May 3, 2009

Whatever happened to ‘Islamic Socialism’?

The rise of Islamic Marxism lie in the rise of socialist in Iran during the progressive Nation Front government of Mohammad Mossadeq.
Traditional Islamic scholars have always declared Socialists to be ‘atheists.’ But many progressive Muslims have insisted that the teachings of Islam are compatible with principles of equality and the redistribution of wealth.
Some of these Muslim intellectuals called themselves ‘Islamic Socialists.’
Refusing to ally themselves with the capitalist-democracies of the West and cautious about openly supporting the USSR/communism due to the conservative nature of their respective societies, Islamic Socialists attempted to come up with a ‘third way.’
This third way was a more ‘spiritual form of Socialism’ combined with a ‘non-egoistic’ brand of secular capitalism.
One of the leading Islamic Socialist movements included ‘Arab Socialism.’ Developed in Syria, Arab Socialism combined traditional Arab Nationalism with Socialism.
Its strongest political expression was the Ba’ath Socialist Party.
Arab Socialists believed that only a socialist system of property and development could overcome the social and economic legacy of colonialism in the Arab world. Soon after the 1950s, The Ba’ath Party came into power in Syria and Iraq, whereas in Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser stamped his own version of Arab Socialism.
Other active advocates of Arab Socialism were Col. Qaddafi of Libya, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Algeria’s National Liberation Front (NLF) that fought and won a war of independence against the French.With the defeat of Egypt and Syria by Israel in the 1967 war, the influence of Arab Socialism started to decline.
Arab Socialists were also opposed by Islamist organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri was once a member).
Inspired by Arab Socialism, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) introduced Pakistan’s version of Islamic Socialism in 1967.
The PPP described its brand of Socialism as an ideology based on the ‘socialist ideals of Islam.’
The PPP's Islamic Socialism was opposed by an alliance of right-wing parties led by the Jamaat-i-Islami that used the slogan of ‘Nizam-i-Mustapha.’ This slogan and ‘philosophy’ was eventually adopted by General Zia-ul-Haq after he toppled the Bhutto regime in 1977.
There has also been a form of Islamic Socialism that was called ‘Islamic Marxism.’
Urban guerrilla organisations like Iran’s Mohjahedin-i-Khalq, Afghanistan’s Peoples Democratic Party (that ruled Afghanistan between 1978 and 1992), and influential scholars like Ali Shariati have all been described as ‘Islamic Marxists.’
The roots of Islamic Marxism lie in the rise of socialists in Iran during the progressive National Front government of Mohammad Mossadeq.
Mossadeq was toppled in 1953 in a royalist coup staged by the Iranian armed forces that were supported by Western intelligence agencies when Mossadeq nationalised British and American oil companies in Iran.
Marxists that were supporting Mossadeq accused the Iranian clergy of not doing much to help Mossadeq, even though the clergy too was anti-Shah.

Disillusioned by the clergy’s role, many young Islamic radicals joined hands with Marxists to form the Mojahedin-i-Khalq in 1968.
The organisation claimed to be a group of ‘Muslim mujahids’ who studied Marxism and found it to be very close to what Islam preaches regarding equality, egalitarianism and pro-proletariat revolutionary action.
The Mojahiden-i-Khalq managed to attract thousands of supporters, becoming the leading anti-Shah group in Iran.It also worked with the clergy led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and former Mossadeq supporter, Dr. Ali Shariati who, like the Mojaheden-i-Khalq, was also interpreting Marxism through Islamic symbolism.
Historians suggest that much of the groundwork for the 1979 Iranian Revolution was done by Mojahiden-i-Khalq and Shariati, but as the revolution drew nearer, the clergy started attacking Khalq for being ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing.’
‘Islamic Marxism’ reached a peak in Iran during the revolution but declined when hundreds of Khalq members were executed by the post-Shah Islamic regime.
The post-Cold War period saw most Islamic Socialist forces vanquished.
However, interestingly, many former Islamic Socialists claim that much of today’s Islamic radicalism is actually a consequence of Islamic Socialism.
They say such an outcome was expected the moment progressive Muslim activists started devising a ‘third way’ by fusing Islam with Socialism. Because rather than a ‘third way,’ Islamic Socialism became an apologist ideology for secular individuals in conservative Islamic societies. It had to consistently give ground to orthodox Islamists to prove its Islamic credentials.
But when they allied themselves with the radical Islamists against capitalism, they were ‘betrayed’ and vanquished by their Islamist allies, most of whom were being funded by the West and Saudi Arabia during the Cold War.
Also, Islamic Socialists’ hotchpotch economic policies stunted the development of the industrial bourgeoisie and thus strengthened the reactionary classes who inadvertently handed over to the Islamists the image of being the champions of Islamic nationalism.
Furthermore, the Islamic Socialists’ attempts to win over the orthodox Islamists and the clergy were futile because the clergy and the Islamists were mostly tied to the propertied classes.
This attempt also failed on a cultural level because the clergy was too obsessed with such issues as alcohol, veiling, cinema and music.
Islamic Socialism also attempted to ‘read into progressive ideas in the Qu’ran’ but this trend was soon hijacked by the Islamists who, according to Islamic Socialists, ‘distorted holy texts to legitimise feudalism, orthodoxy, and women’s oppression.’
Unfortunately, the masses were more likely to be influenced by the reactionary clergy than by the progressive interpreters of Islam, rending Islamic Socialism dead by the mid-1980s.

Whistle blowers vs weasels

By Anjum Niaz
'It’s for you to go and dig around,' a mealy-mouthed former power horse tells me when I ask for more information. His bare boned two sentences of a 'deal' negotiated between Pakistan Air Force and the Chinese who have just sold us their anti-aircraft weaponry gets me all excited.
The punch line: a son of a VVIP is involved, antes up my interest. 'Come on, tell me more,' I fish for details. But my informant isn’t biting. 'Ask your sources,' he says tantalisingly. 'Sources?' I roll my eyes in exasperation 'excuse me where do I begin – at the air force mess?' Convinced my friend knows a lot more than he’s willing to let out, I later commit this embryo to ink hoping some ‘God fearing’ guy may one day breathe life into it after he reads my column. I draw a blank. Meanwhile, winter comes and goes. Then suddenly last week there’s a boom! The ‘God fearing guy’ I had dreamt about, and waited for, but never got, descends out of the blue. He spills the beans (sorry for this cliché but it’s a good fit) to an English-language newspaper, not this one, and goes on record.
Why did Air Marshal Saadat Kaleem wait for full three years after he retired as Air Force Chief to speak up?You and I know perfectly well that the devil’s in the details. And the details can only be had from the man/woman at the top embroiled in the deal. Air Chief Kaleem alleges he was pressured by President Musharraf who summoned him at the Army House to do business with the Chinese. When he opposed the purchase, Musharraf snubbed him by saying, 'What is the problem with you?' according to the newspaper report. Why has Kaleem chosen to unzip his mouth now? There has to be a reason. Perhaps he wants to preempt an inquiry about the deal incriminating him for the purchase? He has therefore conveniently passed the buck to the former president. In any case, the deal is history and the deed is done. But who got the kickbacks is now the question? Kaleem does not mention Musharraf as the direct beneficiary but a hint is all over the newspaper story. Don’t also forget our friend the son of a VVIP sitting in at the bargaining table. I know his name but can’t mention it. No, I’m not a weasel, but an ‘Uninformed Person’ (UP) because the truth will never come out unless and until it comes directly from the horse’s mouth (oops one more cliché!). Maybe when there’s a seismic shift in power and the current set of VVIPs get thrown off their Pak-1 ark, the son will either rise or drown in the deluge of accountability.
People just don’t blow the whistle unless there’s something good for them to be had. In America, giving out inside information carries a hefty price tag. The corporate media involved in the war of ratings is known to shell out a mini-fortune to lay their hands on scoops that make for breaking news. The New York Times recently bagged five Pulitzers - American journalism's most sought after accolade. One of them for breaking news reporting on its coverage of the prostitution scandal that took down New York governor Eliot Spitzer. Just hold on. If you think the Times had assigned a reporter to stalk Spitzer because the editors suddenly got suspicious of their governor’s secret sex life with a hooker, then think again. There was someone who gave Times the lead. And by Jove, that someone must have been rewarded richly. Get the picture? By the way, this Spitzer chap has bounced back since the day he faced the cameras along with his spouse and said sorry to her and Charlie’s aunt and uncle. You’ll see his face on the latest cover of Newsweek. Blazing a new road to self recrimination he admits his weakness for sex with a prostitute whom he paid thousands of dollars 'We succumb to temptations that we know are wrong and foolish when we do it and then in hindsight we say, ‘How could I have?’'
I’ll tell Spitzer how. It’s what you call in men ‘middle age mania’! Do you agree? You don’t have to sprawl on a therapist’s couch to discover yourself. 'There's got to be some element to its being a result of tension and release. And that builds up,' Spitzer known as the ‘Sheriff of Wall Street’ because he nailed corporate warlords, says in his self-defence. Let me pare it down further to just 3 letters: s,e, x. Another Pulitzer bagged by the Times for investigative journalism went to David Barstow's piece that revealed how retired generals who served as radio and television analysts pushed for war in Iraq while receiving undisclosed payments from defence contractors that benefited from the conflict. Again, Barstow must have an excellent whistle blower who fed him all the information.
Money must have changed hands. But this is not to take the credit away from Barstow who doggedly followed the trail once he was put there.
Pakistan today would be a different country if we had whistle blowers squeal on the multi-million kickbacks our politicians, generals, admirals and air marshals have received over the years. While Islamabad has been oozing out stories galore of guys – Pakistanis and foreign – who have made a killing from time to time, not a single person (other than the navy chief Mansurul Haq) got hauled up by our accountability courts. The twitter by the high society wallahs always skirted around names involved in deals ranging from tanks, Dassault mirage aircrafts and nuclear Agosta submarines. The press, including yours truly, would go around collecting crumbs that in the end would turn stale and had to be chucked. Ah, those were surreal times. The money trail never led to any footprints; Just scandals in the air. Dawn News broke a story last year about the misuse of his office by the Naval Chief Admiral Afzal Tahir. The video is posted on YouTube. Tahir who retired October last had put Navy personnel to guard his property which was disputed. Was Tahir asked for an explanation? Are you kidding? Instead he was given a royal send off!Whistle blowers and investigative journalism, two parts of a whole, have sadly never matured in Pakistan. It’s not the journalists who are the weasels; it’s our leaders because they don’t like to expose others for fear that their own mega millions rattling in their cupboards may come out. Or we lack the wherewithal (read money) to whistle up the blowers necessary to produce ‘breaking news.’

