Sep 25, 2010

PM House to Hollywood

Anjum Niaz
Another job awaits him should he get the shrug from parliament. His looks are the stuff that opens studio doors in Hollywood. Angelina Jolie is super-impressed by Prime Minister Gilani's handsome face that gushed her into declaring that he could easily be the next silver screen idol. There is a mojo in the man from Multan that makes Americans gravitate around him. Last year, the influential Forbes magazine nominated him as the 38th most powerful man in the world out of a list of 67!
What impressed the editors most about Gilani was that he "has the keys to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal." Someone forgot to tell Forbes that it's not Gilani, it's not Zardari, it's Kayani and his men who mind the nuke store. The first two may have the duplicates, but the original set lies elsewhere. And more recently someone forgot to tell Angelina Jolie, billed as the "most beautiful woman in the world", that Gilani is not doing a heck of a job at running the country as she claims. But the odd man out is Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special representative to 'Af-Pak' -- a name the Americans bequeathed to Afghanistan-Pakistan. Mercifully, the atrocious acronym appears to have died a natural death as one does not hear it bandied about anymore.
Ambassador Holbrooke is the man who first revealed to a clutch of reporters in Islamabad about Angelina Jolie's remarks. She as we all know was in Pakistan recently as our goodwill ambassador. She toured the flood-ravaged areas and has now made an appeal to the world community to help Pakistan. Holbrooke hit the news here in the US for a different reason. Bob Woodward, Washington Post editor in his book Obama's Wars quotes Holbrooke declaring that Obama's strategy in Afghanistan "can't work." The book also quotes Vice President Joe Biden calling Holbrooke "the most egotistical b-----d I've ever met."
Ahem! No comment.
But let's return to Gilani. Early in life we learnt 'handsome is that handsome does.' The 17th century proverb that means, how we act is more important than how we look, has stayed firmly entrenched in my mind. Unfortunately, the recent appointments or shall one say 'disappointments' by the prime minister have left him with a lot of egg on his handsome face. He appoints and the Supreme Court cancels. It's almost like a serial in a soap drama; a sort of comedy of errors, a burlesque, a ludicrous parody.
Except it's not funny!
Why cannot the "38th most powerful man in the world" resist the pressure he receives from the presidency to appoint men who, to borrow a commonly used slang in our diction, are "history-sheeters?" Men who have a long criminal record or were arrested several times." Men like Ahmad Riaz Sheikh, Sajjad Haider and Rehman Malik were granted the presidential pardon when the apex court moved against them. The PM was mum. His latest appointment of Kamran Lashari to become the Sindh chief secretary and Adnan Khwaja to head the OGDCL got cancelled right away by the Supreme Court.
The PM should have thrown in the towel and put in his resignation to the presidency!
What's wrong with our leaders? Among a population of 170 million swell, why do they appoint crooks and charlatans to head organisations that need to be reformed since they reek of corruption, inefficiency and moral turpitude. What message do they send to us, the people of Pakistan, and the world community? If this question was put to the Greek philosopher Aristotle he would push his deductive reasoning which would be:
1. Every history-sheeter gets appointed.
2. Leaders make the appointments.
3. Therefore, leaders are history-sheeters
This is not a nice conclusion to reach, especially about a 'handsome' man who could be headed for Hollywood!

