the Action Aid, Hirak Foundation and the Lok Party (a local Seraiki nationalist party), all of whom have been active in the local struggles.
The day we reached Kot Addu, we got into a heated argument with the locals over the Long March. Coming from Lahore, and being part of the movement for almost two years, it seemed impossible that any serious activist would question the legitimacy of this movement. However, progressive activists and thinkers from the Seraiki belt dubbed the Long March as a "Punjabi conspiracy against smaller provinces". One activist told me that people in Punjab (Seraikis do not consider themselves Punjabi) were against Zardari because he was a "son of the soil" (Sindhi).
Whether the locals were right in terming the movement a "Punjabi conspiracy" or not is beside the point. There are two important conclusions that have to be drawn from this analysis that you seldom hear in central Punjab. One, that the master narrative created by the media depicting Zardari as universally hated in all of Pakistan does not seem to be true as he continues to enjoy support from the smaller provinces (a fact noticed during the Long March when it got ignored in these provinces). Second, it shows how dangerously the country is fragmented along ethnic and linguistic lines as there is no longer a "national politics" in the country with the "popular" Nawaz Sharif having little base of support in southern Punjab or rural Sindh. This divide could prove to be the biggest challenge for the sustainability of the Pakistani State.
To come back to the issue in Kot Addu that brought us all together. The problems in the area are a result of the neo-liberal agenda of 'development' sponsored by international donors. The proposed re-aligning of a barrage and creation of water reservoirs built by the World Bank will result in flooding in the adjoining areas, destroying fields and forcing people to leave their lands. These projects have also been a disaster for the natural environment but such is the development discourse that the international donors remain insensitive to living beings.
There is precedence for such developmental projects in the region that have ruined the lives of the locals. Development projects in Chashma and Taunsa have resulted in massive flooding and water logging in the adjoining areas, ruining the livelihood of thousands in the process. All those families are being forced to live in camps around their devastated fields.
Internationally, such models of development have had similar results. If we look at Latin America, this neo-liberal onslaught has been extremely detrimental for indigenous populations like those in Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador etc. At the same time, resistance movements against this anti-people development have given rise to new forces that are now implementing an alternative model of development which is more sensitivity towards the locals as well as the environment.
The Seraiki belt is also witnessing a rebellion that is steeped in its local culture. It revolves around Sath, or a People's tribunal on the water issues. Such Saths have been formed as a result of the work done by local progressive groups in the region. These tribunals meet every month to discuss the issues confronting them and formulating strategies to further their cause. These tribunals have been able to bring the communities together to jointly struggle for their cause. In Chashma and Taunsa, these Saths remain an integral part of their resistance. Despite being thrown out of their fields, the peasants in the region have been regularly organising themselves against the international donors through these tribunals and once a consensus is reached, the resolution becomes binding on everyone.
Visiting one of these Saths in the villages around Kot Addu was a memorable experience. Those who had been wronged by the system and had been denied justice by the courts were now formulating alternative models to resolve their issues. Everyone was encouraged to come up to the mike and speak about their issues. Such an exercise has helped give voice and confidence to thousands who once felt that no one had the time to listen to their grievances. One important feature of this gathering was the large turnout of women from this conservative belt. In fact, as has been witnessed in Okara, the women seemed far more aggressive than the men and were extremely vocal against local politicians.
Representatives of the irrigation department were also present on the occasion and were grilled by the locals for all the broken promises of the government. It was decided in the end that the peasants would continue to organise demonstrations and rallies until the government accepts their demands. If this tactic fails, the tribunal decided to stage a sit-in in front of the Supreme Court, asking CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry to take suo motu notice to stop these projects. This would be a huge test for the newly restored Supreme Court to meet the expectations of the general public which helped restore it.
One reason why such forms of resistance and alternative set-up of courts is coming into existence is because of the dissatisfaction and resentment against the State apparatus. In this region, there are no hospitals, schools, infrastructure, jobs opportunities or industry created by the State. Hence, you only see the coercive arm of the State (Police, Army) in action in order to maintain "law and order". However, the State refuses to shoulder the many other responsibilities in order to create a sense of loyalty amongst the citizenry. In fact, while we were there, it was announced that the retired army officers have been allotted 13000 acres of land in Muzaffargarh. This will require the displacement of thousands of peasants who have been working on these fields for decades.
Such examples reflect the complete insensitivity of the Pakistani State towards its citizenry and its complete subservience to the global development philosophy. The resistance by local groups against the high-handedness of the State may prove to be its biggest challenge.

Need for a U-turn

Pakistan needs to re-orient its economic change strategy and bring the state back into pro-active action

