Nov 29, 2009

Why Zardari is angry

By Hamid Mir

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani media is again under attack from inside and outside. The charges are not new as these were actually framed by former president Pervez Musharraf who imposed the biggest ban on the media in the history of Pakistan on November 3, 2007.

Pervez Musharraf said the Pakistani media was responsible not only for political instability but was also involved in promoting terrorism. He planned to fix a top media tycoon and some TV anchors under sedition charges but failed because the whole media, the civil society and especially the lawyers were united against him.

Nobody can deny the fact actually it was the media and lawyers that put Musharraf under so much pressure that he brokered a deal with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) for his survival in October 2007.

Again it was the media that played an important role in his departure from Islamabad and Asif Ali Zardari availed the opportunity of becoming the president of Pakistan. Now the Zardari regime is repeating everything that the Musharraf regime used to say against the media. They are trying to put the blame of every wrong deed in the country on the media.

The rulers complained that Geo and the Jang Group always played a leading role in highlighting their misdeeds. Later others followed this lead and joined the struggle against corruption and misrule. Geo and the Jang Group, the rulers complained, are the trendsetters and others just follow in their footstep. They, therefore, considered that Geo and the Jang Group were responsible for the situation they found themselves in.

Musharraf used to tell Geo and the Jang Group, “You are the biggest group and number 1 channel.” Zardari has gone a step further by saying that a channel (Geo) has a monopoly.

They want to teach us a lesson for reminding them of their own promises, for exposing corruption and criticising bad governance but this time their strategy is different. They will not attack the whole media in one go like Musharraf. They will attack us one by one by adopting the strategy of divide and rule.

In the first phase, President Zardari targeted Geo TV without naming it publicly while addressing a big PPP gathering in Karachi recently. He never appreciated that it was the same TV channel, which aired interview of Nawaz Sharif a few days ago in which the PML-N leader supported the current democratic system and warned that he will not accept any unconstitutional move against President Zardari.

This interview killed many rumours against Zardari and the fact of the matter is that the interview of Nawaz Sharif on Geo TV was the biggest relief to Zardari in recent times at a time when political allies like the MQM were not happy with him. The Nawaz interview was not only telecast by Geo and also prominently displayed in all publications of the Jang Group including The News and Jang. The text of the interview was also published.

After getting some strength from Nawaz Sharif, the first thing President Zardari did was to attack Geo TV.

Some of the PPP ministers have informed us privately that President Zardari is not happy with the media due to its criticism of the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the NRO. PPP leaders like Raza Rabbani also criticised the KLB and the NRO openly. There was no doubt that PPP lost support from its own legislators over the issues of the KLB and the NRO but instead of putting his own house in order President Zardari threw the blame on the media.

In the last 20 months, the PPP-led coalition government committed at least 20 blunders. The media only pointed out these blunders and not a single blunder was actually created by the media. Here is the list of 20 blunders in the last 20 months:

1- Ignoring of Murree Declaration: The PML-N was part of the PPP-led coalition government in the beginning. Both parties signed a declaration for the restoration of deposed judges on March 9, 2008 in Murree. The PPP ignored the written agreement with the PML-N and finally the PML-N was forced to leave the federal cabinet. That was the first crisis that damaged the credibility of the new government right in the beginning.

2- Mistrust between the security establishment and the civilian government: The PPP presented a resolution in the National Assembly in April 2008, demanding investigation into the assassination of late Benazir Bhutto by the United Nations. This resolution gave an impression that the PPP leaders did not trust the intelligence agencies of their own government. Later, a UN commission for the investigation was also created that tried to contact many officials from the security establishment for the investigation and more tension was created.

3- Putting ISI under the control of Interior Ministry: The PPP government tried to put the ISI under the control of Interior Minister Rehman Malik in July 2008 through a notification. This move created a new controversy and within a few hours this move backfired.

4- Using secret funds to tame media: A sum of Rs480 million was drawn from the secret fund of the Intelligence Bureau in July 2008. Immediately after taking over, the new IB boss Dr Shoaib Suddle initiated an inquiry about the use of Rs480 million. A big chunk of that money was used to tame the media but it never worked and many independent journalists started asking questions from the government ministers about this money but they had no answer. The prime minister told one of his ministers that he was not aware how this money was drawn from the IB without his knowledge. A junior government official when contacted said, on the condition of not being named, that there was a talk about Rs480 million drawn from the secret fund but he did not know whether the money was distributed or not.

5- Differences between the prime minister and the president: Many PPP ministers shared inside stories of differences between the premier and the president with their friends in the media, but there was no confirmation. All these stories were confirmed when Prime Minister Gilani sacked his National Security Adviser Mahmood Ali Durrani who was actually a nominee of President Zardari. These differences surfaced once again over the appointment of a DMG officer as an ambassador in France. The prime minister refused to oblige the president. The media only reported the tussle between the two big wigs of the country.

6- Disqualification of the Sharif brothers: President Zardari used PCO judges to disqualify Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif. This move created a lot of tension between the two big parties of the country and it also affected the stock market.

7- Imposition of the governor’s rule in Punjab: President Zardari imposed the governor’s rule in February 2009 in the biggest province of Pakistan. He tried to win the loyalties of PML-N MPAs in the provincial assembly for putting his own chief minister in Lahore. Some people in the media supported the governor’s rule in Punjab. Most of these people had also supported Musharraf in the past and their support to the new regime only discredited Zardari.

8- Forcing lawyers to start the Long March: President Zardari ignored the restoration of the deposed judges for the whole one year and finally lawyers were forced to start a long march from Lahore to Islamabad. Nawaz Sharif was put under house arrest but he defied the government orders. He came out on the roads and within a few hours broke the myth of the Zardari regime. The Army chief also intervened and finally the prime minister announced the restoration of all the deposed judges. The media was not responsible for the humiliation of President Zardari because the whole crisis was created out of his own governor’s rule.

9- Rental Power Plant projects: It was not the media but PPP Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf who announced that there will be no loadshedding in the country by December 31, 2009 with the help of rental power plants. These plants came under criticism in the federal cabinet and lots of wrongdoings were reported in these projects. Later, Prime Minister Gilani asked Raja Pervez Ashraf not to make any promises which could not be fulfilled.

10- Sugar crisis: The government completely failed to apprehend a big sugar crisis in the country despite repeated early warnings from many experts. State Minister for Production Ayatullah Durrani disclosed in the Parliament the names of owners of sugar mills who were responsible for the crisis but Federal Minister for Production Manzoor Wattoo contradicted his deputy. This crisis exposed the bad governance of the government. The media only reported the sufferings of the common Pakistanis created out of this ‘made by Zardari’ crisis.

11- Role of US private security agencies: It was actually Pervez Musharraf who allowed US security agencies to operate freely in Pakistan but the Zardari regime allowed them to buy land in many Pakistani cities and also allowed them to rent houses in Islamabad and Peshawar. Armed Americans clashed with Pakistani citizens many times in Peshawar and Islamabad but police never took any action against them. This damaged the credibility of the Zardari regime.

12- Ignoring trial of Musharraf under Article 6: The Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the emergency imposed on November 3, 2007 unconstitutional. Opposition parties demanded the trial of Musharraf under Article 6 of the constitution but President Zardari told some media persons that he cannot try Musharraf due to an understanding with some foreign countries. This disclosure further exposed the level of foreign interference in Pakistan.

13- Differences with the army on the KLB: Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a press release in October 2009 and expressed the concerns of army high command on the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Differences between the army and civilian government came under discussion in the media. People around Zardari termed these discussions anti-democracy and conspiracies of ‘right wing anchors’.

14- Non-implementation of parliament resolution on drone attacks: US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas were started during the Musharraf regime but these attacks were doubled in last 20 months despite a unanimous resolution adopted by the new parliament against these attacks. A non-transparent policy on war against terror also damaged the Zardari regime.

15- Weak foreign policy: The Zardari regime claimed that the Friends of Democratic Pakistan forum will help us in these difficult times but there was no substantial help from this newly formed group. Zardari claimed more than once that India is no more a threat to Pakistan but Prime Minister Gilani declared India a threat for Pakistan many times. There was no unanimity on foreign policy among many government institutions.

16- Denying reports of the Transparency International: According to the recent report of Transparency International, corruption has increased in Pakistan. Prime Minister Gilani ordered Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin to start an inquiry about the reported corruption in the light of TI revelations but Interior Minister Rehman Malik termed this report baseless. This dichotomy again raised a question that who holds the control of Islamabad?

17- Non-implementation of the Charter of Democracy: The PPP promised to implement the CoD signed between the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in its 2008 election manifesto. The Zardari regime failed to implement the CoD in last 20 months.

18- Rigging in Gilgit-Baltistan elections: The PPP and the MQM actually developed differences over reported rigging in the election for Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly. The PPP failed to satisfy its ally that is part of the government not only in Sindh but also in Islamabad.

19- NRO fiasco: The PPP leadership tried to make the NRO an act of parliament but its strategy failed due to the non-cooperation of the PML-N and the MQM. When the media started discussions about the beneficiaries of the NRO, the law minister came out with a list of 8,041 beneficiaries with names of President Zardari, Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar and Interior Minister Rehman Malik and many others. The defence minister and many others rejected the report and destroyed the credibility of their own government.

According to the decision of the Supreme Court on July 31, the NRO will lapse on November 28 and this lapse has created insecurity among the PPP circles.

20- PPP’s November 25 rally: The PPP leadership arranged a rally in Karachi on November 25 that created many new controversies. Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza claimed that the establishment was involved in conspiracies. He also mentioned ‘Sindh card’, while President Zardari attacked Geo TV and gave a clear impression that he is still under pressure. Most of the analysts said that Zardari was not speaking like a strong leader and his close friend Zulfiqar Mirza intentionally challenged establishment because he thought that Nawaz Sharif was on PPP’s side this time.