Mantra of change

Babar Sattar
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.
Pakistan is in dire straits and its decent into chaos needs to be arrested urgently, we hear. Is the Bangladesh model a solution, as some suggest, with the military cleaning up political stables in a short span of time and paving ground for 'true' democracy? But isn't that what all our dictators set out to do and instead multiplied the country's miseries by becoming part of the problem? And then the army is just not interested in an overt role in politics we are told, partly because it is still recovering from Musharraf and partly because such a role is unconstitutional. So then shouldn't the Supreme Court contrive a mechanism to oust the ruling regime -- the devil incarnate and root-cause to all ills in the land of the pure -- and save the skies from caving in upon Pakistan? And should the Supreme Court be unwilling to engineer regime change? Can't alliances within parliament be reordered to bring about an in-house change?
It is indisputable that we crave and need change. But what must this change look like? The Bangladesh model didn't do away the role of politics, political parties or civilian government. Its paramount focus was on reforming the election commission and creating credible electoral lists as prerequisites for acceptable elections. And thus after a brief interregnum the same old mainstream political parties were back in business duelling it out. The fundamental weakness in all reform models involving khakis is that these are transitional arrangements by definition that hope to fix deep-seated institutional and cultural problems within the realm of politics quickly, and with a stick. Even if we accept that formal statutory reform can be instituted in such fashion, behavioural changes and evolution of institutional norms and ethics is certainly not amenable to force.
Even other than this basic structural flaw in khaki-led models for change, expecting the army to cleanse the system amounts to a misdiagnosis of the problem. The civil-military imbalance in Pakistan has been a cause and not a consequence of our ailments. Despite the return of civilian rule, the military remains the most powerful institution of the state as well as the most resourceful political actor. A new army chief can make the institution more or less involved in representative politics due to a change of approach in securing the army's institutional interests. But such change at the top doesn't transform the fundamental nature of the institution's interests or the shared desire of its high command to continue to play a predominant role in defining Pakistan's national interest.
Given that our national-security policy, counter-insurgency policy and linked aspects of the foreign and economic policy fall within the exclusive domain of the military that it jealously guards, do we really expect a civilian government (even one with decent approval ratings, capabilities and intentions) to suddenly create a welfare state out of a national-security monstrosity? The point is that it is essential to determine the limits of authority and influence that a civilian government wields during times when the military has chosen to withdraw to the barracks. Should the civilian government be held responsible for handing over Pakistani air-bases to the US? Did it first authorise drone attacks across FATA? Did it start handing over nationals to Americans without regard for their fundamental rights? Can the civilian government singlehandedly end our reliance on foreign assistance without reviewing our defence budget or national-security policy?
It is true that we have a massive corruption problem, and the predatory rent-seeking behaviour of the ruling regime is excruciating. Consequently, we are auditing the wealth statements of our parliamentarians and the mushrooming of their assets, as we should. But where is an accounting of the assets of our generals and their reconciliation with their legitimate sources of earning? It is loathsome that university budgets are being slashed while the prime minister, the president and members of the cabinet continue with their egregious lifestyles. But do we even know how much it costs taxpayers each year to make possible the office, the home, the car fleets, attendants, guest houses and other amenities that are enjoyed by the army chief or even a corps commander? Two wrongs never make a right. But these questions and comparisons become pertinent when khaki-rule is presented as a preferred alternative to democracy.
The aspiration to see the Supreme Court emerge as a vehicle for regime-change is even more dangerous. Our judiciary has a chequered history not because it failed to stand up to corrupt civilian outfits, but because it eagerly condoned and endorsed khaki-saviours. Whenever required to choose between constitutionalism, rule of law and democracy on the one hand and doctrines of necessity, dictates of expediency and self-preservation on the other, our superior judiciary succumbed to the latter. Thus, if heaven forbid, the apex court was to painstakingly contrive a mechanism to engineer regime-change through creative interpretation of the Constitution (as opposed to across-the-board enforcement of law without concern for political consequences), it would merely amount to our sordid history repeating itself and not to the dusk of progressive political evolution or a golden era of judicial independence.
And then there is the talk of in-house change and need for a national government. Let's forget the numbers game for a moment. How would such a 'national government' be different from the one we presently have? All our mainstream and major ethnic parties are already in government in one place or another. Given that power-sharing within the executive is based on the number of ministerial slots allotted to a party and its access to means of patronage, how will inclusion of another party at the federal level change the character of government? Even if it is assumed for a minute that it is possible to reformulate the ruling alliance and replace the PPP with the PML-N at the centre, how will such a weak federal government bring about the transformational changes that are required to shepherd Pakistan out of the woods?
Pakistan has become a textbook case of state capture by corrupt and self-serving elites. The political power of the state is structured and distributed in such a manner that creates incentives (as opposed to hurdles) for power-wielders running the state to engage in predatory rent-seeking behaviours and interact with citizens as clients at the mercy of personalised systems of patronage. Consequently, the difference between the malgovernance practised by successive governments is only one of degree. We will need to change the way all branches of government are organised and interact with citizens as opposed to merely replacing one incumbent with another. Any change of façade brought about by coercing and cajoling the same political actors, strutting around pointing fingers in all directions without taking any responsibility or producing an alternative vision and strategy capable of addressing our very serious problems, will serve no meaningful purpose.
The change that we need is one of mindset that reorders our national priorities, overhauls our national security and economic policies, reduces barriers to entry that prevent talent and ideas from entering the political field and builds capacity of the state to serve citizens while subjecting public-office holders across the board to a non-partisan system of accountability. But political parties will not democratise voluntarily and lower barriers to entry. Parliament will not fix and enforce electoral laws to wipe the electoral process clean of corruption and coercion until pushed, and the military will not limit the nonproductive use of scarce national resources if the demand is not backed by strong public opinion. Unfortunately there are no magic solutions. What is certain is that change will be incremental, bottom-up and a consequence of the demand generated collectively by society. So let us move beyond palace intrigues and get down to it.

Ripe for revolution?