By Zubair Faisal Abbasi
The underlying economic structure of any economy is of immense significance. Whether the structure is based on industrial manufacturing capability backed by a well-functioning financial and education system or not determines a large portion of success and failure of an economy. What kind of manufacturers it produces for foreign and domestic trade is profoundly important too. This is the crux of political economy of industrial and trade policy which goes beyond the 'export-led growth' mantra of the Ministry of Commerce in Pakistan.
Dani Rodik, a brilliant economist based in Harvard, while emphasising the importance of manufacturing capability strengthened with export growth and export diversification argues that "what you exports does matter." It does matter whether a country exports potato chips or computer chips. The point is that a successful trade policy has to work in line with the industrial development objective enshrined in a well thought-out industrial policy.
In Pakistan, the reality of economic strategies is perching on an inverse logic. In Pakistan, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2007-08, the over-arching principles of economic change are embedded in Washington Consensus approach claiming privatisation, stabilisation, and liberalisation as ideal panacea. It further claims that Pakistan does not intend to re-discover industrial policy.
Perhaps, economic managers of Pakistan want to prove that the economic development route of the UK and the USA as well as of the late industrialises in East Asia who staged a development miracle was wrong. They must have first liberalised their economies with the state taking a back seat and then see the "invisible hand" churning out "development" through increased competition in markets. In fact, the now-dominant economic managers in Pakistan believe that "planning and coordination" is less superior a strategy as compared to "market and competition."
The results of this economic policy are interesting. While the average tariff has been reduced from 77 percent in 1985 to 17 percent in 2004 and around 10-12 percent now, the share of Pakistan's world exports actually fell from 0.16 percent in 1990 to 0.15 percent in 2004. In addition, the growth of the manufacturing component of GNP has also declined from 6.9 percent in 2002-03 to 5.4 percent in 2007-08, which is showing further decline. These results show that industrial decline in Pakistan actually started much before the current global financial decline. Historical data also suggests that the output growth in manufacturing, in terms of annual averages, was 15.7 percent in 1950-60 and 13.4 percent in 1960-70, which declined to 4.5 percent in the years 1990-01.
Taking note of such strategies, Prof. Deepak Nayyar, has recently argued that economies are like springs. Hard springs (developed economies) when compressed with openness and cut throat competition, bounce back while soft springs (less developed economies) lose their strength and do not bounce back. Is Pakistan proving to be a soft spring? Answering this question may not be too difficult. However, in any case, the elected democratic government should try to avoid being a soft spring pressed too hard with liberalisation, privatisation, and neo-liberal type stabilisation. The solution lies in industrial policy aided by a strategic trade policy, which develops a framework of selective regional and global integration and local industrial capability.
Looking at from this angle, the issue is that the state of Pakistan needs to come back with economic planning for structural transformation of the economy. The planning should be able to develop a coherent industrial policy, which identifies the priority sectors and facilitates the development of relevant industries. The need is to identify those industries, which can have wide effects on the economy and shift gears of the whole economy, rather than a single industry.
In the last trade policy 2007-08, it was promised that industrial cluster development will be encouraged along with reducing the cost of doing business and creating a better business climate so that poverty eradication takes place. These are noble promises; however these ideals are placed in trade policy while most of these must have been part of national industrial development strategy, which the economic managers of Pakistan have simply refused even to initiate. What matters is that industrial development does not emerge automatically from general manipulations of tariffs, tax cuts, and subsidies. In fact, the industrial development, which has successfully reduced poverty in East Asia, China, and India, has emerged from industrial development, planning and coordination aided by strategic trade policies.
This is a historical fact that all of the now-developed countries have used, both the infant industry protection and promotion policies, to economically develop and transform their economy from agrarian to an industrial economic structure in their catch-up periods. In fact, they industrialised their agriculture sector as well. With the resultant productivity growth, while managing efficiency-equity concerns, they could reduce poverty. Pakistan needs to learn some lessons about "how to govern growth and poverty" with industrial and trade policies from the now-developed countries.
In Pakistan, in the absence of an industrial policy, large-scale manufacturing has recorded an overall negative growth as shown by the data from Federal Bureau of Statistics. Press reports show that overall data for July-Dec 2008-09 depicts a decrease of 4.72 percent over July-Dec 2007-08. Some analysts claim that the decrease in large-scale manufacturing is due to increase in interest rate and power outages, which tend to increase the cost of production. This may be partially true. Partially, in the sense that such analysis does not explain the institutional environment in which the industrial crisis has actually developed. In fact, the energy crisis in itself is a demise of industrial capability and infrastructure in Pakistan. Some enlightened analysts have argued that the decline in effectiveness of the state apparatus, especially the economic bureaucracy in terms of developing vision, establishing coordination mechanisms and accountable institutional arrangements have precipitated the industrial decline. This decline negatively affects the external trade sector, which cannot capture diversified markets with diversified products.
Interestingly, in one of the addresses at The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, (FPCCI) the Secretary Commerce had announced that the Ministry of Commerce and FPCCI would be partners and not clients. This is a noble announcement and must be appreciated. At the same time, it must be realised that the state has to be sufficiently autonomous and sufficiently efficient so that it is not captured by special interests and can execute an equity-efficiency based public policy agenda.
One can learn from others in this direction. For example, the export promotion organisation in South Korea played a central role in making the Export Oriented Industrialisation (not export led growth which plagues Pakistan) a success story. Under the state and private sector arrangement, the protection and subsidisation was very closely monitored by the state. Monthly reporting from industry to the government was one of the key features. Peter Evans calls this feature as "embedded autonomy" of the state institutions meaning that they were autonomous but at the same time embedded in the private sector organisations so that the state could provide administrative guidance and remove information asymmetries needed for business success.
Another key aspect was that the state could control waste of capital accumulation by comprador class and make productive investments in the priority sectors a reality. In the words of Robert Wade, East Asians created "simulated markets" (as opposed to free-markets) and governed them. No doubt, it requires an efficient, effective, and reasonably honest economic bureaucracy. Pakistan sufficiently lacks a viable administrative infrastructure and is trying to plug the hole of economic waste through de-regulation and liberalisation. Recent researches, however, argue that wholesale liberalisation and de-regulation is neither a question nor answer to the trade and industry related problems of developing countries.
While Pakistan has announced that the next trade policy will be for three years, most of the critics are reluctant to accept the long-term positive effects of such steps. These are at best non-issues, which do not deserve to be headlines. What is required is to develop both the trade and industrial policy jointly with the help of Planning Commission of Pakistan and bring the hometown of neo-liberalism -- the Ministry of Finance -- on board. The case in point is that the financial system should serve the purposes of industrial development. Interestingly, Pakistan could witness during the last one decade a skewed kind of growth. The financial sector could grow at the rate of around 12-14 percent while industry at around 3-5 percent and agriculture sector at 2-3 percent. These trends necessitate that the economic managers come out of the delirium that services sector such as financial service can take the economy on a long-term growth path. A recent report by the State Bank of Pakistan says services sectors sustainability expands as a result of growth in industrial and manufacturing sector development.
Therefore, the economic managers of Pakistan should try to learn a couple of lessons. First, that an effective and efficient economic bureaucracy and "Weberianness" is required to establish industrial and trade development in developing countries. Second, that trade policy should serve the industrial development objectives of the state and be in line with industrial strategy. Third, that accumulation of capital should not be handed out (privatised) to the comprador class for waste but should be re-invested in a productive way. Last but not least, the state should know that a Washington Consensus based economic growth strategy is not a high road to growth. The state has to come back. Public sector development programmes should be on the forefront to tackle the global recession related issues as well as ensure Pakistan's long-term industrial development capability.
Keynesian economics has many solutions, which are now again being adopted by the US and the UK. Prof Fredrick I Nixon had argued many years ago that neo-liberalism (Washington Consensus) is neither irreversible not irreplaceable. Developed and powerful economies will change the strategies whenever they need. The current "growth stimulus" packages doling out billions of dollars in Europe, China, and the UK, and the US show that the state can come to rescue whenever it is required. It can help induce growth through re-allocation of capital beyond the dictates of free-market and free trade philosophy.
Looking at the past and the present of economic change strategies in Pakistan as well as in other countries, Pakistan's (isolated) trade policy will be inadequate to tackle the issues of export diversification and a sizable increase in both the volume and value of exports. Pakistan needs to re-orient its economic change strategy and bring the state back into pro-active action.