Nov 25, 2009

Palestinian state

By Tayyab Siddiqui

Upon assumption of presidency, Obama placed Middle East Peace Process as the priority in his foreign policy agenda. He rightly reckoned that bringing Israel and Palestinian to the negotiation table would open a new chapter in US relations with the two warring parties.

To jump-start the peace process, stalled since last year Obama invited three main protagonists – King Hussain, Netanyahu and Hosni Mubarak — to Washington and shared his vision of peace in the region. He reiterated the US position that resumption of peace talks must begin with already agreed framework made in stalled roadmap and Annapolis agreement, which underlined the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. He stressed the need for a total freeze on Jewish settlement in West Bank and Jerusalem to move further.

President Obama, however, failed to gauge Israel influence in US politics and its history of resistance and rejection of any initiative not in consonance with Israeli interests. Netanyahu declined to 'freeze' the settlements. To further embarrass Obama, Israel announced new settlements by expropriation of Palestinian land.

The Palestinians had placed great store on Obama's 'even–handed' policy. It did not expect Obama to cave in to Israel in the very initial stages of the process. Palestinians have bitterly recognised that the Obama administration is not likely to succeed in the quest for peace. Without a friend in the international community and leader in their own ranks, the Palestinians today are isolated and forlorn. This assessment has led them to extreme desperation. Mahmud Abbas — president of Palestine Authority and the only moderate and pragmatic leader trusted by the US and the EU — reflecting the gloom and pessimism announced that Palestinian would not hold any negotiation with Israel until Israel stopped Jewish settlement. He further announced that in the forthcoming Palestinian elections he would not be a candidate for the presidency. This development poses serious dilemma for Obama. Having failed to make Israel agree to 'freeze' Jewish settlement he has asked Mahmud Abbas to resume peace negotiation 'unconditionally'. This dramatic change has further embittered Palestinians and lost faith in America's capacity to deliver.

Mahmud Abbas also announced that Palestinian Authority would unilaterally proclaim an independent Palestinian state on territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war and seek international support. This move on the part of the PA has further complicated the picture. Both the US and the EU have opposed and advised Mahmud Abbas not to take this extreme step. The PA initiative is being seen as the last effort to revive negotiations and put the peace process in the international spotlight. The fact is that Palestinians do not have many options.

While Palestinians, in total desperation, are clutching to any straw in the hope of securing their rights and lands the most shameful conduct has been of the Arab League and the OIC. There has been no move in support of Palestinian struggle and both remain silent spectators to the agony and sufferings of Palestinians.

The current paralysis of the Muslim world and the absence of any effective international intervention to break the status quo will turn the Palestinians, I fear, into another Diaspora group like Armenians or Kurds in different territories without a state.

Quitting Afghanistan

By Bassam Javed

The Obama administration in the United States is currently engaged in rethinking a fresh Afghan strategy aimed at securing an exit without losing face. As far as meeting the projected requirement of his top commander's recommendation is concerned, the new strategy may provide for some additional troops in order to create conditions in Afghanistan that would eventually provide for US troops an exit. As of now, the United States is so stuck up in the Afghan morass that an early exit may well turn out to be disastrous. Now that the new US strategy will include wriggling out of the Afghan imbroglio, will it look for a fall guy? The upcoming Afghan strategy will provide the answer. In a related development, The New York Times (Nov 16) has quoted American officials as saying that the centre of gravity in shaping the new strategy will be Pakistan's willingness to broaden the scope of war against Al Qaeda beyond the militants attacking its cities and security forces.

The Pakistani leadership was sounded by Obama's national security adviser, General James Jones, during his last visit to Pakistan when he also handed over a letter to the Mr Zardari from President Obama, urging the former to rally the nation's political and national institutions in a concerted campaign against extremists. The message was tantamount to implying that Pakistan, once declared by the United States as a front-line state in the war against terror, must now relegate itself to a state that must handle the war on its own. It was also conveyed that in case Pakistan agreed, it would be awarded a range of new incentives covering enhanced mutual cooperation, intelligence sharing and military cooperation, and economic assistance.

Whatever decision is made on the number of additional troops for Afghanistan, it certainly will have repercussions for Pakistan. However, as the new strategy gets delayed, strange tactical moves on the part of US and NATO troops have been witnessed on the other side of the border in Afghanistan. When the Pakistan Army went into South Waziristan, it was about the same time that NATO drew down troops deployed along the Afghan border with Pakistan and consolidated some half a dozen of their remote outposts into fewer larger installations.

The favoured military option, said to be emerging from President Obama's on-going review of the Afghan policy, is to fall back on the cities. The tactics of falling back were also the last huffs of the Russians in Afghanistan and the Americans in Vietnam. Surely, both possessed high-tech weapons and fully deployed them in Afghanistan and Vietnam, but both failed to consult history prior to jumping into respective quagmires. The drawing down of troops along the Afghan border did create a space for the terrorists to enter Pakistan for which due concern was conveyed to the Americans. Pakistan had also requested NATO and the US forces to seal the border on the Afghan side since the Pakistan Army had gone into South Waziristan.

Whether it is an increase in the number of American forces or an adoption of the alternative of troop replacement with more drone attacks in Afghanistan, FATA or Balochistan as propagated by US Vice President Joe Biden, the strategic repercussions would be identical. The US Commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, who authored the report asking for more troops to stabilise Afghanistan, while lecturing at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in UK, rejected proposals to switch over to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces' operations against Al Qaeda. Moreover, as the troop level increases in Afghanistan, the supply route from Pakistan will be over-burdened. With focus on an army operation in South Waziristan and an unfriendly neighbour in the east, the Pakistan Army would be overstretched.

With a plethora of difficulties that the new democratic dispensation in Pakistan is already confronting, expanding the area of operations elsewhere would be tantamount to inviting trouble. More so, a perception is already taking root among the political and military leadership that America wants to transfer its war heritage to Pakistan to enable itself to exit gracefully from Afghanistan.

As far as the US administration is concerned, the realisation that stability in Afghanistan can only materialise once they pull out is a good omen. However, a hasty and ill-planned withdrawal will have disastrous effects not only for Pakistan but for the region as well. The sudden vacuum may well cause the re-emergence of terrorist networks. The paramount need for the United States now is to work for the formation of a broad-based government in the interim period between now and the time they schedule for their departure from Afghanistan. While doing so, the United States is bound to face enormous difficulties bringing the various Afghan tribal groups that are poles apart to a power-sharing deal. Like the Iraq war, the Afghan war cannot be won. Both proved to be disasters for the United States. While the respective wars resulted in massive losses of precious lives, they also got their due share in getting their own people killed. Though Iraq has taken a backstage in American misadventures, still the Afghan agony persists. It will only end with the exodus of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

JF-17: a major achievement

By Talat Masood

The rolling out of the first indigenously assembled JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft marks a major achievement in defence production. It demonstrates how far Pakistan has progressed in defence production considering that at the time of independence, there was not a single industrial unit pertaining to the same in the country. All ordnance factories and defence industrial units were located in India and research and development facilities were non-existent. This event is also significant as the manufacture of a fighter aircraft is a qualitative jump in terms of technology and industrial production. It is also a shining example of the close cooperation and support that China is providing to Pakistan in the entire spectrum of defence.

In modern warfare, air power has the most dominant and critical role as was amply demonstrated during the Gulf wars and Balkan and Afghan operations. Our own experience of 1965 and 1971 wars clearly brought out the efficacy of having a well-equipped and well-trained air force. The use of airpower is equally a major element in counter-insurgency operations as we are witnessing in South Wazirstan and earlier in Malakand. The operational effectiveness of land and sea forces is heavily dependent on the cover provided by the air arm. The unique capabilities of the fighter aircraft — high flexibility, unprecedented fire with sophisticated weapons and rapid concentration — make them eminently suited to combat aggression. Moreover, the phenomenal accuracy and extended range of air-launched, precision-guided weapons and bombs tilts the advantage to a military power that has air superiority.

India already enjoys numerical superiority, and is now further expanding its capability and modernising its fleet by acquisitions of the latest fourth-generation aircraft. It has, to its advantage, the choice of F-16/F-18, Eurofighter, Typhoon, MIG-35, Su-33, Mirage-5, Rafale and Swedish Grippen. On the other hand, Pakistan — due to financial constraints and the potential threat of sanctions not only from the US but western countries as well — has to largely depend on indigenous effort and support from China, whose reliability has been repeatedly tested.

Faced with these difficulties, the air force, during the tenure of late Air Marshal Mussaf, successfully re-engaged China for cooperative development of a mid-level high-tech fighter aircraft: the JF-17 Thunder. It was his foresight and leadership that gave birth to this project. Successive chiefs and project directors and their teams have put in great effort to bring the venture to this stage. Still, a lot more has to be done but with the quality of leadership and guidance being provided by the present chief and the support it is receiving from the ministry, the JS -17 should continue to roll out on time. This will eventually be the PAF's second line of defence.

The concept and air service requirements were given by the PAF. The design was primarily Chinese and the Pakistani side was closely associated with it. The production of the initial lot of JF-17 was done in China but hence forth, the aircraft will be assembled in PAC Kamra and, gradually, the indigenous content will be increased. The project has provided invaluable experience to our aeronautical and avionic engineers in design and development, and given them considerable experience in managing new projects. This nucleus of trained engineers can lay the foundation of Pakistan's aviation industry if properly guided and encouraged. In fact, in the not-too-distant future, our aviation industry can aspire to join the exclusive club of few countries that manufacture medium-high-technology fighter aircraft.