Nauman Asghar
Events are part of an irresistible time stream of history. Individuals cannot create the current of events; they can only float upon it and steer. Revolution is not the work of men; it is a 'process'. Moreover, revolutions are the result of deep-rooted and slowly evolving political and social malformations rather than the sudden outbreak that they appear to be on the surface.
The intellectuals who dismiss the possibility of revolution in Pakistan advance two arguments. First, to them the revolution must be motivated by an 'ideology expounded by the intelligentsia' which is non-existent in this situation. Secondly, they attribute the improbability of revolution to the absence of 'leadership'. But an impersonal and non-subjective historical analysis of social revolutions suggests that ideology is not indispensable to create the desire for reform. Instead the revolutionaries in most cases are actuated by an unbearably iniquitous and rotten social structure. Social revolutions occur because of 'emergence', not 'making', of revolutionary situations. Rather than being fostered by a particular ideology the revolutionary spirit in France of 1789 was the outcome of grave and accumulated wrongs of successive despotic governments. On July 14, 1789, when the French people gathered in Paris and attacked the Bastille -- a symbol of arbitrary and capricious government -- they had no leadership, which only emerged during the course of revolution itself. One of the greatest lessons of history is that 'occasion brings forth its men'.
The state-edifice in its present form is rickety in the extreme and the ill-constructed governmental structure does not conform to the wishes or desires of the country. The occupants of the corridors of power do not give a hoot about the welfare of citizens. The state seems to be failing in its primary responsibility of providing protection to citizens' life and property. The people at the helm of affairs have come to this position by a strange concourse of events, entirely untrained in the arts of government. They possess none of the masterful qualities necessary for leadership. Even if they are not unintelligent, their intelligence is unequal to the daunting challenges of today. They are lacking in wisdom, in breadth of judgment; they do not understand the temperament of the people or the spirit of the times. Born to the purple, their outlook upon life does not transcend that of the small and highly privileged class to which they belong. Their feudal mindset blocks any attempt aimed at empowerment of citizens.
The glaring incidents of mob-lynching in the presence, and sometimes under the patronage, of law-enforcement authorities amply demonstrate the complete breakdown of the system of justice. The political parties here are too disorganised and too personality-centred to become nurseries of charismatic leadership. The chieftains of these factions suffer from self-righteousness and their arrogance has estranged them from citizens, thus frittering their credibility.
The social organisation of the country is far from satisfactory. A class-based, anachronistic and outdated social structure has engendered widespread resentment amongst the disadvantaged segments against the status-quo. The privileged orders are favoured in a number of ways such as tax exemptions, cronyism, nepotism, thus perpetuating class fragmentations. The social discontent has driven common people to the verge of consenting to commit suicide -- the only route to escape the pangs of poverty and unemployment. Paradoxically the multi-tiered educational system in Pakistan, instead of helping to mitigate the sufferings of the hoi polloi, makes the social fissures deeper and more pronounced. One of the most pernicious effects of unnatural distinctions established in the society is that it has rendered possible a tyranny by a minority over a majority quite as complete, odious and unrestrained as any tyranny of a mediaeval king could be.
The inequitable and unjust land ownership in Pakistan has become a stumbling block in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. The surging wave of inflation has broken backs of the salaried class as well as daily wage-earners. The recent floods, like the bad harvests of France in 1788, have aggravated the situation and to tackle the humanitarian catastrophe in the offing in flood-ravaged areas is well beyond the capacity of a country already in deep financial straits.
Moreover, the commonplace view that revolution is undesirable as it merely results in a change of oppressors is untrue. The French Revolution accomplished the transition from the feudal and an absolutist system of the preceding centuries to the democratic system of the modern world. The entire structure of the French state and society was remodelled and planted on new and far-reaching principles. The Reign of Terror was unleashed because of foreign intervention by monarchial dynasties in neighbouring countries to staunch the tide of revolution. But such a situation is unimaginable in these times.
No amount of patching up and renovating could make the present fossilised system in our country any tolerable and a total reorganisation of society is needed. The media has played its role in exposing the anomalous state structure compelling the people to think about the causes of their miserable lot. Today the country has reached a stalemate where those responsible for bringing about change are apathetic and reluctant while others, clamouring for reform, are powerless to effect the changes. Thus the situation is ripe for revolution which may spring from a slight occasion like spiralling increase in food prices as is expected in the forthcoming year because of the devastating floods. Today the country stands in dire need of a new social contract which must be premised on the following two principles. One, the people are the only legitimate fountain of power. Two, the growth of one individual is to be as little as possible at the expense of another creating a healthy atmosphere for social reconstruction.

Who, and where, is the feudal?

