Jul 20, 2010

Getting down to business

Do we need a World Bank report to tell us the state of business environment in Pakistan is far from satisfactory?

By Ather Naqvi

Doing a business in Pakistan, or starting a new one, has never been hassle-free owing to various factors such as bureaucratic and institutional hurdles, rising inflation, and lack of skilled workforce, etc. Things seem to have gone from bad to worse over the last few years affected by apparently as remote a factor as economic recession. If people who are running various small and medium businesses are to be believed, the cost of doing a business in Pakistan has sky-rocketed during the last few years and is multiplying with every passing day. This is well beyond the shock-absorbing capacity of a businessman who has invested millions of rupees in a business.

Lack of institutional support, according to businessmen, and unavailability of loans on easy terms has limited their capacity to make an investment. This is in addition to uncertainty in the market due to the worsening law and order situation.

In this backdrop, a yearly report issued by the World Bank on the costs of doing business in Pakistan offers a glimpse into issues that are faced by a businessman who intends to start a new business or plans to expand an existing one. "Doing Business 2010: Reforming Through Difficult Times", is the seventh in a series of annual reports by the World Bank "investigating regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it". Doing Business gives "quantitative indicators on business regulations and the protection of property rights" that can be compared with 183 economies of the world. In the light of the issues hinted at above Pakistan is ranked 85th out of 183 economies which indicates clearly that environment is not conducive for businesses and has a lot of room for reforms.

To judge the state of business environment in Pakistan the report identifies, "a set of regulations affecting 10 stages of a business's life", including: "starting a business, employing workers, registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, trading across borders, and closing a business" among other things. The report is significant because it "not only highlight(s) the extent of obstacles to doing business" but it "also help(s) identify the source of those obstacles" that can be used to guide policymakers.

While the report focuses on various factors that have affected business prospects in Pakistan, it mentions one area where some progress seems to have been made. It states, "Pakistan simplified business start-up by introducing a system that allows online registration for sales tax and removing the requirement to make a declaration of compliance on a stamped paper. These moves removed four days and one procedure and halved the cost of the business start-up process."

But a businessman, who sweats blood in the volatile business market knows precisely where the faults lie, "One indicator of how serious the government is taking the poor business environment is that it has applied a major cut in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) recently. That means many people are not going to get business as there will be less development activity, resulting in less business," says Omer Akram Sheikh, a businessman in dairy products.

"Long hours of loadshedding means a decrease in the per unit manufacturing capacity of a business," Sheikh adds. He mentions a couple of steps that can improve the prospects of a business, "Our power tariffs are very high. They have to be brought down. Then, we also have very high mark-up rates. In this scenario, I think more people are closing down businesses than those who are doing a business or planning to start one."

Sheikhs' claim is borne out by Zeeshan Ali, a businessman who deals in lubricant products in Gujranwala, "One main problem is that we have not been able to develop enough institutions where we can train workforce for our industries and small and medium businesses. Trained workforce produces quick and better results and can also compete in the international market. That in turn reduces your cost and enhances production."

While a trained workforce is essential to get a business going, there are other factors that have added to the problems faced by a businessman. Zulfiqar Thawar, President Union of Small and Medium Enterprises, believes the rise in the cost of production, among other things, has landed businessmen in a position where they think twice before starting a new business or expanding the existing one, "The cost of production has increased many times and that includes cost of energy and cost of transportation. These two factors alone lay the ground for a business to survive," he says adding. "Initial steps to start a business such as applying for a National Tax Number (NTN) and opening a bank account sometimes take quite a few days. This is a very negative practice that has to change." Thawar believes the impression that every government institution is corrupt is exaggerated, "Sometimes it is the people who pressurise government officials to accept bribery and deliver services even before the minimum duration. One thing we have to improve is the lending facility for the SMEs," he says.

Sultan Tiwana, General Manager, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) does not fully agree with Zulfiqar when he says, "Though lending facilities should be improved for those who actually need money, a businessman whose first priority is getting a loan cannot be trusted. There are people who seem to be more adept at wasting money than actually benefiting from it."

"The most important part is the planning of a business followed by execution and implementation stage, including risk assessment." Tiwana laments the fact that the lending percentage has reduced over the last one year, "There is a seven percent reduction in the current lending facility for small and medium businesses. So, that clearly means that the picture is not very positive." Tiwana identifies businesses where the government provided support and made a difference such as textiles, sports goods, leather garments, and surgical goods in Punjab, marble, granite, and gems industries in NWFP, and fisheries in Balochistan.

"The increase in the cost of production has risen to about 40 percent," says Tahir Malik, Chairman, Regional Standing Committee for Export and Trade, FPCCI. "This has left us well behind our neighbours such as India, Bangladesh, and China. Bangladesh now tops the list of countries in the region that has very low cost of production."

Cold War reminiscences

Unlike the Cold War era, both the Russian and US governments have not allowed espionage issues to interrupt diplomatic relations

By Rana Musa Tahir

After the Russian President Dimitri Medvedev's visit to the United States, on June 27, 2010, ten people were arrested and accused of being part of a Russian espionage ring, living under false names and deep cover in a long-term mission to penetrate, what one of their coded message called, American "policy making circles."

The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) claimed that it had kept these agents under surveillance for more than seven years and the arrests were made when it was feared that some of them were leaving the country. The F.B.I also claimed that these "sleeper" agents were unable to gather any important information or state secrets therefore, in the courts they were not accused of espionage but were charged for money laundering and for failing to register as agents of a foreign government.

Although the case had been discussed with President Obama even before Dimitri Medvedev's visit, he did not allow any action to be taken while the Russian President was in the US; any arrests during the visit would have been politically explosive.

Immediately after the arrests, the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the espionage allegations as "baseless and improper". The evidence, however, was undeniable. The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), under the supervision of its director Leon Panetta, contacted the Russian foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, and proposed a spy swap. In return of the 10 agents the United States demanded 4 of its spies held in Russian prisons. The deal was finalised and the Russians removed the initial statement, denouncing the charges, from their Foreign Ministry Web site, replacing it with a new one in which they accepted that some of the spies in the US were Russian citizens.

On both sides the spies confessed their crimes. After the confessions they were flown to the Austrian capital, Vienna, and the exchange took place in one of the biggest spy swaps since the Cold War. This brought to a prompt end, an episode that threatened to shatter President Obama's efforts to rebuild Russian-American relations.

The American media repeatedly mentioned the weakness of the Russian intelligence agencies and claimed that the information collected by the agents could have easily been obtained by surfing on the internet. An article in the The New York Times described their conventional methods of spying, for example using invisible ink, as "a glimpse into grandmother's attic". The claims of the FBI that the Russian spies were unaware of the fact that they were under constant surveillance for almost a decade are inconceivable due to many reasons.

The SVR is the direct descendant of the highly efficient Cold War era KGB, the same agency whose spy ring gave Stalin secrets of the atomic bomb and thus, triggered a nuclear-arms race. Keeping in mind the achievements of the Russian intelligence agencies, the question arises; did the Russians fool the FBI?

Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad operative revealed that the Israelis taught trainees about counter-surveillance by studying real Russian spies at work. "The techniques we learned were for the most part gleaned from watching Soviet operatives and from information received from KGB…..." he said. He also said "Over the years we had perfected the methods but were always aware that the leaders in that field were the Soviets".

It is, therefore, close to impossible that the Russians, highly trained in counter espionage, were unable to detect any of the FBI surveillance. One possibility is that the after detecting the surveillance, the agents were under orders from Moscow to pretend that they did not know the FBI was watching them, in order to divert its attention from other important operations. Maybe there is another spy-ring they preferred to steer the US counter intelligence teams away from. This explains why the FBI was not able to get any important information from the Russians in more than seven years.

Whatever the facts maybe, it is certain that unlike the Cold War era, when cases of espionage were enough to break the ties between the two countries, nowadays those high up in both the governments do not allow these issues to interrupt diplomatic relations.

Time to probe Swiss accounts

The government needs to introduce asset-seizure legislation to confiscate mammoth reservoir of untaxed black money

By Huzaima Bukhari


Dr Ikramul Haq

Unscrupulous individuals and companies can no longer hide their untaxed Swiss bank accounts. Succumbing to international pressure, Switzerland has recently ended its 300-year banking secrecy. Like Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Andorra, Switzerland has now agreed to share information regarding bank accounts on request from foreign governments. Pakistani tax authorities -- knowing that there exists a treaty of avoidance of double taxation and exchange of tax information with the Swiss government -- have not yet taken any step to probe into hidden Swiss accounts of Pakistanis.

The Swiss House of Representatives following the Senate on June 9, 2010 accepted the demands of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that it would follow Article 26 of the OECD's Model Tax Convention, which countries agree to share relevant data in cases of suspected tax fraud. In practical terms, Switzerland from now on cannot restrict its administrative assistance to cases of presumed tax fraud (which involves the falsification of documents). It is legally bound to provide information where tax evasion is suspected -- in other words, where money not declared to national tax authorities, has been deposited in a Swiss bank.

It is no secret that Pakistani tax evaders have been transferring huge amounts of money to Swiss banks -- generated through illegal activities by some politicians, bureaucrats, terrorist networks and businessmen. Pakistan is facing the challenge of measuring and countering enormous revenue leakages and black money -- its size estimated to be three time the regular economy.

Till today, no effort appears to have been made by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Federal Investigating Agency (FIA), Anti Narcotics Force (AFN) or Narcotics Control Board to conduct an in-depth study to quantify the magnitude of black money and amounts shifted to Swiss banks. According to an estimate, it is not less than 200 billion dollars -- four times the external debt of Pakistan.