For nearly four decades, China has been at the forefront in assisting Pakistan in its indigenising effort, and this project is the finest example of this deep and enduring relationship. The Chinese aircraft firm CATIC also fully assisted us in the development of the trainer aircraft K-8. It is likely that if China were to succeed in developing its fourth-generation aircraft, Pakistan would like to associate itself with it. With such close cooperation, it is not surprising that today PAF's 70 per cent of weapons and equipment are outsourced to China, which is beneficial to both countries. It was in the 50s, and up to the 70s, that the PAF was practically one hundred per cent dependent on the US. Sanctions have been a great motivator for self-reliance. There are lessons in this for everyone. In a way, the US has not gained anything by pursuing its policy of isolating us. It has been unable to prevent us from moving forward with our nuclear programme. It may not have been important enough for the US to lose the Pakistani market, being more than an $11 trillion economy, but the loss of goodwill and weakening of strategic links haunts both countries to this day.

Although India has a wider and deeper industrial and technological base, still its indigenous effort of manufacturing the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has taken decades and is still undergoing trials.

For ensuring incorporation of the latest technolog,y the air frame of JS-17 has been designed such that it has the flexibility to integrate avionics and weapon systems from the Chinese or European sources, including the possibility of a hybrid arrangement. The Chinese have overcome their initial dependence on engines by collaborating with the Russians and producing it themselves.

The PAF also plans to progressively undertake the indigenisation of avionics and armaments of the JS-17. This aircraft is has the potential for continuous upgrades, termed as a 'block approach'. There is a built-in provision for stealth and air-to-air fuelling. The JF-17 is also equipped with air-to-air missiles beyond the visual range that will give it a critical operational capability, a standard feature with modern air forces. It is fly-by-wire, has a powerful state-of-the-art radar and there is a good man-machine interface.

The JF-17 could set the pace for a new generation of affordable and capable mid-level, high-tech aircraft. It has the potential for export and can find a niche market in the MiddleEast and South and South-east Asia. The Asian requirements at one time were projected to be anywhere between 1,000 to 1,500 aircraft in the next 15 years, thus China and Pakistan — the latter's equity share being 58 per cent and China's being 42 per cent in the project — can both benefit from exports.

The next phase of counter-militancy

Dr Maleeha Lodhi

The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.

With the first phase of the military offensive to clear militants from South Waziristan now nearing completion, the counter-militancy campaign is expected to transition into the next, more critical phase. This will entail steps to ensure that the gains that have been made are sustainable. It will also mean wrestling with the challenges that have emerged from a remarkably expeditious operation.

Among the most pressing challenges is to stem the wave of violent reprisals that has struck the country and turned Peshawar into a battle zone. Daily bombings, which have already disrupted people's lives, can strain the public consensus against militancy and shake the public's resolve to fight it.

Pursuing the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) leaders and fighters who seem to have dispersed into neighbouring Agencies means that the military campaign has now expanded to parts of Orakzai. As militants are using the access into Khyber to unleash a region of terror on Peshawar, "siege" operations are also planned here to restrict and neutralise the movement of militants. Two more Agencies are therefore expected in the next phase to see selective and targeted actions.

What will also be critical in the months ahead are post-conflict efforts that insure that the area can be held and an environment inhospitable to the return of militants is established. Although the military presence will be retained, over time a gradual de-induction of forces will depend on the Frontier Corps being able to assume security responsibilities along with the revival of the traditional political agent-tribal compact.

These will eventually be the exit tickets for the army. The sooner the civil administration can be reconstituted with local support, the easier it will be to start pulling out regular forces. This will be vital to avoid the troops becoming mired in a war of attrition or an unceasing fire-fight.

The South Waziristan operation has proceeded more speedily and with fewer casualties than was anticipated. Security forces secured much of the area within a month of launching the action. The militants have been driven out of their bases, their training centres dismantled and their sanctuaries eliminated.

Two of Operation Rah-e-Nijat's three core objectives have almost been achieved: re-establishing the state's writ in a longstanding no-go area and dismantling the command-and-control infrastructure of the TTP. The third objective of creating space for the political authorities in partnership with the local tribes to establish durable control remains an imposing task for the future.

Two elements of the military and political strategy have especially helped in attaining the stated objectives. The first is the "ridgeline approach" that was followed. This meant advancing troops avoided the main roads and instead focused on dominating the heights to secure the valleys – a tactic that caught the militants by surprise. This was buttressed by the reconfiguration of C-130 aircraft with surveillance eye-in-the sky capabilities to ensure accurate intelligence.

The second key factor was that the North Waziristan chapter of the TTP kept away from the battle in the south. Throughout the duration of the offensive in South Waziristan, there was not a single incident of hostility in the North. If that had happened it would have greatly complicated and distracted from the effort in the South.

As in Swat, another two key factors, proved to be decisive: unstinting public and media support for the military action as well as the evacuation of local residents from the area (300,000 inhabitants fled the battle area), which in turn allowed a sustained air and artillery campaign to be undertaken.

The toughest resistance was encountered around and in Kotkai on the eastern axis (leading up to Sararogha) in the three-pronged operation. This was the base from where the militants trained and launched suicide bombers. Sararogha served as the nerve centre of the TTP and their foreign allies.

Meanwhile, the bulk of training centres were discovered and destroyed in Kamigarum on the western axis. The multi-directional strategy helped to destroy the infrastructure of terrorism across a vast swathe of territory and also to establish control in a relatively short period.

The onset of winter, when traditionally two-thirds of the inhabitants of the Mehsud area seasonally migrate to escape the harsh weather and seek employment in the adjoining settled areas of the NWFP, will be a factor that will likely facilitate the campaign to clear the remaining pockets of resistance.

The skeptical view that the operation has made modest progress as it has only scattered the Taliban overlooks and minimises the fact that the militants are on the run, their capabilities have been degraded and their bases and freedom of movement sharply restricted. Their main training, command and communication centres have been neutralised. This means that while the militants are in hiding their effectiveness has been substantially reduced.

TTP spokesmen have declared that their fighters have avoided engaging the army to begin a guerrilla campaign later. This claim is contradicted by the fact that the heavy weapons and large amounts of ammunition that have been left behind suggest a scramble, not a planned retreat.

Plans already in play to assault the militants' logistics routes in Khyber Agency and mount military pressure in the region around the Tirah valley, lower Kurram and Orakzai are aimed at tightening the noose around the Taliban believed to be hiding there.

As this campaign proceeds, it is imperative that the military efforts are swiftly followed by a political drive to tackle the aftermath of the operation. This means dealing effectively with the administrative, reconstruction and development aspects of the post-conflict challenges.

In this regard the experience in Swat has been less than edifying. While the clear-and-hold phases have proceeded as smoothly as could be expected, the build-and-sustain efforts have been slow, faltering and thus far incoherent.

Even as the international community has expressed a commitment to come forth with assistance in this regard, the government has yet to even complete its "damage needs assessment" report that can serve as a credible plan to elicit support from donors. This means that the completion of the "post-conflict needs assessment" (dealing with governance issues) will be further delayed.

These delays do not inspire confidence at home and abroad about the official ability to deal with the immediate post operation challenges much less in addressing the longer-term governance architecture without which the stabilisation of the area cannot be placed on a sustainable basis.

If addressing post-conflict issues in Swat are proving so challenging for the civilian authorities, stabilising South Waziristan, once the military operation ends, will be infinitely harder. Rebuilding where extensive damage has occurred, as well as enabling the safe repatriation and rehabilitation of displaced people, will be among the urgent tasks.

The battle has therefore to be fought on many fronts, and it is the government that must step up and take responsibility to establish the structures for governance and the means to deliver services to the inhabitants of these areas if conditions are to be created to prevent the return of militancy. Military action, after all, is only one prong in an optimal policy response.

Looking ahead, the two key factors that will help determine the longer-term sustainability of the military gains in South Waziristan are unrelenting and vigorous efforts to mobilise public support for the anti-militancy effort and putting in place the governance structures that are seen as legitimate as well as responsive to the needs of the people living there.

Driving the TTP out

By Zafar Hilaly

For all their brave talk of fighting, dying and teaching the army a lesson, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan did what they always do when confronted by a larger force: they fled. A number, of course, stayed back, possibly as a rearguard to slow the army's advance. That would make sense, as from their well-positioned locations they could extract a heavy toll from the army. As it happened, the death toll was relatively light. In all, 550 insurgents, less than five per cent of the estimated numbers of the TTP force, were killed at the cost to the army of 100 brave soldiers and officers.

The TTP in South Waziristan had behaved much in the same way as in Swat. In fact, they acted as insurgents do all over the world when confronted by a regular army, which is to avoid set-piece battles so that they may live to fight another day. That is not to say that the operation was not a success. In fact, a great deal was achieved by the operation, and at a far lower cost in lives than expected.

By driving the TTP out of their strongholds in South Waziristan the army deprived them of the use of a safe haven, training facilities, bomb-making laboratories, etc. They also forced the retreating TTP to abandon a sizeable amount of weaponry and explosives, all of which will have to be replenished at considerable cost and much travail.

Insurgencies are wars of attrition and also a test of stamina and morale. The loss of strategic territory and weaponry weakens the insurgents, lowers morale and correspondingly inflates the will, effectiveness and resolve of the army and the nation. While the army has emerged the victor in South Waziristan, to maintain its ascendancy it will have to pursue and engage the enemy wherever they retreat. The TTP must know that if they are not going anywhere, nor is the army; and that, until such time as they relent, surrender or are defeated, neither will the army.

What bodes well for the future is the acceptance by the public of the legitimacy of operation Rah-e-Nijat. Public "acceptance" and "legitimacy" are key elements in determining the eventual success or failure of anti-insurgency strategies, just as they were in the dozen or so similar operations elsewhere in the world. William Polk's study of insurgencies further reveals that no matter how much alien occupiers wish to improve the condition of the local populace, when pitted against native insurgents the sympathy of the local population will invariably be with the latter. It is mostly for this reason that America cannot win in Afghanistan and why we can, even though we may not.