Nawab Mumtaz Ali Bhutto
"Jagirdar" and "feudal" are terms which, in this day and age, are being used ad nauseam to disparage and ridicule those connected with producing the food on which their tormentors fatten themselves. This raises the question of who, and where, is a jagirdar or feudal? During the British Raj, jagirdars and feudals were brought into being on the pattern of the British noblemen who provided the Crown with armies in times of war. In return, they enjoyed complete control over their fiefdoms, including exemption from taxation. The British created jagirs in India, of which the Talpur, Chandio and Magsi jagirs were the major examples in Sindh.
In 1959, Ayub Khan brought about land reforms which cancelled the jagirs without compensation, while the large land holdings of the zamindars (taxpayers) were reduced to 500 acres per family member. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto brought in further land reforms, which reduced the per person land holdings to 125 acres of irrigated land, and double that of un-irrigated land. This is how it is today, and any large land holdings are the sum total of the holdings of family members which have been pooled together under one management. Thus, it is downright absurd to talk of jagirdars and feudals, unless the term is meant to describe a mindset or mentality -- which has nothing to do with land holdings and is not restricted to the rural areas.
The biggest jagirdars and feudals now exist in the cities. These labels must be given to those who have acquired fame and fortune through corruption, crooked business deals and politics based on terror, with no ideology, principles or programme--the sole object being to become a part of every government that comes into power, just to make money. This category also includes bureaucrats, the land, drugs and weapons mafias, bankers, and industrialists and traders.
The most despicable of these are those who have stuffed Swiss and other foreign banks with stolen public funds. There are also those who hunt with the hounds and run with the hare and are today well entrenched at the banquet table of the "reconciliation" government, fraternising, as always in the past, and will do so in the future if given the chance, with the worst of those they condemn as jagirdars and feudals.
What we do have in the backwoods are waderas and zamindars, most of whom, in turn, are totally gutless. They feel no shame in prostrating themselves before a disreputable adventurer who manipulates his way into power, even though they have the political strength to resist and stand for an honest and respectable dispensation. There are, no doubt, rogues in zamindari, as in every other profession.
Be that as it may, the zamindar is indispensable for food production in the country. The two land reforms failed because this truth was ignored. Eliminate the zamindar, by all means, but not unless you have a clean and dedicated civil service to replace him. This so far has been a utopian concept, and is more so now than ever before. Thus, the consequences of the land reforms have been nothing to boast about. On the contrary, only about 25 per cent of the distributed land benefited the occupying hari while the rest was either sold, leased away or abandoned by him, simply because he could not cope with the odds stacked up against him.
Let us now look at how the sumptuous meals arrive on the plates of the city slickers who complain the most, and what role the zamindar plays in feeding them. The land is there, but it has to be cultivated. First comes levelling and development, which is entirely at the cost of the zamindar. Then comes ploughing, which is no longer done with bullocks or a wooden plough, but a tractor has to be rented, for which the hari, more often than not, does not have the money. After this, seed, water, fertiliser and pesticides have to be made available on time. Then comes the harvest, for which labour or harvesters are necessary. And finally the crop has to reach the market.
None of this is possible without the zamindar, who provides funding without interest, money which is recoverable in accordance with the quality and quantity of the crop. The public institutions set up for this purpose are a curse no sane tiller of the soil is prepared to bring down upon himself. Furthermore, let us not forget that the zamindar pays all the taxes--i.e., land revenue, water rates, the masjid tax. He also bears all the cost, every year, of silt clearance in the watercourses on his lands. In the case of hazards, such as the current floods, all the financing done by the zamindar is written off.
Of course, in a normal season, the zamindar gets half the product of the land, even though the days of the hari slaving away in the fields are long gone. With machines doing most of the work these days, the hari does not do more than about forty days' physical work in a year. The rest of the time he supplements his income by doing something else, or is too lazy and simply sits at the local tea shop.
The zamindar protects the hari from the corrupt police, and the irrigation and revenue officials who are supposedly there for the benefit of the cultivator but are in fact a nuisance to him. It is through the influence, contacts and clout of the zamindar, who has to run about in severe heat and dust and often even pay bribes, that cultivation takes place at all. And that is not all: the zamindar has to also solve the personal problems of the hari, such as murders, kidnappings, thefts, breakdown of marriages, elopement of women, disputes between relatives over exchange of women in marriage and fights with neighbours. The hari dare not go to the authorities for solutions and protection under the law, for he will be fleeced and simply live to regret it. The zamindar's door, which always has to remain open, is a one-window operation for him and results have to be produced quickly to the full satisfaction of the hari while he sits at home.
No matter how big a scoundrel a zamindar may be, he has to keep his haris protected and satisfied in order to harvest a good crop and earn their support all around, without which the hari cannot live in the dangerous, lawless and backward rural areas. Thus, only a cretin will believe that, in these times when all venues are open to him, you can crack the whip and subjugate an individual, no matter how dependant or helpless he may be. This can only happen in the cities where you either prostrate yourselves before the overlord or your body turns up at your doorstep in a sack.

