Dec 13, 2010

Politics of local government elections

The only solution to ineffective local governance is to conduct elections as soon as possible

By Salman Abid

The issue of local governance and its political implications remains mired in controversy to this day, a subject which seems to have been left to political wheeling and dealing. Perhaps a change has already set in; under the 18th Amendment, local governments are now a provincial matter.

Still, our political leadership seems to be disinterested in strengthening both the local government system and democratic practices at the grassroots level. The federal and provincial governments are under obligation to hold the elections of the local government as soon as possible, but contrary to this, they are using delaying tactics.

It is an irony that the local government system is being run through non-elected people. Since there is no consensus on elections at the provincial level, the Secretary Election Commission has flatly refused to announce the date of the elections. The task of holding elections and promulgation of local government ordinance are delayed under the pretext of consultation process.

One of the basic questions on this issue is whether the political leadership in the national and provincial governments really interested in the elections and has the political will to ensure a dynamic and vibrant system of local government in the country?

Those in the present government set-up, including coalition partners, seem to believe that local government system would be a hurdle in achieving their ‘interests’. The reason behind this understanding can be attributed to the fact that local governments’ inherent aim is to decentralise political, administrative, and financial powers from provinces to the district level.

Advocates of local government system flay provincial governments’ paying lip service to the issue of local governments. We have been witness to the clash between provincial and local governments on the issues of administrative and financial powers from 2001-2008. In addition to this, provincial governments of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have taken a step in the right direction by ensuring local bodies polls in the near future.

The government of Punjab and Sindh are striving on this mission by successive amendments to crush the prevailing system of local bodies. A committee set up by the Punjab government is reviewing previous and prevailing systems of local bodies. In October 2010, the Punjab provincial government passed the amendment in section 179 of 2001 ordinance which empowered the government to announce within 365 days the schedule of local government elections with effect from October 21, 2010. It is a reflection of Punjab government’s approach towards the devolution plan.

There is a disagreement on the formula of power sharing among the ruling partners. For example in Sindh, a battle is going on between MQM, PML-F, ANP, JUI, and PML-Q against the PPP to have larger chunks of power. The MQM is in favour of devolution and rejecting the wish of PPP to have 1979 ordinance back in force.

The same seems to be the case in Punjab where the PML (N) and PPPP negotiate power sharing while keeping the PML-Q at bay. In some districts, especially in rural areas of Punjab, PML-Q is in a position to oust both the PML-N and PPP. Balochistan and KPK have no better position on this issue.

Political parties stick to their guns by, on the one hand, condemning dictatorship and, on the other, ignoring their own undemocratic decisions, for example by putting hurdles in the smooth functioning of devaluation plan. In my view, military dictators support local governance system just to win over people’s support. We always expect from political parties and civilian government to come and strengthen the local accountable governance system through third tier of the government.

But, unfortunately, the political elite emphasises centralised approach against the concept of decentralisation. It is interesting to notice the political forces practically contradicting their stated commitments by appointing bureaucratic administrators on the district and tehsil level.

The article 140-A of the Constitution of 1973 reads as follows, "Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative, and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the governments."

A significant principal laid down in the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by both the main political parties says that elected representatives will be give importance against nominations. This has been violated. But the real test to the claims of the political forces is to translate democratic norms into practices.

The delaying tactics of local government elections mainly supported by non-democratic people and our political elite serves their agenda in the name of democracy. Flood relief and rehabilitation activities have also suffered badly because of absence of local government system. The elected representatives of local government are made accountable and are within the access of common people at the local level.

Unfortunately, our political elite and political parties have learnt nothing from their own mistakes. The legislators in Pakistan are least interested in legislation. If every institution focuses things which it should not how can the system work? The present democratic forces should build consensus on holding local elections if they want to maintain credibility and legitimacy. The only solution to ineffective local governance is to conduct elections as soon as possible.

Mountain matter

About 1.5 to 2 billion people’s lives in Asian Himalayan region depend on river systems that are fed by glaciers

By Muhammad Niaz

The importance of mountains was focused on with the observance of International Mountain Day in 2002 to ensure sustainable mountain development. Understanding the constraints and opportunities of mountains and local communities, the United Nations General Assembly celebrates International Mountain Day each year on December 11 to promote global awareness about the significance of mountains in socio-economic and environmental aspects.

Generally considered as geological barriers, but beyond this layman perception, mountain entities render invaluable services and provide innumerable tangible and intangible benefits for the well-being of humans. Preserving mountain environment deserves special consideration in policy development owing to the role that these entities play in socio-economic and environmental perspective at local, regional, and global level.

Report on Sustainable Mountain Development 2009 maintains that mountain environments are essential to the survival of global ecosystem and their importance can be gauged from the fact that they are the cradle of life, supporting biodiversity, providing food, water, minerals, forest products, energy, and recreation. They also provide means of livelihood to billions of people over the globe associated with the world’s mountains and highlands.

Mountains are not isolated entities. Being susceptible to rapid erosion, landslides, habitat fragmentation, accessibility and connectivity factors, and loss of genetic diversity, mountain ecosystems are rapidly changing. Vulnerability of mountains to environmental impacts, land use pattern, and poverty prevailing among the mountain inhabitants affect their livelihood and mountain ecosystem.

Majority of the forest cover in Pakistan occurs in northern mountains. Forests cover about 3 million hectares, less than 4 percent of the country. Given the country’s total forest resources, about 40 percent of forests occur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while about 15.7 percent of forests occur in Northern Areas.

Almost all mountainous forests of the country are exposed to deforestation and habitat fragmentation in one way or the other. The hilly areas of our country, such as Murree, Galiat, Kaghan, Swat, Malakand, and Chitral, to mention a few, are also experiencing increased human settlements due to population growth.

Since 1970s, mountain ecosystems have been increasingly considered in several research and developmental initiatives. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, popularly known as the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro served as a driving force in this regard. Adoption of Chapter 13 of Agenda 21 has been instrumental in promoting awareness of the importance of mountain ecosystems and communities.

Working as a regional research and development agency since 1983, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) promotes sustainable mountain development in the Hindukush-Himalayan region and its mission is to ensure development of mountain ecosystem and improve the livelihood indicators of mountain populations.

Mountain ecosystems, occupying about one-fifth of the world’s landscape, are found throughout the world from the equator almost to the poles. To meet their needs, about 10 percent of the world’s population depends on mountain resources, while nearly 40 percent inhabits the adjacent watershed areas.

Mountains serve as water towers providing water to billions of people over the globe. About 80 percent of the earth’s fresh water originates in the mountainous regions which not only play a crucial role in the supply of freshwater to humankind, in both mountains and lowlands but also serve as headwaters of all the major rivers of the world. In semi-arid and arid regions, over 90 percent of river flow comes from the mountains.

The stored water in mountain lakes and reservoirs serves as a potential source for generating hydro-power besides serving as recharge of aquifers. Himalayan glaciers regulate water supply to the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Thanlwin, Yangtze and Yellow Rivers benefiting hundreds of millions of people in the region. According to the WWF reports, these glaciers are experiencing retreat at the rate of about 10-15m each year, owing to the intensifying global warming scenario.

Reports indicate that about 1.5 to 2 billion people in Asian Himalayan region depend on river systems that are fed by glaciers. If the supply of water from highland glaciers is affected, serious socio-economic repercussions are inevitable and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals for fighting poverty and improving access to clean water will be jeopardised.

The Hindukush, Karakoram, and Himalaya mountain ranges, occupying land mass in six countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan) possess the world’s third largest snow/ice mass after the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. These frozen water towers are the prime source of ground water recharge in the region that provides about 70 percent of freshwater to the people downstream in South Asia, Central Asia and China.

Being the centers of biological diversity, mountain plants and animals survive under the environmental conditions of their habitat because of their adaptability. Mountains support most important and significant mountain biota in the form of floral and faunal diversity and endemism as the lowland biodiversity is nearly depleted. Being a slow-growing conifer, the Himalayan Yew is currently listed as an endangered plant by the WWF. The threatened fauna of highlands including Snow leopard, Giant flying squirrel, and Tragopan pheasant besides other are some of the important rare species for whom mountains serve as natural sanctuaries.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) tropical mountain forests have experienced annual population growth and deforestation. Over the globe only 8 per cent of all mountains are protected. Mountains in adjacent countries serve as corridors for faunal movement and migration across borders.

In the Hindukush-Himalayan region mountains’ sensitivity to all climatic changes compounds threats of avalanches, landslides, and floods and these often results in disasters jeopardising socio-economic progress of a country and affecting hilly communities. According to reports about half of the world’s population is affected in various ways by mountain ecology and the degradation of watershed areas.

According to an international conference on mountains as early indicators of climate change last year ascertains that melting of glaciers provides the most obvious evidence of global warming. All over the world, indigenous people are confronted with unprecedented climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment has pointed out that the changing earth’s climate will affect ecosystems, communities, and cultures that require large-scale initiative and positive global action. Reports highlight that since the end of the 19th century the total surface area of glaciers worldwide has decreased by 50 percent.

Mountain tourism is one of the important sources that contribute to development of local economy and improving livelihood of mountain people. Tourism markets also place great demands on fragile mountain ecosystems.