Time for diplomacy

Pakistan needs to speed up regional initiatives not only for economic and social progress, but also for the sake of peace
By Sibtain Raza Khan
Globalisation has increasingly made trade diplomacy a significant feature in bilateral, regional and multilateral economic relations. Pakistan's present economic situation requires economic leadership to take the initiatives to accelerate bilateral as well as regional trade diplomacy which has not only the potential to bring economic prosperity but also peace in the region.
Bilateralism and regionalism got currency in trade relations after the deadlock between developed North and developing South over a number of issues under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime. Subsequently, State actors got busy in inking bilateral as well as regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which have given desired results as the world has witnessed an upward graph in bilateral along with regional trade among trading partners, whereas Pakistan has been facing a mounting trade deficit for many years. For instance, during the first eight months (July-February) of the current fiscal year (2008-09), exports are $12.1 billion, whereas imports are $23.7 billion. Such a huge trade deficit is forcing Pakistan to re-invent its trade policy.
Without a doubt, the European Union (EU), the US and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are the major trading partners of Pakistan, however, South Asian, and Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) countries have immense potential for regional trade cooperation which needs to be channelised. The leadership of these regions should try to find common grounds in regional trade cooperation and diversify their economic relations in goods, services, labour and investment. They need to follow the suit of the EU and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional economic integration model for progress and prosperity of their people.
South Asian states, nonetheless, have a regional free trade agreement of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAFTA) and the trade in goods is underway since Jan 2006, yet the member states need to cut down their respective sensitive lists and broaden their horizons in services and investment too. In this regard, the World Bank report has rightly pointed out, "to maintain huge sensitive lists mean actually denying required market access to members. Reduction or elimination of sensitive lists under SAFTA would give boost to bilateral along with regional trade in South Asia."
Similarly, the ECO member states signed the Economic Cooperation Organisation Trade Agreement (ECOTA) to enhance trade and investment in the ECO region and agreed to bring down tariff and non tariff barriers to encourage regional trade. However, American involvement in the region and the war on terror have eclipsed the immense potential of regional economic cooperation. However, in the recent tenth summit meeting of ECO in Tehran, the leaders of ECO reaffirmed their determination to establish free trade area in ECO region by 2015 as a priority task.
Indeed, there are some pre-requisite steps like political will, market access, liberal policies and improvement in infrastructure that need to be taken by regional state actors to accelerate regional economic cooperation. Economist Dr. Tahir A. Loqman stressed that the government requires stimulating economic diplomacy to come out from this economic crisis and that focus should be on regional cooperation.
While talking on regional trade diplomacy, Haroon Ahmed Khan, a political analyst, is of the view that Pakistan needs to speed up regional economic initiatives with South Asian and ECO countries, as this cooperation is essential not only for economic and social progress, but also development and stability in the region. Economist Dr. Jameel S. Peimani said that in economic diplomacy, the private sector must also be engaged in the decision-making process as the people in this sector know where to invest and when to sell their goods and services.
Nasir Janjua, a textile importer, maintained that Pakistan has all the ingredients like material resources, a large population, a strategic location and access to regional market via land and open sea but the issue is the government needs to launch an effective trade diplomacy campaign along with the private sector as economic issues are complex and it needs skilled personal. Kamal Nadeem, a rice exporter, said that like India and China, Pakistan should also provide tax relief and recompense its exporters in different ways to make this sector competitive.
Apart from this, the representatives of exporter associations are of the view that load shedding, inflationary cost of input, cross subsidies, protective duties, costly bank credit at home along with tariff and non tariff barriers abroad are the main stumbling blocks in exports. They stressed that the government should provide them with a safety net of facilities like availability of raw material, uninterrupted electricity supply and credit facility at minimum interest rate.
It is the need of the hour that the government should re-invent its ministry of commerce and export-friendly trade policies need to be adopted. Though institutional infrastructure is present under the umbrella of ministry of commerce, yet sincere and coordinated efforts are required for productive trade diplomacy. The issues of tariff as well as non-tariff barriers have to be addressed promptly in order to seek better market access. Moreover, corrupt trade officials at home and abroad must be brought to justice.
Certainly, the government of Pakistan while addressing the issues at home is required to launch proactive trade diplomacy at regional level. Pakistani embassies abroad should be equipped with necessary statistics, publicity material and skilled and resourceful staff. Exhibition of Pakistani goods need to be arranged in the big cities of regional trade partners in order to improve the country's business image abroad as well as to draw the attention of foreign buyers. Efficient and competent trade envoys need to be deputed who have the capability to handle trade related issues like tariff and non-tariff barrier, quality standards, intellectual property rights and resolve dispute settlements amicably in the best national interests.
In this regard, "trade not aid" approach should be adopted and our envoys need to fight for market access for Pakistani goods. Our top leadership needs to develop close interpersonal contacts with their counterparts like the ASEAN leadership who usually manage economic diplomacy through close interpersonal contacts. Furthermore, ASEAN model's Track I and Track II initiatives should also be employed for successful regional trade diplomacy.
Apart from this, a successful mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination is also required for effective economic diplomacy. Along with government channels, private sector should also be engaged in trade diplomacy at different levels especially at agenda setting. Actually, trade diplomacy requires all domestic and international stakeholders to be taken on board for achievements of objectives. The solution of Pakistan's economic problems lies in successful regional trade diplomacy not in aid and allied politics.