US plans for the region

Saleem Safi
When I came to know about the visit of Hamid Karzai I conveyed a request to him through his staff for an interview. I was informed that the president would not give a formal interview but that he had invited me for an informal discussion at breakfast. On the breakfast table, the chief of staff, the scribe and the president sat side by side. The president ordered the hotel staff to remove the water bottles and glasses as they were creating hurdles between him and the scribe. In support of the idea I stated that these large bottles were becoming a hurdle between us just like the Americans.
Ostensibly both Pakistan and Afghanistan need the Americans, but in fact the Americans are creating troubles between the two countries. If these interventions ceased to exist, the problems would disappear altogether. This was the starting point of the discussion. The president seemed to be enjoying my criticism of the Americans. The president said that he was making sincere efforts to find a political solution to the Afghan crisis with the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami. In the same vein he expressed his sincere desire to bury the hatchet with Pakistan and establish a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Despite being appreciative of his and Pakistan's limits in this regard, he had chosen the path to Islamabad via Torkham, and not via Delhi or Washington. President Karzai viewed Pakistan's problems as his own; he viewed the multitude of problems faced by both countries as interconnected and common. The rest of the world played the role of an interested spectator while Islamabad and Kabul bore the brunt. He said that he sincerely expected Pakistan to side with the Afghan government. When I was leaving the hotel after meeting Hamid Karzai, the security officer directed me towards another gate, not the normal exit-point, because Gen David Patraeus was arriving at the hotel for a meeting with Gen Kayani and Hamid Karzai. It showed me what the compulsions of Pakistan and Afghanistan are, and why the Afghan issue is still unresolved.
Ostensibly after the withdrawal from Iraq, the US had started talking about a political solution to the Afghan problem. But actually it has begun a very dangerous game in the garb of a political solution. The US has failed to appreciate the fact that it has been defeated in Afghanistan. And therefore as a first priority it wants to put maximum pressure on Pakistan for active help in defeating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It wants a political solution, still the second option, which would prove to be a precursor to the destruction of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US wants to send the message to the Taliban and other resistance groups that peace talks with Afghanistan and Pakistan have no value unless they are sanctioned by Washington. Therefore, any reconciliation or political solution should be discussed with the US. The US does let Pakistan and Afghanistan offer any incentives to the Taliban, but is itself offering concessions to them to deceive them out of resistance.
The US appears committed to the plan of administratively dividing Afghanistan into two halves; the north and south. For this purpose it had covertly supported Abdullah Abdullah in the previous election and is still busy strengthening him. On the other hand Hamid Karzai and Pakistan are trying for a rapprochement with leaders from northern Afghanistan. For this very reason Hamid Karzai had given the two positions of vice president to Tajik Qasim Faheem and Hazara leader Karim Khalili and is also in coalition with the Uzbeks. Pakistan, being appreciative of US plans, is also making efforts to establish good relations with Qasim Faheem, Karim Khalil and Ustad Muhaqqiq. If US plans are to be successful, it will hand over southern and eastern Afghanistan to the Taliban in the second phase. The Americans will shift their camps to northern Afghanistan and will strengthen these military outposts. The Americans will then pitch Afghans against each other. It is also feared that the US will incite the Taliban against Pakistan to teach Islamabad a lesson. For the success of this conspiracy, the US plans to dub the Taliban movement as a Pakhtun-nationalist movement. Then, it will also call upon the nationalists to side with the Taliban to pave the way for Pakhtunistan. It is pretty clear that the US is neither sincere with the Taliban nor with Pakhtun nationalists. It only wants the region to burn in the flames of ethnic and sectarian conflicts of various hues so that American interests in the region are not challenged by any other power.
The Americans may be intelligent and good planners, but they do not control everything on the planet. Many of their conspiracies and plans have been defeated in the past and can well be defeated in the future as well. But this will take courage from the leaders and a real coalition and unity among the states in the region. What these three states are, will be discussed in the next column. The Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami should not be part of this conspiracy. They should make it clear to the US that they will only talk to the Afghan government and Pakistan; if the US is interested, it should really empower the Afghan and Pakistani governments for a political solution.