The government of Pakistan had implemented a 5-year Mountains Areas Conservancy Project to safeguard mountains and their environment from degradation with active participation of local people. Its second phase started as Programme for Mountain Areas Conservation to build on previous initiatives. However, given the magnitude of the local people inhabiting highlands, such initiatives are inadequate to halt degradation of mountain environment.

Encroachment of local people into the wilderness often results in human-wildlife conflict. Unplanned sprawling of human settlements and increase in human population and over exploitation of natural resources in mountain areas pose serious problems of ecological deterioration in these watershed areas. To meet their needs, mountain people carry cultivation of marginal lands on hillsides in the form of terraced fields which accelerate soil erosion while many areas experience excessive livestock grazing, deforestation, and loss of biomass cover.

There is a need to bring in more conservation-oriented projects in the mountainous areas of the country and promote national policies that would provide incentives to local people for the use and transfer of environment-friendly technologies and farming and conservation practices. Proper management of mountain resources and socio-economic development of the people deserves immediate action by strengthening partnership and mutual collaboration at national and international level.

Left in the lurch?

Relief and reconstruction work has been ineffective due to corruption, shortage of funds, and skilled personnel

By Tahir Ali

Shortage of resources, capacity constraints, lack of commitment or flawed priorities on part of the government seem to be the main hurdles in starting the reconstruction phase for the flood affectees in the country, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Millions of people countrywide made homeless by the floods and living in camps and make-shift homes have been left to face the vagaries of weather as winter has set in. Feeling neglected and disappointed, many have started rebuilding their shelters temporarily.

According to World Bank and Asia Development Bank Damage Needs Assessment (DNA) report, around 1.7 million households have lost their homes worth $1.59 billion in floods in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. If we take the low figure of 8 as an average household size, then around 13million people have lost their homes countrywide.

Floods inflicted a loss of around $10bn on Pakistan. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa suffered $1.2 billion losses and requires $2.2 billion for flood reconstruction. Total reconstruction cost for all sectors is between $6.8 billion to $8.9 billion. The social sector, including the housing one, needs between $2.01bn $2.7bnn for the purpose.

The government plans to provide Rs100,000 to each flood-affected household for reconstruction of homes. An enormous Rs170bn and Rs30bn are required for the entire country and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively for the purpose.

Reconstruction of homes can continue but only with the generous support of local entrepreneurs and international community as the challenge is greater than the resources at hand and the degree of determination shown by decision-makers.

A Pakistan army team recently reached to a family in a village near Peshawar alongwith building material when it was reported that the locals had started rebuilding their houses on self-help basis. The team also promised to help build houses of other people soon. But not all people are that lucky. Most are waiting for the much needed first or second tranche of Rs20,000 as house compensation given through Watan cards.

Various local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have started building model housing schemes in the flood-hit zone but much more needs to be done by the government, the international community, the philanthropists and NGOs.

According to Adnan Khan, spokesman for Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the first home reconstruction tranche of Rs20,000 has been provided to 180,000 out of around 0.3mn households. "The flood affectees will get Rs20000 in the next installment too. But cheques for next tranche will be released as the PDMA receives money for the purpose," he says.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has diverted Rs18bn this fiscal year for floods related expenditures but it still faces a shortfall of Rs107 billion for post-flood and militancy reconstruction projects during the next 18 months. Adnan says Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also needs Rs86 billion for Malakand reconstruction and rehabilitation and Rs234bn for post militancy reconstruction needs. "We need assistance from donors to provide the next installment of Rs20,000 to flood victims for construction of housing units," Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, told the PDF meeting last month.

An official says on the condition of withholding his name that province have received nothing from the centre or the international community for the reconstruction phase as yet, making it difficult for it to start the phase in full swing. But with little fiscal gap available with the provincial government to allocate sufficient money in this head, the federal government and international community should come forward and provide the needed money.

Prolonged delay in the release of tranches for house reconstruction would waste the earlier money as people cannot be expected to keep the money for long. While the federal government has decided that the second installment of compensation would be paid under a unified formula, it cannot be justified as requirements and expenditures for building houses in the northern and southern parts of the country would not be the same.

Nepotism, political interference and corruption in the nomination of affectees for compensation have allegedly made verification (of affectees) difficult. Adnan, however, says, "The government has introduced complaint mechanism at the district level and anyone can contact local or provincial officials for the purpose."

There are complaints that far off and militancy-prone areas have been neglected and the entire focus of the government and local and international NGOs has been on the easily accessible areas. Najamul Aleem Sayyed, who worked with a foreign NGO during floods in Nowshera, agreed that some areas like Mohib Banda were unbelievably the most favourite destinations of all aid agencies. "The problem is that relief agencies and the government departments have been concentrating on relief work at the easy-to-operate areas neglecting other areas," he says. Zakhi Qabristan, Mughal Key, Mian Esa, Ali Muhammad and Meshaka are some of the areas whose residents claim they have been totally neglected.

Manzur Ahmad, a social worker from a worst affected area in Akbar Pura, is unhappy that his village had been totally neglected even though it lies at some distance from motorway.

"Our village was badly hit by floods. Nearly all homes were washed away. Our agriculture lands were damaged. But there is no support from the government and NGOs. There is no reconstruction. We still wait for issuance of Watan cards and house compensation. Provision of shelter is crucial at this stage. The people have built their homes temporality after they lost hope of any government action on the home rebuilding initiative," he says.

Khalid Khan, district chief of Muslim Aid in Charsadda, says, of the 57,000 affected families in the city, 30,000 have been provided tents while the rest are going without them. "Shelter is the most urgent need at present. Livelihood restoration, quilts for women and children, and restoration of lands for farming are other vital needs. Our organisation intends to build a model village at Majoki where 55 families are still living in tents but have received little attention and relief support."

"In this village a brave soul had saved 41 lives during floods before he was swept away by floods. His family has been given no financial support as yet," Khan informs. The challenge is big but Pakistan has proven before that it can meet the challenge. In the reconstruction strategy of Kashmir earthquake, Rs175,000 were provided to the affected families in installments alongwith house designs and technical assistance. At the end of 2009, 95 percent of the destroyed houses were rebuilt with 97 percent of these according to the standards and hence safer.

But in the case of the 2008 Balochistan earthquake, the affectees were given one-time cash grant of Rs350,000 and Rs50,000 for completely and partially damaged houses respectively but without any technical assistance or required reconstruction standards. As a result, the rate and quality of reconstruction, according to UN-HABITAT engineers, is extremely poor there. The DNA also wants the reconstruction projects to be based on transparency, monitoring, and evaluation. While the Balochistan victims were given Rs350,000 for completely destroyed home, those in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also deserve better package.

In most of the flood-hit areas, many people had built homes on lands near the rivers. Their lands have been eroded and they do not have the place to rebuild their homes. General Nadeem Ahmed, head of the National Disaster Management Authority, has "strong reservations" over the house reconstruction plan okayed by the government. The flood zoning policy must be strictly implemented. Construction of houses, hotels and shops near or on banks of the rivers should never be allowed.

The PDMA is supposed to deal with the crisis but it has only around 15 personnel in staff. At its present form, it is just a data collection, information dissemination, and coordination body. While it may suggest schemes, plans and strategies for reconstruction it has been kept out of the implementation and monitoring of these schemes. The result is obvious.

The PDMA should have offices in all tehsils and districts of the province. Its staff should also be increased commensurate with its responsibilities and functions. The badly-hit Malakand division inhabitants are in dire need of financial support as the area will soon become inaccessible for aid agencies. Relief and reconstruction work has been ineffective due to corruption, shortage of funds, resources, and personnel.

Missing the point

Exclusion of labour inspections from labour laws will continue to affect the labourers

By Aoun Sahi

Kasur Perveen, 23, a resident of Allama Iqbal Town, Lahore, has been working in a factory on Multan Road since 2005. Even after five years she does not have a letter of appointment or any other written document to prove that she is an employee of the factory.

With five years of experience, she is not getting even 50 percent of the minimum wage announced by the prime minister. "I think none of the workers in the factory has received an appointment letter. My first salary was Rs1,500. Five years later, I get only Rs3,000. I have to work for at least 10 hours a day to get this salary".

Besides the unresolved issue of maternity leaves, there are no separate toilets for women in the factory. "The working conditions are very poor. Getting injured while working is a common phenomenon and as the factory does not provide us health facility, in a majority of cases, labourers have to take care of it from their own pocket," she says. Perveen does not see even a ray of hope that things would get better. "During my five-year stay at the factory, I have never seen a government official coming to the factory to observe the plight of labourers."

Perveen is one of over 20 million labourers working in the Punjab province who are deprived of even their basic rights and are forced to work in poor conditions. Working conditions in the industrial sector in Punjab were never exemplary but they have deteriorated badly ever since the abolition of labour inspection in 2003.

Inspections were stopped following an executive order issued by then Chief Minister Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi under the provisions of the Punjab Industrial Policy, 2003, which aimed at "developing an industry and business-friendly environment" to attract investment. Physical inspection of factories was stopped through an amendment to the Punjab Factories Rules, 1978. Inspection of workplace by labour inspectors was replaced with a declaration form with the direction to the employers to furnish information pertaining to the implementation of labour laws in their units. But only around 10 percent factory owners have ever submitted these declaration forms to the labour department.

Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab Industrial Relations Bill 2010 on December 8. The act once again disappointed millions of labourers in Punjab as it has not restored labour inspection in the province. Labour unions allege that the government’s decision had drastic consequences for industrial workers in the province. "Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who otherwise hates all those steps taken by former chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, has kept this policy of him," says Hanif Ramay, general secretary of the Muttahidda Labour Federation (MLF).

According to him, not a single industry has complied with labour laws since labour inspections were stopped. "It is because no government official is allowed to enter the premises of a factory to inspect working conditions. I am not saying that labour inspectors were doing a great job but they were at least keeping a check on factory owners to ensure implementation of some basic rights," he says.

Proper application of labour legislation depends on an effective labour inspectorate. Labour inspectors examine how labour standards are applied at the workplace. He advises employers and workers on how to improve the application of national law in such matters as working time, wages, occupational safety and health, and child labour. Labour inspectors bring to the notice of concerned authorities loopholes in labour law. They play an important role in ensuring that labour law is applied equally to all employers and workers.

Pakistan is signatory to ILO’s Labour Inspection Convention, 1947. Ramay believes that lack of labour inspection has given employers a free hand to employ a worker without a letter of appointment and sack him at will without paying him his dues. "The workers are forced to work longer hours without any financial compensation for the overtime. Nobody gets the minimum wage. The safety standards at the workplace have deteriorated and the workers are denied medical treatment and financial compensation in case of permanent injury or death in an industrial accident. The conditions of female workers are even worse," he says.

The abolition of labour inspections is a violation of human rights and labour laws, like the Factories Act, 1934. Pakistan is among the countries that spend less than 1 percent of the national budget on labour administration. According to ILO website, some studies show that the costs resulting from occupational accidents and illnesses, absenteeism, abuse of workers and labour conflict can be much higher. "Labour inspection can help prevent these problems and, thereby, enhance productivity and economic development," writes W. V. Richthofen in his book titled, Labour Inspection: A Guide to the Profession published by ILO in 2002.

"Labour inspection is the main instrument to ensure implementation of 8 core conventions of ILO. Our constitution ensures a decent livelihood to all citizens but our rulers are not interested in providing decent livelihood to people," says Zulfikar Shah, joint director Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), an NGO engaged in research, training, and advocacy in the areas of labour rights and labour legislation, etc.

Zulfikar says the Punjab government led by industrialist elite is unlikely to restore labour inspection in the province. The employers have always been suspicious of labour inspections and consider official monitoring of standards as an obstacle to increasing the profit margin. "In Pakistan, profit margins of industrialists are considered to be the highest," he says, adding that "labour inspection mechanism has always remained ineffective and weak. Still, inspection was some kind of a check on employers who were forced to maintain at least the minimum level of safety standards at the workplace. But now employers are free to do whatsoever they want to do with labourers", he says.

Unfortunately, Punjab is not the only province where labour inspection is banned. It is also banned in Sindh. "This is against the law which asks for ensuring humane and safe working conditions. So, inspection is important for labour protection," he says, adding, "in the WTO regime lack of implementation of labour laws can affect exports and foreign investment. Our government has been requesting the EU to get Generalised System of Preferences-plus status for Pakistan which will help exporters to compete in European markets but on the other it is not trying to improve labour conditions in the country. Our rulers need to know that non-compliance of labour laws can be a huge obstacle to export our goods to Western countries even with GSP-plus status," he warns.

Labour Minister Punjab, Ashraf Sohna, who belongs to the PPP, admits that labour inspections are vital for decent working conditions and to prevent workers’ exploitation by the employers. "Even I am not allowed to enter a factory to observe the working conditions of workers", he says. Sohna blames it on the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who he says, has done nothing to restore the rights of labourers and takes side of industrialists.

Sohna says he has written many times to the chief minister on the need of restoring labour inspection. He admits that Punjab has more than 20 million labourers working in different sector, but only 0.7 million of them are registered and have been getting benefits of social security.

Economic integration in South Asia

The sooner dialogue between Pakistan and India resumes, the better it would be for the economy of the region

By Hussain H. Zaidi

Addressing the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry the other day, the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan underlined the need for shoring up intra-region cooperation in this part of the world as the engine of growth. He observed that while South Asian countries were integrating with the international economy, they remained less integrated with one another.

One can hardly disagree with the Indian envoy. The countries of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) are mired in poverty and underdevelopment. South Asia accounts for nearly 23 percent of the total world population. However, its share in the global GDP is less than 3 percent. The region is home to the world’s 400 million poor, which means nearly 30 percent of the region’s population lives below the poverty line.

All South Asian countries have a rather low-ranking on the Human Development Index (HDI), which according to the Human Development Report 2010 is: Sri Lanka (91), the Maldives (107), India (119), Pakistan (125), Bangladesh (129), Nepal (138) and Afghanistan (155). The ranking for Bhutan is not available but it was 133rd previous year. The HDI ranking is based on achievements in terms of life expectancy, education, and real income. The low HDI ranking reflects poorly on these vital indicators in the region.

Trade is an instrument of development. However, SAARC’s trade performance is also disappointing. The combined trade of all eight member countries accounts for less than 2 percent of global trade. The region accounts for 1.7 percent of world exports and 3 percent of global FDI inflows. The share of South Asia in total Asian exports and imports is merely 4.7 and 7.5 percent respectively. Not only is global trade volume of SAARC member countries small, intra-region trade is also low. Intra-SAARC trade accounts for less than 5 percent of the total trade of the region.

With a view to achieving regional integration, the member countries created South Asian Free Trade Agreement (Safta) in 2004 at the twelfth SAARC Summit. The agreement, which came into force on January 1, 2006, provides that members will reduce their tariffs to 0-5 percent by December 31, 2015. The success of Safta, however, largely depends on normalisation of Pakistan-India relations. In case the relations between the two countries do not normalise, Safta’s fate will not be different from that of its predecessor, South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (Sapta).

The major reason for meager intra-SAARC trade is low volume of trade between Pakistan and India, the largest economies and trading nations in the region. Though formal Pak-India trade (the two countries have informal trade of more than $3 billion a year) has increased from $236 million in 2001-2002 to $1.32 billion in 2009-10, (including $259.4 million exports from Pakistan and $1.06 billion exports from India), it still constitutes less than 1 percent of the global trade of the two countries. Pakistan has not even granted MFN status, a basic requirement under the WTO, to India and continues to conduct its imports from India on the basis of a positive list. On its part, India maintains high tariffs and non-tariff barriers on products of export interest to Pakistan.

South Asia is clearly dominated by India. It accounts for 74 percent of the region’s population, 75 percent of its GDP, 79 percent of its trade and 81 percent of the region’s FDI inflows. India has trade surplus with all other South Asian countries except Bhutan. In addition, India is the largest military power in the region and, together with Pakistan, a nuclear state. Because of its formidable position in South Asia, India thus bears the responsibility more than any other country to make SAARC a success.

However, it is with India that most other countries in South Asia have had bilateral disputes. These countries look to New Delhi’s growing military expenditure with grave suspicion. This has on the one hand prevented India from assuming the leadership of SAARC, much to the former’s disappointment, and on the other, made its neighbours look outside for help and mediation.

For instance, Norway mediated between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tigers and Pakistan has been calling for third-party mediation, particularly by the US, to help resolve the Kashmir issue.

The problem in case of South Asia is that not only are the resources scarce, they are also misallocated. Too much is spent by the countries on military goods and services leaving a very small amount, after debt servicing and meeting administrative expenditure, for capital formation and human resource and social sector development. In case of India, military expenditure accounts for 2.5 percent of GDP, while the ratio in case of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal is 4, 2.6, and 1.5 percent respectively. The vicious cycle of poverty and debt in SAARC countries can end only if the meager resources are optimally utilised for capital formation and human resource and social sector development. This will also increase their attractiveness as markets for foreign direct investment.

The poor trade performance of SAARC stands in marked contrast with that of the neighbouring regional alliance -- Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ASEAN countries account for merely 8.4 percent of the total world population. However, their share in total world trade is nearly 7 percent. ASEAN’s contribution to Asia’s total trade is 23 percent. Intra-ASEAN trade accounts for nearly 30 percent of the global trade of the 10-member countries. ASEAN countries have remained embroiled in territorial disputes but that has not hampered their trade relations.

The efforts to normalise relations between Pakistan and India, therefore, must continue. The search for resolving the contentious issues should go on. In principle, these issues should not deter economic cooperation in the region. China and Taiwan have a serious political dispute but that has not prevented them from enhancing economic cooperation.

As a matter of fact, this separation of economic and political issues does not apply to South Asia, particularly to Indo-Pak relations. Therefore, pragmatically, the best approach will be to address economic and political issues together. This is what the stalled Pak-India composite dialogue was meant for. Therefore, the sooner the dialogue is resumed, the better it will be not only for the two countries but also for the region.