Of course, these are as yet early days of the civil war that is fast enveloping Pakistan. The TTP leadership is alive and yelling revenge. They have responded with a spate of bombings in Peshawar; although when they realised that the public reaction was hostile their spokesman chose to blame the bombings on the Americans.

Public anger against the Taliban is often accompanied by ire against the authorities for failing to protect the population. And because it is always difficult to acknowledge our own failings the public places the blame on foreign conspiracies. Actually, the public seem not as much lost as bewildered. They have no idea what to believe, let alone who. They cannot comprehend what is happening to their world and resent the fact that they cannot mend it.

Unless, therefore, the suicide bombings are thwarted more effectively, current support for the government will dissipate, giving way not only to anger but worse: hopelessness and a feeling that the government is helpless. And it is precisely when the public's pity at their own fate turns to contempt for the government that the insurgents step forward and offer themselves as alternative rulers, promising peace and an end to the slaughter, in return for the loyalty of the populace.

We saw this earlier in Swat when the police ran away, local officials were killed and the TTP stepped in to take on the job of maintaining law and order and dispensing justice. We also witnessed the absurd spectacle of TV channels broadcasting the speech of Sufi Mohammed proclaiming a new order that ironically would have made TV channels and Parliament redundant.

Although it was sobering to be confronted with what the future would look like if the TTP prevailed, more troubling was the fact that the whole nation viewed the spectacle being enacted in Swat so passively. Not a single man took to the streets against the brutalities of the TTP. And Parliament actually called for negotiations with the TTP, undoubtedly out of a sense of fear and foreboding, rather than patience and wisdom. Sadly, terror and force, the means that wins the easiest victory over reason, was being allowed to prevail.

The feeble and flaccid public response to the happenings in Swat was a revelation. It gave the enemy hope and showed how close we, as a society, are to the abyss. And were it not for the media's incessant screening of the young woman squealing while being whipped, would anyone have bothered or the army worked up the resolve to act? It is said that the army can only act with the support of the people. One discerned no such support among the people of Dacca in 1971. Luckily for the Jews, Moses did not conduct a poll before he set off. The fact is that when great changes occur in a nation's history, when great principles are involved, the majority are often wrong. Remedies often lie not in the ceaseless deliberations of many but the actions of a few.

As a result of the current vacuum in leadership, the clear direction which the nation so sorely requires is missing. The sarkar is rudderless. Mr Zardari feels wronged because people are laying the blame for the confusion that prevails at his doorstep. Yes, they are, but only because he not only errs, he blunders. Mr Zardari has responded by accusing people of jumping the gun and writing his political obituary. Actually, not only are they jumping the gun, they have hurdled the cannon; and what is being written now is not his political obituary but an epitaph which normally follows, and not precedes, an obituary. In other words, they are writing what they sense he has become—history. What, then, does the future hold? Who knows? Except, that it does seem dark and, at times, irretrievably so.

But if Mr Zardari, though more so his American mentors, display a mite of common sense and read the writing on the wall and depart—in the case of Mr Zardari, from office, and in the case of the Americans from Afghanistan—perhaps the darkness we are in will not stretch beyond the first light of day. Were the Americans to depart from Afghanistan the song that Al Qaeda, the Lashkars and the TTP sing will have little resonance. The Al Qaeda variety, in particular the Arab lot, who have had a hand in the murder of as many as 800 tribal maliks of FATA, can expect a cruel end when the tide turns, as it will. The Laskars, Jaishes and the TTP are more the concern of the establishment. They created them and now should snuff them out.

All this could happen, given time and proper leadership in Pakistan; and less paranoia and more imagination on the part of America. It is a shame, therefore, that the government is urging the Americans not to leave Afghanistan. How can those who, when they came should never have stayed on, be urged to continue a while longer? And after eight years, is Pakistan still not ready to cope on its own with the challenges it faces? Why should our leaders who act as if they are not afraid of God be scared of the adversary? Told that all Europe had fallen to the Nazis and asked how England expected to defend itself, an English cartoonist replied, "Very well, then alone." Are we up to it?

Nov 22, 2009

On the wrong track

The solution does not lie in transferring Pakistan Railways into private hands but in a greater involvement of workers in the management

By Abdul Manan

As privatisation of Pakistan Railways (PR) is on the cards thousands of labourers employed by it fear they will lose their jobs if PR is privatised. Labour unions have vowed that they will put up resistance against the proposed privatisation as they have not been taken on board in this regard. Officials of the PR believe that no proper yardstick is available to enlist and assess the assets of railway appropriately. The labour unions which are protesting against the proposed privatisation for two months blame it on corruption in the bureaucracy which, they say, have cost the PR billions of rupees. On the other hand, PR's high officials favour the privatisation process.

According to government officials, PR has been running in losses for decades. Last month, Federal Minister for PR Ghulam Ahmad Bilour stated that PR was incurring losses of Rs 16 billion. According to government statistics, various governments have made a number of attempts to cut losses but failed. In 1997 the Council of Common Interest (CCI) approved the privatisation of PR to put it on the right track but the decision did not materialise. PR has been divided into three business units: passenger, freight, and infrastructure but, according to PR's officials, this composition badly flopped in 1999.

Other actions taken in 1997 by CCI were that all the surplus assets and non-core assets were to be transferred to Railway Resettlement Authority (RRA). The RRA will be a statutory body. The mission of the RRA is to dispose of all the surplus assets and liquidate long-term liabilities. It was also decided that Railway Policy and Regulatory Framework document would be formulated. Discussions were held by PC with the ministry of railways to discuss future modalities.

PR General Manager Saeed Akhter tells The News on Sunday (TNS) that no actions mentioned above have been implemented. Talking about the current development of PR's privatisation he says that recently Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCOP) has discussed the proposed "Pakistan Railway Corporation Act (PRCA)" and referred it to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) for approval. He says that PRCA after getting the approval from CCI will soon be implemented.

According to government statistics CCOP is the macro-level decision-making body for approving, modifying, and implementing the privatisation policy of the government. It was established simultaneously with the establishment of PC 1991. Article 153 of the Constitution provides for a CCI comprising the chief ministers of the provinces and an equal number of members from the federal government. The public entities, interests etc, contemplated to be privatised are brought before the CCI if it is so required.

Saeed Akhter maintains that if people define privatisation as mere transfer of ownership then he would disagree to it. He denies that there are plans to privatise PR, saying the government of Pakistan has reviewed the existing privatisation policy in order to model it on the concept of Public Private Partnership (PPP) wherein the management may be transferred to investors while ensuring transparency. He said that the main objective of privatisation policy through PPP model is to put national resources and assets to optimal use, adding that the PR has recently exercised this by planning a project with two Karachi-based private companies to establish Praim Nagar Dry Port in Lahore.

According to statistics give by some government officials who do not want to be named, PR is giving services to around 40 million people across the country and around half a million people of the city are associated with the PR as employees. They claim that the private sector will not run their trains on low profitable branch lines and question job security of the employees. They also say that since PR has great strategic importance, especially during wartime, private sector might create problems for movement of trains carrying equipment for the army.

Representatives of labour unions have expressed their views against the privatisation. Chairman Railway Mehnatkash Union, Khadim Hussain, says that PR is a national institution and it should not be privatized as it employees about 80,000 employees, including some 65, 000 workers between the basic pay scale of 1 to 12. He fears that if PR is privatised the fate of workers will hang in balance.

Hussain complains that PR has not taken them on board, as they are major stakeholders of the privatisation process, adding that privatisation of government institutions have failed in the country in the past. By the same token, he believes, the privatisation of PR will also fail. He cites Federal Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour who had stated in the Standing Committee of Senate a few weeks ago that PR's officials had committed corruption of around 14 billion rupees. He believes that if administrative flaws are removed from the PR then it can be turned into a profitable institution.

General Secretary Pakistan Railways Traffic Yard Staff Association, Syed Shujat Hussain, alleges that transporters are major players in PR's privatisation process in order to make their transportation business more profitable. "Transporters have political influence. They want to run their buses on the routes used by trains."

Chairman Praim Labour Union (CBA) Sheikh Anwar maintains that since PR is a commercial and strategic institution its privatisation will be taken as an act of high treason. He suggests that PR should adopt Open Access Policy (OAP) instead of its corporation or privatisation, adding that through OAP, PR should invite foreigners and rent out railway tracks to run their own trains. He believes OAP can solve PR's problems. Anwar tells TNS that some sections of PR were privatised in the past but it proved to be a bad experience. He cites an example where a train bound from Faisalabad to Lahore was privatised in 1996 at the cost of Rs 20 million per annum but it ran into losses of about Rs 30m per annum. He says that PR's privatisation will leave workers insecure.

Anwar believes that it is the PR's administration at the top level that should be downsized instead of the lower staff. "India runs 14000 trains per day while Pakistan runs 293 trains per day. India has only one slot of General Manager while Pakistan has three GMs, three additional GMs, eight divisional superintendents and 16 deputy divisional superintendents."

Central General Secretary of Railway Mehnatkash Union Muhammad Iqbal Shad tells TNS that PR's privatisation will deprive workers from their basic human rights as private sector will deprive them of basic facilities such as residences, free healthcare, and education. Shad says PR's privatisation will also withdraw the 20 percent job quota of PR's employees, adding that PR's administration has not signed any contract with any labour union for the last 30 years.

Representatives of various labour unions, such as, Praim union (CBA), Railways Mazdoor Union, Railways Labour Union, and Railways MehnatKash Union tell TNS that all the labour unions will stage a protest against PR's privatisation if it takes place and can even go to the extent of blocking the railways system across the country.