The silent menace

Sexual harassment is far more prevalent in the workplace than most people realise, faced across all income levels and all occupations
By Madiha Mujahid
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that is explicitly or implicitly exploitative, intimidating or derogatory and unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, resulting in the creation of an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment, which is often referred to as "Eve-teasing" in Pakistan includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances, unsolicited requests for sexual favours or other unwanted verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature made against another person. In fact, in the broadest sense, any conduct of a sexual nature that makes an employee uncomfortable has the potential to be classified as sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is far more prevalent in the workplace than most people realise and this widespread difficulty is faced across all income levels and all occupations in Pakistan, much like all other countries. No woman is free of this predicament, whether it is a labourer or a high-powered legislator in the National Assembly. The causes of sexual harassment at work can be complicated, and are often deeply rooted in social interaction and workplace politics.
In most instances, supervisors and employers can grow accustomed to the power they have over their employees. This can lead to an abuse of authority, which is owing to the fact that the nature of work relationships can quite often be intimate and intense and employees are dependant on each other for teamwork and support, and are dependant on their supervisor's approval for opportunities and career success.
A supervisor who is guilty of sexual harassment may only offer a subordinate a promotion or other honours in exchange for sexual favours or deny them job benefits if his inappropriate advances are rebuffed. Similarly, submission to or rejection of such conduct might be made a term or condition of a person's job, pay or career.
Working in close proximity can sometimes blur the professional boundaries delineating proper and improper workplace conduct and lead people to overstep this line. Politics can be a catalyst, and problems caused by poor management, workplace bullying, frustration, and job insecurity, etc., can create hostile environments that leak over into working relationships.
Sexual harassment leads to the establishment of a hostile work environment, which is a form of harassment that is less blatant and harder to define. Such a work environment is created by unwelcome sexual behaviour or behaviour directed at an employee because of that employee's sex that is offensive, uncomfortable and threatening and that adversely affects that employee's ability to do his or her job.
No occupation is immune from sexual harassment; however, reports of harassment of women are higher in fields that have traditionally excluded them. Men still hold on to most of the workplace supervisory positions, and they are the ones who decide whether or not a complaint of sexual harassment is justified. Because of this, if a woman complains about the man who is troubling her, for the most part, she is the one who will be considered the problem.
Gender discrimination also plays a role in this phenomenon, as women in Pakistan are not regarded as being equal to men in terms of their capabilities and prowess in their jobs. Women are stereotyped into traditional roles and are not accorded their due rights, based simply on their gender. Common claims of gender discrimination consist of unequal pay or unequal promotions.
The sexual harassment of women is a serious cause for concern as it causes both physical and emotional anguish to these beleaguered women. The more serious the nature of the harassment, the more harm will be inflicted on these victims. It also impacts their financial well-being as they might start taking time off from work to avoid dealing with the problem, or in more serious cases, leave their jobs altogether. It dissuades women from working in male-dominated occupations and unfortunately restricts women to the more women-oriented occupation, such as teaching, home based self-employment, working in factories that stitch clothes, etc. This in turn severely hinders the scope of the personal development and economic contribution of these women.
In Pakistan, a number of steps are being taken to counter this difficulty faced by the multitude of workingwomen in Pakistan. Humera Alwani, an MPA from Sindh belonging to the PPP, drafted the workplace sexual harassment bill in 2006 after a well publicised incident in the Sindh assembly in which a male member sent a note to a female member of the opposition which resulted in a furore after the recipient, Shazia Marri, claimed that it contained a number of indecencies. Alwani states that this is what spurred her into action and compelled her to think seriously about the bill, for if women were not even safe in the higher echelons of power, than their plight would clearly be much worse in other occupations.
According to her, this bill is mandatory, "Women need a secure work place where they can participate in efforts for their economic well-being and prosperity." The bill imposes stern warnings, demotions, terminations and fines on those found guilty of harassing women at work in Sindh, the second most populous of Pakistan's four provinces. In the most serious cases, sexual assault and repeat offences, perpetrators could face jail time as well as fines. Non-payment of fines can lead to imprisonment of up to 30 days. The law also recommends that the person who was harassed receive half the fine as compensation. Alwani was of the view that the other three provinces of the country should also draft similar legislation to curtail the issue of the sexual harassment of women in the workplace.
Another very important step that has been taken to combat this problem is the formation of Aasha, (Alliance Against Sexual Harassment) that came into being through the collaboration of a number of civil society organisations which joined forces with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Pakistan's Ministry of Women Development to initiate this pioneering organisation. The members of Aasha comprise of Action Aid Pakistan, Bedari, Hawwa Associates, Mehergarh, Interactive Resource Centre (IRC) and PILER. The basic principle behind the setting up of this organisation is to create awareness about this problem and to facilitate both the public and private sector in achieving a society free of sexual harassment of women.
Unfortunately in Pakistan, most employers display a surprisingly casual attitude towards this rampant problem plaguing most of the female workers. Such a course of action is highly unproductive, as all employers must take affirmative action to prevent harassment of these vulnerable females in the workplace. One good way to do so would be to encourage the female employees who might be the victim of any such persecution to come forth, confident in the belief that their claims would not only receive a fair hearing, but would also be redressed in the most expedient manner possible. In this regard, it then becomes the binding responsibility of every employer or supervisor to any complaint of sexual harassment seriously and to take the required appropriate action immediately. Additionally, it must be ensured that employees who bring charges do not face any kind of retaliation. This can be made possible through the provision of the strictest assurance of confidentiality to any female who registers a complaint against her perpetrator.
Employers should also lay down strict guidelines proclaiming that any person found guilty of any such behaviour that is deemed as sexual harassment would face strict disciplinary action or the termination of their services altogether. This is because perpetrators of sexual harassment need to understand that their lewd and unprofessional conduct would neither go unobserved nor unpunished. It is essential that all persons in an organisation, from the bottom of the hierarchy to the top, must be aware of the fact that their personal demeanour must be unimpeachable if they wish to continue with their employment.

The 'containerisation' of Pakistan

By Kaleem Omar
The events of the last couple of weeks suggest that Pakistan should perhaps be re-named "Containeristan". I say this because an estimated 10,000 containers were used by the provincial and federal governments to block roads in various parts of the country, especially Punjab, in order to prevent the 'Long March' from reaching Islamabad and staging a dharna on Constitution Avenue, also known to wags as the "Amended Constitution Avenue."
You may wonder why I've put the words 'Long March' within inverted commas. The reason is that I've always had trouble describing a procession of cars, vans, buses and trucks as a 'Long March'. By definition, a Long March means people proceeding on foot over long distances, as the communists did in China back in the 1930s. That really was a 'Long March', extending over a distance of some 6,000 miles and lasting more than three years. But people driving in air-conditioned Pajeros or other similar vehicles from Lahore to Islamabad or from Peshawar to Constitution Avenue is not exactly my idea of a 'Long March'.
One could legitimately call such a journey a 'Long Drive', but to call it a 'Long March' strains the bounds of credibility and common sense. Not for nothing is it said that common sense is anything but common in this country. There have even been occasions in the past when political activists travelling from Karachi to Islamabad by train have called their journey a 'Long March' -- a formulation which conjures up surrealistic visions of hordes of people marching up and down the corridors of the Tezgaam or the Khyber Mail.
A corollary to this sort of usage is newspaper reports stating that some provincial politician or the other has 'air-dashed' from, say, Quetta to Islamabad for urgent talks with the federal government aimed at resolving the latest political crisis -- political crises being things that are never in short supply in this country. Such 'air-dashes' suggest bizarre images of the politician in question dashing up and down the aisle of the plane as it wings its way to Islamabad.
Leaving such lexical peculiarities aside, let us take a closer look at some of the implications of this month's 'containerisation' of Pakistan. For one thing, there was the cost of the exercise. The containers used in the exercise are all owned by foreign shipping companies and can be rented for an average cost of Rs 7,500 per day for a 20-foot container and an average of Rs 15,000 per day for a 40-foot container, those being the two sizes most commonly in use throughout the world.
Assuming that the containers requisitioned by the provincial and federal governments to block the roads were a 50/50 mix of 20-footers and 40-footers, the rent payable to the shipping companies for 10,000 containers works out to Rs 11,250 per container for one day. This, in turn, works out to Rs 112.5 million per day for 10,000 containers. Assuming that the containers were requisitioned for a period of, say, five days (that is to say, for a couple of days before the 'Long March', the day of the 'Long March' itself, and for a couple of days after the 'Long March'), the total rental payable to the shipping companies comes to Rs 562.5 million, or more than half-a-billion rupees.
That's one side of the coin. The other side of the coin -- and there is always another side -- has to do with the question of whether the shipping companies that own the containers can reasonably expect to be paid the rental charges owed to them by the provincial and federal governments?
The shipping companies couldn't stop the government agencies from requisitioning the containers, for the simple reason that the law enforcement agencies have the coercive power of the state on their side. But this certainly should not mean that the agencies can requisition the containers for free. International law requires the agencies to pay the rent that is due on the containers, as in the case of any other party renting containers.
So are the shipping companies likely to get the rent for their containers? If past experience is anything to go by, the answer to this question is probably no. And even if they do get paid, it may be years before they see the colour of their money -- governmental red-tape in such matters being what it is.
If they don't get paid, or if there is an inordinate delay in their getting paid, the likelihood is that foreign shipping companies will refuse to bring their vessels to Pakistan. Where would that leave us given the fact that over 90 per cent of Pakistan's import and export cargo is carried by foreign shipping lines?
We can hardly switch to using vessels belonging to the state-owned Pakistan National Shipping Corporation. For one thing, PNSC only has 14 ships, and even some of those are in such a pathetic condition that it's a wonder that they even manage to stay afloat. For another, PNSC seems to be so busy putting out fires in its head office building and repairing the damage caused by the fires that it hardly has any time to run its shipping operation.
But the problems resulting from using containers to block the roads doesn't end here by any means. For one thing, it has been reported that most of the containers were full of goods meant for the export market or perishable produce meant for the domestic market. Most of the perishable produce has probably gone bad by now, while the ships that were meant to carry the containers full of export goods have got fed up of waiting for the containers to arrive at Karachi Port and have sailed away by now.
What is going to be the reaction of the foreign buyers of the export goods to this disgraceful state of affairs? One can just imagine a foreign buyer saying, "Where's the container carrying the goods I bought?" and being told by a sheepish shipping agent that the container in question had been requisitioned by the provincial and federal governments in Pakistan to block a road in Kamoke, say, or in Sohawa. The buyer's response to this piece of intelligence is likely to be unprintable, to say nothing of the fact that it's not likely to earn Pakistan much goodwill in export markets.
And who is going to compensate the owners of the export goods and perishable produce? Or will they, too, have to twiddle their thumbs for years waiting for their money?
To compound the problem, there is no provision in the government's budget for paying compensation to the owners of the goods or to the people whose trucks were requisitioned to transport the container to the barricade points. So even if, by some miracle, the government agrees to compensate them, where's the money going to come from?
Given all the unsavoury ramifications of this whole imbroglio, we can only console ourselves with the thought that every cloud has a silver lining. In this particular case, the silver lining has to do with the fact that the 'Long March' didn't need to go all the way to Islamabad. By the time it got to Gujranwala, word came down from Islamabad that the federal government had caved in and restored Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and all the other so-called "non-functional" judges to their offices.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani's early-morning TV announcement to this effect was greeted by scenes of jubilation across the country.