Local initiative

Kohistan is being included in the process of relief and reconstruction by mobilising communities and giving them a voice

By Natalia Tariq

Zar Buland sat at the side of the rocky Karakoram Highway at Dubair Bazaar in Kohistan, staring into the tranquil flow of the river Indus right below him. He cursed at the deceiving nature of the water which only months ago had engulfed the entire bazaar, its mighty current washing away the road, shops, and bridges. There was hurt in his eyes, the very water that had sustained him, his family and the entire community -- running water mills, generating electricity, and irrigating what little land they had managed to cultivate had also been the source of immense destruction.

His son, Abdullah, can no longer attend school, most of his day spent traveling far from home to fetch water for the family. The flash floods have come and gone, but they have left behind collapsed bridges and wrecked roads. The valley where Zar Buland’s village is located is now cut off from the main bazaar and what was before the floods an hour’s journey, now takes days of difficult hiking through the mountains. Even the communal water mill that his wife used to go to every week to grind their grain for cooking has been washed away by water.

On Thursday 28th October 2010, we accompanied the staff of Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation (OAKDF) to the remote Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to see flood relief and rehabilitation activities in the area. The Indus River divides Kohistan into two parts with the eastern portion referred to as the Indus Kohistan and the western portion referred to as Swat Kohistan.

The Karakoram Highway passes through Kohistan on its way to Gilgit, and as we drove from Abottabad to Batagram, into Besham (Swat), finally crossing the Chakai checkpost to enter Kohistan, we instantly became aware of the abundant natural richness of the area. Driving along the Indus on one side of the Karakoram Highway, one is surrounded by massive mountains that lead into lush green valleys and forests home to some of the world’s most endangered species such as the tragopan pheasant, musk deer, and snow leopard.

Kohistan consists of 14-15 valleys where people have settled along water streams that flow from the Indus. The population is estimated at 472,570 (1998 census) -- a highly contested figure as it is presumably understated. After Dera Bugti, Kohistan is the most impoverished district in Pakistan and ranks second lowest in terms of human development. Even before the floods hit, people led a harsh and difficult life devoid of basic literacy and health services (the entire district is only served by 3 Rural Health Centers and 15 high schools). Kohistanis rely on forestry and rearing livestock for their livelihood and many of them travel to find work in the major cities of Pakistan or migrate to the Middle East.

OAKDF is one of the few organisations operating in Kohistan. The area is difficult to access not just in terms of its geographical terrain, but also because of the complex tribal dynamics and conservative culture that prevails. The fact that we did not come across a single woman on the visit and that many of the men were carrying guns speaks volumes of the difficult environment of the area. Due to these reasons, the district has been underserved not just by civil society organisations but also by the government.

Over the years, Kohistanis have learned to rely on themselves to meet their needs and this goes to explain the great self-sufficiency and resilience of these people. However, recent flooding has opened an entry point into the area as introverted governance and communal structures of the area are now becoming more open to assistance and engagement with outsiders. The disaster has also highlighted the need for tribes that are hostile towards each other to put aside their differences and come together in a time of great distress.

On Friday 29th October 2010, we held five meetings with people from various Union Councils of Kohistan regarding their flood relief and reconstruction needs:

Floods have affected people’s mobility in the region. Bridges, pathways and roads have been swept away. This is incredibly problematic as Kohistanis living up in the valleys come down to the main town centers with their livestock when winter approaches. Without roads and bridges making this journey through the mountains has become next to impossible. People claimed that they now make an hour’s journey in a day. The distinction between relief and reconstruction becomes blurred in practice as without access to bridges and roads it becomes very difficult for people to carry the food they receive through food distributions to their villages.

People’s discontent with the role (or lack thereof) the government has played in terms of flood relief and rehabilitation in the area was highlighted repeatedly. They feel that Kohistan has always been an excluded district of KP and the same has held true even in the post flood situation. The government’s efforts have been focused on areas such as Nowshera and Charsaddah.

Even though distribution of Watan Cards has been promised the government has not yet fully delivered. There are immense issues using the few cards that have been distributed as people lack information on usage and there is only one ATM machine servicing the population.

Water mills that were used to grind grains and water run electricity generators have also been destroyed. Rehabilitation of water channels is urgently required. Education, already lacking in the area, has suffered even more after the floods. Lack of access to potable water has meant that children now have to travel far to fetch water and cannot attend schools.

Health situation is already dismal (not a single hospital exists in Kohistan) and has been worsened as a result of lack of mobility caused by floods. The nearest hospital is in Mansehra which has become difficult to access now that bridges and roads have been destroyed.

Apart from identifying the needs of these communities, the meetings were also used as a platform to discuss advocacy possibilities. The sheer scale of needs identified in Kohistan makes it clear that both international donors and the government have to step up their assistance and address these needs with a comprehensive strategy.

This will only happen if the people of Kohistan form alliances with each other and with the rest of the Hazara population and demand their rights. At the final meeting held in Pattan, where all the communities came together, they were asked to set aside their differences and form committees that can come together on the platform of Tehrik-e-Huqooq-e-Hazara that was formed by OAKDF when the earthquake hit in 2005. They were also asked to map the needs they had identified at the earlier meetings to start forming a relief and reconstruction strategy.

Even though the flooding in Kohistan has almost entirely destroyed Zar Buland’s livelihood, his dreams are not yet shattered. The second most marginalised district of Pakistan is being included in the process of relief and reconstruction in a way that is mobilising communities such as the one Zar Buland belongs to, and giving them the agency to voice their flood related concerns.

OAKDF has already helped rebuild three bridges, conducted food distributions in the area and their technical team has completed feasibility and costing of roads and pathways that will improve access in some of the valleys of Kohistan. There are some other organisations working there too.

Despite these interventions, the flood relief/reconstruction efforts in the area are incredibly insufficient. The havoc created by the floods has been monumental and needs to be met by an equally colossal response. For years, the plight of people like Zar Buland has gone unnoticed. We must not let the flood affectees of Kohistan become the forgotten victims of this dreadful catastrophe.

Nov 22, 2010

Politics of the common man

Ours is a case of lack of focus on the right issues

By Salman Abid

The poor and marginalised sections of society face discrimination in one form or the other. Understandably then, people belonging to marginalised groups are more vulnerable to disparities in the country.

According to statistics posted on the Australian government website’s Pakistan section, almost one third of Pakistan’s 170 million people live below the poverty line and more than 60 percent live on less than 2 dollars per day. National health and education systems in Pakistan are under-resourced. Public health expenditure is around 4 dollars per person per year.

Statistics on the website say, only "1.8 percent of GDP is invested in education, compared to a global weighted average of 4.9 percent. Progress towards the achievement of education and health-related Millennium Development Goals has, as a result, been slow. Social indicators are poor, even by comparison with other countries in South Asia. Women and girls are particularly disadvantaged. Infant mortality rates remain amongst the highest in the region. One in ten children dies before age five."

It is unfortunate that our concentration is on the development of main cities as compared to others districts. A majority of the common people do not have basic infrastructure, especially education, health, water, sanitation, food, security, and justice.

The state is responsible to provide basic fundamental rights and facilities but has totally failed to fulfill expectations of the poor people, especially women, children, minorities, and labourers. Actually, the role of the state has been minimized due to increasing privatisation in the country and thus fails to provide basic facilities to the common man. Due to bad governance; state and government policies, people are being compelled to become marginalized and the number is increasing.

We should admit open-heartedly that the state, government, and political intelligentsia have failed to invest in the poor people for their welfare. We are spending more money on non development expenditure as compared to development expenditure. If the state and government face any challenge or disaster then ultimately the development funds are cut down in the name of national interest. People are more frustrated when they see the ruling elite’s social life and their living standards. This is in sharp contrast to the common people.

Our political parties and their leaders are very good at claiming they cater to larger public interest issues. But results are totally different, ignoring the poor peoples’ agenda at large. Unfortunately, we did not develop issues-based politics in the country emphasizing more on non issues in agenda. Political parties’ manifestoes and their commitment towards poor people are not implemented when the parties come in powers. This is because political parties are not accountable to the masses about their own performances.

Perhaps they believe in the conspiracy theory that political power is acquired through the establishment and not from people’s vote. That is why people do not feel strongly associated with their representatives. The question is why the poor and marginalized people have failed to strengthen their own role within the available political framework in the country?

The overall development paradigm focuses on some specific groups and individuals already getting more benefits from different actions. People are still dependent on the ruling elite, and power-based groups like feudal, industrialist and a strong bureaucracy. People have more expectations from political parties and their leaders about good governance and transparent and accountable system in the country.

People also have expectations from institutions for getting some services. Our state, governments and their civil leadership lay more stress on unimportant issues than on common people’s problems. This results from an absence of prioritisation of issues by the institutions.

We have some good laws and policies for the common man but we do not implement them and people feel abandoned. This attitude of the government makes people feel further isolated from the political process. Politics in rural areas is also questionable. Most of the basic health units are not functioning and the basic support structures are not there. Poor people are more vulnerable in society due to the ruling elite’s policies.

One major reason for this political chaos is lack of accountability of government’s policies for the common people. Then there is also lack of participation by the common man in the decision-making process. If the common man is organised, he can challenge injustice. Sadly, most of the time media is also part of the power-based political dynamics and reflects their interest in the name of poor people.