Doom and gloom

Arif Nizami
In recent weeks talk of regime change has reached a crescendo. Those media pundits who were previously giving deadlines for an army-backed intervention are now talking of an in-house change being on the cards.
In this backdrop, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is sounding increasingly belligerent in his utterances. During his recent speech in the National Assembly, taking a dig at those who are clamouring for a government of technocrats, the prime minister said that technocrats couldn't have two rides on one ticket. "If they are keen to rule they should contest elections," he added. The prime minister is certainly unhappy with the state of affairs. The other day he told me that another judicial murder (meaning his) is in the offing. According to him there are forces in the country that are ideologically against PPP rule. He said that today even the detractors of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, including those in the judiciary, concede that his was a judicial murder. Similarly, he contended that Ms Benazir Bhutto was removed from power by the very same forces and ultimately assassinated.
It is obvious to everyone that the higher judiciary and the government are on a collision course and tension is incrementally rising. A recent manifestation of this alarming trend was when the prime minister asked for a list of those who had benefited from the NRO. On the very same day the Supreme Court, clearly showing its annoyance with the executive, sent former spymaster Brig (rtd) Imtiaz Ahmed and the recently appointed and removed managing director of the ODGCL Adnan Khwaja to jail. The dramatic arrest of both NRO beneficiaries sent shivers down the spines of all those tainted by Musharraf's nefarious ordinance.
The mood in the corridors of power in Islamabad is glum. It is being felt that the military, or sections of it, that are in no position to overtly intervene, are now playing poker through their proxies. And there is no dearth across the political spectrum of those willing to do the military's bidding. There is apprehension amongst the ruling elite that there is a military-judiciary axis, similar to the one that almost ousted Nawaz Sharif as prime minister in 1999. This is a clear indication that despite Gen Kayani's getting a three-year extension, civilian-military relations are not good.
A few months ago, Wikileaks indicated that the ISI was in cahoots with the Taliban. There was a feeling in the establishment that this was done at the behest of the US administration and that the Pakistani government did not stoutly defend its spy-agency. Consequently, when British Prime Minister David Cameron implicated the ISI on Indian soil, it was announced by the ISI that its chief would not travel to Britain for a professional visit. However, the government claimed that no visit had been scheduled and the statement was made merely to embarrass President Zardari who had embarked on a visit to the UK despite being advised otherwise.
Another related development is the shotgun marriage between the PML-Q and PML-F. The Pir Pagaro and Chaudhry Shujaat have not been on speaking terms for years, since the octogenarian Pir insulted Chaudhry Shujaat when the PML-Q leader went to visit him on a mission at the behest of Musharraf. Perhaps what had produced the change in attitude now is the fear of Musharraf expropriating the Muslim League, or the apprehension that if the former dictator is able to return to head a political organisation he might cause embarrassment for some who had been at the helm of affairs under him. In any case, it is well known from where the Pir takes his orders. Similarly, Chaudhry Shujaat is not known for anti-establishment views.
Sadly, all this is happening at a time when at least 20 million are homeless, the infrastructure has been destroyed and the economy is in ruins as a result of the worst floods in our history. The economy was in the doldrums even before the floods played havoc. The country's virtual bankruptcy has given an impetus to efforts by those who want the present government to pack its bags. The prime minister thinks that his government's performance under the present environment has been above average. But this view is not shared by most people. More than the tales of corruption, nepotism and cronyism about it, the government's sheer ham-handedness with governance has inexorably damaged its credibility.
Despite the cacophony for change, the government and the ruling party is doing little to set its house in order. On the contrary, President Zardari, believing in conspiracies against his party, real or imaginary, is not willing to budge. A ray of hope is his latest instructions to his Punjab party stalwarts to bear with the PML-N for the sake of the system. Fresh contacts with democratic political forces in the country are also a step in the right direction. Those engaged in number-crunching within parliament predict that if the MQM withdraws its support, a no-confidence move against the prime minister will succeed. They say that, taking their queue from the establishment, members from FATA and different factions of the Muslim League (minus the PML-N) will also fall in line to vote against the prime minister. Easier said than done. Perhaps it will be relatively easy to oust Yusuf Raza Gilani through a no-confidence move in parliament and in the process defang Asif Ali Zardari. The difficult part will be to form a stable and viable government without the PPP and the PML-N. Mian Nawaz Sharif, wary of the army, is against any khaki-tainted change. Neither has he any love lost for the MQM, notwithstanding Ishaq Dar's much-hyped visit to Nine Zero to condole Dr Imran Farooq's death.
Of course, if there is a stalemate, the parliament will be dissolved and a caretaker government will be formed to hold fresh elections. Those against the system hope that, with a little help from the Supreme Court, this caretaker period could be extended on the plea that the situation is not conducive to holding of elections. As a result, a "government of technocrats" will be formed. Some mavericks go to the extent of saying that this military-backed government sanctioned by the courts will give a new constitution banning the established politicians from the arena.
Many of these pundits have their own vested interests in dismantling democracy, while there are others who, out of sheer naiveté, want the system to be changed. Apart from the economic crisis, little thought is being given to the future of Pakistan as a federation. Balochistan, thanks to Musharraf's trigger-happy policies, is on the brink of secession and, despite what the Pir Pagaro says, the PPP is not a spent force in Sindh. For the politicians to close their ranks is the obvious solution to the present crisis. But this is easier said than done. Mr Zardari, having the bigger stake in the system, needs to do more than merely reining in his hawks in Punjab. He needs to bridge the wide credibility-gap between the PPP and the PML-N.
Since it takes two to tango, Mian Sahib, despite his bitter experience in dealing with the PPP, will also need to be flexible to overtures. The PML-N gains nothing and has everything to lose if the present system goes. The kind of unanimity shown by parliament on a mischievously timed Pildat report about members enriching themselves should be extended to other issues, especially those relating to the economy and the aftermath of the floods. Instead of being afflicted by the victim-syndrome President Zardari and his prime minister should set their own house in order. This should include reducing the size of the government, getting rid of corrupt and incompetent ministers and demonstrating competence and professionalism in governance.
But it is already getting too late for the status quo to continue, as the way events are shaping up, something is bound to give. This will be detrimental to the interests of Pakistan.