The process started when US Department of Justice (DOJ) took the Swiss bank UBS to court to obtain the names of 52,000 clients of the bank: US citizens who, the US government claimed, did not declare to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) all details of their financial information. NAB and/or FBR have learnt no lessons from this move by the US authorities.

"At a time when millions of Americans are losing their jobs, their homes and their health care, it is appalling that more than 50,000 of the wealthiest among us have actively sought to evade their civic and legal duty to pay taxes," says John DiCicco, acting Assistant Attorney general for the DOJ's tax division. In the wake of US success, the European Union also announced its intention to seek a similar agreement with Swiss banks, to release the names of clients who are citizens of EU countries.

According to an estimate, the money lying in Swiss banks of Pakistanis is to the tune of US $200 billion which appears plausible as parallel economy is growing at an alarming rate of 20 percent per annum. The volume of black money generated in the year 2008-09 alone was not less than US$40bn. This is still not final. It does not account for kickbacks in foreign trade, smuggling and foreign exchange racketeering, apart from trade in narcotics and other criminal activities by terrorist outfits. According to various studies, the underground money generated through smuggling in goods and narcotics trade alone is between US $50 billion.

Policymakers must realise that a sound development strategy seeks to reduce the size of the informal economy and bring into the open resources that lie in the form of black money. Apart from such mechanisms as foreign exchange and tax amnesties, taxation is used as a tool to tap the resources inherent in these areas. According to a conservative estimate, tax evaders in Pakistan annually deprive the country of revenue of over US $10 billion -- but the government, instead of putting them behind bars, encourages their unlawful activities.

Politicians, policymakers and tax managers during the last many years have miserably failed to tap untaxed money despite borrowing a whopping US$ 100m for Tax Administration Reforms Programme (TARP) -- every year billions of rupees are transferred from Pakistan to Zurich, Dubai, Johannesburg and elsewhere.

It is not possible to determine the precise amount of revenue loss and size of black money or shifting of money abroad. Revenue loss on account of smuggling of Afghan transit trade alone, as estimated by the World Bank, amounted to US$ 35 billion in 2008-2009. Apart from direct monetary costs of corruption, both Pakistani and international literature pinpoint many other costs, such as loss of government credibility, spread of injustice, distortions in resource allocations and loss of foreign and local investment.

When the presence of black money is so apparent, its criminal accumulation and generation are not revealed and the offenders punished, is a question which continues to baffle honest citizens.

The ugliest face of black money emerges in the corridors of power, political as well as administrative. Pakistan is passing through the worst financial crisis of its history, i.e., the crisis of resources manifested in the huge budgetary deficits. Revenue has to be collected and all measures both stringent and persuasive have to be taken in that direction. The government, therefore, needs to introduce asset-seizure legislation to confiscate the mammoth reservoir of the untaxed black money -- huge chunk of which is lying in the Swiss banks. It is now time to seek information from Swiss government as has been done by the US, EU countries, and many other countries in Asia and Africa.

Controversial canal

The solution lies in building the multipurpose, 35-maf Katzarah Dam, generating up to 15000 MW hydropower on the Indus, 20 miles downstream Skardu Town

By Khalid Mustafa

Pakistan has experienced water deficit for a long time. In the wake of acute water deficit, both in Rabi and Kharif seasons, Punjab and Sindh are found disputing water distribution. No solid measures have been taken by the incumbent political regime so far to bridge the trust deficit that emerged out of the Chashma-Jhelum Link canal's opening and closure and then re-opening.

General Musharraf took a decision on July 10, 2000 to appease the lower riparian federating unit under which a federal member for Irsa was to be taken from Sindh despite Punjab protest. Owing to this unpopular decision, since then Sindh got 40 percent representation in the water regulatory body and maintained its hegemony as decisions pertaining to water distribution are made through majority votes.

Punjab caters to the food requirements of 80 percent of the population and, under para-2 of the water accord, shares 55.84 million acre feet (49 percent) in water resources of 114.35 million acres of feet (MAF). It possesses only 20 percent share in decision-making at Irsa, whereas Sindh that owns 48.76 MAF (43 percent) water share has 40 percent share in decision-making.

Likewise, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has water share of just 5.78 MAF (5 percent) in 114.25 MAF water resources, and Balochistan 3.78 MAF (3 percent), but both the small federating units also enjoy 20 percent share each in decision-making.

According to Punjab Water Council Chairman, Mr Hamid Malhi, weightage in decision-making to very province should be based on the water share each province has under the accord. Malhi believes water allocation should be revised and based on food targets to the provinces both for Rabi and Kharif seasons.

However, Punjab Irrigation Department has since long been demanding the reconstitution and expansion of Irsa to neutralise water regulators, depoliticise entity which could ensure the water distribution based on justice. "Under Irsa Act, however, all the decisions pertaining to water distribution are made with a majority vote. With the Chief Executive Order in 2000, Sindh manages to monopolise Irsa's decision-making on water distribution in its favour with 40 percent representation," says Malik Rab Nawaz, Secretary of Punjab Irrigation and Power Department.

"Punjab registered its strong protest when General Musharraf gave this order. Now, Punjab seeks the expansion of Irsa by including two more members, each from Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir since Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK also share water of Indus River," he adds.

According to Nawaz, Punjab "also demands that chairman of Irsa should not be less than a retired Supreme Court judge with strong credibility and his appointment should be for three years as currently the chairmanship of Irsa rotates between provinces owing to which Irsa has become highly politicised."

M H Siddiqui, Advisor to Punjab government on water issues, says Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal originates from the Indus and irrigates 30 lakh acres of land of Jhang, Muzaffarabad, Multan, Lodhran, Vehari and Bahawalpur. Taunsa-Punjnad irrigates 15 lakh acres of land of some portion of Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan.

Siddiqui reveals that when Pakistan surrendered three rivers of Punjab to India under the Indus Waters Treaty, it was decided that in lieu of the three rivers, a system of water works will be constructed. As per the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement, signed under the Indus Waters Treaty, Chashma-Jhelum Link canal was constructed to cater to the southern belt of Punjab which would get water from Satluj and some water from Ravi.

"The said three rivers used to provide 4.5 million acres feet of water which Punjab has the right to withdraw from Indus River," says Nawaz.

Siddqui provides documents to TNS about the Chashma-Jhelum Link canal that are clear about the fact that the canal is perennial and that the World Bank consultants designed the canal and Taunsa-Punjnad to run every month both in Rabi and Kharif seasons to feed the canals.

Murad Ali Shah, Sindh Irrigation Minister, is of the view that "Sindh is not against the opening the canal but we want that its water requirements should be first fulfilled."

Bashir A Dahr, Federal Member Irsa from Sindh, says the canal has been operational in the past both in Rabi and Kharif seasons but in Rabi it would run only when Punjab did not have water both in Chenab and Jhelum rivers.

He adds that Sindh is of the view that the canal should be opened after catering to its water needs and those of Balochistan province.

On the question of Punjab's demand, seeking restructuring of Irsa, Dahr says the existing system needs no restructuring. "However, it needs to be depoliticised," he asserts.

Engineer Fateh Ullah Khan Gandapur, former Irsa chairman, believes no amount of Irsa re-composition will solve the issue as the dispute is due to a shortage of water.

Musharraf, he says, appointed additional members to Sindh in violation of the water accord. "The federal member of Irsa should be from Gilgit-Baltistan. There is no need to appoint a Supreme Court judge in a technical body. It will be in violation of Article 4 of Irsa Act as it requires a high-ranking irrigation engineer as member and chairman.

He further says that federal and provincial governments seem "unconcerned about implementing the basic water accord laws: paras 2, 4, 6, and 14 (e)".

The acting chairman holds the view that it is not Irsa's duty to initiate the implementation of schemes under these paras. "Irsa's duty is only water distribution. If the above vital paras of the accord had been implemented, there would have been no water dispute between the two provinces. As Chairman Irsa in 1994, I requested the government to implement the rules required under para 13 of the accord," he adds.

In accord's para 2, 117.35 maf of water was distributed in 1991. At that time, the average available annual river flow was 142 maf. The total water requirement of the provinces and the canal's capacity was 105 maf. Water Accord para 4 provides to store (142-105) 37 maf of balance floodwater that goes waste to sea. If this water was stored, Sindh and Punjab, having equal share of 37 percent, would get 13.69 maf of additional water, though Sindh has less irrigated area than Punjab.

Presently, water availability is less by 10 maf (105-95). This shortage can only be removed by building the 35 maf Katzarah dam. Water accord para 14 (e) requires avoiding all wastages. This means storing floodwater by dams and carrying out water management of the 150 years old, obsolete, wasteful and incompatible canal irrigation system that wastes 50 percent of 105 maf of water due to seepage.

The basic function of the canal is to transfer water from the Indus river to Jhelum river. CJLC is not a regular canal. It is basically a link canal. It may also serve as the flood channel. If Punjab does not exceed its share of water, Sindh should not object to its share through CJLC. Sindh believes Jhelum river water belongs to Punjab and Indus to Sindh. Balochistan always suffers at the hands of Sindh. The solution lies in building the multipurpose, 35-maf Katzarah Dam, generating up to 15000 MW hydropower on the Indus, 20 miles downstream Skardu Town.