Cricket's saviour is back

Is it a bird? No. Is it a drone? No. Is it a flying mullah? No. Is it a UFO? No. It is Dr Nasim Ashraf. Yes, the dodgy doctor is back on a mission to save the world and, in the bargain, the World Cup for Pakistan. Allah be praised for his bounties. While we have the good fortune to have him in our midst, the president should send him to fix Swat, FATA, Balochistan and the war on terror. The good doctor can fix it all. There is nothing he can't fix. He doesn't come cheap, but then he plays in the super league. Unable any more to tell the difference between US dollars and the Pak Rupee, the good doctor freely mixes currencies. On arrival here, he has wasted no time to inform a stunned nation used to tall stories that he left $2.7 billion in PCB's bursting kitty when he was shown the gate after about 24 months of merrymaking. This is palpably false. In reality there was only Rs1.6 billion when Ejaz Butt took over in October 2008. Rupees, not dollars, please note. The good doctor, who inherited Rs3.6 billion when he manoeuvred Shehryar Khan's ouster, went on a wanton spending spree and blew away millions. He not only brought PCB to its knees in terms of finances but Pakistan's share of revenues from the Champions Trophy, the World Cup, the 20/20 and the West Indies and South African tours were also squandered. From about 304 people in Shehryar's time, he took this to 1,137 largely useless slobs. Included were 260 players on retainers for reasons that remain a mystery. When he resigned hours after Musharraf on Aug 18, 2008, because he too was an honourable man, he left behind a mess that is still being sorted out. Government auditors, who have the unenviable task of finding out where the doctor blew away huge sums of money, are holding their heads in disbelief and confusion. From whatever records that they have obtained – PCB insiders say that Mr Shafqat Hussain Naghmi, the doctor's blue-eyed terrier who recently appeared before the Senate Committee on Cricket dressed in the robes of a saint complete with a halo, burned or ordered files with incriminating evidence to be burned in the tandoors (bread ovens) at Gaddafi Stadium. Whether Saint Naghmi and his cohorts then danced around the pyre is not known. What is known, though, is that he was hired as COO with an annual remuneration of Rs5,400,000 (you figure out how much that is), as well as a "Consultant," and before being shoved out had pocketed Rs10.744 million, including a "bonus" of Rs2.3 million. His personal file has never been found or produced, in spite of the AG office's numerous requests. The Senate Committee on Cricket, for reasons that defy logic, thought it best to praise Mr Naghmi and rub the current PCB Chairman and CEO in the mud during many hearings. The same committee repeatedly called Dr Ashraf to appear before it, orders that the doctor treated with contempt. Dr Ashraf's recent claim that the Senate "endorsed" his policies is thus a terrible lie.As the AG's office has struggled to trace the missing funds, it has reportedly prepared an 87-point memo for the period 2003-2008, which is mind blowing. In Dr Ashraf's reign alone, losses to GOP ran into astronomical figures. Insurance premium for the Aussies series that never materialised cost PCB Rs43 million. Irregular expenditures without proper tenders and doubtful procurement cost Rs6.3m. Annual bonus, wholly unjustified, set PCB back by Rs87.23 million. Wasteful expenditure cost another Rs10.6 million, carrying extra persons to South Africa over the 20 allowed, cost $62,399 and unrecovered payments to various players, another $14 million. A useless VICON mechanical bowling system imported from overseas completely unauthorised cost over Rs100 million, the good doctor blew away another GBP 250,000 for a "Oval Cricket Relief Trust," and unauthorised loss to PCB of Rs11.56 million on purchasing gen sets, irregular payments to retired cricketers of Rs21.75 million, non-recovery of Rs20.5 million for legal expenses in the case of Muhammad Asif vs. Muhammad Yousaf (!), irregular contract appointments of GBP 282,000, purchase of Kookaburra balls for Rs9.3 million, non-recovery of Rs1.2 million discount from PCB's travel agents, further non-recovery of dues of Rs800,000 and $141,466, expenses of Rs168 million without any record of vouchers, etc., Rs65 million on "development" works in 33 sports grounds–and so on and so on. The above is just a quarter of the 87 points of irregularities. The losses, irregularities, violation of laid down procedures and mad decisions have cost PCB losses of millions of rupees, most of which happen in the 24 months he was the undisputed czar of cricket.There was widespread speculation that he would be charged and brought to book for these violations, as would his rogue team, but of course, this being Pakistan, no such thing happened. The system of greased corruption is so insidious and so difficult to unearth that any efforts are destined to fail, unless someone is determined to clean everything up. Those who play with public funds extend considerable favours and perks to many others around them, and in turn are supported and helped when the need arises. It is a wonderful system, and people like Dr Ashraf whose track record with PCB and earlier with the now-demised NCHD reads like Al Capone's memoirs, are past masters at this game. This is why, rather than hide his head in shame well away from Pakistan, the game's great saviour thinks nothing of heading home from the USA and announcing to us all his noble intentions of saving his beloved country. It is likely, given the way things are done here, that he may cook up a lucrative mission-of-mercy slot for himself and start a whirlwind international tour of all cricket-playing nations to persuade them to play here. Such a mission would be doomed to fail even before Dr Ashraf can board his favourite airline British Airways and repose in the luxury of the First Class he is so used to. But, seriously, we all know such capers have happened before and can happen again.Pakistani cricket is just about dead, gasping its last breath and anyone close by can hear the death rattle. Were the good doctor Nasim Ashraf allowed to give it a miracle mouth-to-mouth, one can predict without too much trouble that it would indeed be the kiss of death and hasten the end. One can only plead with Islamabad to put Dr Ashraf on the next flight out to wherever he does his medical mumbo jumbo. We could all use some good news. By Masood Hasan