Sep 20, 2010

Healthy viewing

Chris Cork
‘That shirt made you look fat.’ (It did and I am) ‘Rubbish tie’ (I thought the tie was fine) ‘Jacket needed pressing’ (It is a linen jacket...linen looks like that even if you press it.) Making my debut on TV turned out to be more an exercise in sartorial critique than any analysis or appreciation of what I actually said. Having for years resisted the siren song of the haunted fishtank, a late-night call from an English-language news channel finally got me in front of the camera — once I had found the studio that is.
Having done quite a bit of radio over the years I had convinced myself that I was not a ‘TV person;’ and that anyway I did not want to up the recognition factor any further by making a fool of myself in front of hundreds of thousands on TV rather than the mere tens of thousands I speak to in print. Courage nailed to the mast I went in search of something I thought would be easy to find — a TV station. My preconceptions took a bit of a knock when I found the studio where the show was to be recorded located above shops in a busy market rather than the tasteful dedicated building surrounded by lawns and with the occasional fountain that my fantasy TV station was located in. Inside, 21st century...outside...Pakistan, late 1950’s.
Having been introduced to my fellow panelists neither of whom I had heard of (nor they me) it was clear from the outset that there was going to be little that we agreed on. A light dusting of makeup powder later we were on the set and the first thing that struck me was just how scruffy it was — and how you never see the scruffiness onscreen. There were odd bits of equipment lying around out of camera shot, the set was chipped on the corners, the whole place would have benefited from the attentions of a cleaner every couple of years and the desk in front of us panelists was dirty, similarly chipped, and dusty.
With minimal briefing the host had us into things with a slightly unnerving swiftness. For a TV virgin like myself (the other two were old hands) it was a bit close to one of those climbing experiences where the hold that you have under one hand starts to slip before the hold you really want to have under the other hand has yet materialised. As anticipated, the three of us found little to agree about and within a few minutes I uttered the immortal ‘I’m sorry I have to disagree with you’ phrase and I was off and running. Just like radio really except that they out there, on the other side of the screen, can see your every twitch and mannerism.
Time passed quickly before the camera and it was all over almost before I knew it. A friendly chat with the host post-show and back home to see myself as others see me for perhaps the first time in my life. The show was half over by the time I was sitting with family members, and past what I considered my ‘best bits’. Oh dear, did I ever look a mess! Several mental notes were made as to mistakes never to be made again (yes Dear Reader, there is going to be an ‘again’) and the family changed channels as quickly as decency would allow to catch up on episode 5,368 of ‘My mother-in-law hates me’. So what was it all about? Sorry, but for the life of me I can’t remember. So much for immortality.

Aisam’s message

Iftekhar A Khan
Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, our tennis star of international eminence, the men’s and mixed doubles finalist of US Open, has passed on a message of peace to the world from Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. He said not all Pakistanis are terrorists, although there are some terrorist groups in Pakistan as there are in other countries. He expressed his opinion at the time of the awards ceremony when the stadium was packed to capacity. As he voiced his peace message in the quiet air, the spectators he had entertained with a sizzling match broke into rapturous applause. What they heard touched them. Aisam’s plain words, without diplomatic nuances, were more persuasive and achieved much more than reams of print and diplomacy could have achieved.
Aisam, scion of a cultured tennis-playing family, is a great sport both on and off the court. It’s a pleasure to watch him practice his shots on the lush greens of 21-K Sports Club, Model Town. Aisam’s mother, Noushin Ehtesham, has been one of Pakistan’s top women players at the national level. This writer has faced her many a time from across the court, with her piercing and formidable forehand drives. Next comes what she isn’t likely to appreciate: that she mostly won not so much for her tennis prowess as for my respect for the gender.
However, Aisam Qureshi’s message to the world has appealed many in the Western countries who know that Muslims are not intrinsically terrorists; they resort to aggression, including the sacrifice of their lives, only to resist foreign occupation of their lands. The present Muslim antipathy against the West is because of the doings of Western governments. More than 1.3 million innocent men, women and children have lost their lives during the occupation of Iraq, which is ongoing. Even a large majority of people in the Western world feel the invasion of Iraq was unjustified and unprovoked. Similar is the situation in Afghanistan.
Recall the seventies and eighties when foreigners lived among us, socialised with us and even became good family friends. I remember friends like George and his lovely wife Mernie, who lived here for many years. George was extremely fond of our spicy dishes and relished tandoori chapatti in particular. Quite a prankster, he sometimes travelled in wagons from Lahore to Peshawar, donning shalwar-qamees and covering his head with a Swati cap. The tall Californian easily passed for a handsome Afridi Pathan. He would confound his fellow travellers when he opened his little box of snuff (naswar), with its mirror on top. What he chewed was in fact anything but snuff. Nostalgic days!
Our young ambassador Aisam has sowed the sapling of peace for the Western world to nurture. And he did it in a city that lost its towers in this month nine years ago. He has presented a soft face of his country by reminding the West that Pakistanis are friendly, warm and welcoming. If a tourist asks a Pakistani the way, the local would not only guide him, he would ride in the tourist’s car to the destination. It’s pure courtesy, and not that Pakistanis have all the time in the world to spare. On the other hand, ask a New Yorker the way if you’re lost in Manhattan. “Get yourself a map, baby,” is what you’d likely hear.
Aisam has also drawn government attention to the apathy with which all sports except cricket are treated in Pakistan. Notably, the managers of various high-sounding sports boards enjoy more perks and are given more importance than the players. In other words, those who sweat and toil to earn a name for their country are not as important as the parasites that occupy the managerial positions. The mention of two names—Faisal Saleh Hayat and Suleman Butt—explains this. Both have taken turns as heads of the Football Association for as far back as the memory goes. At what positions in the field the two supremos ever played, is a mystery. But good luck to Aisam.