A crisis of imagination

Those who harp on about China refuse to pay the same kind of attention to the experiments currently being undertaken elsewhere in the world

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

China is increasingly becoming the poster-child of a new 21st century model of economic development. Without doubt, the 'miracle' that began with Deng Xiaoping's reforms in 1978 following the end of the Maoist era is staggering for just how long it has been sustained. China dominates world trade, and is widely viewed as the engine of world growth. Where economists once talked about the 'Washington Consensus' they are now waxing lyrical about the 'Beijing Consensus' (although the World Bank and its sister institutions appear to be remaining loyal to the former).

More generally commentators have, for some time now, been predicting that the balance of economic and political power in the world will shift to the Asia-Pacific region in upcoming decades. The political and economic crises currently afflicting North America and Europe have reinforced the notion that the forthcoming century will be Asia's; China, with India close behind, is touted to become a bonafide challenger to the United States as global superpower.

I do not share the optimism of the Asian nationalists who downplay the fact that the fate of China, India and the rest of the continent's 'emerging economies' is inextricably tied to the fortunes of everybody else, including North America and Europe. Even if stylized economic growth statistics were an adequate measure of overall social progress, the interdependence of all of the world's economies is such that that economic recession in the Western countries has and will dampen growth prospects in Asia. China and India may have survived the global financial crisis relatively unscathed (alongside special cases such as Australia), but this does not mean that there is nothing to worry about.

How different is the Chinese model from the American or European one? After the 2nd World War, three distinctive capitalist trajectories evolved in the United States, Western Europe and Japan. The differences between these three capitalisms - and the various permutations in other countries that followed the lead of the three major protagonists - were not insignificant. Yet at the same time there was no fundamental divergence in terms of the principles that underlay the development model in all three countries. Today these capitalisms are crisis-stricken, while the liberal democratic regime that exists in all three heartlands is facing a major legitimacy crisis.

China is far from a liberal democracy, and is unlikely to become one anytime soon. Chinese capitalism is also at least as different from the American, European, and Japanese versions as the latter three were from one another. Academics emphasise that China's 'success' derives from its grooming of powerful technocratic elites, a strong work ethic which derives from cultural homogeneity (driven in large part by the unique language structure in spite of differences in dialect across the length and breadth of the country), and the balancing of private and public enterprise.

But there are inescapable contradictions that are emerging, and fast. While absolute poverty may have been reduced in China, relative poverty is increasing rapidly. Very few 'experts' singing the praises of post-Mao China are willing to acknowledge that without the infrastructural and social base that was created between 1949 and 1979 China would not be where it is today. But while Deng and future leaders embraced capitalism and are accredited with being architects of the 'miracle', they also initiated a process through which China went from being one of the most equal to one of the most unequal societies in the world.

Even the Chinese government admits to a lot of rural unrest - it is the rural poor who are the biggest victims of Chinese capitalism. Meanwhile responses to the brute exploitation of neo-liberal capitalism are becoming more and more acute in other Asian 'success stories' such as India (Naxalites) and Thailand (Red Shirts).

Then there is the very real prospect that even if China continues to grow fast, it will sooner rather than later face decisive constraints due to an increasingly acute shortage of energy resources globally. The Copenhagen conference only scratched the surface of the sustainability problems that burden global capitalism. It is another matter that the western industrial countries continue to demonstrate outrageous hypocrisy in calling attention to the carbon emission levels of China and India while refusing to acknowledge historical responsibility for the precarious state of the environment. But the point is that as far as ecological imperatives are concerned China and India appear to be acting more and more like irresponsible 'Great Powers' themselves.

In charting the history of the economic ascendancy of western Europe and then later the United States, serious scholars always come across the small matter of colonialism/imperialism. China's dumping of cheap consumer durables on third world markets is a practice that cannot help but revive memories of bygone eras of 'free trade imperialism' in which the rhetoric of mutual benefit was employed by Britain and the United States to give license to blatant economic exploitation. Those who believe that China will be at the forefront of the challenge to American imperialism would do well to ask whether or not they may be unwittingly calling for the establishment of Chinese imperialism in place of the incumbent.

It is telling that those who harp on about China refuse to pay the same kind of attention to the experiments currently being undertaken in Latin America by popularly elected regimes. Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba and Brazil (among others) have operationalised a regional economic integration strategy which features an alternative continent-wide financial system. In at least some of these countries attempts are afoot to at least counter-balance the profit-motive which powers capitalism with non-material incentives that emphasise human needs and promote social solidarities.

All in all I believe that there is ultimately little to distinguish Chinese capitalism from the other prototypes. Capital is, by definition, prone to short-termism and unable to create a balance between profit and the imperatives of human and nature's survival. Combined development on a global scale is always uneven, and thus social and political conflict can never be transcended. Whether or not humanity's imagination has become too stunted to think beyond capitalism is another debate altogether. If so we should be prepared for conflict to escalate and for nature to turn on us.

Freedom versus responsibility

Electronic and print media have to work quickly towards a regulatory framework

By Raza Rumi

Much has been said about media accountability and the dire need of a regulation framework for Pakistan's new power centre. Pakistani media has earned its freedom and independence after a long, often bloody, struggle against military dictators and civilian autocrats. Countless journalists were imprisoned, harassed, even killed in this decade's long fight for free speech, otherwise a much-touted fundamental right in every Pakistani constitution. There is no question that a viable democracy and a culture of accountability cannot exist without a robust and independent media.

Globalisation and the rise of electronic media in Pakistan, ironically under General Musharraf, is a relatively new phenomenon and has changed the contours of power matrix in Pakistan. If anything, electronic media and its older cousin, the print media, with a plethora of columnists, are now an established group with considerable influence and nuisance value. Actualisation of the newly acquired powers was best demonstrated during the anti-Musharraf movement from 2007-2008. This was a startling development and pleased most Pakistanis as they found the echo of their daily trials and tribulations in the direct and frank reporting by the numerous TV channels.

Ambiguous regulatory framework

The sudden liberalisation of private television channels took place in an environment when a regulatory framework had barely been established. The Pakistani Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) came into existence during an unrepresented regime and, therefore, it lacked the essential process of consultation, ownership, and national consensus. On the one hand, media oligarchies emerged despite the vague announcements that cross ownership would not be permitted. On the other hand, electronic media showed little interest in developing a common code of conduct and finding ways of self-regulation. The results and the initial phase were disasters. Human limbs and heads found ample air time thereby glorifying terrorism and violence, and impacting the collective psychology of the viewers through a gradual process of desensitisation. Furthermore, objectivity was thrown out of the window and partisan, one sided rants became the order of the day.

Lawyers and media alliance

This was a type of intense civil activism and unprecedented representation of the Pakistani middle class in mainstream politics. Seemingly, a momentous development, the foresighted mobilization, came into public domain regurgitating the 'anti-politics' biases of Pakistan's conservative middle class. This automatically resulted in severe distortions of the political expression. The first rule of law was personified by a handful of judges who had been linked to Pakistan's regressive establishment throughout their careers; and a misconception that rule of law would lead to political, economic, and social transformation became a 'truth'. Minority voices such as this scribe, alerted to the inherent contradictions of these developments. In short, intra-bourgeoisie struggles could be disruptive but rarely led to transformative social change. The results today are clear. The lawyers are beating up every public official and media representative who attempts to question their activities. After heroic battles the conduct of judges has been called into question.

Holy-cow syndrome

Pakistan's security establishment returned as the holy cow. Anyone who ventured to challenge the predominance of the national security apparatus was immediately branded as unpatriotic and a new divine to rule was crafted by the nefarious Generals: Musa, Ayub, Yahya, Zia and later Musharraf. These 'saviours' took the reins of power with identical intentions and left the country in a huge mess. General Ziaul Haq, during his eleven-year rule (1977-88) tops the list of willful destroyers of Pakistani society. Ironically, the holy cow status of Pakistan army was shaken under General Musharraf and the street agitation of 2007 in which Pakistan army was challenged in its recruitment grounds i.e, the Punjab. This was the turning point of our history. However, due to the uncertain commitment to democracy by Pakistan's chattering classes and the upwardly mobile segments this grand moment of political course correction was squandered by the emergence of two other holy cows: the Judiciary and the media.

Purist discourse

Such has been the trajectory of the national affairs that any objective or independent comment on the two new holy cows is instantaneously construed as an attack on these arguably vital institutions of polity. For instance, judges are very much part of the Pakistani mainstream. Therefore, their decisions in a free society are open to academic and reasoned comment. However, we have witnessed the unfortunate trend of complete deification of the superior court judges by media activists. Similarly, any informed or well-meaning comment on media transgressions has been greeted by the same fate.

More of the same

Thus far, the two established trends in Pakistan, anti-politician rhetoric and glorification of religion continue to remain in the ascendant in public discourse. Until the Pakistan army decided to fight the Taliban in the North West and the FATA, the media on balance glorified the so called resistance of warriors to the infidel Western imperialism. This came as a major blow to the moderate politics espoused by Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Concurrently, the vilification of the politicians from 2008 to the present is a major pastime of the media and now the judiciary on the fake degrees issue.

Partisan politics and media

In light of the above-mentioned developments, the media has been consistently in awe of the changed priorities of PML-N in terms of supporting the lawyers and judges' movement and the allied media freedoms given that General Musharraf resorted to censorship and a brute crackdown in November 2007.

President Zardari was a hero until he played the media-lawyers game and thereafter with his wavering commitment to the judges' issue he overnight turned into the worst thing that happened to Pakistan. Such was the nature of media hysteria, which Zardari and Musharraf were bracketed in the same category without any understanding of Pakistan's history, the fragility of its democratic dispensation and the principle of objectivity in reporting and analysis. Dates of Zardari's ouster and a bloody end were announced with impunity. All this while, the PML-N remained the preferred choice of our daring activists. This honeymoon ended with the issue of fake degrees.