To live our dreams

Unlikely though it may seem, an American president has sought to weave the interests and aspirations of Pakistan's people into his country's grim encounter with the terrorist elements that operate in our tribal belt. When President Barack Obama unveiled his country's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday, there was a general sense of approval from the official circles. We surely did not respond to him in the same cynical way that Bush would always provoke. And Obama's pronunciation of Pakistan is so much better. So, how does this relate to the assertion made by so many of our political leaders and media critics that Pakistan has unwisely plugged itself into a war that is exclusively America's? Incidentally, on the same day – a nine-hour time difference notwithstanding – that Obama was addressing the world in Washington D.C. we had a terrifying suicide attack on a mosque on Peshawar-Torkham Highway, killing more than 75 'namazis' and injuring more than one hundred. Saturday's newspapers, thus, had a choice in deciding their banner headlines. We did not need this reminder of what suicide bombers are doing to us and not just in the regions that border Afghanistan. The very thought that a Friday congregation that included security personnel would be the target of a terrorist is unbearable. But we have, unfortunately, been witness to a string of such mind-boggling atrocities. As for what Obama has said about Pakistan, leaving aside his pronouncements about the situation in Afghanistan and the measures that America is initiating on that front, let me quote these words: "The people of Pakistan want the same things that we want: an end to terror, access to basic services, the opportunity to live their dreams, and the security that can only come with the rule of law". In a sense, there is nothing profound in this observation. These aspirations have always been present to us and have been repeatedly expressed at different levels. The real issue is: what are we doing about it? Obama also said: "Make no mistake: Al Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within." Well, this point may be a little harder to digest for many of us. Yet, the fact that our polity is afflicted with predicaments that have put our survival at stake is incontrovertible. Indeed, the cancer of religious extremism and terrorism is not the only disease with which we suffer. Our crises are manifold. To be able to understand these crises and to devise a proper strategy to deal with them is the big challenge. Yes, the inspiring victory of the lawyers' movement, with its somewhat ambivalent political and 'ideological' undertones, has provided us with a silver lining in these dark times. But the challenges that we face are surging like a storm and our capacity to deal with them, irrespective of the waywardness of the present government, seems very limited. Again, the American example of how it reviewed its strategy relating to its war against terrorism in this region can be instructive. Whether or not this new strategy explores any new grounds or projects any creative ideas, the point is that the exercise was thorough and painstaking. Conclusions were drawn from an intensive debate that involved high functionaries and area experts and think tanks. When have we been so serious and sincere about an issue that we need to resolve?I have drifted in this direction because initially I was aiming to write my column on an apparently minor incident, an incident that should not surprise us in terms of our knowledge of what is almost a matter of routine in our society. And what is that incident?On Thursday, a Geo reporting team, along with a team of the Board of Secondary Education, Karachi, raided an unauthorised examination centre where students were found cheating in their Matric examination with the help of their teachers and parents. You would say: what is so surprising about it because we have always known that this happens, and at all levels of our educational system. Our provincial governments, education being their domain, have known about it. Our educational authorities, even when not directly involved, have always condoned this practice. (Do I need to mention the case of the daughter of a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in this context?) Finally, the parents seem to be widely implicated in this practice. Should one call it unIslamic, like suicide bombings? Well, these and similar practices that betray our lack of morality and principles do constitute a kind of suicide bombing. What we are killing are not human beings, with blood splashed all over. We are killing their minds and their dreams. We are killing the future of this country. If this continues, even the billions that we can get from the Americans and the west and even the armed forces that we can bolster with the latest technologies will not matter. So, the big question is: what can our governments achieve in terms of our larger strategic goals when they do not appear to be able to provide basic education to all our children and conduct examinations that are honest and credible? We know how coercive our governments can be when, for instance, they want to prevent the lawyers or the civil society activist to stage a peaceful demonstration. We know about the incredible power that some political outfits have acquired to deal with their adversaries. But nobody has the ability or will to stop cheating in our examinations. Obviously, they don't genuinely understand the priorities of a nation that is struggling for its survival. Every one talks about education being a high priority. Or health. Or employment. What it is like on the ground is so heartbreaking that perhaps it is their defence against insanity that they don't want to look at it. This may be one reason our high functionaries keep the windows of their shining Land Cruisers shaded. This is not to question the commitment of a large number of citizens who, either in their official or private capacities, are striving to improve the delivery of educational and health services. We do have, in our society, an impetus for change and social renewal. That is why the lawyers' movement was a watershed in our lives. It was founded on morality and on the concept of rule of law. By the way, even the Charter of Democracy talks about the induction of merit in our system. To conclude, let me repeat my lament about the de-intellectualisation of the Pakistani society. We are not building our moral and intellectual resources to be able to even begin our journey for progress and prosperity. Our economic crisis may be averted with generous foreign assistance, but what about this intellectual meltdown?By Ghazi Salahuddin