Adrift amidst the ‘fragile’ few

By Ardeshir Cowasjee
The government of Pakistan, comprising 80-odd self-adulators who serve but themselves, has been rated as 'very fragile' by the president of the sole superpower, Barack Obama. Fragile: “Liable to break or be broken; brittle; easily destroyed.” Such is the condition of a government cobbled together with the participation of our friends and well-wishers, a compilation and combination of political parties out to do in those of us in the cold. Fragile: Of persons: 'Liable to err or fall into sin.' Such are the 80-odd chosen few who form the fragile cabinet presided over by a fragile Asif Ali Zardari, our accidental president, who, it must never be forgotten, rules and misrules courtesy of the ghost of his assassinated wife to whom the Pakistani crown had been bequeathed by the 2007 government of the USA, the puppet master of the world. This new US government, it seems, is now unhappy with the George W. Bush-backed Zardari, which does not bode well for the president as when the US decided it had had enough of Gen Pervez Musharraf he was swiftly ‘eliminated’. The sole institution of the country that functions with a good deal of freedom and to which we, the people, should be indebted as whatever we know about what may be happening in the country emanates from it, is the media, both press and electronic. Given the fragility that afflicts those selected by the ballot box to govern, the media must zealously guard itself against breaking or being broken — it is our lifeline to reality — or to as near reality as anything in this country can be. And for this freedom, we must thank the man termed a dictator, Musharraf, who did what his preceding ‘democrats’ could or would not do. He gave the press as much freedom as it could digest and his media policies have allowed us as many channels on our televisions as we have ministers in our fragile government. That the freedom allowed to the electronic media is misused on occasion by certain eccentric unthinking commentators must not be a deterrent as it is up to the channel moguls to learn to exercise self-control rather than have control imposed upon them. At a recent seminar there was discussion as to how the Pakistani media can be made ‘good,’ in other words, how it can be controlled. Luckily, many amongst us agreed that there must not be any restrictions imposed, give the media time, and it will settle itself. Obviously viewers are taking exception to the wild views aired by the wild and woolly, which is a good thing, as it will hasten the sorting out process. Freedom is all very well, but it must be tempered by good sense, particularly when it reaches a largely illiterate public liable to be easily influenced by outrageously rabid utterances spewed forth by brainwashed twits. The press, at least as far as the English-language newspapers are concerned, is in control and provides us with enough news coverage for us not to have to rush to the Internet to find out what is happening within our midst and in the outer world. Few holds are barred when reporting on how we are perceived by commentators from abroad, whether such comments be realistic or unrealistic. Our homegrown commentators express their divergent views, with which we may or may not agree — we have the luxury of being able to sift out for ourselves what can be taken as the truth when it comes to news reporting or as valid comment when it comes to commentators. There was not much sifting to be done when perusing the reports on what the world’s strongest man had to say about his grave concerns about the state of Pakistan, concerns centred on the fragility of the 'civilian government' which can neither deliver what it is supposed to deliver nor 'gain the support and loyalty of their people”. We can only hope that he knows something that we do not know as he praised the “military side' for having finally come round to the realisation that the danger to Pakistan lurks not on its borders with India but within its own country. If this be a fact, full marks to the military for finally latching on to the reality of the situation and for deciding to take part in the civil war now being waged up north, on the borders with Afghanistan and further down towards the country’s capital. The question still exists, though, that after 60-plus years of indoctrination of both men and officers about the threat of the traditional enemy, India, has the army really seen the light, or is it merely succumbing to some very serious pressure being exerted upon it by the US, which pressure Obama referred to as “encouragement” which he said will be continued? Is it capable of such a swift change of mindset? Can it wage a sustained civil war opposing its own people, admittedly fanatics who give no quarter? For those who have been wondering aloud whether President Obama has sent out signals that the US may be well thinking of cutting its losses and handing over the country once more to the army, this can only be wishful thinking. Under the present circumstances with a civil war on its hands, how can it be expected to run the country? It has more than enough to swallow, motivating itself to take on the Taliban and to wipe out of its mind the old belief that India is about to pounce at any moment. There is little doubt that the nation as a whole has lost whatever patience it may have had with the Zardari dispensation, and that the sympathy vote that brought him and his party into power has evaporated. Then we have the economy. The government and its spokespeople may tell us at length that things are improving that we are on the up, but all signs are that we are on the down. The ‘friends’ of Pakistan, to whom the begging bowl has been held out, are all wary of those known as Pakistan’s ‘leaders’; they are not fools, they know well their reputations and their murky backgrounds. They are not going to easily hand out the goodies — what they give are but commitments. American money is naturally given for America’s own purposes. Zardari will be in Washington soon. All he can do is hope he can hold his own when he and his fellow travellers face the American president and his tough-talking team.

Institutions and religion

By Kunwar Idris
Is Pakistan a failing or a failed state? This question is being asked the world over. Folks at home contemplate the same question in more direct terms: is the country going to break up once again?
A non-committal answer, somewhat like ‘teetering on the brink’, makes everyone get on with business as usual as best as they can. The interests of those abroad and those at home, however, are poles apart.
On behalf of the world, Hillary Clinton is worried about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of advancing terrorists. The worry at home is less grim but more poignant. People running away from violence in Swat, Dir, Buner and other battlegrounds wait and wonder when they will be able to return home and send their children to school.
The American fear and the misery of the displaced families at home both arise from the inefficiency and indifference of the institutions of the state. Individual ambition and wrong policies have diminished our institutions but they still exist and sometimes make their existence felt as they are deeply rooted in history. Pakistan, therefore, can still pull back from the brink if our political leaders and parties even now concede the fundamental truth that countries are sustained by institutions, howsoever weak, and not by individuals, howsoever strong. It is for reasons of institutional support that the world at large and the people at home draw comfort from Gen Kayani’s promise of ‘victory against terror and militancy at all costs’ but cynically dismiss the debate in parliament as mere bluff and bluster. The army as an institution has suffered the least damage and has also been able to withstand political onslaught and recover from the humiliation of defeat.
Unlike the armed forces, the political, legislative administrative and judicial institutions are no longer feared or respected. When Prime Minister Gilani feels persuaded to declare that ‘we in parliament are no puppets’ he surely knows that the people think they are. And when an outraged minister, Babar Awan, asserts that the law of Pakistan reigns supreme in Swat despite the special regulation, he knows full well that it does not. Gunmen do not read the law; they see it enforced — but nobody is doing that. Pakistan remains exposed to all kinds of internal stresses and foreign blackmail because its political leadership has not been able to make certain essential decisions relating to the structure of the government and its policies. All institutions, the Supreme Court included, appear transitory and divided. For more than a year we had a chief justice in office and another riding the crest on the streets.After a long and costly tussle it was agreed by all to restore the parliamentary character of the constitution but the National Assembly after a long, desultory session adjourned without forming an all-party committee which was to review Musharraf’s 17th Amendment that had made it presidential in all but name.
Thus while the parliament is said to be supreme and the prime minister, so to say, is the chief executive, to the people at home and governments abroad it is President Zardari who really matters.
It has also been agreed among all parties that the provinces must get greater autonomy and a new formula is said to have been devised for the distribution of federal revenues among the provinces. But in more than a year not even a tentative move has been seen in that direction. The future shape of the local government and the restoration of the district/divisional administration as it stood before Musharraf disbanded it also remain subject to speculation or haphazard action.
Greater provincial autonomy will surely have a calming effect on the anger and insurgency in Balochistan where time is running out and in fact has run out if Governor Magsi is not being an alarmist. And the political agents in the tribal areas with their enhanced power and prestige can revive the hierarchy of the elders that has broken down under the pressure of armed militants and their doctrinal patrons. The best chance of bringing peace back to the tribal areas and Malakand Division (Swat, Dir, Buner, Chitral, etc.) lies in dealing with the tribes through their own elders following their own traditional codes and treaties with the government — not under special regulations.
The puritanical social values imposed by the militant clerics would give way to normal conservative but tolerant and hospitable behaviour once the tribal hierarchy regains its lost authority. The army can kill or drive away the infiltrating fighters but only an autonomous political service would be able to organise the tribes to exclude the fanatical mullahs from the power structure.
Besides reinstating the rule of power vesting in institutions and not in individuals, parliament and the Supreme Court must undertake a review of the relationship between state and religion. It is hard to deny that violent campaigns for Sharia directly flow from the constitutional provisions that make Islam the state religion and also bind the state to bring all laws ‘in conformity with the injunctions of Islam’. Maulana Sufi Mohammad can justifiably claim to be fulfilling a responsibility that is imposed by the constitution on all citizens.
The path to terror in Swat and elsewhere is blazed by the constitution of Pakistan itself. In Khyber Agency, rival lashkars are pitched against each other with their competing interpretations of Islamic injunctions. Some 35 years ago the parliament of Pakistan determined that the Ahmadiyya community was not Muslim. Is it not poetic justice that Sufi Mohammad should now determine that the lawmakers of Pakistan, one and all, are infidels?
Come to think of it, all parties claiming to be religious are, in fact, sectarian and the Taliban is the most violent manifestation of this. In Pakistan’s political context, faith has proved more divisive than unifying. It is a different matter though of not much concern to Sufi Mohammad that the vast majority does not agree with him on what those injunctions are. Sunnis belonging to what is commonly known as the Barelvi school and Shias (who are believed to be one-fifth of the population) openly denounce Sufi Mohammad’s campaign and accuse the government of abject surrender to his blackmail. As fanatics make a desperate bid to capture state power and Pakistan’s religious parties and divines watch helplessly, can Hillary Clinton be faulted for imagining that one day, and soon, men like Fazlullah, Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Omar might be controlling Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal?