Demolishing the politician

Fake degrees of several legislators is now the hottest news item and yet another opportunity to malign democracy. Over a hundred and fifty legislators at various levels are reported to have submitted fake degrees to the Election Commission in 2008. The debate, however, has provided the ammunition to deride the entire political class for being immoral, unfit to govern by ahistorical TV presenters and civic activists. They have conveniently forgotten that many of these fake degree holders were creatures of the establishment, responding to unjust laws and banished by the military and the judiciary time and again. In fact, there is no crisis as bye-elections can resolve the issue. But the hysteria around this fact was so intense that the legislators with proper degrees also felt offended and had to strike back.

Punjab Assembly


In this context, the provincial assembly passed a resolution with consensus chiding the irresponsible sections of the media. Evidently, there was nothing wrong with a particular view of the politicos but soon this resolution turned into a moralistic and heated debate with the journalists protesting over the impending censorship. No such action was either announced or deliberated by the elected governments. This was a particular view, which could have been countered through reasoned debate and rational discourse. But emotionalism held sway and within a few days the same assembly had to undo this resolution and pass another resolution that favoured the media.

Many pertinent questions have arisen from this conduct of journalists as well as the legislators. The political parties have to display more scrutiny and devise ways of achieving internal accountability. The media at its end has to work towards self-regulation and setting a code of conduct. It should be reiterated that freedom of media is linked to democratic development. By tarnishing the image of civilian politicians and diminishing the trust in democracy the media would be doing a big disservice to its future and credibility.

Three important policy imperatives must be kept in view. Electronic and print media have to work quickly towards a regulatory framework. The state should have nothing to do with this process and it should remain within the realm of the media. Political parties must also show restraint while engaging with media and they should demonstrate that their internal processes are transparent and rule-based. Finally, media barons and owners of newspapers must ensure that the media does not become another interest group like the lawyers fluent in occasional violence and drunk on moral superiority.

Jul 12, 2010

Spain conquers the world!

Andres Iniesta secured the World Cup for Spain for the first time in their history by scoring the only goal of an enthralling final against the Netherlands four minutes from the end of extra-time on Sunday.

Just as it seemed a third World Cup final was destined to be settled by a penalty shoot-out, the Barcelona midfielder found himself in space in the Dutch box and hammered an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

It was a cruel blow for a Dutch side that had hoped to eradicate memories of the country’s defeats in the 1974 and 1978 finals. But the ultimate outcome of a contest both sides might easily have won inside 90 minutes will trigger few complaints from neutrals.

Over the two hours, the European champions enjoyed the better of the chances while the Dutch had defender John Heitinga sent off and seven other players booked, most of them for challenges that appeared cynically designed to disturb the rhythm of Spain’s passing game.

“It’s incredible,” said Iniesta. “What a joy especially when you see how we won it. There aren’t the words to describe what I am feeling. After my goal, I thought about my family and all the people who I love. But the victory is the fruit of a lot of work.”

Nelson Mandela’s beaming pre-match appearance ensured the only glum face at Soccer City before kick-off belonged to Fernando Torres, consigned to the bench until the second period of extra-time as Spain opted to keep David Villa in the central striking role.

Torres’ evening was to finish on a much happier note however with his cross causing the disruption in the Dutch defence that granted Iniesta his chance. Villa had contributed five of the seven goals his side had scored en route to the final, but it was Sergio Ramos who looked most likely to give Spain an early lead. The defender’s header from Xavi’s fifth-minute free-kick drew a fine save from Stekelenburg and his menacing drive across the goalmouth was deflected over the bar by Heitinga without the Dutch centreback knowing too much abut it.

In between those two efforts, Dirk Kuyt had a 25-yard drive saved by Iker Casillas. But, with Villa soon finding the side netting with a back-post volley, Spain appeared well set for a rewarding evening.

Their rhythm, though, was disrupted as the match took a niggly turn after quarter of an hour, shattering any hopes Webb may have had of a quiet evening. The English official was obliged to book Robin van Persie, Carles Puyol, Mark van Bommel and Ramos in quick succession and the fifth yellow card might easily have been a straight red after Nigel de Jong’s reckless high challenge resulted in him planting his studs into Xabi Alonso’s chest.

Arjen Robben forced Casillas into his first significant save when he forced the Real Madrid goalkeeper to get down smartly at his near post as the Dutch finished the opening period strongly. The Spanish reasserted themselves after the interval and left-back Joan Capdevila squandered a good chance to put them ahead when, from an unmarked position at the back post, he failed to connect with Puyol’s flick-on of a Xavi corner.

Xavi shaved the post with a free-kick but it was Holland who enjoyed the clearest chance of the second half when Wesley Sneijder’s pass split the Spanish centrebacks and sent Robben into a one-one-one with Casillas.

The Spanish goalkeeper opted to dive the wrong way but Robben’s shot caught his trailing boot just firmly enough to be diverted beyond the post.

Substitute Jesus Navas delivered Spain’s response to that let-off, drilling in a low cross that, after Heitinga had slipped, reached Villa at the back post. The Barcelona-bound striker got his shot away but Heitinga somehow managed to pick himself up and, with a full-stretch lunge, deflect the ball over.

Ramos, too, was profligate, heading another Xavi corner over after timing his run to the edge of the six-yard box to perfection. Spain were on top once more but the Dutch might have settled the contest ten minutes from the end of regulation time, when Robben got goal-side of Puyol and appeared to be illegally knocked off balance by the defender.

Cesc Fabregas, introduced for extra-time, was sent clear by Iniesta but struck his shot against Stekelenburg’s legs. Navas also went close with a drive that slipped inches wide after a deflection off van Bronckhorst.

The red card that had looked inevitable all evening was finally issued at the start of the second period of extra-time, when Heitinga left Webb with no choice but to give him a second booking for pulling back Iniesta as he chased a pass from Xavi that would have sent him clear in the box. The Spanish were unable to exploit the resulting free-kick but Iniesta, finally, ensured they got what they deserved.

What prayers do

Dr A Q Khan

Most of us face illness and/or mental worries at some point in our lives, causing us to seek medical treatment or benediction. While medical treatment and medicines can cure a disease, benediction is neither visible nor can it be purchased. It can only be felt. People tend to pray for deliverance from serious, chronic or incurable diseases. And when they are under severe anxiety and mental agony, especially when they cannot find solace or relief from other sources. But solace lies not only in intercession by others, but in large part on self-help.

If one can afford to do so, the best available specialists may be consulted in the case of illness, but when in mental stress and anxiety, religion is often the only way to seek relief. Added to this may be other techniques such as relaxation, contemplation and exercise. When all is going well, human nature is such that we easily forget to pray to and thank the Almighty for all we have. It is when we are under duress or in need that we call for help. This has been so aptly described by Allah in the following verse: “When a trouble touches a man, he cries unto Us (in all postures)–lying down, on his side, sitting or standing. But when We have solved his trouble, he passes on his way as if he had never cried to Us for a trouble that touched him. Thus do the deeds of transgressors seem fair in their eyes.” (10:12.) Human nature is also referred to in the following way: “Man does not weary of asking for good things, but if ill touches him he gives up all hope and is lost in despair. (41:49.) In other words, we give up too easily and don’t continue struggling for a solution and exploring all options.

Most people, when in trouble, search for religious personalities to pray for them, but in doing so often end up falling victim to exploitation by fake “pirs.” The prayers of such hypocrites (if they actually pray) are never listened to by Allah and those concerned end up losing their money, and the problems they are already facing remain unresolved. Those who are genuinely pious usually advise people to pray directly to Almighty Allah as He is kind to people in distress and will listen to his/her heartfelt prayers.

Even in the Quran we are warned of fake pirs and ulema. “O you who believe! There are indeed many among the priests, hermits and monks who in falsehood devour the substance of human beings and hinder them from the way of Allah. (9:34.)

It is not for nothing that so many of these so-called pirs and saints or heads of religious parties have a bad reputation. Nobody would be willing to swear for their honesty and integrity. Unlike the religious personalities of yesteryear who lived most humbly and honestly and showed no interest in worldly comfort and luxuries, present-day pirs lead a luxurious life, living in large bungalows with all amenities and the services of their acolytes. They drive expensive four-wheel drives, own shopping plazas, mills, factories, etc., and even manage to become senators, members of the National and Provincial Assemblies, ministers and advisors. In the past, humble, God-fearing religious-minded people were highly respected, both by the public and by the rulers, and everyone sought their advice and guidance. At times of natural calamities–floods, earthquakes, droughts–they were requested to pray for salvation as it was believed that their prayers were of great value. Very often their prayers were answered by the Almighty.

The point I would like to make here is that behaviour and mental attitudes have totally changed over time. Honesty has been replaced by dishonesty and truth by hypocrisy, without general condemnation from those around. It is not uncommon to find quacks replacing doctors and to find that the market is full of spurious medicines instead of only proper ones. Unfortunately, we have nothing to blame for this but human nature and our own actions.

The only way we can save ourselves from this curse is by becoming honest and God-fearing and then struggling to improve our own lot and that of our fellow human beings. History is full of examples of nations which were poor and backward but, by working hard, struggling, bearing their suffering with patience and gratitude, managed to turn themselves into advanced, industrialised, prosperous countries.