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, a human rights activist, expresses his views on PR's privatisation. "We are against the process of corporatisation leading to privatisation. This is because commanding heights of the economy, such as telecommunications, railways and oil and gas should be public monopolies that guarantee employment and service delivery. Besides, these organisations can earn money for the public exchequer. The performance of PIA and PTCL has, in fact, gotten worse after corporatisation/privatisation."

Aasim believes labourer's apprehensions about their job security are well-founded. "This is a fairly accurate threat perception. The example of PTCL after privatisation proves that worker retrenchment is one of the primary actions taken by private management".

On the bureaucracy concerns regarding PR's privatisation Aasim says, "Bureaucracy is of course motivated by its own narrow interests. I believe that the bureaucracy is part of the problem but the solution is not to transfer public enterprises like PR into private hands, instead, the solution is to take concrete steps towards greater involvement of workers in management. Aasim maintains that public private partnership is just a fancy way of doing corporatisation leading to privatisation.

All about (dis)Order

"Admitting anomalies in the Police Order 2002, the government has prepared a strategy to replace it with a new Police Order 2010"

By Babar Dogar

As the December 31 deadline for giving constitutional protection to the Police Order 2002 approaches fast, the provincial governments have started bracing themselves for a new police system. The present police laws were put in place during the Musharraf era by the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), allegedly cobbled together under the patronage of the military regime. The police order was brought with the objective of depriving the District Management Group (DMG) of all powers relating to the police.

Under the system of executive magistracy, the deputy commissioner played a pivotal role in the district. The district magistrate wielded vast powers under the Police Act of 1934 and Police Rules of 1934. Under the previous police laws, the district magistrate exercised general superintendence over the district police and the District Superintendent of Police was answerable to the district magistrate in matters pertaining to law and order and human rights.

The district magistrate and the assistant commissioner/sub-divisional magistrate could inspect police stations in the district. They could hold judicial enquiries against police officers accused of committing excesses against the public. The police was bound to take orders from the district magistrate and his subordinate magistrates in matters relating to law and order. The district magistrate would initially write a portion of the Performance Evaluation Report of the District Superintendent of Police. However, later, this power gave way to writing a separate special report on the performance of the SSPs. Under the Police Rules of 1934, the district magistrate had the power to approve posting of the Station House Officers (SHOs). However, with the passage of time the SSPs started posting SHOs independently. Under the previous laws, permission for holding processions and rallies was also granted by the district magistrate.

Under the devolution plan, the institution of executive magistracy along with the district magistrate was abolished. For the purpose, criminal law amendments were brought, which amended the Criminal Procedure Code 1898. Likewise, a new police order with the name of Police Order 2002 was promulgated. The Police Order was brought with the high claims of freeing police from political pressures. The continuous political interference was not only marring the performance of police officers but also adversely affecting the provision of justice to the common man.

The police was brought out of the control of provincial governments by minimising the control of Home Department over the police and transferring its reigns to civilian control. There was a provision of Public Safety Commission, a watchdog body comprising people from the civil society at the federal, provincial and district levels to control the police. Nevertheless, due to political exigencies and manoeuvering of police officials, the Public Safety Commissions remained a toothless body and was not allowed to function properly.

Despite the fact that police is purely a provincial subject, the Police Order was promulgated as a federal law by General Pervez Musharraf in his capacity as Chief Executive. Some of the consultants, then working with NRB, had expressed their reservations regarding promulgation of the Police Order as a federal law. However, the powerful and well-entrenched police lobby in NRB prevailed and the Police Order was promulgated as a federal law.

The Police Order 2002 envisages that any amendment to the Order can only be made by the federal government. When the Parliament was elected in 2003, it validated all the Ordinances and Orders of the Chief Executive under Article 270AA by a two-third majority.

There is a difference of opinion regarding the repeal of or amendment to the Police Order even after it is denuded of its constitutional protection after December 31, 2009. Police and DMG officers view the law through different lenses. Police officers maintain that the Police Order is no more within the domain of the provincial governments as it has been validated by the two-third majority of the Parliament. The DMG officers, on the other hand, maintain that police is neither in federal government nor in the Concurrent List of the Constitution and thus is purely a provincial subject. Hence, promulgation of the police law is entirely unconstitutional and after December 31, when it is excluded from the sixth schedule of the constitution, the provincial governments will adopt it and thus amend it.

There are two options available to the provincial governments to bring new police laws. First is a compromise with the federal government under which the present Police Order may be repealed and a new law may be framed by the federal government and given to the provinces to adopt it like the Local Government Ordinance was done. The other option is the judicial forum, meaning thereby that since the promulgation of the Police Order as a federal law is violation of the constitution, the courts can strike down the Police Order.

Keeping in view the intricacy of the situation, the viable option for the federal and provincial governments is to sit together and bring consensus laws. For bringing about an effective administrative system according to the demands of the provinces, amendments in Criminal Procedure Code for restoration of Executive Magistracy and in Police Order for creating control of the District Magistrate are necessary. These amendments can only be made by the federal government. Some quarters, especially Daniyal Aziz, ex-Chairman NRB, strongly opposed the restoration of Executive Magistracy on the ground that its restoration would be negation of the doctrine of separation of Judiciary from the Executive.

The Law Reforms Ordinance 1972, which served as the basis of separation of Judiciary from the Executive and which was made part of the Constitution of 1973, provided for retention of the institution of Executive Magistracy. They further cite the example of the Indian Constitution which also contains provisions of separation of judiciary from the executive. However, the institution of Executive Magistracy still exists there.

The present Police Order 2002 does not provide considerable safeguards against human rights violations. The entire police order revolves around the Public Safety and Complaints Commissions. It was claimed at the time of promulgation of the Police Order that community involvement would be ensured. Even at the initial stage, the commissions were packed with members having strong political affiliations. Later, MNAs and MPAs were included in the commissions whose very political survival depended on their performance in thana and kutchery.

Prominent lawyer on criminal procedures Aftab Bajwa, tells The News on Sunday (TNS) that Police Order 2002 had some inherent flaws which had caused difficulties in providing justice to the masses. "The decision to separate investigation from operation caused further difficulties for the masses instead of facilitating them". Bajwa is of the view that the absence of proper checks and balances on police after abolishing the office of District Magistrate made cops unruly, adding that the concept of community oversight over police has utterly failed. A two-tier system of oversight over police needs to be put in place to safeguard human rights. Bajwa suggests that a district magistrate should be empowered to conduct enquiry against errant police officers but the matter of punishment should be left to the court which should not be inferior to the Sessions court. Entrusting powers of judicial enquiry of police encounters with the Judicial Magistrates has not worked as a deterrent against fake encounters. Bajwa believes this power should be given to the Sessions Judges while the power to disperse unlawful assemblies should be given to the Executive Magistrates.

Talking to TNS, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan admitted anomalies in the Police Order 2002 and claimed the government had prepared a strategy to replace it with a new Police Order 2010. He told TNS that the ministry had constituted a working committee to work on Police Order 2010 after identifying lacunas in the Police Order 2002. Sanaullah termed meaningless the Public Safety Commissions and Police Liaison Committee, which were part of the draft of Police Order 2002.

The minister claimed that the separation of Investigation wing from the Operation wing had damaged the concept of unity of command in the police department and encouraged corruption. He said the ministry was planning to bring it under one control. Moreover, he was of the view that since the Police Order had created new posts and consequently brought unprecedented promotions among police officers that made the police hierarchy top-heavy. Sanaullah said they had plans to further clip some of the powers of DPOs and transfer these to the office of District Magistrates, adding that under the Police Order 2010, DPOs would not be able to transfer Station House Officers (SHO) before a period of one year.

Human currency

The government is hesitant in showing evidence that it is addressing issues of bonded labour and trafficking of migrant workers

By Ayra Inderyas

Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), released in June 2009 by United States Department of State Publication, places Pakistan at the centre of issues like forced labour and sexual exploitation. The international face of human trafficking has its own horrifying tales of victims coerced into prostitution in various forms and manifestations. One UN estimate placed 4 million people, among them 2 millions girls, in the age bracket of 5 to 15 years that are trafficked and brought into sex industry each year. Trafficking across borders is primarily from poor countries -- from South and East and Eastern Europe to wealthier countries of Western Europe, the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and the Middle East.

As of 2006, the US State Department reported that women and children trafficked each year to the US are mostly from South East Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Trafficking business is now worth an estimated £10.5 billion globally according to Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking. Women and children from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal are trafficked to Pakistan primarily for forced labour, according to TIP report.

A few living experiences of women trafficking survivors of Philippines origin are eye-opening. These cases were presented last month during the Beijing plus 15 Conference on Women Rights in Manila. Various factors, emotional and economic, result in people taking to an escape route to vent out anger.

Women trafficking is undertaken by organised gangs of recruiters, traffickers, and their associated networks. Some agencies entrap women on false economic incentives such as offering them jobs in hospitals, secretarial jobs, invite them to cultural events. Many a times visa and passports are taken away and, having no other choice, victims fall a prey to this modern-day bondage. Girls live in constant fear of their employers and end up enduring and encountering sexual violence.

Offering girls in swarah to settle disputes between feuding parties is another form of trafficking. Women from rural and low-income areas are sometimes pushed into seeking employment in cities where they are exploited by all kinds of mafias and often pushed into prostitution. Sometimes girls also try to escape from violence in families and end up in the clutches of traffickers, says Rubina Saigol, a social analyst.

Prostitution also puts a victim at health risks throughout her life. Is it sane to imagine that someone would voluntarily choose to become a prostitute? According to United Nations Anglican Observer, Hellen Akwii-Wangusa, deception, betrayal and abuse of power are the tactics used in trafficking. In Pakistan, bonded labour remains an unresolved issue in brick-making, carpet-weaving, mining, and leather tanning -- a practice that is operative in Sindh and Punjab.