Darul Qaza set up in Malakand

Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Tariq Pervez Khan has nominated Justice Ghulam Mohiuddin Malik and Justice Ziauddin Khattak to serve at Darul Qaza in the Malakand division.
The much-awaited announcement was made by NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain at a press conference on Saturday night.
‘The setting up of Darul Qaza is a landmark decision in the history of Malakand and in accordance with the aspiration of the people of the region,’ he said.
A notification to that effect has been issued by the High Court. Both the judges initially appointed under the Provisional Constitution Order on Dec 13, 2007, have been serving as additional judges of the high court. Last year their services were extended for a year.
‘After we have fulfilled the demand of (TNSM chief) Maulana Sufi Mohammad for making the Darul Qaza functional, he should now fulfil his commitment of impressing upon armed groups to lay down their arms,’ Mr Hussain said.
He warned the militants against indulging in violence after this decision, adding that since the signing of the Swat peace agreement on Feb 16 about 190 violations had been made by the militants.
The minister said the two qazis (judges) had been appointed in accordance with the stipulations made by Sufi Mohammad as well as the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation that their physical appearance and conduct should be in accordance with Sharia.
Section 2(1) (c ) of the regulation defines Darul Qaza as ‘appellate or revisional court’ constituted by the NWFP governor under clause (4) of Article 198 of the Constitution.
Article 198(4) provides that each of the high courts may have benches at such other places as the governor may determine on the advice of the cabinet and in consultation with the chief justice of the high court.
The governor had approved the establishment of a circuit bench of the high court in Malakand division, based in Swat, on April 5, 2007.
However, the circuit bench could not be made functional for want of judges and other officials. At present the Peshawar High Court has circuit benches in Abbottabad and Dera Ismail Khan. According to legal experts, Darul Qaza was a circuit bench of the high court, but its nomenclature had been changed in the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation. Mr Hussain said the regulation empowered only the government to nominate qazis for Darul Qaza. He said that two qazis would be posted in the jurisdiction of every police station. Two qazis will work at the tehsil level. There are 47 police stations and 37 tehsils in the division.

In whose interest?

The people of Sindh continue to suffer due to the lack of an institutionalised process for land disposal
By Dr Noman Ahmed
In Karachi and other urban locations, land grabbing has evolved as a firm enterprise. Quasi political groups and others disguised as such can be found flexing their muscles and displaying armed strength in this quest. Major corridors of movement -- such as Super Highway, National Highway, Karachi Northern Bypass and Lyari Expressway -- have become sites of this profane enterprise that is depriving the state and other legal owners of their assets. Many experts are of the view that the weakening of land control mechanisms from the legal and administrative respects has caused anarchy in this sector.
A useful statute in this respect was the Sindh Disposal of Urban Land Ordinance 2002, which was repealed by the previous Sindh Assembly in 2006. Therefore, no institutionalised process for land disposal and grant exists in the province. It has led to widespread adhocism, out of book disposals and clandestine transactions. As the present regime is a politically strong coalition, it will be in the best interest of Karachi and the province to evolve a potent legal and administrative mechanism to protect land reserves.
Land is a finite resource. Sindh, as a province, had considerable reserves of state land that later fell within the limits of urban areas. Historically, this land was considered as an asset. It was carefully utilised for residential, commercial, agricultural, recreational, industrial and other purposes. The outlook has changed considerably. Instead of an asset, land was viewed as a tradable commodity. This gave rise to evolution of a land market that was entirely uncontrolled, discretionary and haywire. In short, nascent market forces determined the utilisation and transaction of land, as opposed to rational public choices. Without realising the social, ecological and even long-term economic consequences, the sale and transaction of land has continued unabated.
The commodification of land has been a direct outcome of the neo-liberal political doctrine that was adopted under the western influence. Donor agencies have been pressurising various government departments to auction land assets, either for retiring existing debts or improving their financial positions. In Sindh, this meant distribution of land following a market-driven approach without long- or short-term planning prescriptions. In many cases, the landuses could not be planned or properly ascertained. Such short sightedness gave rise to unscientific prioritisation of land for sale and development.
Land disposal schemes mostly developed as a clandestine marriage of convenience, rather than a transparent and equal opportunity enterprise. The attempts made in this respect have been severely criticised by the users, media and analysts. Political interest has been one of the prime factors that determined the procedure of land supply. This interest superseded the urban and regional planning considerations, objectives and policies of the administration, fiscal liabilities, and even legal limitations. Whereas the upper tiers of government were largely involved in this process, successive Sindh chief ministers played the key role in land allotment due to the infinite authority vested in their office, as well as the political clout that they enjoyed in the national and provincial politics.
Bypassing the laws, regulations and norms thus became a routine exercise that did not let any land supply mechanism to function. In brief, land parcels were allotted due to political pressure from the influentials / party workers and bullies of various kinds. Political bribes were also given in the form of land. The announcement and cancellation of housing schemes was done on the same basis. Government departments, law enforcing agencies, financial institutions and urban development authorities simply became carriers of orders in that working setup.
Traditionally, existing pattern of land ownership has a direct bearing on its transition in the urban scenario. The clan influences, appropriation and possession of land were the important factors that governed the directions of development. When land was in private ownership under traditional landlords, they lobbied with the public sector officials to devise the development policies / priorities to maximise their benefits. Planning and development of communication schemes, transportation projects and investment in infrastructure schemes were largely manipulated on the same basis. The fringes of large cities are the most important choices in this regard. The north western outskirts of Karachi are one of the main locations where local landlords have traditionally benefited from the growth of the city.
The existing patterns of land supply created a visible disparity between the privileged and non-privileged classes. As mentioned earlier, land was procured, developed and sold through the priorities and conditions laid down by the public sector agencies in liaison with the powerful interest groups. These groups attempted to maximise their respective profits by moulding the decision-making in their favour. Land supply was one such prerogative. Thus, the unprivileged had to fend for themselves in the informal locations as per availability of land. Many negative repercussions have developed in the course. The inner city ring of Karachi between 0-10 km radius has most of the upper income groups residing in the area. Squatters and low-income localities are far away, making the poor to commute long distances to their places of work in dilapidated transport systems.
In the procedures of land development and supply, the distinction between formal and informal sector is swiftly diminishing due to the incapability of the formal sector to control the overall factors that affect land market. The concepts and implementation mechanisms of the public sector have begun accepting the existence of informal sector operations to a considerable extent. This is evident from the fact that evictions of informal settlements have been taken after cautions and the government regularises them in the usual working norms.
De-facto ownership of land is now given due regard in the development operations and is often temporarily recognised. Besides, direct transaction of raw land from the Board of Revenue to the user groups is another citation in this respect where the conventional water tight authority is not extended towards such activities. In fact, the acceptance (at least at the conceptual level) of the incremental housing development proves that the government recognises squatting as an option if it is guided through some basic plan.
Keeping a soft attitude towards land grabbers and violators of law shall only dilute the writ of the government. It will not help any political group or party in the long-term. A rational option is to investigate the trends in a scientific manner, analyse the situation and apply the acquired feedback towards formulation of workable legal and administrative mechanisms for land management. Otherwise, the common people of Karachi and the province shall be the ultimate losers!

Slumdog Urbannaires

We seem to lack innovative ideas to overcome the traffic mess
By Soufia A Siddiqi
It took the students of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) the untimely death of one of their own to spill out onto the streets for protesting against the stupor that Pakistan's policing system seems to be in. It took the death of a college girl in Karachi for most of the country's newspapers to bring the issue of traffic mismanagement to their front pages. These incidents are not the first of their kind. They reinforce the fact that, despite millions being pumped into the development of infrastructure, urban traffic is a growing nightmare. But it is only when it touches a nerve that the government is asked questions that should have been raised long ago.
Consider the Lahore Ring Road Project, started over two decades ago. In 1992, the actual cost of the 77-km six-lane project stood at Rs7 billion. Now, it is touching Rs150 billion. Why? The project has already experienced delays four times due to design changes to cater to the whims of one important personality or the other. Allocated about Rs40 billion already and expecting as much more money in the near future, its construction started only four years ago, the most developed part of which connects the Motorway (M2) to Lahore City through the Bund Road.
The extension of that road leading towards Shahdra is just a turbulent, jolting ride, equivalent to some of the finest engineering in Western amusement park rides. To boot, there are no overhead pedestrian bridges. Many of the deaths caused along this route are tucked away into the inner pages of city news, still others not even reported.
Here is another favourite of the urban planners. The Asian Development Bank (ADB)-sponsored Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System Project (LRMTS) is estimated to cost $2.4 billion for the Green Line. The Orange Line, currently under construction, is estimated at $2.1 billion. The feasibility study of the project alone has already cost the Government of the Punjab Rs768 million. Remarkably, however, no PC-1 can be traced down for this initiative.
According to a 2003 study by Imran and Low, the master plan drawn up by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on Lahore's transportation system in 1992 first envisioned the establishment of the Light Rail Transit system (a predecessor of the LRMTS) by 2010. In nominal terms then, when $1 converted to Rs21.70, the fare by 2010 was estimated to hover at Rs30. Now, the Urban Unit believes it can recover its monumental costs by charging fares as high as Rs120-130 per person in 2009 terms.
In which year the project will be completed is still a mystery! But in the face of crashing purchasing power, inadequate compensation for those whose homes must be razed and public agitation at having to pay even Rs40 on the local bus, just how much deliverance can be expected from this project? It is not just fancy projects that speak of the poor health of urban traffic. According to the Urban Gazette, published by the Urban Unit in Lahore, an estimated 610,000 people travel along the Ferozepur Road, where only 218 buses were reported to be running.
What the Gazette would not tell the average reader is the way these buses race each other, often breaking their side mirrors and windshields; or that the female compartments constitute only a third of a bus, whereas women use buses as frequently as men and usually travel with children; or even that the overhead handrail is too high for women, which is why they generally crowd around the entrance pole. And if the Taliban had a good look at the way male conductors jostle themselves through the women packed into buses, they would not be very pleased. On this occasion, even the women would side with them.
According to the local government, the introduction of 2,400 traffic wardens in Lahore ought to solve the problem. But in a study conducted by this scribe, though lead concentration in blood samples of these traffic wardens do not exceed the internationally prescribed limit of 10 microgram / deciliter, current levels range from 6-7; this too, after only two years in service. Another study conducted a few years ago on the members of the previous traffic police service found the average concentration hovered at 35 micrograms / deciliter of blood. Such alarming figures only point in the direction that the health of the current young and fresh batch of traffic police is headed in a few years' time.
What the government can do instead, for a change, is listen to its people. The people, too, must start talking. Tell the government that the city needs pedestrian-friendly facilities, not as elaborate as the ones on Jail Road. It needs the strict enforcement of a carpool and bus-lane policy, especially for schools. It needs a balancing act between increasing the number of buses on the road and congestion-taxing vehicles above a particular engine size.
It needs simple three-inch high footpaths running along the main arteries of the city. It needs to grant traffic warden stations autonomy from police stations, so that civilians can stop associating traffic policemen with crime and corruption. But more important than any of these suggestions is the one that says the government needs to let architects, town planners, urban designers, economists and environmental scientists do their job. We know that politics and pennies certainly have not. The world acknowledges the existence of inner-city slums in all urban cities. But if the traffic planning policies in Lahore are anything to go by, we might soon all have to don the label of Slumdog Urbannaires.