The ruling elite should realise the seriousness of this issue and also avoid political slogans because at this point people need actions and not just commitments. Some of our prominent leaders have raised the issue of disparity among the common people and have publicly warned the government that if it fails to perform its duty a revolt is eminent. But, unfortunately, these leaders have major contradictions and do not come up to people’s expectations.

We should admit that non state actors — militants and extremists — have consolidated their position due to the government’s poor policies. This is perhaps the last chance for our ruling elite to mend their ways and restructure their politics in line with the people’s expectations.

Economic subjugation

The economy is fast plummeting and worse is still to come if curative measures are not taken on a war-footing

By Huzaima Bukhari and Dr. Ikramul Haq

Resistance against subjugation — in colonial and neo-colonial era — was once a most cherished value that received praise from great thinkers, many of whom kindled such movements through their writings.

Resistance literature is part of our great human heritage. It has long been a source of resilience and self-esteem for nations that defeated imperialists and neo-colonial forces to earn liberation from exploitation and alien rule.

Unfortunately, the Late Neo-colonial forces in the wake of 9/11 cleverly managed to counter genuine liberation and resistance movements against their hegemonic designs under the pretext of "war against terror". This is, no doubt, one of the most lamentable strategies of the late Neo-colonialists, in which religious fanatics are their main accomplices.

Pakistan is facing multi-faced subjugation. Our subjugation is a self-inflicted phenomenon — our leadership, both military and civilian, has surrendered before late Neo-colonial forces. Yet the people of Pakistan have not surrendered. They are showing resilience even during extreme hardship when basic necessities like sugar and wheat flour are being rendered as rare commodity for them.

Economic subjugation, dictates of the IMF and other donors, wrongdoings of the people at the helm of affairs, unprecedented luxuries enjoyed by the rulers at taxpayers’ expense — all cumulatively — have culminated into an economically unviable state.

Our political and economic subjugation is now complete, or so it seems. The issue of gold and copper reserves at Reko Dik in Balochistan clearly testifies to this. Repeated requests of civil and military leadership to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and American President to ask NATO forces not to violate territorial boundaries of Pakistan is a slap in the face of this nation.

It is not diplomacy but utter submission before those who are the main cause of the present-day crisis in our tribal areas and elsewhere. The forces of obscurantism are used by these late Neo-colonial forces to make us subservient. The need of the hour is to mobilise people against late Neo-colonialists and their cronies — the militants who are exploiting religion for self-interest.

For resisting subjugation, we need to pay immediate attention to pressing issues: foreign forces attacks in our tribal areas, rising wave of militancy, discord amongst coalition partners, horrifying debt burden, worsening balance of payments position, undesirable increase in wasteful expenditure, growing unemployment, widening trade and fiscal deficits, high cost of doing business, burden of new taxes, increases in utility bills, failure of revenue authorities to tap actual revenue potential of over Rs.3trillion and industrial meltdown — just to mention a few.

The economy is fast plummeting and worse is still to come if curative measures are not taken on a war-footing. People’s purchasing power is diminishing, banks have less liquidity, lending rates are exorbitantly high and activities at stock markets are sluggish. The investors are shy and afraid, mainly due to perpetuation of political instability and economic uncertainty. Life for the common man on the streets is becoming a misery leading to social restlessness.

Although we claim to be an agricultural economy yet a vast majority of the people do not have enough to eat. It is tragic that we even import agricultural products and have miserably failed to develop any worthwhile agro-based industry in the last six decades.

Look at the mess our successive governments, military and civilian alike; have created on the debt front. The figure of foreign debt is a monstrous US$55 billion — it is going to be US$75 billion in 2015 — and that of domestic debt is over Rs.5trillion now.

Both the external and internal debts are increasing at a frightening rate. The way we are managing our resources is criminal and is leading us to self-annihilation. Fiscal deficit of over Rs1 trillion is expected during the current fiscal year. This testifies to bankruptcy of our political leadership and IMF-imposed economic managers who keep on relying on incompetent and corrupt bureaucracy.

The policy of appeasement towards tax evaders, money launderers and plunderers of national wealth is showing its impact in all spheres: political culture of changing loyalties continues. In this bleak scenario, our political leaders have no definitive plans how to come out of crises.

The most worrisome sector of economy is agriculture. The rural population is constantly being pushed below the poverty line, making all the targets of growth unachievable. If we have to develop economically, agriculture will have to play a critical role in the fight against poverty.

Vital areas like mechanisation, irrigation, plant protection and improved seeds have not been given proper attention although on paper there are many departments (including agricultural universities) spending millions and millions on claiming to have achieved wonders. In reality, even the issue of loans to small farmers is nothing but just another scandalous affair where a few are making a lot of money in the name of poor farmers.

The industries are already over-taxed but instead of getting any relief, these are being asked to pay even more exorbitant taxes. Fiscal laws impose a number of obligations on citizens but in return they do not get guarantee of life and protection of property what to talk of basis facilities like education, health and housing.

To top it all, a draconian sword hangs on taxpayers as FBR officers issue notices for default for acts not committed willfully. There is no political will to tax the mighty sections of society and the entire tax burden is being shifted on the poor through indirect taxes either in the form of sales tax, federal excise duty or presumptive taxes in the so-called direct taxes — IMF’s insistence on VAT, now renamed as Reformed General Sales tax (RGST), will have inflationary effect and it will push more and more people below the poverty line.

When half of the population of the country is facing malnourishment, wasteful expenditure continues unabated. The grim truth of Pakistan is the habit on the part of the rulers and their lackeys to indulge in self-deception by relying on foreign masters, self-praise, and self-perpetuation at the time of crises without realising how disastrous these acts can be.

All the governments, including the present one, think that serious economic problems can easily be solved by seeking the help of IMF, World Bank, ADB and other donors. This is certainly a disastrous and suicidal path. We cannot come out of debt-enslavement, which is the main cause of our subjugation, unless we first become an economically self-reliant nation. For this, the rulers will have to take the first step by living at very modest level, start paying their taxes and then mobilising the masses for struggle to take a great economic leap forward.

Going up the ladder of corruption

Pakistan needs to do a lot of work to improve its image on the world map

By Dr Noman Ahmed

Release of the recent Global Perception Report caused many ugly turns in the business of governance. Sections of the press reported that the regime has begun contemplating to take action against the local office and office-bearers of Transparency International. Federal Investigation Agency is said to have moved in that direction. Some weeks ago, the Sindh Legislature unanimously rejected the TI report, which had placed Pakistan as the 34th most corrupt nation in the world.

Politicians from treasury benches cited reservations about the process of data collection, veracity of facts and credibility of sources. In yet another move, Ambassador of Germany to Pakistan visited the local TI office and displayed solidarity of his country towards the work done by the organisation. The fracas is far from over. More exchange of heated arguments and change of positions on the issue of establishing corruption remains to be witnessed by the people of this country.

TI reports have received criticism worldwide. However, most of this criticism was levied in an objective manner with an academic spirit. For instance, it has been argued that white collar corruption is an extremely difficult instance to be detected, documented and analyzed. The perpetrators of such crimes leave very few footmarks that could lead directions to their place.

It is also argued that the definitions of corruption and allied attributes are not fixed variables. They change their course with time and transformations in the context. Perhaps for these reasons, managers of this index cautiously coined the term ‘corruption perception’. It entails the probability in the existence of corruption can only be indicated. Our government cannot deny that scores of financially sick corporations and organizations have been reduced to the present near moribund status due to many actions and decisions that border on corruption. And shooting the messenger can perhaps be considered the most preposterous approach in this respect.

The ranking of Pakistan is not low in the clean transaction profile alone. There are many other yardsticks in the form of indices that inform us about the falling standards in governance, environment and ecology, quality of life of ordinary folks in the society, perception of peace and many more. For instance, Pakistan ranks 118th in the order of per capita gross domestic product calculated by the World Bank in 2009 on the basis of purchasing power parity. The IMF further downgrades us to 133rd position in the same respect. Any student of economics can interpret this variable as the fact that our natural productivity and utilisation of national, material and human resources is on the decline. Our economy and its management are not wisely done.

Human Development Index (HDI) around the same timeframe ranks Pakistan to 144th position out of 178 countries surveyed by the UNDP. This disappointing situation informs that despite tall claims, the overall status of health, education and environment in the country is dismal. The government only spent around 11 to 25 percent of committed funds in the first two quarters across the budgeted provisions.

A reflection of the poor performance of the country is in the form of epidemics, looming food shortage as a consequence of environmental disasters and poor functioning of basic education sector. The Economic Intelligence Unit places Pakistan at the 145th position in Global Peace Index. It unveils the fractured canvas of peace along the lengths and breadths of the territory. The country stands sandwiched between Israel and Sudan.

Adrian White, a British academic associated with University of Leicester, has formulated ‘satisfaction with life’ index. The yardstick has been developed after collating data and viewpoints to establish how contented common people are with their lives. Pakistan features at 166th position between Lesotho and Russia. The top slot is occupied by Denmark as number one with Burundi at the last position.