Unfortunately the spirit required for this kind of action is scarce and hard to find in our country. Everyone wants to be rich and live a good life today, not tomorrow. We suffer from a defeatist personality and expect everything to be taken care of by the Almighty without the willingness to make any sacrifices ourselves for betterment in the long run. Admittedly, there are many things about which we, the common people, can do nothing but we should, nonetheless, look around us and learn from examples.

After the Second World War, Korea, Germany and Japan were totally destroyed and bankrupt. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of their people, they became world economic powers within the span of one generation, almost before our very eyes. And look at the miraculous transition made by our Chinese friends. Hardly 30 years ago they were still underdeveloped, struggling to feed and clothe their people and bravely facing vicious and mischievous economic blockades and isolation. Now they are an economic world power and even their onetime vocal enemy, the USA, is having to borrow from them and begging them not to take any economic measure that would hurt its economy. It is amazing to see how China has transformed from a poor, underdeveloped country into a rich, highly developed world power in every sense of the word. Those of us who visited the old China and had the opportunity of visiting after its development are truly amazed by the transformation.

How have these countries managed to achieve this stability and prosperity? By sheer hard work, honesty, dedication and sacrifices in their initial stages of recovery/development. Add to that the edicts of Almighty Allah which we, as Muslims, have been clearly told to follow, and you have a solution. We have been told in unambiguous terms:

1. Verily, never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves. (13:11.)

2. That man can have nothing but what he strives for. (53:39.)

All this leads but to one conclusion–while bodily ailments can be cured by proper medical care, mental/psychological conditions require both medicines and/or benediction. Furthermore, it also clearly denounces a defeatist attitude. The national ailment of poverty and backwardness can only be tackled by following the commands of our Creator to struggle, to work hard and to be sincere and honest.

perverse notion of modernity

Praful Bidwai

The subcontinent’s leaders never learn from mistakes—their own, or one another’s. Nawaz Sharif’s White Elephant M-2 expressway was one of the greatest scandals in global infrastructure development history. Now, India is about to produce its match—in aviation, by building a $4 billion (Rs12,700 crore) new terminal at Delhi airport. Terminal-3, to be opened soon, is claimed to be the world’s fifth-largest airport terminal, and bigger than Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Singapore ’s Changi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh euphorically described T-3 as signifying the “arrival of a new India , committed to join the ranks of modern, industrialised nations …”.

T-3 is being commissioned just when the UK ’s Conservative-led ruling coalition has abandoned plans for a third runway at London ’s Heathrow airport, which Prime Minister David Cameron was keen on. T-3 will be seen by many as a manifestation of the global power shift: China , India and Brazil are ascending while the long-affluent Western economies decline. This over-reads the truth. The Heathrow runway wasn’t abandoned primarily because Britain cannot afford it, but because environmentalists opposed it. With such projects, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aviation would exceed the UK ’s entire GHG ceiling for 2050.

India’s ruling elite favours gigantic projects in energy-intensive mining, industry, and high capital-cost infrastructure because it sees them as symbols of high modernity and prestige. For South Asia’s rulers, modernity doesn’t mean a society free of religious superstition and fanaticism, caste-ism and gender discrimination in which all citizens can equally develop their potential as free, rational human beings. Rather, their notion of modernity is gigantic, super-expensive buildings which bear no relationship to their function.

This notion is perverse. Saudi Arabia —despite its huge palaces and wide expressways—won’t be considered even remotely modern. Malaysia’s international prestige came from its firmness in resisting the International Monetary Fund’s pressure to open its financial markets during the 1997-98 East Asian crisis, not from the Kuala Lumpur-101, long the world’s tallest building.

Similarly, Beijing hosted the Olympics, and Shanghai built the world’s fastest airport-city link. But that only drew passing admiration. China is more respected for its manufacturing, and export successes, following land reforms and provision of social services which combated poverty. The halo over the Burj Dubai and Mumbai’s 117-storey WorldOne (planned to be the world’s tallest residential building) will soon fade.

So will Terminal-3’s—but only after enormously damaging India ’s transportation policies and its ability to combat climate change, which disproportionately affects underprivileged people. Clearance of the T-3 project was rushed just when Delhi airport’s modernisation-expansion was well advanced. This included a new runway, a brand-new domestic departure terminal for private airlines, and considerable expansion of both the domestic arrivals and the entire international terminal.

This Rs5,000-crore-plus modernisation is creating an annual passenger-handling capacity of 30 million. (Delhi currently only handles 26 million.) This can be modestly expanded to cope with increased future demand with better instruments landing, all-weather radars and air traffic-control systems, faster movement through immigration, and more gates and aerobridges.

All this could have been done incrementally, at low cost. But T-3, with an additional 34 million-passenger capacity, was promoted for prestige—and probably for huge payoffs and kickbacks from sweetheart deals totalling Rs12,000 crores. The contract was awarded to the GMR Group, which has no experience in airport construction. T-3 follows the public-private partnership (PPP) model, based on private profiteering at public expense. PPPs are leading to rising tolls and huge user fees even on rural roads, besides highways and airports.

Manmohan Singh is wrong about prestige. He said T-3 “would be a window to India , the first impression of the country …”. But the visitor’s lasting impression—of general squalor and stupendous rich-poor disparities, visible right outside the terminal—will prevail over the first impression.

T-3 is doubly obscene because 80 percent of the structure is glass. Glass loses 30 percent more warm or cooled air than insulated brick. Its production is expensive and emissions-intensive. It may have limited merit in a cold-climate airport which needs maximum sunlight—but not in Delhi . T-3’s designers mindlessly imitated the West. Similarly, the liberal use of energy-intensive materials like aluminium and marble belies the claim that T-3 is a “green” building.

T-3’s greatest absurdity is that it will add to Delhi ’s long-notorious airspace congestion. Few domestic flights take off or land in Delhi on time; most aircraft circle for 30-60 minutes. This is a tremendous waste of social time and costly fuel. A new terminal will worsen the congestion.

Projects like T-3 are being promoted in India on the specious plea that civil aviation is a public good and indicates social progress. But globally, aviation is increasingly seen as a social liability. Air travel is a major contributor of GHG emissions. Exhausts from airplanes, containing potent GHGs besides carbon dioxide, are 2.7 times more harmful at the altitude at which they occur than on the ground. Affluent air-travellers’ emissions significantly widen global GHG disparities.

Worldwide, sensible policymakers are seeking alternatives to planes, including trains, airships and waterways. The greatest alternative is reorganising cities to limit long-distance travel—and thus carbon footprints and travel bills. All of South Asia should join such efforts before addiction to air travel even for casual/holiday trips grows among their elites, and powerful private aviation lobbies capture policy-making.

India and Pakistan are poor countries where only a minuscule minority can afford to fly. We shouldn’t delude ourselves that aviation will become affordable for the millions who cannot even give their children enough nutrition. During the low-airfare peak, only three per cent of Indians flew.

We must develop climate-friendly alternatives to flying. Trains are an excellent example. Today, the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani takes 16-17 hours to cover 1,400 km. If it can be accelerated to the global level of high-speed trains, it will cross the distance between the two city centres, the most convenient points, in about four hours. This is less than current flying time (2 hours), city-to-airport transit time, plus check-in margins. Most travellers would prefer trains to planes—as they do between Paris and Lyon, Madrid and Barcelona , and Tokyo and Kyoto. Similarly, there’s no reason why the Lahore-Islamabad distance (360 km) can’t be covered in one-and-a-half hours by rail.

Trains consume only about one-quarter as much energy as planes, and emit much less GHGs. Speeding up trains will need large emissions-relevant investments. But these would be only a fraction of what it costs to replicate White Elephants like T-3 and other emissions-intensive aviation infrastructure.

Singh was obviously delighted when he said Indian aviation can “absorb” up to $120 billion (Rs564,000 crores) of investment by 2020. India could do wonders with such money for its healthcare, education and social security. Alternatively, it could build a first-class surface transport network appropriate to its needs. The sum represents one-eighth of India ’s GDP. Should we blow up such colossal sums on socially low-priority aviation, and on super-expensive ecologically unsound projects like T-3?

It’s time to radically rethink our transportation and urban development policies in the light of equity, inclusiveness, energy efficiency and climate responsibility.

Jul 11, 2010

Islam vs murder

S Iftikhar Murshed

Religion is not the opiate of the people, as the Marxists believe, but, if misinterpreted, it ignites the flame that destroys society. The twin suicide bomb attacks at Data Darbar in Lahore on July 1 were yet another tragic episode in Pakistan's unending nightmare of extremist violence. A little more than a month earlier, the slaughter of scores of Ahmedis as they congregated for prayers shamed the entire country as much as it appalled the international community.

Extremist groups have repeatedly targeted respected religious scholars, shrines and places of worship. Thus, in September 2007 Maulana Hasan Jan was killed, as was Dr Sarfraz Naeemi in June 2009. The tomb of Pashto Sufi poet Rahman Baba (d. 1711), celebrated as "the Nightingale of Pakhtunkhwa," was destroyed on March 5, 2009. Later that month, a suicide bomb attack on a mosque in Jamrud killed more than fifty worshippers. These are only a few examples of the savagery.

Admittedly, the military operations against the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine in Malakand Division, South Waziristan and some of the other tribal agencies have been fairly successful. But this could turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory unless the false ideology of the extremist groups based on the distortion of Islamic tenets is effectively exposed.

This is the core around which a counter-radicalisation strategy, so desperately needed to defeat extremist violence, must be built. Unfortunately, the formulation of such a strategy does not even seem to be on the anvil in Pakistan. The initiative has been taken by the religious scholars of other countries with the support of their respective governments.