The missing link

Poor countries are facing conditionalities that demand monetary solutions to much more complex problems of development
By Zubair Faisal Abbasi
A lot of debate has been generated in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world around the social and environmental impacts of climate change. Scientific estimates and frightening stories of increased flooding, irregular rains, shortening winter and long periods of drought make a string case for climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. The advocacy for the success of such measures ranges from outright denunciation of economic growth and modernity to escalating development of technological solutions for green-development.
The current thrust of 'growth stimulus' packages in the United Kingdom and United States appears to be tilted in favour of building technological solutions for low carbon intensity development path, without paying much head to the agenda of de-growth politics. However, the situation of the least-developed countries (LDCs) and developing countries in the context of these climate change debates is interesting.
In fact, the LDCs and developing countries are caught in layers of 'triple injustices'. Sajay Vishist, representing Centre for Trade and Development (Centad), argues that firstly, they are not responsible for a large part of carbon emissions; secondly, they are the worst affected (especially the people living in tropical and sub-tropical zones); and thirdly, they have the least capability to engineer and execute adaptation- and mitigation-based development models.
While there is an acceptance of global equity principle under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which calls for common but differentiated responsibilities, the thrust of global commitments is far removed from any meaningful commitment by developed countries. In fact, emissions of green-house gases have been reduced in transition economies, but major developed countries have shown an increase in emissions. The US, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the Netherlands stand in the line of environment culprits.
In the LDCs and developing countries, the debate around climate change is dominated by de-growth environmentalists. For them, the processes of industrialisation-based economic growth did a huge disservice to the world; development in the sense of economic prosperity is an illusion, and beyond the carrying capacity and fragile ecosystems of the Earth. These arguments, however, do not take the agenda of economic change vis-a-vis climate change too far in the context of the LDCs and developing countries.
In fact, the LDCs and developing countries need a sustained economic growth path and technological capability to ensure success of adaptation strategies, both at the local community and corporate industrial levels. In other words, the agenda of climate change adaptation and mitigation needs both improved governance of economic change strategies as well as strengthening of institutional arrangements for technological capability acquisition. Such an important area of strategic intervention should not be left only to de-growth anti-modernity environmentalists.
The case in point is to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies while developing industry, trade and technology (ITT) polices. In Pakistan, this issue is not mainstreamed as economic change and development strategies, though it can ultimately build sustainable national capacities to adapt and mitigate adverse impacts of climate change. Predominantly, these are neoliberal policies with strong liking for structural adjustment based on liberalisation, privatisation and stabilisation.
The debate around the role of the state in technological capability acquisition, which formed the core of industrial development strategy, has been set aside. Interestingly, when the UK, France, Germany, Japan and the US were at comparable levels of economic development, they were using all the 'bad policies' of infant industry protection, subsidies and investment management for human and physical asset building of local technological capability development. Most of these ladders of development have now been denied to the developing countries with imposition of conditionalities that demand monetary solutions to much more complex problems of development.
As a result, a major casualty in the LDCs and developing countries are public sector development programmes, which are central to the development push in these countries. For example, rather than increasing and streamlining opportunities of relevant human capital formation through state action, funds for the Higher Education Commission (HEC) have recently been reduced in Pakistan. In short, a strong resolve by the state has been the missing link since the country started experimenting with structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) about three decades ago.
In direct contrast to the 'dictated' approach of the LDCs and developing countries, US President Barack Obama advised his economic managers to "think of what's happening in countries like Spain, Germany and Japan, where they're making real investments in renewable energy." He argued that "they're surging ahead of us, poised to take the lead in these new industries. This is not because they are smarter than us, or work harder than us, or are more innovative than we are. It is because their governments have harnessed their people's hard work and ingenuity with bold investments -- investments that are paying off in good, high-wage jobs."
Similarly, the Center for American Progress, a think-tank with close ties to the Obama administration, called last year for the government to spend $100 billion on various green initiatives. The reward, it calculated, would be two million jobs. In a sharp contrast, even conservative estimates claim that the current SAPs in Pakistan will render at least two million people jobless or below the poverty line in the next couple of years.
In a bid to reduce fiscal deficit, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asked the Pakistani government to restrain public expenditures, the burden of which will naturally fall on the poor. It has asked for reduction in the country's fiscal deficit from 7.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 4.2 percent, through lowering public expenditure, gradually eliminating energy subsidies, raising electricity tariffs by 18 percent and eliminating tax exemptions. Similarly, in Hungary, the IMF has targeted fiscal deficit reductions from 3.4 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent through a fiscal consolidation plan, which involves freezing public sector wages, placing a cap on pension payments and postponing social benefits.
Dr Ha-Joon Chang, in his recent articles in the Guardian, has clearly identified this approach as "economics of hypocrisy"; in the US, the state has nationalised the 'sick' banking industry while providing 'growth stimulus' under protectionist 'Buy America' policy. Such measures will increase the fiscal deficit of the US to about 5 percent of GDP. These are primarily 'bad policies', forbidden for the LDCs and developing countries. The same were also denied to East Asian countries during the 1997-98 economic crisis, when they were asked to keep surplus budgets and let their banks go down the drain.
The IMF claims to have increased social safety nets under a new SAP in Pakistan. However, Bhumika Muchhala, who works with the Third World Network, argues that "in Pakistan the cumulative increase in social spending is 0.3 percent of GDP, whereas the reduction in public spending amounts to 3.2 percent of GDP. While the IMF can accurately say that social safety spending is being doubled in Pakistan, from 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent of GDP, it is overshadowed by the fiscal deficit reduction required by the IMF, from 7.4 percent to 4.2 percent of GDP."
Considering economic change strategies with weak (and skewed) public sector development programmes, increasing poverty and lack of an independent ITT policy, the chances that the state and society will be able to respond effectively to the challenges of climate change are rather bleak. However, the dark forces of 'triple injustices' mentioned above can be converted into opportunities if governments in the LDCs and developing countries invest in the development of technology acquisition platforms for green technological capabilities under climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, because a way to go beyond de-growth environmentalism is also embedded in this approach.