The daily tutorial on arrogance management

Two years ago Pakistan threw up a unique movement, it was liberal, secular, democratic and plural, it engaged the nation and unlike other battles being fought in Pakistan this one's weapons were concepts. The lawyer's movement, as it came to be known, has been criticised on many fronts, for being used, no hijacked, by political parties for their own gain, first by the PPP to negotiate political space with a military director and then by the PML-N who lacked an election slogan. Once the PPP moved on and the movement's goals clashed with the party's leaderships personal goals, the accusation was that it had been taken over by rightist forces. If truth be told the politicians have much to thank the lawyers for, but it is not in their nature to do so. The movement set the tone for our political forces to do the right thing and our parliamentarians to exert themselves and do something that will bring real change. There was no need for them to hide behind fear now, the undoable had been done!Through all this we saw the growth, development and contribution of the media and what became known as civil society. The media was the darling of those opposing the government of the day. I have heard those who today veil threats of censorship in calls for self-regulation wax lyrical about how the media's contribution to democracy was invaluable. As the media began to play a more assertive and investigative role, the once much derided civil society moved out of their comfort zones to be recognised as a force where "people power defeated state power". So here we are two years later, the movement saw the second reinstatement of the chief justice, and while everyone claimed his restoration as his own nobody stopped to think for a minute as to who the real victor was. Sadly our politicians do not take time out from their personal agendas to pause and think which in turn may lead them to the realisation that it was Right that won. Principle won over compromise, expediency, wrong, un-constitutionalism, brute force and more. There was a need to do the right thing and once it was done the nation let out a collective sigh. The stock market soared; suggesting political stability and consequently confidence in the market. Even the cynics were smiling. If ever hope had been rekindled it was now. And it was something to build on. But before you could say chief justice the squabbling had started again.The PPP spent a year in office before it bowed to public pressure and did what it said was not possible, and then unleashed a wave of unconvincing propaganda as to its intent. Showing no embarrassment, they did not stand on any point of principle. This old-style politics will not wash today. Politicians may have selective memory but we certainly do not and if there is a case of amnesia we can always relay on media archives. The judges were not the Musharraf government's only legacy; there is an empty treasury, an untenable security situation, internal political strife and a very unpopular war that must be dealt with.A year in government and nothing to show for it other than bickering, fighting and jostling for power. In all this education, health, security, the rule of law, poverty, unemployment and more have been ignored. Suicide bombings increased, and so did drone attacks. And it became glaringly apparent that we lacked any kind of credible and effective leadership. Everyone was running around doing their own thing, policy was missing in action and no one took ownership of what passed for policy. The buck having been continually passed around really needed to stop somewhere.Where are the so-called secular liberal forces? They seem to be missing in action. And this is brought home by the story of a young foreign correspondent who fell victim to a teargas shell near the Lahore High Court on March 15 and found, when he regained consciousness, that he had been rescued and revived not by his friend Zammurad Khan of the secular liberal PPP but by Mr Liaquat Baloch of the right wing Jamat-i-Islami. Yet, a few hours later when the announcement was made by the prime minister to restore the judges, Mr Zammurad Khan, hitherto on the wrong side of the tear gassing, was seen taking a posse of PPP workers to the chief justice's house. This is not leadership. This is fraud, a fraud on the people. Government spokespersons sound so angry all the time. Who are they angry with? Topping the list it appears is the media. But the media is only holding them to the same account that it held the previous government to. At that time it was hailed as a champion of democracy by the same angry lot. If they weren't so busy accusing others they might actually see that are vacating the political space their party should be occupying. They are allowing right wing and extremist forces to occupy it in their stead. Swat has been surrendered, what next?A lawyer friend, Nadeem Ahmed, sent me the following email: "I have always believed that if, God forbid, this nation were to fail one day, then, contrary to what is generally believed, it would not be because of people's intolerance but purely because of excessive tolerance, tolerance bordering on pathetic cowardice, tolerance that is a product of just a whimpering, shameless attempt to persist in biological survival, regardless of the fact that this survival takes place amid a dark and ghostly multitude of ugly injustices, abuse and exploitation that have been haunting this nation for the last sixty years. It is this kind of crouching keenness to survive at the biological level of the animal kingdom that makes it impossible for men and nations and their leaders to stand tall with honour and confidence against injustice in all forms and shapes."Fortunately amongst those seeking to survive at the biological level, there are those too who stand tall. We need them to come forward now and lead the way in this very difficult time and let the likes of Maulana Fazalur Rahman be a reminder of a bygone era.By Ayesha Tammy Haq


Bush's 'war on terror' is now Obama's 'overseas contingency operation', or OCO. Bush's 'war on terror' wasn't going well neither is Obama's OCO. Bush had asked Lieutenant-General Douglas Lute, his 'war czar' for the war in Afghanistan-Pakistan, to recommend a new strategy. The Lute strategy has been sitting on shelves collecting dust. General David Petraeus, the 10th commander of the US Central Command, was then asked to come up with his own strategy. According to the New York Times recommendations given to the White House by General David Petraeus and Lieutenant-General Douglas Lute "call for expanding US operations outside Pakistan's tribal districts."The Petraeus strategy in Iraq had called for a troop surge and that troop surge did work. The Petraeus strategy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, or Af-Pak, isn't much different; a troop surge followed by negotiating with the Taliban from a position of strength, elimination of Al Qaeda and then an exit strategy.On January 20, Barack Hussein Obama II took over the White House as the 44th president of the United States of America. On January 22, the new president brought in a new United States special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, ambassador Richard Holbrooke. The new special envoy was asked to design a new Af-Pak strategy. Apparently, that wasn't much to talk about either.In February, the new president brought in Bruce Riedel -- a 29-year CIA veteran, author of 'Al Qaeda strikes back' and a counterterrorism expert -- to chair another committee and overhaul America's Af-Pak strategy. The Riedel review has now recommended: • Successfully shutting down the Pakistani safe haven for extremists • In 2009-2010 the Taliban's momentum must be reversed in Afghanistan • The international community must work with Pakistan to disrupt the threats to security along Pakistan's western border • This new strategy of focusing on our core goal -- to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually destroy extremists and their safe havens within both nationsOCO seems to have two immediate targets: Af-Pak and Iran. And, the route to these two targets passes through Russia (plus countries under Russian influence). The first prong is to establish alternative supply routes -- beyond Chamman and Khyber Pass -- in order to reduce Pakistan's leverage. And, the second prong is to reconcile with Russia, engage Iran and, at the same time, use Russia to force Iran rollback its nuclear ambitions.The US-Russia dialogue now revolves around five major issues: one, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I (set to expire on December 5, 2009). Two, the issue of NATO expansion. Three, Ballistic Missile Defence (10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic). Four, Iran's rollback. Five, the Manas Air Base in Bishkek (the airbase supports US military operations in Afghanistan). Intriguingly, the Obama administration is showing flexibility on all of these five issues --the kind of flexibility that hasn't been seen before. Obama is willing to abandon Ukraine and Georgia (keep them out of NATO) and avoid deploying interceptor missiles in Poland in return for alternative supply routes through Russia and Russian-influenced territory plus a verifiable rollback in Iran. In essence, Obama's new focus is Af-Pak (plus Iran). Within Af-Pak, the real theatre of war now seems to be moving southwards more towards the Spin Buldak-Kandahar-Quetta corridor. OCO itself stands on two legs; a military column and an economic limb (the classic 'carrot-and-stick' policy). Petraeus has been given his additional combat brigades and Pakistan is being charmed with an offer of $1.5 billion a year in non-military aid (subject to Congressional approval). America is in Af-Pak not to win a war but to neutralise all threats to the mainland US that may in the future originate from within Af-Pak. The Taliban are no direct threat to the mainland, Al Qaeda is. America is here to defeat Al Qaeda not the Taliban.