The aforementioned TIP report states that the government is hesitant in showing evidence of addressing issues of bonded labour, forced child labour and trafficking of migrant workers by deceptive and fraudulent labour recruiters. The government of Pakistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, Pakistan is making significant efforts, such as prosecution of some trafficking offenders and launching of public awareness programmes, the report says.

Pakistan has Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance with penalties ranging from seven to 14 years imprisonment. For internal cases of trafficking, Emigration Ordinance is in place. In addition, Bonded Labour System Abolition Act has penalties ranging from two to five years imprisonment and fine or both. Under the reporting period, the government made convictions of 28 trafficking offenders but the specifics of punishments awarded to offenders were not available. On the other side, 147 law enforcement officials were disciplined for complicity with human trafficking under the government service rules and regulation revealed in the TIP report. Pakistan has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Najma's saga

Some unfortunate women, hard pressed under poverty, violence, forced marriages, and under-age marriages, find themselves left with few options. One such heart-wrenching story is that of Najma (not her real name), a 26-year old who worked as maid in Lahore and was later forced into prostitution. Ever since I met Najma, I cannot forget the despair and dejection in her eyes and the smiling yet pale face of her two-year old baby girl. Najma fell prey to a gang of women traffickers, but was fortunate enough to extricate herself from the gang, only to become their target again. Najma's naivety to the social evils in society became one of her drawbacks. Najma tells The News on Sunday (TNS) that she and her husband used to spend a comfortable life in the servant quarter of a businessman where she worked part time and her husband as a chauffeur. Coming from rural surroundings, where Najma faced abject poverty, city life was a breath of fresh air.

By a twist of fate she landed in the clutches of human traffickers. She was travelling in a rickshaw to visit a friend along with her infant girl. Since she did not know the exact address, the rickshaw driver, who happened to be a contact of human traffickers, took her to the place of the gang. Najma's hue and cry was of no avail. Later, she was offered to various clients.

The baby was given under the charge of a middle-aged maid of the house. Finally, a middle-aged client of Najma helped her to travel to Rawalpindi and got her settled as a housekeeper at a working women's hostel. Meanwhile, Najma's husband filed a First Information Report (FIR) for her missing wife. The police were hesitant to register the FIR of abduction case. Najma's husband was humiliated by the police who said his wife had eloped with some acquaintance.

Eventually, after gaining her freedom from the gang, Najma contacted her husband but she was not accepted back home. Meanwhile, Najma also lost her job in the working women's hostel. Now Najma lives alone, frequently changing places. She clings to her child with a resolve to secure her future and education. When asked why she resorted to prostitution she burst into tears explaining she had to do that in order to survive. She showed the scribe her diary which was full of contact details of her clients

Collusion against a law

Constitution requires the government to regulate trade, commerce and industry in the interest of free competition and public interest. Will the parliament and the government act in public interest or fall prey to manoeuvrings of the strong cartel lobbies?

By Asad Jamal

While the whole nation is held hostage to a non-debate on NRO, there is a risk that other important ordinances and institutions established under them may also become prey to the prevailing political environment. The Competition Ordinance, 2007 (the Ordinance) is one such legislation which established Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP). The commission may meet a pre-mature and unnatural death, unless the ordinance is re-enacted on its expiry on Nov 28, (the cut-off date set out by the Supreme Court in its Order of 31 July, 2009). The Ordinance was promulgated under Article 89 of the Constitution on 3 October, 2007, replacing the outdated Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Ordinance of 1970 (MRTPO). It was given so-called status of a permanent law under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) imposed by Gen. Musharraf, which has been declared unconstitutional by the apex court.

The Competition Commission of Pakistan in its short existence has done some commendable work in the interest of the people of Pakistan. It has successfully taken on strong vested interest which holds back the national economy and works to the disadvantage of ordinary citizens. Examples include the cartels in the cement, sugar and banking sector. The commission has also taken on cellular phone companies and other businesses which indulged in unfair and anti-competitive trade practices.

The success of the commission has been made possible due to various provisions of the Ordinance (it is drafted in accordance with the prevailing international best practices of competition legislation) which established a powerful institution coupled with a competent team led by Khalid Mirza, its Chairman. Today, the Competition Commission figures prominently among the few good institutions we have. On a recent visit to India, one heard praise for the work the Commission has done so far.

Taking on strong vested interest has also earned the Commission the ire of the elements involved in anti-competitive and anti-people activities. There have been efforts to influence the government to dilute the powers of the Commission. For instance, amendments reportedly concerning the quantum and basis of penalties prescribed in the ordinance for various violations have been under consideration to be placed before the Senate.

Sensing the urgency and necessity of the work of the Commission, the government placed the law for consideration before the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Finance a few days ago. However, this step provided just another occasion to somehow manoeuvre to dilute the strength of the law which gives the Commission wide powers including that of search of business premises and impounding of records, to initiate enquiries into cartels and other anti-competitive behaviour and unfair trade practices, and to penalise delinquent businesses by imposition of fine up to Rs50 Million or 15 per cent of annual turnover to deter them and others from future violations along with security of tenure to the members of the Commission. The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance has confirmed to journalists that there was a lot of pressure exerted from various stakeholders to reconsider the draft Competition law. Lobbying in the parliament and with the government circles has reportedly forced the speaker National Assembly to send the Competition bill back to the concerned Standing Committee for reconsideration.

It has also been reported in the press that the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) in letters addressed to the Sindh Government as well as other relevant quarters in the federal government, has raised several questions regarding the Commission's constitutional status as well as the commission's several powers. It may be recalled that the Commission earlier this year had imposed fines (on the lower side) upon the stock exchanges of the country including KSE for anti-competitive practice of fixing of minimum price on the trading of listed securities in violation of Section 4 of the Ordinance which prohibits agreements that lessen competition in relevant market. The letter was circulated while the vires of the ordinance have already been challenged by KSE and some cement companies in superior courts.

Among the various questions reportedly raised by KSE and others, the most important concerns the federal parliament's competence to enact a law on the subject of competition and cartels. It is the most important question because it goes to the very basis of the law's existence. But, it would appear, that this is the weakest objection. It is argued that the subject is mentioned neither in the Federal nor in the Concurrent Legislative List (subjects mentioned in these two are within the competence of the parliament for legislation). Any legislation on competition, therefore, should be left to provinces. It needs to be emphasised that any scheme of law concerning competition in a federation must transcend provinces. Provinces or states in any federation anywhere in the world face constitutional inability to act on any such scheme. For the sake of making the matter simple, consider: How is the Government of Punjab supposed to act against a company based in Sindh, which is indulging in a behaviour contrary to the public interest of the people of Punjab and vice versa?

The objection to the parliament's legislative competence is flawed as the article 151 (2) of the 1973 Constitution clearly empowers the parliament to enact a law to "impose such restrictions on the freedom of trade, commerce or intercourse between one Province and another or within any part of Pakistan as may be required in the public interest". And even before that sub-article 1 of Article 151 says "(1) Subject to clause (2), trade, commerce and intercourse throughout Pakistan shall be free". Article 301 of the Indian Constitution is comparable to our 151. The Indian Supreme Court has held in Jindal Stainless Steel case [Jindal Stainless Ltd. v. State of Haryana, AIR 2006 SC 2550], that freedom (in Article 301 of Indian Constitution) means freedom from laws which go beyond regulation. Therefore, Article 151 means freedom from laws which burden and thus envisage regulation.

Article 151(2) read with item no. 27 of the Federal Legislative List (…inter-provincial trade and commerce, trade and commerce with foreign countries;…) is comparable to the popularly known Commerce Clause (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3) of the US Constitution which empowers the Congress "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes". Similarly, Section 91(2) of Canada's Constitution Act (1867) empowers the Canadian parliament "Legislative Authority" over "The Regulation of Trade and Commerce."

Similar examples can be found elsewhere in other federal constitutions where parallel constitutional provisions exist. While the jurisprudence on the subject indicates that there is a tendency to limit the federation's general power to legislate on matters concerning interstate/province trade and commerce but the constitutional inability of the provinces/states, jointly or severally, to enact such a law and the need for national rather than provincial/state regulation if a scheme is to be meaningful and effective are two criteria, among others, which the courts are inclined to examine while considering the vires of a federal statute relating to interstate commerce and trade.

Therefore, there is now a general agreement in federally structured states that competition is a subject within the competence of the federation as, inter alia, the provinces/states, jointly or severally, are constitutionally incapable of enacting an effective legal scheme concerning competition.

Reportedly, an argument has also been tried at, based on constitutional provisions of the abrogated constitutions of 1956 and 1962. While the 12956 constitution had a specific item on the federal legislative lis concerning industrial monopolies; the 1962 constitution had no reference to the subject, neither in the substantial provisions nor in the legislative lists. We should not forget that the former anti-monopoly law MRTPO of 1970 (which was promulgated after the 1962 Constitution had been abrogated in 1969) was given protection under the Constitution of 1973. Therefore, any argument on the basis of previous constitutional provisions also does not hold. Any reference to the Indian constitutional scheme in support of the ultra vires argument on the basis that it has a specific item on its concurrent legislative list is also non-productive, which may not be discussed here due to space constraint.

The amendment under consideration by the federal government regarding the quantum of penalty also needs to be considered carefully. The Ordinance provides (subsection 2 of section 38) that Commission may impose fine on any enterprise found guilty of violating its provisions, a fine of Rs50 million or 15 per cent of its annual turnover, leaving discretion with the Commission. The amendment proposes insertion of words 'whichever is less' for imposition of fine from the two amounts. This is clearly at the behest of powerful cartel lobbies in the country and is intended to reduce the quantum of penalty which will substantially take out the sting out of the powers of the Commission. This should not happen. In this regard, it may also be mentioned that international best practices prescribe that penalties be linked to turn over. At this juncture of the development of law and competition regime, it would be best to leave the discretion with the Commission. It can be strongly argued that this is important to deter increasing cartelisation in Pakistan.