Enough is enough

The response of the militants after the ongoing military operation ends remains to be seen
By Aimal Khan
Against the backdrop of some of the recent developments, it is no more relevant whether the Swat peace deal remains intact or the recently signed Nizam-e-Adl Regulation (NAR) achieves its objectives. The million-dollar questions are: how we can stop the Taliban from making further inroads in our society? Do we need drastic changes in our security doctrine and policies? Do we need an effective strategy for combatting extremism and terrorism? Should we continue to sign peace deals with banned militant organisations? Has the time come for state actors to disengage with the militants and stop patronising them in the larger national interest? Are the militants not crossing all the limits?
Unfortunately, the Taliban's advance and the recent statement of the defunct Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Mohammad about superior courts and democracy directly or indirectly validate these concerns. Addressing a public gathering on April 19, Sufi Mohammad termed superior courts and democracy un-Islamic. Once again, people have started questioning his views and the tide has turned against him.
However, at the same time, Sufi Mohammad has also vowed to continue dialogue with the government for restoring peace in the troubled areas of the NWFP and FATA. But the response of the militants after the ongoing military operation ends remains to be seen. Media reports from Dir, Buner and Swat, on the other hand, suggest that the militants are going in a reaction mode.
The extremists are on a spree to challenge the religious, political and cultural basis of the country. In the name of religion, the Taliban are destroying everything by imposing their narrow and rigid Wahabi ideology, alien to the majority of Muslims in Pakistan. Moreover, their pro-jihad utterances and cross-border movements are worsening Pakistan's ties with its neighbouring countries, besides other regional and international actors.
Moving into Buner, the militants are now just 100 kilometres away from Peshawar and only a few kilometres away from some of the key strategic installations of the country. Alarm bells are ringing and it is feared that the state is on the brink of collapse, because the Taliban could take control of these strategic facilities. If not checked in time, the Taliban's advance could even invite intervention by foreign powers, who fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall in the hands of the militants.
Both the national and international media is flooded with reports pointing to the gravity of the situation, and the emerging threat to our security and integrity. Reports in the western media and recent statements by some high-ranking American officials portray a grim picture of Pakistan, and predict its collapse and overtaking by the militants. For most foreign and domestic political commentators, the peace deal with the TNSM is virtually handing over power to the militants in Swat, while signing NAR was termed government's surrender or capitulation before them.
Despite the signing of the controversial peace deal and NAR, the militants' activities have not stopped. In fact, militancy is spreading both vertically and horizontally. There are media reports that more volunteers are being enlisted and new trainings camps established, besides digging of new trenches. Moreover, the militants are entering and operating in other areas, such as Shangla, Battgram and Dir, besides Buner.
Considering the strategic importance of Buner and Shangla districts, the Taliban's advance in these areas will seriously challenge Pakistan's security. The fall of Buner will put pressure on neighbouring areas of Malakand, Swabi, Mardan, Haripur and Mansehra, bringing the Taliban closer to highly sensitive strategic facilities. With the capture of Shangla, the Taliban will be able to control the Karakoram Highway (KKH), a main supply route for Pakistani troops posted in the Northern Areas that links Pakistan to China. Shangla, Battgram, Mansehra, and Lower and Upper Dir are already vulnerable due to the militants' influence there.
The incidents of looting of private and government property, as well as other heinous crimes like kidnapping for ransom, have increased in areas controlled by the Taliban. In many parts of district Swat, a Nizam-e-Salat has been imposed, binding all believers to offer prayers and shut down businesses during prayer hours. Recently, the militants warned the shopkeepers in Mingora city of dire consequences if they entertained women customers. Similarly, the women have been advised to avoid visiting public places. The shops selling audio and video cassettes have been closed, and in some areas barbers have been warned against shaving beards.
Sufi Mohammad is faced with a dilemma because his integrity is at stake. On the one hand, he has given a commitment to the government that he would win over the militants and would convince them to lay down arms once NAR is enforced. On the other hand, the militants are giving a tough time to him by not accepting his decisions. Maulana Fazlullah, Sufi Mohammad's son-in-law and chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Swat, also seems helpless before the militants. In short, one faction of the militants is supporting Sufi Mohammad's peace initiative, while the other is not ready to lay down arms and stop militant activities.
Compared with 1994 and 1999, the situation this time is completely different for many reasons. First, there exists a strong armed militant force that is not hesitant of imposing its narrow brand of religion. NAR will provide it with the legal authority to impose and justify its rigid and inhumane acts in the name of Islam. Second, the government's writ is very weak and it is not in a position to rein in the militants, who are out to interpret and implement NAR in a manner that they deem appropriate.
Third, the militants are not a party to the peace deal, thus they are not bound to abide by it. In other words, they can disown the peace deal whenever they want to. One should not forget that for most of the militants the enforcement of Sharia is not possible without armed jihad. Fourth, the regional strategic equation is now different and Pakistan is under increasing international focus. The Swat peace deal and NAR were opposed by major regional and global actors, and pressure is mounting on the Pakistani government in this regard with each passing day.
Besides this, there is a difference of opinion between the government and the militants over the implementation of NAR and other procedural issues. For the government, NAR is only aimed at the provision of speedy justice; while for the militants it is Sharia, a complete code of life. Another issue is that of the appointment of qazis (judges). The government claims that it is its prerogative to appoint qazis, while Sufi Mohammad wants more say in the process. Similarly, the government considers end to violence a major prerequisite for maintenance of peace, but the militants are not willing to lay down arms. Moreover, the militants' agenda is not local; rather, they believe in global jihad and vow to 'help' Muslims all over the world.
For the first time, besides foreign actors, the majority of political parties are asking for stern action against the militants. But there are serious doubts in political observers' minds regarding whether the Pakistani establishment would completely disengage with the Taliban or those militant groups who are on a spree to impose their narrow extremist agenda by force on the people and who do not hesitate to challenge the government's writ.
For the Pakistani establishment, the militants are a 'strategic asset' that has gradually turned into a liability. Unfortunately, there are as yet no signs of completely getting rid of this liability. After every six months, we hear about the launch of decisive military action against the terrorists, but unfortunately after every operation we witness extension of Talibanisation to new areas. As a result, large swathes of land in the NWFP and FATA have come under the Taliban's direct or indirect control.
The government has completed operation against the militants in Lower Dir and fighting is still going on in Buner, as both sides continue to make conflicting claims about the causalities. Amid operations in Dir and Buner, the Taliban are going in reaction mode. A new round of operation is expected in Swat too. The Taliban have increased patrolling and are busy in erecting new check posts in Swat. If not led to its logical conclusion, the ongoing operation can further complicate and aggravate the situation.
For gaining legitimacy and restoring public confidence, the security forces should precisely target the suspected hideouts to decide the fate of militancy once for all. In short, there is a need for immediate, effective and targeted action against the militants, because repetition of half-hearted measures will push the country further towards the brink of disaster.

A catch-22 situation

Pakistanis need to adopt the culture of savings to induce investment
By Hussain H Zaidi
During the last five years, Pakistan's economy has grown on average by 7 percent. The key to sustaining that high growth rate is to increase the level of savings and investment, which, as we shall see later in the article, is well below the desired level. Investment or capital formation has a two-fold role in the economy. In the short-run, it affects aggregate demand and, thus, output and employment. Investment is a component of the aggregate demand or total spending in the economy; increase in investment steps up total spending and, thus, raises the level of output and employment in the economy.
In the long-run, investment affects gross domestic product (GDP) growth. A country's rate of growth depends largely on how much it sacrifices present consumption to provide for production of capital goods. Investment is, in fact, the engine of growth. The spectacular economic performance of East Asian countries can mainly be attributed to their high investment-GDP ratio. Conversely, deficiency of capital or low investment-GDP ratio is the major failing of most of the developing countries.
Saving is the difference between disposable income -- income minus taxes -- and consumption. It depends on various factors, the most important of which is income. All said and done, saving is a luxury, which increases as income goes up. The poor do not save; rather, they dis-save by borrowing. The same goes for poor countries, which are caught in the debt trap because of low level of national income.
Investment depends on several factors, such as savings, costs, revenues and future expectations. However, savings is the most important factor underlying investment. In the case of developing countries, investment falls below the desired level, mainly because of low savings. Though a necessary condition for investment, savings in themselves are not enough to induce investment.
As a matter of principle, businesses undertake investment when expected revenues are greater than estimated costs. Costs depend on interest rates, price of inputs and corporate taxes. Revenue expectations are based on an estimate of the level of demand for the output. In case there is deficiency of potential demand for their goods or services, businesses shy away from investment. As in the case of savings, the key determinant of demand is income.
Again, in the case of developing countries, since per capita income tends to be low, demand is deficient, which restricts investment. In fact, developing countries are in a catch-22 situation. Low per capita income restricts capital formation and output, which is responsible for unemployment and underemployment. The higher the level of unemployment, the lower the level of per capita income. Increase in per capita income is, thus, essential for growth and development.
A number of instruments are available to the government to affect investment level in the economy. These include monetary, fiscal, trade and investment policies. Monetary policy pertains to money supply and credit conditions in the economy. Fall in money supply and increase in interest rates raise the cost of doing business and, thus, discourage investment. Conversely, fall in interest rates decreases the cost of doing business and encourages investment.
Fiscal policy deals with government revenue and spending. While higher corporate taxes are a drag on investment, higher government spending can both push up and push down the level of investment. When demand is depressed and corporate profits are low, the private sector cannot be counted upon to step up investment; the job has to be performed by the government. By borrowing, the government generates the funds necessary for development expenditure. Government investment increases demand for business goods and services, and businesses respond by increasing output for which they hire additional labour. The income earned by the workers is partly consumed, partly saved, which adds to both demand and savings.
Public spending can also help develop the right infrastructure necessary for encouraging the private sector to invest. Increase in government spending or an expansionary fiscal policy is not without its problems. In the first place, if increase in government spending is not accompanied by increase in government revenue, it creates public debt. In the second place, if increase in government spending is not accompanied by proportionate increase in real GDP, it creates inflation. In the third pace, higher public spending may put upward pressure on the interest rates and, thus, crowd out private sector investment.
A liberal trade policy helps businesses have access to cheaper intermediate goods -- machinery and raw materials -- and, thus, bring down the cost of inputs. A liberal investment policy, such as tax breaks and de-regulation of the economy, decreases the cost of doing business and, thus, encourages investment. It is also important that the government creates a stable political and economic environment to enhance business confidence. Having outlined the importance of savings and investment in an economy, and the factors hindering and promoting them, let us have a look at the level of savings and investment in the Pakistani economy:
Generally, increase in GDP is accompanied by increase in savings-GDP and investment-GDP ratio. However, Pakistan is a different story. In 2000-01, the economy grew at a meager rate of 1.8 percent, while investment-GDP and savings-GDP ratios were fairly reasonable at 17.2 and 16.5 percent, respectively. In 2001-02, the economic growth increased to 3.1 percent, whereas investment-GDP ratio came down to 16.8 percent. Savings-GDP ratio, however, went up to 18.6 percent. In 2002-03, GDP growth increased to 4.8 percent accompanied by increase in both investment-GDP and savings-GDP ratios to 17.2 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively.
In 2003-04, the economy grew at an impressive rate of 7.5 percent; however, both investment-GDP and savings GDP ratios fell to 16.6 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively. GDP growth rate shot up to 8.6 percent in 2004-05. Though investment-GDP ratio increased to 18.1 percent, savings-GDP ratio fell to 15.1 percent. The year 2005-06 saw GDP growth decelerate to 6.6 percent; however, both investment-GDP and savings-GDP ratios went up by 20.0 percent and 16.4 percent, respectively. In 2006-07, the economy grew at 7 percent accompanied by increase in both investment-GDP and savings-GDP ratios to 22.9 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively. The year 2007-08 again saw GDP growth decelerate to 5.8 percent with fall in both investment-GDP and savings-GDP ratios to 21.6 percent and 13.9 percent, respectively.
The major reason for low level of savings and the resultant low level of investment is the low level of per capita income. Though per capita income in Pakistan has, according to official statistics, increased to $1,045 from $655 in 2004, the increase is nominal rather than real – thanks to a high inflation rate, which increased from 4.6 percent in 2003-04 to 12 percent in 2007-08. During the first nine months of the current fiscal year (July 2008-March 2009), average inflation was 24 percent, which is projected to be around 20 percent for the whole 2008-09. Other major causes of high consumption and, thus, low savings are consumer financing and proliferation of credit cards.
The government is adopting various measures to step up investment, such as rationalisation of tariffs, improvement in the tax refund process, removal of procedural bottlenecks, review of tax laws and tax machinery, provision of an efficient and reformed banking sector, improved governance, and effective contract enforcement. While all these measures are important, the level of savings and investment cannot be enhanced to a desirable level without an increase in the real per capita income. This requires, on the one hand, containing inflation and, on the other, developing human resource by increasing spending on heath and education.