On March 27-28 leading academics and theologians representing the diverse schools of Islamic thought--from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen, India, Senegal, Kuwait, Bosnia, Iran, Morocco, Mauritania and Indonesia--convened in Mardin, a historic fortress city in south-eastern Turkey. The primary purpose was to discuss the famous fatwa of Taqi-ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328). Issued from the same city after the Mongol invasions, it supposedly authorised violence against unjust rulers.

The importance of this edict in the context of the contemporary era is that it has been repeatedly invoked by Osama bin Laden and his cohorts for terror strikes against Muslim leaders and people living under their rule.

The conference, from which Pakistan was conspicuously absent, adopted a widely publicised declaration stating: "Anyone who seeks support from this fatwa for killing Muslims or non-Muslims has erred in his interpretation… It is not for a Muslim individual or a Muslim group to announce and declare war or engage in combative jihad...on their own."

The scholars were also unanimous that: (i) the actions of terrorist groups are not jihad but arbitrary murder; (ii) ibn Taymiyya's Mardin fatwa has been misinterpreted, and in no circumstances can it be used to justify terrorism or violence; (iii) the religion unequivocally forbids indiscriminate killing and murder; and (iv) the terrorists are destroying their own faith and disparaging the honour of Islam.

The outcome of the conference was summed up by its spokesperson in the following words: "This historic and important summit made it clear that ibn Taymiyya, and the Mardin fatwa in particular, cannot be used to justify terrorism. This summit made it clear that neither did ibn Taymiyya take such a position nor does orthodox mainstream Islam allow for such a position to exist. This summit drew together scholars and theologians from different persuasions within Islam. But united they stood: Islam condemns terrorism and indiscriminate murder."

Ibn Taymiyya has been demonised by the West while the likes of Osama bin Laden have misquoted and misinterpreted his writings. This has been conclusively proved by reputed scholars such as Sheikh Abd-al-Wahab, former professor at Al-Imam University in Riyadh. According to Abd-al-Wahab, the only known manuscript of Ibn Taymiyya's fatwa is archived at the Zahiryyah Library in Damascus. Mardin at the time was under Mongol occupation, and though the Mongols had superficially converted to Islam, their rule was marked by severe persecution of Muslims.

Ibn Taymiyya was specifically asked whether Mardin was the land of peace or war, and, furthermore, should those Muslims who did not emigrate be considered to be assisting the enemies of Islam and therefore apostates to be fought against. The corrupted copy of the fatwa reads: "The non-Muslims living there outside the authority of Islamic law should be fought, as this is their due." The original word is yu'amal (should be treated) but has been rendered as yuqatal (should be fought). This is the error that has changed the meaning entirely and has been exploited by Al Qaeda and its associates.

Furthermore, ibn Taymiyya was a follower of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855) who prohibited rebellion even against unjust authority, as that would spur anarchy and bloodshed. It is therefore doubtful whether ibn Taymiyya would violate the teachings of his own school of Islamic jurisprudence.

The Mardin Conference, which was inadequately reported by the Pakistani print and electronic media, demonstrates the importance of involving the ulema, and there is no dearth of such learned scholars in the country, in the exposure of the false doctrines on which extremist ideology is based.

This has to be the starting point for a counter-radicalisation strategy. Furthermore, Pakistan should involve itself and interact with the Mardin process to build international support for its counter-radicalisation initiative. Lastly, popular opinion has to be galvanised towards a nationwide surge against terrorist violence, and this will only be possible if a strikingly moderate message of Islam is presented to the people.

Farewell to Muralitharan

Aakar Patel

Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan will retire from test cricket this month after the Lankans play India on July 18 in Galle. Murali's performance in his last appearance will be anticipated for a second reason. He has taken 792 test wickets and another eight in the match against India will mean he will be the first bowler in history to get 800 wickets.

I am hoping he gets there, because it is a record that is unlikely to be surpassed. And it's always better to have these things happen before you, than wonder how great someone might have been whom you've never seen play, like Don Bradman.

We can tell generations after us that Sachin was better than current batsman XYZ or that bowler ABC couldn't swing it like Akram. We might be right, but it doesn't matter if we're not because we saw Sachin and Akram play and the other person didn't.

Murali's record will remain even as if he doesn't get to 800, of course, because nations don't play as much test cricket as they used to.

With the popularity of Twenty20, whose matches have been added to the calendar, and the addition of several international and local tournaments, this fading of test match cricket is unlikely to change. The days when many players on a team had 100 tests behind them are surely behind us.

The busiest national teams play about a dozen tests a year. The very best bowlers, like Murali, average between five and six wickets in a test. This means that a bowler must be around for a dozen years performing at his peak in tests to equal Murali and I don't think that will happen.

Murali is an attacking bowler, which is strange because he's an off-spinner, the most basic kind of bowler in cricket.

His menace comes from two things. The first is his (naturally) bent elbow, and the other is his wrist action, which snaps the ball out during release rather than rotating it with fingers in the manner of other off-spinners.

Of the men on the list of top wicket-takers, he's the only off-spinner, though it could be argued that Anil Kumble is also an off-spinner who bowls with a leg-spinner's wrist action.

The man whose record Murali broke to become the leader is the great Shane Warne, a genuine leg-spinner with over 700 wickets.

Spinners dominate the list of wicket-takers because the quicks don't last as long. Shins, knees, backs and rotator cuffs are all worn out with the pounding that the fast bowler's body takes, and develop stress fractures over time. I once saw in super slow-motion what Shoaib Akhtar's body went through during a delivery (ball, not baby) and it was frightening.

The spinners also come under strain, but not as much. Warne said it wasn't the bowling itself, but the running up to bowl that tired him out most. At some point after tea, the legs just gave up, he said. This could be because he's a fatty.

But the point is that because they're less worn out after every year, spinners last longer and thus dominate our list.

Murali is in fact the only cricketer from his side still around from the dazzling Lankan team that won the World Cup in 1996.

Murali is also the only Tamilian on the Lankan team, and the only Hindu. Such things might not mean much in other parts of the world but for us inclusion is important. It makes us feel better if national teams are inclusive in their representation.

Murali's name is a synonym for the god Krishna, who plays the flute, or Murali, and hence Muralitharan (or Muralidharan) is he-who-holds-the-flute.

Most Sri Lankans are Buddhist, though there are also Christians in the team, like Dilhara Fernando, and Muslims, like Ferveez Maharoof.

The end of Muralitharan's career has come after he has beaten off questions of the legitimacy of his action. For many years in the 1990s, he was accused of being a chucker. His action was then checked or corrected through a scientific process which found that the straightening of his elbow during his delivery was due to a deformity in his arm.

But this has not satisfied everyone.

Bishan Bedi, who bowled left arms slow in the 60s and 70s, said Murali had the action of a javelin thrower. "If Murali doesn't chuck, show me how to bowl", he said.

I think it was Australia's Darrell Hair who used the word 'diabolical' to describe Murali's action. Diabolical means Satanic, and so that was slightly off. Hair was one of the two umpires to no-ball Murali, saying that the action was suspect. There were also questions about how the ball could do the sort of things Murali made it do, if his action was clean.

It is true that all three bowlers who have the ability to bowl the doosra -- Muralitharan, Saqlain Mushtaq and Harbhajan -- bend their elbow in delivery.

The doosra is the ball that is spun away from the right-hander, and the South Asian bowlers invented it.

Bedi says that if the doosra was legitimate, first-rate spinners like Prasanna would have learnt how to bowl it decades earlier, and it is difficult to argue against that.

Australia's cricket board has apparently banned the doosra from domestic cricket, though it's unclear what will happen when a foreigner bowls it at Sydney.

The man Murali thinks has a chance of overtaking him is India's Harbhajan.

Harbhajan has 355 wickets (exactly as many as Dennis Lillee) in 83 tests, and he is only 30. Though he's likely to play for another seven years or so, it's unlikely that he will approach Murali's record. That is because India's cricket board is focussed on limited overs cricket since much more money may be made here from the gate and from sponsors than in tests.

Harbhajan debuted in 1998 so he's played an average of only seven tests a year. He will have to double that rate now to get close, and that's not about to happen.

So will Murali be seen as the greatest bowler in history? There is a good case for that. He also holds the record for most wickets in one-day internationals, taking 515 in 337 matches. Akram is second with 502 in 356.

I saw a link on the cricket website, cricinfo.com, asking people for their opinion on whether Akram was the best left-arm fast bowler of all time. Bradman had said earlier that he was, though I think Akram was easily the greatest bowler of his era, left or right, fast or slow, and I don't know if a better bowler ever played cricket.

Had he played longer, and I think he should have because he's still so fit, he could have had a crack at the record. Uniquely among fast bowlers, Akram bowls with a bent front knee. This is unorthodox, because the body needs the straight leg on which to pivot and accelerate the arm, but Akram generated his power from his shoulders and a quick action.

He could have lasted longer for this reason, since most fast bowlers usually end their careers when their knees pack up.

With him gone, no fast bowler is likely to come close to Murali.

Another reason I think Murali's record will last is that spinners aren't as important a part of teams any more. I am fine with that. Spinners are enjoyable to watch only on hard wickets, where the ball bounces and spin may be seen. On the subcontinent, spin is boring to watch because hardly anything is visible up close because it's dusty and the ball doesn't rise.

Jim Laker once described heaven as Bishan Bedi bowling at one end and Ray Lindwall at the other. These two men because they had exemplary actions. Murali's action is quite ugly, but I wouldn't mind watching it for a very long time, though not perhaps for eternity.