And then there is the drum beat of failed state syndrome. A globally drawn yardstick has capped Pakistan as the 10th most failed states in the company of Haiti and Guinea. The vehement denial by our government notwithstanding, the makers of this assessment have stuck to their guns. On the count of measuring hunger, the Global Hunger Index puts Pakistan at 61st place in association with Guinea and Malawi. It informs that the essential food supply and consumption by a vast population in our country is extremely vulnerable. Pakistan also does not fare well in the index for most livable places or greenest countries. Through relatively better than the earlier indicators, the country sits at 115th place with Togo and Kenya. Human development and environmental sustainability indices are used to carve out this parameter.

Now about some positive factors: Pakistan has a relatively better record in terms of per capita carbon dioxide emission from consumption and usage of fossil fuels as per 2005 estimates. It sits at 161st position towards the positive side where the first position holder is the most polluting country. Perhaps limited industrialisation is one reason behind this state of affairs. Pakistan is also reasonably placed in the World Giving Index of 2010 drawn by Charities Aid Foundation. It is at 142nd place. 20 percent of our population gave money for charity, 8 percent contributed time voluntarily and 20 percent helped a stranger. One factor comes out clearly from this review.

Where the input of private citizens and society as a whole is accounted for, the country seems to have scored a better grade. Where the actions and decisions of governments matter, the symptoms are not very promising. On the positive side, it can be concluded that the general healthy trends in society shall be able to heal the diagnosed ailments of the state. Our government must pave the way for this desired course of actions to happen in the near future.

Foreign policy options

A conference on foreign policy issues of Pakistan discards the old rules and suggests a new shift

By Raza Khan

At a time when Pakistan is facing the consequences of decades of controversial foreign policy choices it made there is a need to have an appraisal of the existing and previous foreign policy directions which the decision-makers of the country have followed. That is to ascertain to what extent policy objectives have been achieved or otherwise.

This is indeed important to have an informed debate on the extremely critical aspect of state functioning in order to point out the wrongs and avoid repetition of the same.

There is too much talk about Islamabad’s foreign relations with other countries, particularly the US, India, and China but little debate on serious issues regarding foreign policy the state has followed. Through debates on Pakistan’s foreign policy, its objectives, and the tools employed to pursue these goals, inputs from the federating units can be incorporated as policy options.

Debates involving local experts and communities could help shape direction of country’s foreign policy. This is really important for what we may call democratising foreign policy-making processes in the country, in particular against the backdrop that Pakistan’s foreign policy has never been reflective of people’s sentiments and aspirations.

This is one aspect of the process of democratization our politicians have failed to realise. However, international community, especially the Friends of Pakistan are fully cognizant of the need of having public debate in different provinces on state’s foreign policy.

German think-tank cum NGO, Hanns Seidel Foundation, recently held an international conference on Pakistan’s foreign policy in Peshawar. The two-day international conference the German Foundation organised in collaboration with Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar, was titled Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Analysis at Domestic, Regional and International Levels.

As a participant, one felt a bit nervous about the fact that foreigners are organising debates and discussions which we should have organised ourselves as part of the democratization process. Nevertheless, one still felt it was great that at least some kind of a debate was being held on one of the most important subjects that is Pakistan’s foreign policy in Peshawar.

The holding of the conference in Peshawar was appropriate because the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA are arguably the most affected due to the wrong foreign policy decisions.

Here, one should take into consideration anti-communist and USSR policy of Pakistan which brought Peshawar to a brink of virtual extinction. It was when Soviet Union’s Brezhnev had ordered to eliminate the city after the 1958 U-2 incident in which an American reconnaissance aircraft U-2, taking off from Badabher airbase in Peshawar, was shot down in Soviet Union and its American pilot arrested.

Afterwards, it was KPK and FATA which served as a frontline region of Pakistan during the capitalist world’s anti-communist Afghan resistance. Subsequently, efforts in Pakistan were made to make Afghanistan its strategic backyard. Scholars from Germany, Nepal, China, India and different Pakistani universities participated in the conference.

Presenting a paper on Pakistan-India Relations, Dr Andreas Jakob from Germany maintained that had Pakistan being a purely democratic, federal and secular country Islamabad’s foreign policy responses to India would have been quite different. He said this would have salubrious effects on Pakistani-India relations and stability of the region. He maintained that due to wrong foreign policy objectives, which Islamabad pursued, Indian influence in the region and the world has increased which would further narrow Pakistan foreign policy choices in the coming years.

President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Dr Maqsoodul Hassan Nuri, presented a paper on The Impact of Middle East on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and pointed towards the fact that for right answers regarding foreign policy people must ask right questions. One was a bit surprised to hear someone from Pakistan pointing at the loopholes in Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Dr Noori said, "Pakistan committed several mistakes in formulating foreign policy, however, this was high time for a course correction." In this regard, he emphasized that Pakistan’s foreign policy in contemporary world should be formed on the principles of economic nationalism, good relations with the US and West and, above all, Islamabad’s de-ideologization of its foreign policy.

Many participants at the conference agreed with Dr Noori that the so-called ideology-laced foreign policy has been unrealistic and has added to the problems being faced by the people. Dr Noori also pointed towards the fact that the policy of pursuing nuclear technology for Pakistan was good, adding though that terrorism and poverty, main issues of Pakistan, could not be fought with nuclear arms. One could not agree more with Dr Nuri’s assertion that ‘Arabization’ of Pakistani and its Pakhtun sub-culture had had its role in the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan.

Dr Babar Shah from Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, during his presentation on Emerging Dynamics of Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations, maintained that radical shift has taken place in Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan in the post 9/11 period. Babar said that in the pre 9/11 period Pakistan’s policy about Afghanistan rested on promoting religious rightists or clerics; countering Pakhtoon nationalism emanating from Kabul, and to make Afghanistan a ‘strategic backyard’. He made an interesting point saying that Kabul’s accusation of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan meant that Kabul had come to recognize legitimacy of the Durand Line as a permanent border between the two countries.

Professor Zhao Rong from China, while making a presentation on Chinese Perspective on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy said that the world and regional powers must know that the security and stability of South Asian region depended on a strong Pakistan. To give an example of Pakistan’s diplomatic importance, the Chinese scholar called upon US and his own country (China) that both should not forget the historic role which Pakistan had played in bringing them together in the 1970s.

Professor Dr Savita Pande of Jawahar Lal Nehru University, India made a presentation on Indian Perspective on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy through video conferencing. He maintained that Pakistan never had a coherent foreign policy; rather it only had foreign relations with different states. She said due to this anomaly Pakistan’s policy has been a failure. The participation of an Indian scholar in a conference in Pakistan and that too on such a sensitive topic was indeed a welcome development. This should give Indians an idea that Pakistan is an open society.

The richness of the debate in the conference could be gauged from the fact that a large number of other national and international scholars not only presented papers but gave a lot of food for thought. Dr Janardan Raj Sharma from Nepal made a presentation on Pakistan’s regional role. Professor Rasul Bakhsh Rais from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) read a paper titled, Exploring Alternative Foreign Policy Paths for Pakistan from Nonsensical to Sensible; Mr Imdad Chandio from Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, read a paper on Domestic Leftist Perspective on Pakistan Foreign Policy, and Ms Salma Malik, from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, spoke about radicalization and its impact on Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Students of the University of Peshawar also fully participated in the debate on Pakistan’s foreign policy and asked some very critical and pertinent questions from experts. After hearing questions, observations and comments of students, who represent the new generation of educated Pakistani youth, it was clear that they were largely dissatisfied with the formulation, conduct, and objectives of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

It goes without saying that there is a need to hold more such debates and discussions on Pakistan’s foreign policy in different parts of the country. Collective wisdom of the people must give our rulers a policy direction. One expects that such conferences are also held in Balochistan.

The missing ingredient

Substandard agricultural inputs, or sheer absence of standard ones, have greatly damaged productivity

By Tahir Ali

Costliness and non-availability of farm-inputs are two main reasons for low agricultural productivity and farmers’ poverty in Pakistan. With wheat-sowing season underway, it is high time the government introduces a sound mechanism for easy, timely and cheaper provision of agriculture inputs to farmers, if it wants to ensure food security and develop agriculture in the country.

Establishment of village-based agriculture inputs/services centres (AICs) could help ensure vertical and horizontal increase in agricultural output and prosperity of farmers, farmers’ leaders say.

The president of the Kissan Board Pakistan, Murad Ali Khan, says agricultural inputs were the main headache of farmers throughout the year. "In times of need, they either disappear from the market or are too costly and unaffordable for the poor farmers. A robust system of availability and distribution for these is, therefore, the call of the hour. With the wheat sowing season underway, there could not be better time for advocating the set-up," he says.

"If implemented fully and efficiently, the revolutionary idea could solve all the agriculture related problems. It may provide cheap agriculture inputs and services. It may offer farmers guidance and marketing services for their outputs which in-turn would increase their incomes. What else farmers need," he asks.

Niamat Shah, the General Secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, says farmers’ income could be substantially increased if quality seeds, fertilisers, machinery, pesticides and other services are given to farmers in time and on cheaper rates.

He says the AICs would be like agriculture utility stores which also would serve as store houses/marketing centres. "All agricultural inputs would be made available to the member farmers. The bodies will provide inputs, soft loans, guidance and training and other services to farmers on comparatively cheaper rates and in time. These are vital for capacity-building of farmers and are supposed to create linkages between farmers and public/private line departments and associations. The centres will also develop and fund some demonstration farms. The high yield of these farms will serve as incentives to other farmers," Shah claims.