Silence is criminal

No contemporary accounts of ethnic violence contain any mention of the MQM's exclusivist politics, which perhaps is the primary reason for Karachi's perennially precarious ethnic situation
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
The latest orgy of violence in Karachi needs to be understood for what it is, because it provides perhaps the most poignant warning of the civil strife that is to come if things do not change, and quickly. Amazingly most accounts of what happened on April 29 and 30 are so vague as to be almost meaningless. The prototypical news report and editorial highlights 'ethnic' and 'communal' clashes without venturing anything about the historical-political context that have given rise to these clashes. In other words, it would appear as if Karachiites of different ethnicities suddenly decided to raise arms against one another.
Of course there is a long history to ethnic discord in Karachi that can be traced back to the early 1980s. It speaks volumes about the virtual monopoly power that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has come to acquire in the city that no contemporary accounts of ethnic violence contain any mention of the MQM's exclusivist discourse and politics, which, in my view, is the primary reason for Karachi's perennially precarious ethnic situation.
The MQM is no ordinary phenomenon. Since 1992, its undisputed leader has been in self-imposed exile yet the organisation still manages to gather crowds in the hundreds of thousands to listen to Altaf Husain deliver his by now famous telephonic addresses. The MQM is a genuinely populist party, but one which at the same time employs coercive force freely to douse any challenges to its authority.
Ideologically the MQM is statist insofar as it claims that Urdu-speaking migrants are the bearers of the Pakistan idea, and that only they have the genuine right to rule this country given the sacrifices they made by leaving behind everything and migrating to the promised land. In some of the party's literature, the 1947 migrants are even compared to the Prophet and his companions in the course of their historic migration from Mecca to Medina.
The MQM emerged only after the relative privilege in political, economic and cultural realms enjoyed by the Urdu-speaking communities of urban Sindh began to be eroded. The Muhajir consciousness was triggered by the coming to power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972, and the latter's decision to make Sindhi the official language of Sindh province. Sindhis were given access to the state unlike at any other time in Pakistan's history. Meanwhile, broader objective changes in the Pakistani society had resulted in massive migrations of Pakhtuns and Punjabis into Karachi from the late 1960s onwards, which meant increased competition between the new migrants and the well-entrenched Muhajir community in the city.
After Zia took power, sectarian and ethnic identities were given new impetus. It is naïve to dismiss the MQM purely as a creation of the intelligence agencies, because, as I have just noted, there were broader objective factors that piqued a sense of marginalisation within the Muhahir community. Nevertheless, it is true that the military regime benefited from the emergence of, and openly patronised, the MQM because the latter -- and many other organisations that operated along parochial lines -- helped displace the expansive politics of the 1960s and 1970s in which multi-ethnic trade and student unions predominated.
The rest is history. 20 years on, the MQM exercises definitive control over the city's political life. The Pakhtuns have always represented a threat to the MQM because of the former's domination of aspects of economic life, including transport. But in recent times the antagonism has become qualitatively more pronounced. It is a known fact that on May 12, 2007, MQM goons targeted any and every political community that it felt was challenging the government's authority, and in this virtual pogrom Pakhtuns were the biggest losers. Subsequentl,y a relative peace was negotiated between the MQM and Awami National Party (ANP), which claimed to be representative of the Pakhtun voice in Karachi.
Whether or not the ANP can speak for the Pakhtun community at large -- and perhaps more importantly for Pakhtun economic interests -- is a moot point. The present spate of violence is a direct result of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Pakhtuns from their homes in the NWFP and FATA due to the so-called 'war on terror'. A significant number of those displaced have come to Karachi to shelter with relatives or simply because there are at least some prospects of securing a livelihood there. Altaf Husain has been spewing out rhetoric about the 'Talibanisation' of Karachi since this wave of displaced Pakhtuns started flowing into the city some months ago. For all intents and purposes, the MQM leader has been exhorting Muhajirs to take action against the Pakhtun community, under the (unsaid) pretext that all Pakhtuns are Taliban.
This is xenophobia of the worst kind. It has resulted in ethnic profiling and ultimately, as happened on the night of April 29, wanton violence. Shamefully, many otherwise progressive elements in Pakistan have lauded Altaf Husain and the MQM for adopting a 'principled' position vis-a-vis the so-called 'Talibanisation'. In fact, Altaf Husain is stoking the fires of ethnic violence as he has done consistently in the past. Such rhetoric will serve only to polarise Kararchi (and society more generally) and ensure that what is called 'Talibanisation' becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It would be yet another tragedy if the Karachi violence provides an indicator of things to come in the rest of the country. If such an eventuality is to be prevented, it is absolutely essential that common people are informed about what is actually happening in the country's biggest city. Too many people for too long have remained silent in the face of the intimidation of the MQM and the permanent state apparatus with which it enjoys a symbiotic relationship.
The media must also take the initiative; otherwise, it too will be complicit in this slide towards anarchy. To put things into context, the lack of information about displacement of common Pakhtuns from the NWFP and FATA provided to the general public has been scandalous. The boat is sinking but it has not sunk yet; there is still time to save it from going under!

The Sikhs of Orakzai

The horrendous predicament of the Sikhs of Orakzai is all before us. They are being persecuted under the garb of 'jiziya', or tax that minorities pay in Islam to a Muslim state in exchange for state protection and security of life and property. From several reports that have appeared of late, first in the Pakistani press, and now in the foreign press, the situation comes across as most startling and worrying. The Sikhs of Orakzai have lived in the agency for decades and by their own admission have never faced any problems or harassment from the tribes. However, for the past few months, and especially after Hakeemullah Mehsud and his men descended on Orakzai and established their own rule, the Sikhs of the agency have lived a terrified existence. They have been veritably held at gunpoint and forced to pay 'jiziya' but given the environment that this has happened in, it is nothing but ransom money. The Sikhs were told that either they all convert or they pay the tax. And this is reinforced by published accounts of some of the Sikh family elders, one of whom was kidnapped and tortured by the Orakzai Taliban. The Sikhs, who number not more than a few dozen households, were fast asked to pay over a hundred million rupees – an astronomical amount for any one – but this was scaled back after 'negotiations'. Elders of the community are now reportedly in Peshawar and have raised less than half the money that was agreed upon (or rather that has been extorted from them). And as they do so, some in their community continue to be held hostage by the Taliban and will be released only once the money is paid. And if they try and do it any other way, the consequences will be that the men will be killed and the women and children converted. That the state has chosen to do nothing about this is revolting but not altogether surprising given that it has chosen to do nothing also about the way that the Taliban have gone about slaughtering their fellow-Muslims, especially in targeting the Shias of Kurram and Dera Ismail Khan. Also, it has to be said – and rather unfortunately – that this kind of Talibanization (perhaps one of its more grotesque forms) has been happening in the rest of the country of late, albeit in a slightly different manner. Hindu communities in Sindh have in recent years complained of several cases where their young women were more or less abducted and forced to convert and marry non-Muslims. No wonder then that the rest of the world sees Pakistan – notwithstanding official proclamations to the contrary – as a place minorities live with a great degree of trepidation. In fact, it is not just minorities now, but women as well given what has been happening in the Talibanized parts of NWFP and FATA. Not only are we listed among countries whose governments are unwilling or unable to stop religious violence by their citizens and/or groups against minorities, we are also marked because some of our laws are seen as anti-minorities – the most controversial of these being the much-abused blasphemy law. Sectarian violence continues unabated and is directed against Shias, Ahmadis and Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. The government rarely responds in a positive way to the pleas for help from the minority communities who lead increasingly terrorized and fearful lives. Our minority groups and communities are at risk, and like the endangered species of the world require and deserve our care and protection. The only issue is that how and when this protection will be accorded to them. Who will go to Orakzai and take the Sikhs of Orakzai from the clutches of the Taliban?

The right foot forward

The ongoing military operation in Buner shows how much can be achieved, and with relative speed, once there is a willingness to do so. The security forces say around 60 militants have been killed in Buner, including some foreigners. Suicide squads have been made ineffective by taking into possession and then destroying vehicles laden with explosives. The operation shows it is, after all, not all that hard to deal with the militants. Perhaps they are not quite the bogey they have been made out as after all. Certainly, the decisive military operation restores confidence among citizens who had feared their nation could fall into the hands of barbaric Taliban hordes, shoving us all back to the Middle Ages or beyond.The only question perhaps is why we have waited so long. The military has denied the operation in Dir and now Buner has begun under US pressure. Washington too has dismissed stories of a two-week deadline to deal with militants – or face a fall of the government. Whatever the actual factors behind all this, whatever the happenings behind the scenes, the fact that the army has chosen to move in and act is good news. There seems little doubt that the military will, in no time at all, be able to eliminate the threat we face and dig out militants entrenched in our tribal areas. This is what we expect from an institution ranked as the most organized and disciplined force in the country.In this respect, it seems somewhat unfortunate that even after all that has happened, the NWFP government appears to be attempting to stage new peace talks with the TNSM. Surely it must realize this is futile; that such deals and accords can lead us nowhere at all – but indeed only complicate the task of eradicating militancy. There have already been comments from security forces on the fact that militants in Swat are linked to the men of Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan. There seems of course to be no doubt about this. Militant forces across the country form a whole – a hydra-headed monster that needs to be defeated through a single, cohesive strategy rather than by talking politely to some heads while trying to lop off others. In Buner our military has demonstrated how this can be done. Their efforts have made us all safer. We must now all hope and pray that the phase we are seeing now will continue and that the militants will not at any stage be permitted to get the upper hand.