Intelligent solutions

Security officials complain of several limitations

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

The provincial governments and police authorities have often blamed intelligence agencies for not sharing crucial data with them. Recently, it was Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif who complained about this "non-cooperation" by the federal intelligence agencies. Interior Minister Rehman Malik took a strong notice of this allegation and, like always, vowed to resign if the Punjab government could prove it.

On the other hand, there is a general perception among the masses that the police authorities and political governments have failed to stop acts of terrorism despite being warned about them beforehand. For example, the police authorities of Lahore were informed by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) that the Sri Lankan cricket team could be attacked by terrorists, while on its way to Qaddafi Stadium. The warning turned out to be 100 percent true as the attackers succeeded in their plan as well as fled the scene.

Every other day one hears about police carrying out search operations in different areas all over the country. The purpose, as mentioned, of this exercise always is to spot the terror suspects and interrogate them. The localities in the vicinity of Data Darbar were also scanned thoroughly on days preceding the blasts that killed dozens of devotees at the shrine.

Police tried its best to pre-empt these terrorist acts but failed due to several limitations, says a police official on conditions of anonymity. He tells TNS that police is the least equipped force meant to combat terrorism that is well planned and executed by highly planned terrorists.

The official adds that police is not allowed to trace phone calls or even access call details; neither is it equipped to do so. In case there is need of it, an official request is made to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) which writes to the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), he says. This whole process takes a lot of time which in turn compromises the quality of investigations, he adds.

About the intelligence reports of terrorists entering a part of the country, he says the informers placed at the point of origin play a key role as well as the phone calls coming from there. For example, the official says, if there is a drop in number of students at a madrassa marked by intelligence authorities, the implied message is that they have left the place to target an installation, building or public place.

He says it's not easy to point out these people on their way to their destination as they often do not carry any weapons with them. In fact, they are provided with these by local facilitators once they reach the destination.

Civil Lines Lahore SP (Operations), Haider Ashraf tells TNS that the police always acts on receiving warnings from intelligence agencies. He says they immediately place barriers, increase surveillance, place snipers and enhance the level of physical search at the place declared vulnerable. Search operations around such are also part of the strategy to stop terrorist activities, he adds. Haider says it is impossible to increase police presence at places on high-alert as the strength of police is limited in comparison to the duties it has to perform, like the VIP duty and crime busting.

Haider says the real problem in this respect is that police is ill-equipped and not trained to fight terrorism. There is only one bullet-proof jacket per police station and 15 to 20 weapons -- a fact that tells about the sorry state of affairs, he adds.

He admits that quite often the information they get is accurate and they act in time. "Police is condemned when terrorists strike but not lauded for averting them. The problem here is that prevention cannot be measured whereas destruction is easily noticed," Haider adds.

He says the police is not a counter-terrorism force and not in an ideal position to stop a crime whose source and destination are different. "The areas where terrorist acts are planned are beyond our reach, so we have to depend on the information reaching us through different sources," he adds.

Haider says the government must take some immediate steps to check terrorism. For example, all the entry and exit points to the cities should be computerised and the data shared mutually. This way it would be easier for the authorities to check each and every vehicle entering or exiting the city, he says.

Haider says if such a system is in place it would be possible for the law-enforcing authorities to track a Peshawar-registered car which enters Lahore and does not exit it even after a week or so.

Haider is of the view that police should not be assigned the task of collecting data. Instead, it should be provided data for analysis and devising strategies against crime.

He says that currently policemen visit 100 to 150 houses of the city and inquire about the inmates which is quite taxing. This duty should be assigned to some agency set up exclusively for this purpose.

Expanding the agenda

Attacks on shrines -- the new agenda

By Waqar Gillani

At least 44 people were killed in the suicidal attack on Data Darbar, on July 1, at the time when religious rituals were going on. The attack, first of its kind on any shrine in Punjab, allegedly by the religious extremists working as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was not quite unexpected, going by the reports of the Pakistani security forces. However, it could not be averted. Monday last, the city police chief admitted before the Lahore High Court that it was a major security lapse.

Over the last year or so, Lahore has seen a number of attacks on its security forces and religious places. The most recent few -- on Ahmadiyya worship places and Data Darbar shrine -- are sectarian in nature that killed at least 130 people and injured more than 300, according to the official reports.

Attacks on shrines of Sufi poets and mystics is not a new phenomenon in the history of the TTP-led religious extremism. Sainthood and shrines are a concept in which the Deoband-dominated TTP does not believe in. The concept is also unacceptable to another 'jihadi' outfit, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), which is predominantly controlled by the Wahabi school of thought. The JuD -- the parent organisation of Lashkar-e-Taiba -- and the al-Qaeda-connected TTP are deadly against shrines and the rituals attached.

A recent publication of one of such banned militant outfits, which claims to be a relief organisation, severely criticised American interest in renovating and preserving shrines of Sufi saints in Pakistan by offering generous financial grants. The said column in the weekly Jarrar (dated April 30, 2010) lashed out at the ruling elite -- the present PM and FM included -- who are the successors of saints and boast a large following in south Punjab's city of Multan also known as the city of saints. It reads, "These rulers receive bagfuls of US dollars for the graves of their forefathers called Pirs, but they have no mercy for thousands of common people who are killed in America's drone attacks in the tribal areas…"

"Attack on places like Data Darbar shouldn't surprise any one, given the present wave of religious militancy," says educationist and analyst A H Nayyar, talking to TNS.

"Some of these militant outfits such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Sipah e Sohaba Pakistan and Majlis-e-Tahfuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat have extremist views about their opposing sects. …These people are extremely harsh."

Nayyar gives the example of the killings of Shias in tribal areas by the TTP. "Even in Kurrum Agency where they are in majority, the Shias are savagely hounded and killed.

Similarly, these militants are harsh towards the followers of the Barelvi school of thought, he maintains.

According to official security reports (also available on the internet), rise in suicidal blasts and attacks are gradual but sure. In 2010, till July, there have been a total of 37 terrorist attacks -- big and small -- in the province of Punjab.

Between 2001 and 2005, only seven terrorist incidents were reported in the province but a year later the number went up to 28. In 2008 and 2009, 35 and 45 attacks were reported in Punjab, respectively.

Sectarian attacks are also on the rise and generally TTP and affiliated groups have claimed responsibility for them. Investigating agencies in Punjab believe the trend not only reveals militant groups' affinity of approach to sectarian issues but also a close nexus between Taliban and several major sectarian and militant groups in Punjab. The groups, known as the "Punjabi Taliban", are a splinter group of LeJ, JeM, SSP and many others. However, army and security forces personnel are the prime targets.

TTP, in Punjab, is working in coordination with groups that are anti Sunni Barelvi, anti-Shia and anti-Ahmadi, an investigator tells TNS, adding, "This has become a nexus and it is expanding its targets."

As per investigators, 11 major sectarian terrorist attacks have been reported in Punjab over the past five years. These include the ones in Chakwal, Dera Ghazi Khan and other cities. Their sectarian agenda also includes communal targeting like the SSP-led riots against Christians in Gojra, district Toba Tek Singh, and central Punjab and attacking Ahmadis in Lahore, Faisalabad and many other cities in Punjab. They also hit cultural, entertainment and secular symbols -- remember the low-intensity blasts at the music market on Hall Road, Lahore, and five low-intensity blasts in the walled city around the dancing girls' bazaar a couple of months ago. There have also been incidents where threatening letters were sent to the schools asking them to stop cultural and sports activities that involve women.

Though the government agencies are clueless about the July 1 shrine attackers, investigators have found some clues about the Ahmadiyya worship place attackers. Ma'az, one of the attackers arrested from the Model Town worship place in May 28 attacks on Ahmadis, is highly impressed by the JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar. "He is a great admirer [of Azhar] and loves his sermons. He thinks that Ahmadis are wajabul Qatal," an investigator tells TNS.

It is also open that these attackers took shelter for two days at the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in Lahore's suburbs. TJ is a known hardliner Deoband organisation which strictly stops paying homage to saints. The attackers also sought refuge in a mosque of Tableghi Jamaat in Lahore for two days before they executed their plan.

"The attack on the shrine is not a surprise, actually. According to reports, there have been 50 attacks on tombs and shrines in NWFP," says Shaukat Javed, former Inspector General of Punjab Police.

He adds that Barelvi congregations have been attacked in Karachi also, a couple of years back. That is why, they choose a mix of public places, tombs and security forces offices. "It is more ideological if you take the example of Iraq," he adds. "This is an ideological war and don't blame it on America, please."

The latest findings by the investigators of Ahmadiyya attacks have also led to the areas of six other local facilitators of these attacks. "They think that Pakistani state and security forces are standing with the infidels like America," says an investigator, adding, "These attackers want to make Islamic Emirates of Pakistan excluding all other sects."

Following the attacks on shrine and pressure from the Sunni Brelvi sect, the government, apparently, has closed the SSP head office in the central Punjab city of Jhang, a move considered discriminatory by the banned outfit. "There will be zero tolerance now. No banned outfit allows is to operate," says Mushtaq Sukhera, regional police office of Faisalabad.

Nayyar believes that this sectarianism will increase after such attacks. "I am sure this will further increase," he says, adding, "It is not an element of surprise. The country has a history of sectarian violence for the last 205 years." He says that you can expect any kind of violence by the religious fanatics. "The solution is to show zero tolerance to any kind of religious extremism." He recalls one incident of 1984 in fro0nt of Badshahi Mosque when there was a serious fight between Deoband and Brelvi.