AICs can be established on the basis of union councils or villages and will comprise all stakeholders in agriculture, i.e. farmers, livestock owners, agriculture department field assistant, patwaris, veterinary doctors, seeds/fertilizer industry and bank representatives.

To minimise the chances of corruption and wastage of resources, there should be oversight bodies over the local village-based chapters at the district and provincial level with membership in the same pattern.

"It will surely be a long and arduous process and as a first step towards the goal, the government should open a centre at each of the 986 union councils in the province. Then the bodies should be organised on Patwar halqa and ultimately on village basis to cover most of the farmers of the province. These centres must function under the supervision of the provincial agriculture department," he advocates.

Every AIC should have certified seed, fertiliser, pesticides and farm machinery, repair workshop, veterinary hospital, the latest information about various aspects of farming, branch of Zarai Traqiati Bank to disburse interest-free loans, a multimedia workshop, storage facility and a branch of insurance company for crop insurance.

Finances for the centres are likely to be the most pressing of problems. But the issue could be talked by taking some steps. Farmers should contribute a membership fee of at least Rs200 and another Rs800 as share money in the revolving funds of the bodies. This should be augmented by a matching grant by the government. This revolving fund will increase with the passage of time as the bodies will invest in agriculture inputs and services and earn money.

Farmers would also be provided training, guidance, credit facility to start businesses locally to earn more money for their families. Revenue collected from agriculture can/should also be spent on its development. Cooperative bank, that has been revived fortunately, should also fund the entities once these are established. Banks could also be asked to be a share-holder in the business.

The seeds research farms have developed high yielding wheat, maize and fruit and vegetable seeds but their timely and easy availability has always been a problem.

When quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides are not available to farmers, they have to use substandard, often dangerous, inputs and are thus looted by the profit-hungry agriculture inputs mafia. This explains the low per acre yield in the province.

"How can farmers be blamed when they go for these non-quality seed which is available to them when they need it, while standard seeds are not available in the market or are costlier. The government has failed to streamline seeds distribution. It has not been able to check and crackdown on substandard seeds in the market," Shah says.

In villages, the government need not build huge buildings for the purpose. Houses available in plenty therein can be utilised for the purpose. "The AIPCs will surely help develop agriculture in the province. This will solve the farmers’ problem of easy and timely availability of agriculture inputs and services on the one hand. On the other, it will also change their farming from subsistence and outdated farming to commercial and modernised one when expert advices, machinery, and marketing support is provided by the bodies," says Sajjad Haider Khan, a farmer from Mardan.

The government and farming community seems oblivious of the expected potential shortage of seeds and fertilisers in coming months. As thousands of tonnes of wheat seeds and other inputs have been washed away by recent floods, there is an urgent need to procure and store substantial amount of the commodities in advance. The government should be able to provide these two basic inputs free of cost as farmers are in no position to pay.

It is a tragedy that there is no official mechanism to check the standard and rates of important agricultural inputs like fertilisers, seeds and pesticides. Thousands of employees of the agriculture department should be authorised to check the rates, quality, quantity and weight of different types of inputs.

Indo-US relations, a perspective

What the act of coming closer of the two countries has in store for Pakistan?

By Hussain H. Zaidi

It has become customary for the West to woo India for reasons chiefly economic and partly political. First, it was the British Prime Minister David Cameron, who during his visit to India in August this year declared that he wanted to make his country the "partner of choice" for New Delhi. And now Barack Obama, the President of the globe’s sole superpower, not only termed India-US relationship one of this century’s ‘defining partnerships’ but also declared his country’s support to India for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Given the familiar Pakistan-India antagonism, it is difficult to avoid flattering New Delhi without at the same time castigating Islamabad. Though Obama was more discreet than Mr Cameron in reproaching Pakistan, he did express his dissatisfaction with the pace of Islamabad’s fight against terrorism. More importantly, he did not criticize New Delhi for the human right situation in Kashmir and reiterated Washington’s position that Pakistan and India needed to sort out their problems bilaterally and that his country would mediate only if both parties consented to that. This is another way of ruling out any American mediation, because India does not want it.

Indo-US relations have come a long way from the suspicion of the Cold War days to the present strategic partnership. This is evident from the fact that out of five presidential visits from the US to India since 1947, when the latter got independence, three have been made during last one decade. In fact, all the three last American presidents, including the incumbent made it a point to visit India — a tribute to New Delhi’s growing international stature and its increasing importance for Washington.

It was President Bush who accepted India as a nuclear power when he sealed a nuclear cooperation deal with that country in 2008. And now Mr Obama wants to build on that relationship. No wonder, his three-day India trip was his longest visit to any country since taking over as American president.

The visit took place at a time when the world’s largest economy is struggling to come out of economic slump and is facing double-digit unemployment. In 2009, the US economy contracted by 2.6 percent and is projected to register a modest growth of 2.6 percent this year and 2.3 per cent next year (IMF’s World Economic Outlook October 2010).

By contrast, India is booming: the economy grew by 5.7 percent in 2009 and is projected to expand by 9.7 percent and 8.4 percent this year and next year respectively. Like a full purse, a rapidly growing economy is never short of friends, who want to cash on its trade and investment potential.

Hence, not surprisingly, the avowed purpose of Mr Obama’s visit to India, like that of Mr Cameron a few months back, was to seek opportunities for his country’s businesses and create jobs to help revive the economy. During the visit the two sides struck trade deals worth $10 billion that are likely to create 50,000 jobs.

Already, India-US economic and commercial relations are growing. Merchandise trade between the two countries has approached $46 billion, including $24.48 billion exports from the USA and $21.40 billion exports from India. In addition, the two countries have $22 billion trade in services. For India, the USA is a major trading partner accounting for 12 percent of the country’s global exports and 8 percent of its global imports.

Though US exports to India have nearly doubled during the last five years, India’s share in America’s global exports is only 1.8 percent, while America’s share in India’s global imports is about 7.5 percent. Given India’s strong economic growth, its status as the world’s second largest market, and liberalization of the economy, the US would like to push up its exports to India and take a larger pie of the Indian market.

Hence, before his visit to India, Obama had underlined the need for greater access to Indian market to boost America’s global exports as a means to create jobs and contain its huge current account deficit. In the USA, the economy plays a greater role than any other factor in shaping politics and Obama, who just before embarking on the Indian trip had suffered substantial losses in mid-term elections, knows that his re-election heavily depends on the economic performance of his administration.

The growing Indo-US ties reflect the present era of economic diplomacy in which a country’s position in the comity of nations is primarily determined by its economic and commercial strength and by and large economics takes precedence over politics in shaping inter-state relations. Hence, developing and sustaining a sound economy and securing and protecting economic interests abroad are the priority of governments’ internal and external policies respectively.

This explains why there is so much emphasis on forming blocs and concluding agreements for economic integration and promoting trade and investment.

Indo-US relations have a political dimension as well. The US wants to preserve the existing uni-polar global order based on the philosophy of liberalism, whose political expression is democracy and economic manifestation is free market economy.

The US realises that although it is the lone superpower, it cannot control world affairs independently. It needs regional partners or allies, particularly those believing in economic and political liberalism to control the world.

India is well-suited to play that role as acknowledged by Mr Obama himself in his address to Indian parliament when he said, "As the world’s two largest democracies, as large and growing free market economies, as diverse multi-ethnic societies with strong traditions of pluralism and tolerance, we have not only an opportunity, but also a responsibility to lead."

The US also claims Pakistan to be its strategic partner. However, the dynamics of Pak-America relations are fundamentally different from Indo-America’s. While the US interest in Islamabad consists mainly in the war on terror and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, New Delhi has a much larger role to play in Washington’s scheme of things as borne out by Obama’s quoted words.

That Pakistan cannot receive the same treatment from America as India does is hardly surprising as the two countries are on different scales economically and politically.

For the people…We have made historical changes in our country

By Zaman Khan

Subodh Raj Pyakurel carries with him a vast experience of working with development and human rights organisations in Nepal. He is Chairperson of Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA). Besides being Executive Member of South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), Mr. Pyakurel is also Chairperson of Human Rights Home (HRH), and Convener of NEMA (National Election Monitoring Alliance) and NCICC (National Coalition for ICC), Nepal.

Mr. Pyakurel has also served as member of the National Monitoring Committee on Code of Conduct for Ceasefire (NMCC) formed by an agreement between the Nepal government and CPN (Maoist) to monitor human rights situation during the ceasefire by State and the CPN (Maoist) in 2006. He was appointed member of high level committee to monitor composite peace agreement and other political agreements. One of the Steering Committee Members of the National Human Rights Action Plan and Spokesperson of Bhutan Refugee Support Group (BRSG), Pyakurel was at the forefront to observe and monitor the Jana Andolan (People’s Movement)-II that overthrew the autocratic rule of the king in Nepal in April 2006. His role in motivating people and media from around the country to oppose King’s unconstitutional takeover in the year 2005 has been widely recognised and acclaimed.