May 1, 2009

The unmet challenge

The family planning marketing techniques need a revamp

By Naila Inayat
Turn on the radio in the morning; the first thing that brushes your ears is this annoyingly melodious track Suno Zara Khushi Ki Aahat / Chu Lo Zara Man Ki Chahat. If by any chance you are planning to switch on the TV for morning news, then better not touch the remote -- the same song, brought to you by Touch Condoms, a product of Greenstar, is being played there as well!
This bold campaign is being noticed across the cities because of the huge billboards, as well as advertisements in the print and electronic media. If the target audience is the urban locale, then what about the rural areas where the majority of Pakistanis still live? Even if it is urban-area specific, what about the downtrodden majority that lives in slums and other underdeveloped areas of the big cities? Do they get the message in black and white? However, it is not only this particular campaign that one should question; the entire family planning marketing techniques should be in focus.
According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2006-7 (PDHS), the unmet need for family planning is defined as the percentage of married women who want to space their next birth or stop child bearing entirely but are not using contraception. The survey reveals that 25 percent of married women have an unmet need for family planning -- 11 percent for spacing and 14 percent for limiting. Moreover, the unmet need ranges from 23 percent in Punjab to 31 percent in Balochistan.
"I do not understand these advertisements much. All I know is that I have problems convincing my husband about planning our family. I do not get any help from the radio or TV for this purpose, while I cannot read newspapers," says Haleema, a 27-year-old mother of one and a resident of a slum near Liaqatabad.
Javed, a carpenter living in the same slum, tells The News on Sunday: "When I was growing up, I watched the comedy programme Janjalpura on PTV. That was an effective way of convincing people with a pinch of salt. However, the government does not seem to be focussing on the issue of population control these days."
"If you ask what awareness has been created through advertisements, my answer would be bachay do hi achay (two kids are the best). I have not come across anything as simple as this. It was through this tagline that health workers convinced us to practice contraception. This is the only reason I have only two children," Shafiq, another resident of the area, says.
"I find the family planning advertisements really amusing. In fact, at first I thought the Touch Condoms advertisement was publicity of some mobile phone," says Hina Tariq, creative manager at an advertising agency. It is a fact that advertising of contraceptives is still very much a taboo in Pakistan. Therefore, such awareness campaigns should be encouraged in societies like ours where there is a lack of knowledge about reproductive health, especially in the underdeveloped areas.
During discussion on the key findings of the PDHS at a recent workshop, it was claimed that 45 percent of the country's women have been exposed to a family planning message through the radio (11 percent) or TV (41 percent) in the month prior to the survey. Urban, educated and wealthy women are more likely to have heard a family planning message than those living in rural areas, those with less education and those who are poor. The most common types of messages heard related to limiting family size, spacing children and using contraception.
However, Hina says: "Medium is the message. If you are following that rule in advertising, then it is imperative for you to know who is decoding your message; in other words, who is your target audience." If you are trying to convince slum dwellers to adopt contraception through advertising and you are coming up with a generalised idea -- glamorous models, beautiful props and a vague message -- they would be further alienated. Therefore, there is a need to evolve simple and dynamic ways of advertising. Street theatre could be one such method whereby the population control authorities work with NGOs to create awareness among the masses.
Federal Minister for Population Welfare Dr Fardous Ashiq Awan agrees with the idea. "Social marketing is important to counter this unmet need for family planning. The family planning advertising campaign should be in the reach of those couples who are 'convinced' of the use of contraception. In Pakistan, the practice is otherwise -- you are trying to convince the 'unconvinced' lot, while you are not giving proper information to the convinced lot," she says. Awan believes that in order to spread the message, the Ministry of Information can work in tandem with the Ministry of Population Welfare, especially now when the electronic media has become so vibrant.

Tying up loose ends

There is an urgent need for establishing the relevance of medical autopsy
By Dr Arif Rasheed Malik and Khayal Khalil
The concept and scope of health care in this part of the world is thought to terminate with the life of the patient. In case doctors fail to establish the cause of death during the life of that patient, the quest is abandoned as soon as the patient is lost. The doctors -- as scientists -- must enquire into such a 'mystery' and solve it to avoid encountering it again. However, despite the acknowledged role of medical autopsies in the prevention of medical errors, they are not carried out in Pakistan. This is an irresponsible attitude, because by not trying to learn we deliberately ensure the repetition of our mistakes, costing no less than somebody's life.
Medical (also called hospital or clinical) autopsy, a surgical procedure performed on a recently deceased patient, is the last and most complete diagnostic procedure. Carefully performed by a thoughtful, interested and experienced individual, it should reveal much of the truth about the health of the deceased patient and the mechanism of death. On the other hand, in Pakistan mostly only medico-legal or forensic autopsies -- which are performed with the aim of providing answers to questions about the identity of the patient, cause of death, time of death, circumstances of death, etc -- are carried out, and that too to help the law-enforcing agencies in solving a crime.
In short, medico-legal or forensic autopsy is performed when there is suspicion of a criminal activity; while medical autopsy is usually carried out in case of hospital deaths with the consent of the patient's relatives. Medical autopsy is rarely performed in Pakistan, except in the army's medical institutes, and that too in only high profile cases. The pathologists who carry out medical autopsies try to figure out exactly what caused the death of an undiagnosed patient or a patient for whom a treatment for an established diagnosis failed resulting in his/her death. As part of this procedure, there is a systematic analysis of the patient's body, especially the organ systems.
The external scrutiny of body and examination of clothes, in this case, is of lesser significance, because no foul play is suspected. Further examination may require a team of professionals who can carry out histological and biochemical examinations. The medical records registering the course of treatment undertaken and the complete medical history of the patient is very important to reach a verdict about the exact medical cause of his/her death. This knowledge can be used to educate practising physicians and students, and even help the patient's family to come to terms with the tragedy.
Different beliefs among health professionals in particular and people in general create a certain hesitation to performing a medical autopsy. Some believe that due to advanced diagnostic medical procedures, there is little room for error and autopsy is unlikely to reveal anything other than that what is already known. Moreover, hesitation may result from defensiveness of doctors apprehending blame for diagnostic complications.
Medical autopsy, however, remains the most comprehensive and final method 'when one sees for oneself' in case a death has occurred, especially considering everything that was done was by the book. After all, we must not forget in our complacency that a new disease might have appeared to endanger us all. So, the role of medical autopsy is well acknowledged and established throughout the world. Unfortunately, however, we in Pakistan have failed to adopt it. Medical autopsy is especially important in clinical medicine, because it can identify medical error and assist continuous improvement.
For example, a study focussing on myocardial infarction (MI) or heart attack as a cause of death found significant errors of omission and commission: a sizeable number of cases ascribed to MIs were not MIs and a significant number of non-MIs were actually MIs. Similarly, a review calculated that in about 25 percent of autopsies a major diagnostic error will be revealed. In another contemporary US institution, 8.4-24.4 percent of autopsies will detect major diagnostic errors.
At some hospitals abroad, the rate of autopsy was astonishingly high, demonstrating the emphasis laid on the relationship between the quality of health care and the rate of autopsy in the past. In Cuba, for instance, a hospital having 520 beds, and more than 15,000 admissions and about 1,100 deaths per year, claims to have performed autopsy on more than 80 percent of the cases since its opening 24 years ago. However, autopsy rates are now on the decline even in developed countries. For example, in US hospitals, the autopsy rate was about 50 percent before World War II; it reached about 60 percent in the 1960s; and then rapidly declined to its current level of 5-10 percent.
It is noteworthy that despite the increased use of advanced imaging techniques (considered as invaluable for diagnosis), the frequency of medical errors, diagnostic or therapeutic, has not reduced significantly. In US hospitals, studies have shown findings suggesting that major clinical diagnosis can be wrong. Beginning in the 1970s, 21-43 percent of autopsies discovered at least one clinically undetected error contributing to the patient's death, and 10 percent to 13 percent discovered a condition, which if known before the patient's death, would likely have changed ongoing treatment.
One study found 55 percent major diagnostic errors (Class I and Class II), documenting its findings as: "Autopsies revealed 171 missed diagnosis, including 21 cancers, 12 strokes, 11 myocardial infarctions, 10 pulmonary emboli and 9 endocarditis, among others." Focussing on intubated patients, another study found abdominal pathologic conditions -- such as abscesses, bowel perforations or infarctions -- were as frequent as pulmonary emboli as a cause of Class I errors. While patients with abdominal pathologic conditions generally complained of abdominal pain, results of examination of the abdomen were considered unremarkable in most patients and the symptom was not pursued.
A large meta-analysis suggested that approximately one third of death certificates are incorrect and that half of the autopsies performed produced finding that were not suspected before the person died. Moreover, it is thought that over one fifth of unexpected findings can only be diagnosed histologically – by biopsy or autopsy – and that approximately one quarter of unexpected findings, or 5 percent of all findings, are major and can only be diagnosed from tissue by biopsy or autopsy.
These facts and figures reflect the existence of a considerable number of medical cases that should have been approached differently. Moreover, they portray possible medical errors and missed diagnosis even at centres that are considered as first class. We have no data to speak of that might make us aware of how mistaken we have been in the past; hence, there is little promise that we will be able to correct these mistakes. Therefore, it is suggested that medical autopsies should be carried out in Pakistan, at least in teaching and tertiary medical institutes.
(Dr Arif Rasheed Malik is associate professor and head of the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Lahore. Khayal Khalil is an MBBS student at the same institute.)