Simultaneously, voices have been raised to make penal provisions of the ordinance even stricter by criminalising certain offences under the Ordinance. This may prove to be premature. Investigation and enquiry into cartelisation is a highly complex and difficult task. In jurisdictions where competition offences have been criminalised, it was done after the competition regime had worked for some years and significant expertise had been obtained by lawyers and economists to investigate cartelisation. Corporate and individual criminalisation of offences will give powers in the hands of the Commission for which it may not have the requisite experience. However, any such provisions, if introduced, may be envisaged to come into force at an appropriate future date a few years from now after taking stakeholders on board.

However, certain other objections raised concern the provision of Supreme Court as a forum for appeals against the decisions of Appellate Tribunal of the Commission (section 42) and Commission's powers for search of business premises and seizure of records without obtaining warrants from an independent judicial body (sections 34, 35). The search and seizure powers, without obtaining permission from an independent body, are contrary to international best practices. The law must be amended in this regard by involving a judicial body in the mechanism. The Supreme Court as the direct appellate forum from the Commission's decisions appears on the face of it somewhat problematic and needs to be debated in terms of the Articles, among others, 185, 175 and 212 of the Constitution.

However, such considerations need time which is short at present, as the law must sail through the parliament or promulgated as an ordinance on its expiry on Nov 28 as prescribed by the apex court. Khalid Mirza, the Chairman of the Commission, has reportedly said that in case the law is not passed with all the existing powers, he might resign. The stakes are high, indeed. The Constitution requires the government to regulate trade, commerce and industry in the interest of free competition and public interest. Will the parliament and the government act in public interest or fall prey to manouvrings of the strong cartel lobbies?

Islam in context

By Rafi Ullah

Two major theories that explain the arrival of Islam in India are: 1) the religion of sword theory and, 2) the religion of persuasion. Each theory has its own advocates with abundant arguments in support of their viewpoint. It is, however, commonly agreed that Islam appeared in the Indian Sub-Continent long before the Arab military conquest of Sindh. In case of Swat, on the contrary, the introduction of Islam solely synchronises with Mehmud of Ghazni's sword.

The subsequent history of this new faith, Islam, in Swat is the story of contextualisation. Like other parts of central and south Asia, a Sufi form of Islam developed here. This process continued uninterrupted until the British encroachments on the Pakhtun land during the second half of the nineteenth century. After the demise of Akhund Abdul Ghafur alias Saidu Baba in 1877, some fundamentalist clergymen started to dominate the religious scene in the valley. One such legend, Sandakai Mulla, was violently engaged in anti-British as well as puritanical activities at the beginning of the 20th century. It is with him that the mystic form of Islam was disturbed in Swat for the first time.

The East is traditionally associated with spiritual consideration (mysticism) and Swat valley is no exception to this fact. Veneration of darveshs and shrines has been an envious attribute in the area. The personages of Shekh Milli and Akhund Abdul Ghaffur are an epitaph to this characteristic phenomenon of Swat society. On their part, such religious figures never interrupted the evolutionary pace of the society and Swat inherently continued towards progress and development. This natural evolutionary movement halted when Miangul Abdul Wadud, the grandson of the Akhund, assumed the mantle of power as spiritual-cum-temporal leader of the valley in 1917, under the title of Bacha (King). The Mianguls were, at that time, a secularised family with spiritual legacy. They needed to have secular credentials in relation with the British while, at the same time, in the native Swati socio-political context a hagio appearance was needed.

If Sandakai Mulla was associated with the wider programme of Islamic revivalism and reformation the Walis of Swat (1917-1969) proved instrumental in institutionalising religion in Swati politics. Religion was introduced into the politics of Swat with the consent of the Britishers. Only a hagiocracy could provide them a safer border in the region, especially in the face of the perceived Bolshevik threat. Bolshevism was officially declared as something anti-Islamic and loyalty to the British was simultaneously stressed upon. Thus, religion was prudently used in Swat state in the best interest of the British Empire.

Similarly, for ensuring internal peace the British wanted to reduce the influence of militant religious figures. And this problem was also ironed out with the cross-influence of the Mianguls. It is to be noted that this brand of Islam was acceptable and beneficial to both the colonial British and the Walis of Swat. The Walis also acted as religious out of the local political expediencies. Sharia laws were introduced in the state in a way that transformed the nature of politics and society in Swat, an act that helped the Mianguls gain legitimacy and state consolidation.

The judicial system was apparently painted as Islamic sharia. But, in fact, some parallel Codes of Conducts derived from and formulated in the light of customs were also in effect in Swat state. It is not a mare's nest that the establishment of two Dar-ul-Ulooms, in Saidu Sharif (Mingawara) and Charbagh, was a conscious effort towards gradual Islamisation of the judicial system obviously at the cost of the secular national culture of the Swat Pakhtuns (Pakhtunwali). Fetawa-Wadudia also seems to be compiled under this obsessive consideration.

Quite the reverse is the fact to which Ghulam Habib Khan, editor of Riwaj Nama-i-Swat, points out. He writes that though in some tehsils brief and scarce codes of conducts were available but no serious efforts were made in the compilation of Riwaj (customs). The Islamisation programme was not restricted to the legal system of the state alone rather it spread to adversely affect the cultural features of Swat. Historical names of many villages were substituted with Arabic ones, for instance Petai as Fateh Pur, Churrai as Madayan, Baranyal as Behrain and so on and so forth. This process of Islamisation was a conscious effort aimed at the centralisation of power and consolidation of the state authority. In this way, the Walis successfully consigned the powerful Swati Khans, a traditional-secular leadership, to oblivion.

The Walis are generally projected as progressive and secular rulers, especially as compared to the Nawabs of Dir. But there seems no point of comparison as the two had evolved in different contexts. The Nawabs, contemporary of the Walis, had inherited Dir from their forefathers. They were safe from any kind of internal challenge. On the contrary, the Walis' holy family was of no match to the Swati Khans. In this context, the Walis' efforts of modernisation as well as Islamisation seem to have been directed towards crippling the powers of the rival Khans.

The Walis of Swat can be, in a limited sense, compared to the enlightened despots of the mid-eighteenth century Europe. The latter were generous in developmental programme. They patronised enlightenment principles and instituted some rational reforms in realms of education, trade, commerce, and religion. Through their reform measures, the enlightened monarchs clearly looked at enhancing central government's power and thereby their own.

The Walis also shared their cynical disdain for all sorts of individual liberties and freedoms with the enlightened despots of Europe. The fact is substantiated by the persecution of Zardullah Khan, Sundiya Baba and Reful Ustad for their alleged connections with Abdul Ghaffar Khan's Khudai Khidmatgar Movement.

Similarly, Professor Sahar Yusufzai, a well-known Urdu-Pakhto literary figure, was removed from his position as professor at the Jahanzeb College, Mingawara. The professor was famous for instilling the use of reason and free-thinking in his students.

The general phenomenon of socio-political developments at the turn of the nineteenth century in Europe led to democratic values and institutions. But quite the opposite took place in Swat. The political ambience in the second half of the twentieth century, in Pakistan and Swat state, was conducive for the state-patronised religious obscurantism. It is, thus, to be safely inferred that the Walis, the sole policy makers-cum-rulers, were instrumental in the gradual Islamisation of state and society in Swat.

Economic imperatives of war

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

It is common sense that the American invasion of Iraq was motivated in large part by the desire to control the latter's enormous oil reserves. Throughout the history of the world, wars have been waged to secure material riches. However, just as important as the actual acquisition of resources in explaining wars is the economic need of the professional and economic interests associated with war. In other words, without war, professional armies and the multiple industries that create the implements of war are deprived of their raison d'etre.

Dissident intellectuals in the Western world have written prolifically about the so-called military industrial complex and the enormous power that it wields in Western countries, and particularly the United States. The argument is quite simple: overtime munitions and industries have expanded exponentially and their continued profitability requires the persistence of armed conflict. For the most part, munitions industries supply their own war-making institutions. So the major US-based arms suppliers rely primarily on US government contracts. However, like almost any other big industry in the 21st century, the production chains and markets of munitions companies are heavily internationalised.

It is not surprising that the narrative about the military-industrial complex when taken to its logical conclusion is often considered a 'conspiracy theory' because it posits that there exists a very powerful lobby within Western countries that is committed to unending armed conflict. But is this so difficult to believe? A close look at the American economy suggests that the military-industrial complex is one of the few, if not the last, major industries left in the US which has not jumped ship to either Europe or East Asia. There is also a very close link between the military-industrial complex and the corporate media, which, as is also common knowledge, is primarily responsible for moulding 'public opinion'.

The overall picture looks something like this: Americans consume much more than they produce, and rely on the rest of the world to finance their deficits. Meanwhile, the only thing that America produces and exports in a big way is war and weapons, and the whole absurdity of this statusquo is depicted as perfectly logical by the mass media.

Of course, there is also the other side. In Afghanistan, and Pakistan less so, there has developed over the past four decades or so a substantial network of interests that is dependent on the persistence of armed conflict. In the first instance, an enormous number of weapons is smuggled across various borders in cahoots with state functionaries. This smuggling network incorporates the users of the weapons, the transporters as well as a parallel network of drug traffickers (the production and sale of drugs largely funds the purchase and transportation of weapons).

Much has been made about the huge volume of poppy that is cultivated in Afghanistan, processed into heroin and smuggled to Europe. Informed observers are well aware that it is naïve to expect that the well-developed poppy export trade can be eliminated just because it should be. After decades of destruction, Afghanistan's economy is in a shambles and poppy export is one of the last remaining livelihood sources for many ordinary people. It goes without saying that those who are the major beneficiaries of this lucrative trade are hardly interested in a lasting peace which would ostensibly result in crop diversification and a weakening of the poppy lobby.