Pyakurel has the experience of leading human rights movements in Nepal. He was elected as the National Council Member of the first national assembly of Forum for Protection of Human Rights (FOPHUR) in 1984 and Central Committee Member of Forum for Democratic and National Unity (FODENU) in 1985. Pyakurel holds a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and has acquired a Graduate Training Course on Financial Programme Management from Programme Planning Centre, Bradford University, United Kingdom. Pyakurel was recently in Lahore where The News on Sunday interviewed him. Excerpts follow:

The News on Sunday (TNS): What brings you to Pakistan?

Subodh Raj Pyakurel (SRP): I am here on behalf of Forum Asia to study and get acquainted with the matters related to minorities in Pakistan and to have discussions with local human rights defenders, engaged in ensuring justice to minorities in Pakistan.

TNS: What are your observations?

SRP: In Pakistan, misuse of blasphemy laws, especially the Ahmadis issue is really shocking. And, personally, I feel very sorry about the situation of women in Pakistan, though we have seen that Pakistan has an established judiciary. Criminalisation of politics has been a major challenge for human rights defenders in some situations. We have seen disappointment and frustration among human rights defenders.

TNS: State and non-state actors, in many parts of the world, are violating human rights. And they are doing that with impunity.

SRP: If you see the statistics most human rights abuses are committed by non-state rather than state actors and a new kind of ‘criminalisation’ has emerged. That emerged in desperation. The reason is that politics is not clear. Politicians don’t seem to believe in educating people.

TNS: In Nepal, you have had different experiences, from monarchy to democracy. Why is there an impasse?

SRP: People give mandate to a political party in such a manner that until and unless more than two parties come together it is not possible to promulgate the new constitution or write a new constitution. Now the political parties do not realise and understand the basic essence of a fractured mandate. One party most responsible among others is the Communist Party of Nepal Unified Maoist. Maoists do have 30 percent seats in the Constituent Assembly. So, they were allowed to lead the government. But at that time they could not run the government. Now they are demanding that they be again given a chance to lead the government.

TNS: Why did they (Maoist) resign in the first place? Do you think it was reasonable?

SRP: It was a very amateurish decision. As per our interim constitution, there is a provision relating to the army chief. The provision says that the cabinet decides firing or hiring army chief. It makes the decision and the decision is forwarded to the president. The president issues the letter. But the Maoists fired the army chief and sent a copy to the president and asked him to endorse it. So, the president wrote back a letter to the prime minister asking him to follow the constitutional process. On that account, they felt very much insulted and resigned.

TNS: Have they not realised the gravity of the situation?

SRP: Till now, we have not seen that they have realised or they have any intention to realize that. This is the 21st century. This is not the age of capturing state power by force as was done by Chinese or Russians or Koreans or Vietnamese. Because in those times there was a feeling that there shall be a class struggle; state will be captured and the party and the state will be amalgamated into each other. That does not apply in the present world. During the 19th century, they captured the state and the whole state was for the party but, in Nepal, the Maoist party is reviving the same pattern of party operation. All the members, right from the secretariat officials down to the bottom are monthly-paid cadres. From where does the party get money? The present state does not allow money from its coffers. This is the reason the Maoist party cadre is seen heavily engaged in extortion, in capturing tender notices, making unholy alliances with contractors, builders and suppliers and even stopping development projects where contractors have not paid them the money.

TNS: Can anti-democratic forces or monarchy stage a comeback?

SRP: I don’t think monarchy can come back again. Anti-democratic forces under the guise of utilising people’s sentiments can play foul in Nepal that is true. Nepal is sandwiched between two giant countries, China and India. Both would not like to see a destabilised Nepal.

TNS: Some people say India is the biggest hurdle for the Maoist government?

SRP: You see the question is that if we the people of our own country are united, can any neighbour intervene unnecessarily? That is not possible.

TNS: Are you an optimist as a human rights activist?

SRP: I am an optimistic because it is hardly four years since we ousted monarchy and were declared a republic. We have made historical changes in our country. This is the real transitional period. It takes some time for people to understand facts, to analyse the wisdom of the leaders. We do also belong to the 21st century and, most importantly, the Nepali civil society is very vibrant. They cannot be ignored. In the next six months, we must have a new constitution. If that is not promulgated, all parties shall be defamed and will fail. At the end, to save their own existence, they will certainly come together.

TNS: Don’t you think human rights activists have been neglecting economic rights?

SRP: Political parties do have an agenda based on caste discrimination or religious minorities but their actual agenda is to capture votes by appealing to the sentiments, and not to wisdom. I see human rights defenders quite engaged in raising awareness of the people. A person who is aware shall certainly assert for economic, cultural, and social rights.

TNS: Would you like to throw some light on the Accountability Watch Committee (AWC)?

SRP: AWC was established by some of us because in our country a culture of impunity has been the biggest hurdle. During the movement, all the political parties have a commitment that they will address the past crimes but after acquiring power they forget everything and past criminals usually become their partners. So, that is the biggest challenge.

TNS: Don’t you think all countries of South Asia need such kind of organisations?

SRP: This is true everywhere, not only in South Asia but for the entire world.

Fundamental shift

An indicator of successful implementation of human security paradigm would be a visible reduction in the gap between the haves and have-nots

Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri

It seems anything that can go wrong is going wrong for people of Pakistan. Security situation is getting worse; natural and man-made disasters are hitting it hard; inflation is at its peak; food and fuel price hike seems unmanageable; governance issues and stories of corruption are not only tarnishing the image of government but also weakening the writ of the state.

Continued increase in power tariff, proposed increase in gas tariff, introduction of new taxes, and hoarding of essential food items have turned the life of common persons miserable. What to talk of balanced and nutritious diet, vegetables and pulses — low budget diet — has also gone beyond the access of common Pakistani.

What would happen next? Every other person asks this question, while his/her respondent shrugs the shoulder and leaves everything to God. Frankly speaking, things were never shining in Pakistan. People have been facing crisis after crisis since inception of this country. However, the major difference is that distribution of the effect of these crises has turned much skewed now.

Few among 180 million Pakistanis find the system bowing to their feet. Their wishes and desires become the order of the day and that too at the cost of sufferings of the vast majority. Flood changes its course to save their properties and lands; merits get tailored to adjust their candidature; prices of essential commodities are allowed to soar till their stocks get sold; they always escape from taxation and effect of inflation.

Irrespective of the fact whether they are in power or in the opposition, whether in service or retired, these few can really testify that Pakistan is a gift for them. That is why they always get invited to certain places and that too on special flights at state expenses while many million Pakistani Muslims can never see their wish to perform Hajj coming true in their life time. Hajj is a big thing, ordinary Pakistani Muslims had nothing to offer as sacrifice at the event of Eid-ul-Azha this year.

Deprivation, poverty, social exclusion, food insecurity and helplessness when gets an identity — whether creed, ethnic, provincial, national, or gender — immediately leads to class conflict. I am referring to clash between haves and have not. The clash between those privileged few and majority of non-privileged who are forced by the system to serve the formers. This clash turns the system to work on auto-destruction mode.

One keeps on criticising the role of external actors and factors in creating the messy situation that Pakistan is facing today. The war on terror, heavy influence of American interests on our national agenda, ineffective foreign policy, uncomfortable relations with neighbours, role of the IMF and other multilateral financial institutions on shaping Pakistan’s economic agenda, etc., all are realities that have been affecting the country (negatively) since long. However, one cannot simply shift the blame on externalities.

One’s own house has to be in order to reduce the effect and influence of external factors. Functional democracy and good governance is a prerequisite to bring the house in order. The only difference that I see between the four army dictators and all democratically elected governments is that army dictators tried to pretend democrats after taking over power, while democratically elected rulers turn dictators after reaching power corridors. None of them ever believed in collective wisdom. None of them can bear a difference of opinion and all of them shun independent voices of sanity. Thus, the gulf between the ruling class (read haves) and commoners (read have nots) gets widened and deeper with every passing day.

Policy-reality disconnect has gone to an extent where agriculture minister denies existence of any food insecurity problem in Pakistan and information minister preaches the people to stop consuming sugar to bring its price down. However, all the ministers are not living in Utopia; at least some ministers are more courageous than agriculture and information ministers and admit the existence of problems. Unfortunately, they are always quick in promising that everything would be perfect overnight. Interior Minister keeps on claiming that target killing would come to an end and law and order situation would be perfect within a fortnight while power minister keeps on giving good news to overcome the power deficit problems very soon. So much so, the opposition too keeps on giving last chance to the government to mend its affairs. Alas, amidst these missed deadlines there is no let-up in common person’s miseries.

What can be done differently? There is a lot that needs to be done to save the system in Pakistan from self-destruction. However, one of the most important things is to enhance resilience and coping capacities among masses against internal and external uncertainties. The priority should be to enable the people to meet minimum basic requirements of life.

In order to do so, we would have to think of a new development paradigm, a paradigm that should revolve around human development and individual security. An indicator of successful implementation of human security paradigm would be a visible reduction in the gap between haves and have not which in turn keeps the societal fabric intact and hold us as a nation together. Failure in bringing this paradigm shift can lead to a situation where no one would be able to save the "haves" from the wrath of "have-nots".