Hoping against hope

It remains to be seen whether the forthcoming May Day would bring the promised good news to Pakistani workers or they would continue to suffer in misery
By Shujauddin Qureshi
Pakistani workers have been suffering hardships for decades due to various reasons, such as increased working hours, low wages without any proper health and safety conditions, increased trend of contractual employments, and restrictions on joining trade unions. Though successive governments have pledged to provide relief to the workers, none of them has fulfilled its commitments in the regard. The ruling PPP government is expected to announce the country's sixth labour policy on May 1, to coincide with the International Labour Day, in an attempt to provide better working conditions to labourers in the country, as also promised in the party's 2008 election manifesto.
Pakistan's first labour policy was announced in 1955, but it remained only on paper. The second labour policy was announced by Ayub Khan in 1959. The third labour policy was announced by Yahya Khan exactly a decade later. The same year, the Industrial Relations Ordinance (IRO) 1969 was enacted to introduce legislation guaranteeing freedom of association and right to collective bargaining to the workers. The ordinance also had provisions regarding the welfare of workers and minimum wages for them. This was done mainly to fulfil obligations as a signatory to various International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. The IRO 1969 was followed by the West Pakistan Minimum Wages for Unskilled Workers Ordinance 1969 and the Workers Welfare Fund Ordinance 1971.
The fourth labour policy was announced by the country's first civilian prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972. It is important to note that both the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif failed to announce any labour policy during their two tenures as the country's prime minister. The fifth (current) labour policy was announced by Pervez Musharraf in 2002, after a lengthy consultative process with representatives of both employers and employees.
However, the final policy did not include the promised benefits for the workers. It may be recalled that the spade work for this labour policy was done by then-Minister for Labour and Oversees Pakistanis Omer Asghar Khan, who held a series of meetings with both labour unions and employers. However, he parted ways with the government before the announcement of the final policy in Dec 2001; hence, the benefits promised to the workers were missing.
Moreover, the fifth labour policy was followed by the notorious IRO 2002 that virtually ruined the labour movement in the country. It is for this reason that trade union activists criticise the present labour laws as have been drafted to benefit the employers only. The previous government further added to the miseries of the workers by amending many labour-related laws -- the Factories Act 1934, Shops and Establishment Ordinance 1969, West Pakistan Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Ordinance 1968, Workers Welfare Fund Ordinance 1971, and Employees' Old-age Benefits (EOBI) Act 1976 -- in the Finance Bill 2006.
The amendments to the Shops and Establishment Ordinance increased daily working hours for the labourers from eight to 12, and abolished their compulsory weekly holiday. The amendments to the Factories Act removed the bar on female labourers from working in factories before sunrise and after sunset; the employers may now force them to work two shifts at a time, up to 10pm.
The amendments to the Standing Orders Ordinance introduced a new category of 'contract worker', who will not be entitled to compensation for overtime, and raised the ceiling on overtime from 150 to 624 hours a year for adults and from 100 to 468 hours a year for juveniles. Similarly, the amendments to the Workers Welfare Fund and EOBI restricted their scope. For example, registration with the EOBI was made compulsory for only those establishments employing 20 or more workers. In short, these amendments snatched the fundamental rights of the workers.
Although the present government has already adopted some measures for the welfare of workers, such as increasing the minimum wages of unskilled workers to Rs6,000 a month and replacing the controversial IRO 2002 with the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) 2008, trade union activists doubt its seriousness. "Even the minimum wages are not being implemented throughout the country and most workers still get salaries between Rs3,000 and Rs4,000 a month," says Zulfiqar Shah, joint director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), a Karachi-based NGO working on the rights of labourers.
The abolition of the IRO 2002 had been a major demand of labour unions and federations throughout the country, because the "black" law had curtailed many of their liberties. For example, under this ordinance, the state had withdrawn itself from monitoring the implementation of labour laws through suspension of labour inspection in industrial and commercial establishments. This had made the Labour Departments of the provincial governments inactive. Though there is a lot of corruption in these departments, the regular inspection of factories was a major deterrent.
Moreover, the IRO 2002 did not recognise the right of agricultural labour to form unions. Similarly, the powers of the National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) to grant immediate relief to sacked / retrenched workers were abolished under this law. Earlier, if any worker was sacked and a case was filed with the NIRC, he or she could get stay order until the case was decided. However, under the IRO 2002, sacking of the workers had been made easier for the employers, because no immediate relief was available to the former from the NIRC. Besides abolition of the labour appellate tribunal, the powers of labour courts to reinstate sacked workers had also been curtailed in the IRO 2002.
Although the draconian law has now been replaced with the IRA 2008 through an act of the parliament, the workers are still unhappy. "We want the government to grant unconditional right to the workers to form trade unions irrespective of the nature of their jobs, because the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees this right," says Farid Awan, general secretary of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Sindh Chapter.
Talking to The News on Sunday, he tells that in the tripartite meeting held in Feb, the government had shared drafts of three laws -- the Service Conditions Act, Health and Safety Act and Industrial Relations Law -- that were to be part of the new labour policy with representatives of the workers and employers to seek their input. "We have already submitted our recommendations to the government and hope the same would be incorporated into the forthcoming labour policy," Awan says.
With sky-rocketing inflation and increasing commodity prices and transport fares, the living conditions of the workers are deteriorating with each passing day. In Pakistan, the majority of the workforce is employed in the non-formal sector, where labour laws do not even apply. So, these workers are not considered as labour force and are denied the rights due to them.
The labourers in the agriculture sector are also not covered under the existing labour laws, thus the majority of the workers are denied institutional benefits. Similarly, the labour working in brick kilns and power looms is not entitled to receive any facility from state institutions. Since all the abovementioned categories of workers do not have the right to collective bargaining, they cannot claim health and other benefits either.

Politics of protectionism

There is a growing perception in the developing world that the TRIPS Agreement is only aimed at facilitating the developed world
By Sibtain Raza Khan
With the global economic integration, politics of intellectual protectionism has widened the gulf between the developing South and the developed North, particularly on the issue of intellectual property rights (IPRs). This subject matter has created mistrust as well as disparity between the developing and the developed world, because the former feels that it is at the receiving end. Without due consideration to the level of development of the South, it is being forced to follow policy initiatives of the North, which requires IPRs to be regulated internationally for its own economic growth.
Being a signatory to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Agreement under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), countries have to establish organisational infrastructure for protection of IPRs, which can be categorised in two groups: industrial property rights and copyrights. The former comprise patents, trademarks, industrial designs and geographic indication of source; while the latter consist of literary and artistic works, such as novels, poems, plays, films, musical works, paintings, photographs, architecture designs, etc.
There is a growing perception in the developing world that the TRIPS Agreement under the WTO regime is only aimed at facilitating countries of the developed world, especially its pharmaceutical and entertainment industries. Developed countries took these steps to maintain their monopoly on these industries. Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph E Stiglitz argues that "it was clear that there was more interest in pleasing the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries (of developed North) than in ensuring an intellectual property regime that was good for science."
As a matter of fact, developed countries vigorously backed the agreement on IPRs, while developing countries did not demand for the same, during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994. Now, assent to the TRIPS Agreement has become condition to the WTO's membership. Unfortunately, this agreement, which has given more powers to multinationals than developing countries, was imposed on the developing South without considering its genuine concerns, such as the level of development.
Like other developing countries, the incentive of opening of markets of developed countries for its products forced Pakistan to accept the WTO regime. However, Pakistani products failed to attract buyers in the developed world, mainly due to their protectionist measures, such as anti-dumping duties and quality controls. On the other hand, because of being a signatory to the TRIPS Agreement, different sectors of Pakistan's economy, especially the pharmaceutical and agrochemical sectors, are suffering.
Tahira A Sulhari, a social activist, is of the view that a multilateral platform is being used by multinational companies (MNCs) for their vested interests. Dr Safdar A Khan, an economist who is associated with a reputed private educational institution in Islamabad, points out that Pakistan -- being a developing country -- is giving more and getting less as a result of the TRIPs Agreement. "We even had to erect a huge set up in the form of the Intellectual Property Organisation of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan), which is nothing but an additional burden on our ailing economy," he says.
Prof Pervaiz Bajwa claims that fast progress in science and technology has been suffering due to IPR-related issues, and the developing world is the biggest loser. He argues that criteria for developing countries should be different from that for developed countries. "The rationale behind the TRIPS Agreement is to maintain the monopoly of developed countries in the field of science and technology. This would further increase the disparity between the North and the South," says Dr GH Chohan, an economist.
Munir Ahmed, director of the IPO-Pakistan, tells The News on Sunday that "though signing the TRIPS Agreement is a pre-condition for becoming a member of the WTO, there are waivers and exemptions for developing countries." When asked about implications of the TRIPS Agreement on Pakistan's economy, he said though the pharmaceutical sector may suffer because of it, paragraphs 4 to 6 of the Doha Declaration provide for safety nets in the area of public health in emergency periods.
Undoubtedly, the struggling economies of developing countries are still facing the adverse effects of the TRIPS Agreement, along with other problems such as technological backwardness, unskilled human resource and weak infrastructure. For instance, the TRIPS Agreement protects the interests of Western pharmaceutical giants. Under the agreement, patent right-holding Western pharmaceutical companies are maximising their profits by selling their drugs at higher prices despite lower cost of production. On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies in developing countries are not authorised to produce the same drugs at lower prices. If a country violates pharmaceutical patents by manufacturing generic copies of these medicines, it may be penalised through economic sanctions.
Khalid Mehmood, chairperson of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Committee on the WTO, alleges that MNCs are forcing WTO officials to increase the period of patent rights from 20 to 40 years under the TRIPS Agreement, which is unjust and unfair because people of the developing world would be the main victims. He maintains that Pakistan also needs to protest against the enforcement of patent linkage and data exclusivity or data protection, which is required by MNCs, because these demands of Western companies are not in the interests of the developing world.
Nevertheless, the manifest objective of IPRs is to protect the industrial property, as well as copyrights, of artists, writers and publishers. However, its latent purpose is to safeguard the interests of MNCs of developed countries. It is rightly argued that IPRs should not be included in a trade agreement, because they encompass different public policy issues and consequently create confusion that is exploited by Western economic giants for their vested interests.
Indeed, the IPR regime is a right step; however, both developing and developed countries have differences on this issue because of their incompatible frame of references, needs and requirements. Like every year, April 26 (today) is being celebrated as the World Intellectual Property Day with the theme of 'Green Innovation'. However, for equitable progress and prosperity in the world, there is a need to celebrate this day in a way that persuades developed countries to give due consideration to the reservations of developing countries.