In Pakistan, the proliferation of militant sectarian groups in the 1980s has also resulted in the establishment of vested interests that are now reliant on the maintenance of a robust market for weapons. For the non-specialist, it is almost impossible to make sense of the various sects that exist in Pakistan now, many of which are very recent concoctions. All of these sects are primarily concerned with establishing their influence over society which means that they are direct competitors of one another. Armed to the hilt, militant sectarian groups serve both the insidious policy goals of the military establishment as well as the economic imperatives of weapons suppliers.

All told, there is a very complex political economy of war which is too often glossed over in mainstream accounts of why conflict persists. The 'war' that has engulfed this region must be understood with reference to this political economy. The question must be asked: Are either the Americans, the warlords/Taliban, or the Pakistani military committed to ending the conflict? Is it possible that any or all three of the major protagonists are actually content to let the conflict drag out because this serves the interests of the shady interests that actually benefit from permanent war?

It is of course impossible to answer this question conclusively precisely because of the shady nature of the interests involved. But recent reports about the quagmire in Afghanistan have confirmed the rather absurd fact that 10-15 percent of the American money flowing into Afghanistan ends up in the hands of the very insurgents who the Americans are purportedly fighting. The short explanation is that Americans (and other Westerners) have to pay to have their convoys protected from insurgent attacks and very often the 'security' that is hired is indirectly linked to insurgents.

Indeed, the very notion that there is a unified insurgency in Afghanistan has been decisively challenged by such evidence. Instead, it appears as if there are myriad warring groups that are keen to get their hands on the spoils of war. One suspects that the situation in parts of FATA is not dissimilar. To some extent, then, this 'war' is less about the heroic ideologies of the Americans, Pakistanis or Taliban/insurgents and more about the cynical material interests that operate slightly beneath the surface. This does not mean that all the protagonists can be considered moral equivalents or even that there does not exist some deeper contradiction between them, but only that it is necessary to factor the dimension that I have outlined above into the explanation for the persistence of conflict. Among other things, a reading of war that acknowledges this fact implies that a genuine politics of working people is more urgent a need than ever before.


By Chris Cork

It was an hour or so later that I came to realise the import of what I had said. There was a conversation with a colleague about the stream of bombings that have hit Peshawar and how we comment on them in the press. We were trying to decide what we should write about a particular blast and came to the conclusion that if the number of dead was not particularly high then there was not much new that could be said. My off-the-cuff remark at the end of the conversation was to the effect that unless there were fifty or more murdered in an incident, it would not pass my own benchmark. Sitting at my desk later, the awfulness of what I had said — the sheer insensitivity of it — gave me a sharp smack around the ear and led me to the reflections that have become this week’s comment on the world I live and work in.

Looking back five years to the start of these top-right-corner-on-Mondays musings, there was a lightness of tone and touch that continued up until about the time of the declaration of the state of emergency and the killing of Benazir Bhutto — since then they have become progressively darker and more pessimistic. I was usually able to find something in the week that could be spun with dry humour; something positive about what I had experienced that would lighten the grimness of the columns that surrounded mine. Finding that lightness today is a struggle, exposed as I — and everybody else who writes in commentary on our life and affairs — am to the daily diet of horror that we consume.

Those who are engaged in work that exposes them to life’s darker side are known to develop psychological defence mechanisms, filters that allow emergency service workers or doctors, and nurses, soldiers and aid-workers at the sharp end to distance themselves from the horror of what they see and have to do. Often the mechanisms are to be found as ‘black humour’ — jokes about things that we would never joke about outside the circle of confidentiality that extends inside our work group. Soldiers are particularly prone to this, and from the work I did in the UK, I know that ambulance-men and firemen do the same. They use black humour to insulate themselves from the daily realities which could overwhelm them emotionally were the insulation not there. Some I have known retreat into alcohol as their insulation, others use drugs. My retreat is into the world of plastic modeling, making the little planes that hang on my wall, an activity far removed from life at the keyboard.

No matter what the coping strategies we devise for ourselves, there is an inevitable ‘blunting’ of our sensitivities. You may think, Dear Reader, that there is not much by way of stress attached to typing for a few hours every day — and you would be right. It’s not the typing that brings the burden; it’s what you have to do by way of gathering the mental material that makes the words on the page meaningful to the reader. The immersion in the daily grind of bombs and murder and conflict and corruption that makes the paste that sticks together the words you read at the breakfast table. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, I choose to do this — but it leads me to reflect that if the experience is blunting and desenitising me, then what is it doing to the other 170 million odd people around me? If it touches me, then it touches them too, and not everybody can afford the luxury of building little model aeroplanes.

What are we doing for Waziristan?

By Ayaz Wazir

Operation Rah-e-Nijat, or to use the so-called FATA experts’ pet phrase ‘the mother of all wars’, has entered its fourth week. All indications are that it will soon be over. So far more than 700 militants are reported to have been killed. There has been no mention whatsoever of loss of innocent lives or damage to property (termed ‘collateral damage’ in American terms to minimise the psychological impact).This is hard to believe, considering that aerial bombardment and artillery are being used. So far, no picture of any dead, important militant commander has been shown on TV. Neither are journalists allowed to enter the area and whatever the army spokesman tells us is to be believed without corroboration.

Since the operation has already been launched and cannot be reversed at this stage, let us pray that that it will achieve the desired result and no more operations will be required for the elimination of militants, although our experience for the last eight years tells us a different story. Has the writ of the government been established in Bajaur and other places in FATA where operations were conducted earlier? Will this one bring peace to Waziristan? Such questions come to our minds when we talk about operations in FATA.

The army’s job, as we all know, is to destroy the enemy. Once that is done, it is then the job of the civil government to step in to sort out the problem on a permanent basis. It is so unfortunate that our civilian government has not taken that step and keeps on blaming the past rulers for the policies that it is still following.

It was a different story altogether during Musharraf’s time. He was doing it for his own survival. The people were fed up and wanted change. They voted in favour of the ruling party, hoping that it will discard the policies of the dictator, and give guidance to the army and the public at large. It didn’t. It even ignored the unanimously adopted resolution by parliament endorsed by all the political parties, which could have laid the foundation of finding a permanent solution to the problem.

FATA has suffered all along and South Waziristan the most. It seems to be the most unfortunate spot on this earth. It has been deprived of political and economic development for centuries. The Afghans ignored it when it was a part of their country. The British continued to do the same, besides constructing roads and an airport to pursue their own interest. In fact, South Waziristan was neglected even after partition.

Thirty years of war in Afghanistan fought mostly from this area have further added to the miseries of the people. It destroyed the infrastructure and left deep scars on the body politic of tribal customs. The traditional tribal system, though intact, was badly bruised leaving little room for the tribes to resist militant onslaught.

Whatever little progress that was made by the tribesmen in trade, commerce and agriculture was destroyed in the eight-year-war against the militants. The general public has not taken up arms against the army but has suffered the most. Their close relatives got killed, their houses demolished and shops razed to the ground. The losses run into billions of dollars but nobody has been paid compensation so far. Imagine their frustration when they see victims of militancy in other cities of Pakistan, getting the attention of the media and government.

The president and prime minister issue immediate instructions for medical assistance and financial help to compensate for the losses. No doubt, they deserve our sympathy and support for rehabilitation, but why are the people from Waziristan not treated in a similar manner? Aren’t they Pakistanis as well? Should they continue to pay for the sins of others? Should they continue to be the victims of a situation brought upon them against their wishes? If not, then let us take the matter more seriously and put our heads together to ascertain what went wrong and what we should do next.

The civilian government does not appear to be in the mood to take over its responsibilities in tribal areas. It has left everything to the army, which is doing its job to the best of its abilities. However, on its own it cannot solve the problem ‘politically’. As Winston Churchill right said, “War is too serious a matter and cannot be left to the generals alone.” The civil government must give its guidance to them, in consultation with the people concerned.

We voted the present government into power mainly to undo the unpopular policies of the dictator and allow for refreshing solutions to the problems faced by the country. Unfortunately, the latter failed to do the same. It got embroiled in notorious matters, such as the NRO. What were the public aspirations and what has the government done? It has only added to their miseries by giving us load-shedding, sugar and flour crises, etc.

FATA, which does not fall under the jurisdiction of parliament, is the responsibility of the president. He is in charge of it. In fact, he was kind enough to take the trouble of flying to Peshawar for a meeting with the tribal elders, donating huge amounts for the economic development of the area. His government, he promised, would take urgent steps towards bringing the people of that area at par with the rest of the people of Pakistan. The tribesmen are hearing such promises for the last 62 years. This seems to be one such promise as nothing has happened so far.

The president is not only in charge of FATA but is also the supreme commander of the armed forces as well. Prudence demands that he visit battle-torn areas including South Waziristan, where our troops are sacrificing their lives, to boost the morale of soldiers and interact with tribesmen. His visit will leave a lasting impact on soldiers and locals alike. What has he done instead? He has shut himself up in the bunkered presidential palace in Islamabad, and has started ordering the purchase of expensive bullet-proof cars for ministers and other senior functionaries of his government. These officials should come out of the bunkered city of Islamabad if they are serious about fighting militancy. This nation can hardly afford the luxury that Zardari and his cronies are living in. The tribesmen in FATA and other Pashtuns in NWFP are getting killed by the hundreds on a daily basis. Waziristan and Peshawar are burning, while life in other cities goes on unaffected. What kind of a nation are we? We are not agitating, expressing our concern, pressuring the members of parliament to do what they are supposed to do, instead of wasting time and energies defending shady deals and bills such as the NRO. What are we up to?

We still have time to rise to the occasion if we want to live as a nation together. We must make decisions reflective of the national aspirations to get rid of this menace. We failed once and lost half the country. We cannot afford to fail again. Let us wake up and face the problem with wisdom and grit. Waziristan, after all, is a part of this country