Curing cancer

Cancers are difficult to treat. They are caused by rogue cells that exhibit destructive behaviour inside the body and if not checked can – and do – kill the body that hosts them. Radio and chemotherapy sometimes alleviate the symptoms but for all our skill and advancement in the medical sciences we have yet to find a cure for cancer. We can operate on it, cut it out, or create a therapeutic environment in which it goes into remission but an actual cure eludes us. Curing the cancer described by President Obama as he detailed the new Af-Pak strategy is going to be extremely difficult. The difficulty lies in the fact that the disease is already widely disseminated and does not have a single locus. It is also not a single type of cancer, but several. Taking Al Qaeda first – it is a global entity not confined only to the region we live in, and it as much a set of loosely defined ideals rooted in an equally loosely defined idea of a global caliphate as it is a corporate body. It is not an organization which holds annual board meetings and presents its accounts to shareholders in any conventional sense. Neither is it an organization that is susceptible to traditional military intervention – ideas respond poorly to missile strikes. Identifying those parts of it which may be treated (or cut out) is not easy either – there is now an 'old' Al Qaeda and a 'young' – Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are increasingly yesterday's men, with Mehsud, Haqqani and Al Libi as the new generation; a reality acknowledged in the bounty-attached hit list issued by the US this week. Cutting out the primary tumours still leaves you with the secondaries. Turning now to the tangible – civilian aid – Obama has talked about there being 'no blank cheque' for Pakistan which implies a process of accountability. As every donor nation that has ever given a rupee to Pakistan has discovered, this is a vast black hole into which money may be poured for eons without having any discernible effect. It is corrupt at every level and those who stand to gain from the latest windfall of ready cash will already be devising ways in which it can be diverted to their personal use. This is an entirely different form of cancer, more akin to leukaemia than a localized tumour. This is the cancer in the blood of the nation that has never been susceptible to treatment and which has always debilitated us. We will be delighted to have your money Mr Obama but if it is going to do what you want it to do – strengthen civil institutions and parliamentary democracy - then it needs to come hedged about with the most stringent of safeguards. We are entering a period of transactional relationship with which the bureaucratic establishment is unlikely to be cooperative, particularly if oversight is part of the transaction.The third cancerous element that the Af-Pak strategy seeks to address is that of the polity of both nations. One is a narco-state nominally ruled by the mayor of Kabul and the other is a feudal autocracy with a cosmetic parliament attached for reasons of modesty. Neither is exactly healthy ground for the regeneration of civil institutions. As consolation, the Af-Pak strategy has moved on from the fruitless quest for the Holy Grail of democracy in Afghanistan and recognized it for what it is – eternally quarrelsome with itself and unimpressed with western democratic models that get in the way of time-honoured traditions such as the blood feud and wholesale brigandry. Pakistan does at least have some semblance of civil institutions that could, with a fair wind and the development of a new cadre of younger politicals not tied to the feudal tradition; begin to push back the cancer that currently eats away at it. Prime Minister Gilani has recently acknowledged the problems we face because successive governments had concentrated on combating external threats at the cost of ignoring the internal threat – the cancer – that was spreading meanwhile inside. President Obama has talked of one cancer where there are many. Everybody is agreed in recognizing the disease and its symptoms, but treatment is going to have to be multi-disciplinary and may require what doctors call 'heroic' surgery. In general terms we can but welcome the Obama plans. It really is a way of 'doing it differently', it really is the 'change' that he spoke of during his campaign for the worlds top job. For it to work we have to do it differently as well. Not something we have ever excelled at in the past. For Obama constant change is here to stay, whereas for us real change, the change that leads to growth and maturity, has always been avoided – a consequence of which may be a slow and painful death from cancer.

Mar 27, 2009

The Quran and the west

Quantum note
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
After a century of concerted efforts to discredit hadith literature as a veritable source of Islam, the Western academia has now diverted its full attention to the Noble Quran. There are, literally, thousands of new graduate students working on various aspects of the Quran at different Western universities. Numerous books are being published on the Quran and there is an increasing number of graduate and undergraduate courses in the department of religious studies specifically devoted to the Book held sacred by one-fourth of humanity. This new attention to the Quran is neither accidental nor incidental; it is also not a well-planned conspiracy; it is simply the most logical outcome of Western attitudes towards Islam and its source material.This new attention to the Quran is not without affinities to certain recent global events which have strained the relationships between Muslims and the West in general. Like the Crusades and the Turkish Wars of the previous centuries, which produced an enormous interest in the Quran in Western Christendom, current global tensions have generated a new round of scrutiny of the Quran by Western thinkers, clergy and academia. These new tensions have also created a certain degree of urgency (and funding) to study the Quran, which is now being seen as the very root of the "Muslim problem," not only by certain European and American politicians but also by some scholars and religious leaders.This perceived problem comes, more specifically, from the Quranic verses on Jihad, which have attracted the attention of many influential politicians and various think-tanks. As a result of fear, misunderstanding, and sheer ignorance, "terrorism" is also being linked to the Quran. Certain Muslim governments have been forced to "expunge" many verses dealing with Jihad from the educational curricula. The vigorous military, political, economic and cultural campaign now underway has, however, not remained in the domain of politics; it has its academic counterpart, just as the Orientalism of yesteryears was not merely an academic exercise.The Quran and the West, one of the first books on the Quran published in the West after the events of Sept 11, 2001, is a case in point. The author, Kenneth Cragg, who "for six decades has been recognised and praised as one of the West's most gifted interpreters of Islam," is pre-occupied with the relevance of the Quran to the events of that day, which he takes for granted as being the work of Muslims who were "inspired by the Quran." While both these premises are doubtful, what is relevant here is the sheer force of these events, leading Western scholars and religious leaders like Cragg to look into the Quran to discover the root of the "inner crisis in the liability of Islam." In his book Cragg oscillates between condemning the "harsh belligerence in the Quran, a strong pugnacity on behalf of faith," and what he calls its "gentler side." Despite his counsel to Westerners to respect the Quran and Muslims, Cragg's own highly charged book is filled with overt and covert insults and disparaging remarks. His book is primarily an attempt to sift and separate apart from the Book of Allah portions that he calls the "acceptable Quran"--the one that has no political content, no theme under the title of Jihad save the jihad bi'l-nafs, a Quran with no role in the shaping of society, for "the political power-exercise only came at all for the briefer Medinan period and had been firmly excluded throughout the defining Meccan years when only the ever prior preaching task was given [to the Prophet]." He does this by making a sharp distinction between the Makkan and Medinan period of the Prophet's life as well Makkan and Medinan surahs--this time in a much harsher manner than he had done in his 1971 work, The Event of the Quran: Islam and Its Scripture. This is, by no means, an isolated example of the Western academic attitude towards the Quran.Historically, the current Western academic attitudes can be traced back to the work of the nineteenth Orientalists and, through them, to the five centuries of discourse on the Quran by Christian polemists-cum-philologists who appeared on the Western academic scene in the fourteenth century, when the Church Council of Vienna, held in 1312, announced the establishment of chairs in Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac at Paris, Oxford, Bologna, Avignon, and Salamanca. It is the vast store of Orientalism from which most of the current Western discourse on the Quran derives its kinetic pressure and material resources, although "today an Orientalist is less likely to call himself an Orientalist than he was almost any time up to World War II," as Edward Said had noted in 1978.The contemporary academic discourse on the Quran has re-cloaked itself in new garb in order to distinguish itself from Orientalism proper, but it is unreasonable to assume that any scholarly tradition can dissociated itself from the core values, assumptions and premises of its mother-tradition. Thus, while the current academic writings on Islam are no more the sole dominion of the erstwhile Orientalist, the study of Islam as a subject alongside other religions in the relatively new departments of religious studies, as well as in the older and well-established area study departments and departments of languages and literature at numerous British, European and North American universities, has umbilical links with the Orientalism of yesteryears. A general survey of the contemporary Western academic study of the Quran makes it abundantly clear that it cannot rid itself of the very foundation on which it stands, because, as Edward Said noted, "despite its failures, its lamentable jargon, its scarcely concealed racism, its paper-thin intellectual apparatus, Orientalism [continues to] flourish."