Sect of problems

The Barelvis blame it on Deobandis who blame it on foreign enemies

By Shaiq Hussain

The horrendous act of terror at the shrine of Syed Ali Hajveri, popularly known as Data Darbar, in the beginning of this month, has raised serious concerns about the eruption of sectarian clashes across the country.

In the wake of the suicide bombings at the famous Sufi shrine, his angry followers or the Barelvis are publicly talking about resorting to arms to defend themselves against the persistent onslaught by the Taliban militants, not only in Punjab but also in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces.

The Barelvi leaders of Sunni Tehrik and Sunni Itehad Council have placed the blame on banned organisations such as Sipah-e-Sahaba, which follow the Deobandi school of thought, for training, arming and brainwashing the local militants -- chiefly those known as 'Punjabi Taliban' -- in the Punjab province, especially to target and kill the followers and devotees of sufis and saints like Data Gunj Baksh.

"Banned organisations like Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are constantly targeting the followers of great Muslim saints like Data sahib. Our people are being attacked," says Sarwat Ejaz Qadri, the chief of Sunni Tehrik, talking to TNS.

He says that the followers of the Sufis who preached love and peace all their lives would never kill any one, "although self-defense is very much allowed in Islam. …We warn [the miscreants] not to push us against the wall."

There have always been differences between different religious sects, but what happened at the Data Darbar has been generally received with shock and horror. And, its repercussions are going to be far more serious than earlier assaults on the shrines of Sufis like Rahman Baba. Popular feeling is that the country is hit by a wave of sectarian clashes, except that this time it is the Sunnis pitted against the Sunnis and not Shias.

Sahibzada Fazal Karim, head of Sunni Itehad Council, tells TNS, "Extremist religious organisations want to put the country on the path of a sectarian conflict. And, if the government failed to protect the shrines, that would mean the terrorists have succeeded."

Banned organisations like Sipah-e-Sahaba have come under fire for supporting the terrorists who attacked Data Darbar, but they hold the view that the country is being pushed into a kind of a civil war. At the same time, they deny any role in the terror acts.

Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, chief of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wajamaat, and co-founder of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, says that the threat of the sectarian conflict is looming large on the country and that one particular sect is being unduly singled out. "We beg those who carry out such attacks to stop, because every time such an incident occurs, the media and the government start pointing fingers at us.

It is quite evident that having sensed the serious fallout of the brazen attack on Data Darbar, the Deobandis, the Wahabis and other sects have become defensive and they have taken no time not only to deny their role in the assault but also distanced themselves from those involved.

He also accuses American and Indian spy agencies for targeting the Barelvi school of thought with the view to derail Pakistan's nuclear programme.

"Those who attacked the shrines have nothing to do with us. We condemn the acts strongly," says Professor Sajid Mir, one of the main leaders of the Ahle-Hadith community.

According to Sajid, the government should try to stop the foreign masters [of these militants] like United States and India from funding and arming the miscreants in Pakistan.

The leaders of the Shia community which has also been a victim of the bloody sectarian clashes in the last three decades, believe that the government functionaries are well aware as to who the terrorists are and why they are maltreating the Shias and the Barelvis. They say that that the Taliban militants and their affiliated religious organisations like Sipah and Lashkar are all out to impose their own religious doctrines in Pakistan that singles out every other sect as non-Muslim or heretic.

Allama Sajid Naqvi, head of Tehrik-e-Jafria, says the prevailing tension in the country or the unrest among the members of a particular sect is a serious law and order issue that requires strict measures on the part of the government to help the situation. He says that some unlawful elements are out to destroy the fabric of our society and impose their own agenda.

In the wake of the Data Darbar suicide bombings, mainstream politico-religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) which have always considered themselves as above any sectarian divide, have been criticised for not playing any role in bridging the gap between the different schools of thought.

Syed Munawar Hassan, Amir Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), says some indigenous elements from a certain sect might be involved in the attacks on shrines but the religious parties of Pakistan would never support such people. "It's only the handiwork of our foreign enemies," he declares.

Cyclone Phet: the aftermath

The relief and development of coastal areas should be the first priority of the government

By Javaid Iqbal

Cyclone Phet, which emerged in the Arabian Sea in the beginning of June, ended near Shahbander and Gharo creek leaving its devastating effects on the shores of Oman and Pakistan. There are a number of lessons for those working in disaster preparedness in Pakistan and South Asia. Disaster preparedness of disaster management agencies for cyclones must be looked into.

Each disaster is somewhat different from the previous one. The cyclone of the 1999 was disastrous for Thatta and Badin. It caused havoc for the local people and it is still alive not just in the memories; its effects are still visible in the lives of the people. Indeed, there was no recovery phase for affected people of that cyclone. The people of Tehsil Jaati, the main affected area, did not receive enough fresh water from the Indus River even in 2005 and their lands were not irrigated properly. Their people and livestock could not get drinking water and was dependent on the saline water. Sindh and Balochistan were hit in July 2007 by Cyclone Yemyin, which killed at least 250 people.

This time the cyclone remained under the watchful eye of the media from the very first day. The government agencies also prepared at their respective levels. But there are evidences that had it not slowed down near Shahbander and had it struck at some other place, as it was a probability, the level of preparedness of our disaster management agencies would have been exposed.

In Badin and Thatta, where the cyclone hit directly, 8,000 houses were damaged. In Gawadar, 3,000 houses have been damaged; half of those houses are fully damaged. But no assessment exercise has been carried out yet of the losses. The UN and the international agencies could not and did not enter the affected areas.

Gwadar city, having a population of 95,000 people is severely affected as the result of the cyclone which hit the Makran coast on the 5th of June, 2010. Some 370mm rain was recorded from June 3 to June 5 in Gawadar while Jewani received 208mm of rain. According to the people of Gwadar, there is no precedence of what they experienced in the recent past. It is a disaster which has affected almost all the districts, particularly five union councils - at least 50 villages and the same number of small hamlets scattered in the area.

People are not receiving compensation for the reconstruction of their houses. About 5,000 houses were destroyed partially and fully. It is a huge number and it will be very difficult to ignore them. But there is a history of the provincial and federal governments, denying people compensation and help, particularly those living in the far-flung areas. This time, the people of Gwadar are once again in need of assistance.

People in Thatta were evacuated from Keti Bander, Kharo Chan, and Jaati. People in district Badin refused to be evacuated by the government agencies. NGOs and urban business communities came out to help in evacuation. Even then very few people were shifted to the camps. Why? Because of the mistrust between the people and government agencies, which has grown over time, and the past experiences of the mismanagement in camps. This time, Left Bank Outfall Drain was full of the sea water and the main drain of the project was already badly damaged. So it was unable to resist the cyclone water. It was an alarming situation.

This is due to non-participatory planning of disaster preparedness at the district level. One can easily blame prevalence of illiteracy and insensitive behaviour of local populations, but this cannot be acceptable to a student of participatory development who has mobilised people.

It is here the 'urge' of participatory planning and disaster preparedness is exposed. It is here we all got miserably knocked out. We could not effectively ensure participation of the local communities in the district disaster management plans.

What else is the disaster preparedness plan? If people do not cooperate at the last moment, what options do we have? It proved to be a bad episode of evacuation in Badin. It should be taken as an eye-opener for the people in the government who have developed district plans and want to start development work in the area.

Thatta and Badin are prone to a number of disasters like cyclones, brackish ground water, sea intrusion and drought conditions as they are the tail enders. The myth of disaster preparedness and operational capabilities of the disaster management high-ups can be easily checked and challenged in these districts at any point in time throughout the year.

Though coordination was apparently good among various government and non-government agencies as NGOs were given a free hand to work with local communities, very few of the agencies could actually move on the ground to reach out to the affected communities. Very few people could reach out to the people of Gwadar.

The Coastal Highway was cut off and the few vehicles sent for the relief goods got stuck in the way. When the C130 landed at the Gwadar airport, it was the second day of rains.

Why we could not prove ourselves as effective disaster managers even at this point in time when the DMAs are operational? The second question is why the disaster management ordinance has not yet been passed from the Assembly and why it has not been adopted by the concerned quarters in the provinces? The country has suffered enough from natural disasters since the establishment of the disaster management authorities. There is need to be more efficient and effective. There is a lot more to be done in Gwadar and Thatta for recovery and development.

Badin and Thatta are still cut off from mainstream development. They need basic amenities of life like water. Lakes of Badin also need fresh water intake for the people to earn their livelihoods. Those affected in Thatta are in a very bad condition. Some 100 villages have been affected.

Similarly, the fishermen of Gwadar also await development. They have lost their boats (though very few own any boat) and need to be treated at par with the other beneficiary groups of Gwadar development.

The question is, if the authorities could not mobilise people for evacuation in case of cyclone which was away by 72 hours, how would they be able to evacuate them in 18-30 minutes? Lack of trust needs to be removed and worked out properly. Otherwise, the NDMA will cease to exist over a period of time.

There is need to minutely assess the damage to life and property in Gwadar, Badin, and Thatta. People are in dire need to receive assistance for recovery and reconstruction. Those who lost a fishing season in the aftermath of the cyclone should receive financial assistance. An institution or a group of institutions is required to maintain funds for the recovery and development of the coastal areas of Pakistan.

The performance of DMAs (NDMA, PDMAs and DDMAs) should be evaluated and action taken accordingly so that there is no such failure in future.

Cyclone contingency plans should be separately developed for coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Three cyclones in a decade in the same area means we need to develop specialised structures (institutions) for the study of cyclones and develop mechanisms and strategies to deal with them. The relief and development of coastal areas should be the first priority of the government.