Asif Ezdi
The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.
The current wave of pro-Azadi demonstrations which began in Occupied Kashmir on June 11 with the death of a teenage boy at the hands of the Indian forces entered its 100th day on Saturday. Nearly a hundred young Kashmiris have been killed by the occupation forces during this period for daring to raise their voice against Indian rule. More than a thousand have been injured, some maimed and disabled for life. Yet, in spite of the use of brute force to suppress it, the “Quit Jammu and Kashmir” movement has been growing and has gripped not only the major urban centres but also remote towns and villages of the Kashmir Valley. It has also spread to some of the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu. Eidul Fitr, and especially the following day, saw an explosion of popular anger against Indian occupation on a scale not seen since the nineties.
What began as a largely spontaneous and sporadic outburst of popular anger at the highhandedness of the occupation forces has now assumed the proportion of a mass rebellion. It has knocked the bottom out of the Indian case that the freedom movement is fed and instigated by Pakistan and that, by participating in the State Assembly election of December 2008—in which India claims that a phenomenal 65 per cent of the electorate took part—the Kashmiri people rejected the “hardliners” who demand Azadi. As APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said, the protests are a form of referendum showing that the Kashmiris want freedom from India.
Another reason for Indian concern is that the “Quit Jammu and Kashmir” movement is a resounding rejection by the Kashmiri people of the “settlement” that Musharraf was negotiating with Manmohan Singh through the backchannel, which would have sanctified the division of the state along the Line of Control and given India permanent control over the occupied part. According to former foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, most of the APHC leadership had been on board and the only significant opposition had come from Tehreek-e-Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. His lieutenants are now spearheading the current movement and setting the pace of the protests, with the “moderate” faction of the APHC mostly playing catch-up.
The reactivation of the backchannel negotiations has been a key element of Delhi’s Kashmir policy and it has been working quietly with Washington’s discreet support for this purpose. But the Zardari government has been dithering, not so much by design as by default. Kashmir is not on its radar screen because its main preoccupation is to hold on to power and save Zardari from corruption charges. With the upsurge in the Azadi movement, a return to the backchannel will become even more difficult to sell to the Pakistani public. Even Kasuri, the most persistent and ardent advocate of the backchannel in Pakistan, has fallen silent on this issue.
The popular rebellion in Kashmir has upset also the “domestic” part of Delhi’s Kashmir agenda which is focused on engaging the “moderate” APHC faction led by the Mirwaiz in talks on some form of autonomy within the scope of the Indian constitution. On Aug 25, Indian home minister P Chidambaram expressed the hope that in the next few days Delhi would be able to “restart the process of dialogue that will lead to a solution.” In response, Geelani laid down five conditions, which have been endorsed by the Mirwaiz. These include terms that are totally unacceptable to Delhi, like acceptance of Kashmir as an international dispute and the commencement of complete demilitarisation of the state. This has pushed back the prospects of the internal dialogue with Kashmiri parties sought by Delhi, especially after the massacre of a score of peaceful demonstrators in one day last week.
In short, the Kashmiri intifada has wrecked, or at least severely compromised, three main elements of Manmohan Singh’s Kashmir policy: the showcasing of the election to the State Assembly as an endorsement of Indian rule; the resuscitation of the backchannel deal; and the activation of the “internal” track of dialogue with the “moderates.” Besides, this summer’s popular uprising shows once again that even six decades of repressive Indian rule have not succeeded in suppressing the freedom movement. The baton has now been taken up by a new generation of Kashmiris. Instead of the armed struggle of the nineties, they have turned to mass street protests, often organised by educated young men through Facebook and mobile phones. It is no wonder that the Indian establishment and political parties of all hues have been unnerved.
There is every indication that in its desperation, Delhi will resort to even more violence to quell the popular agitation. This was signalled also by the deliberations of the all-parties meeting called by Manmohan Singh last week. All that the meeting decided was to send a delegation of politicians to Kashmir to meet all sections of the people and assess the ground situation. The meeting could not agree even on a token relaxation of India’s iron grip, such as a proposal by Omar Abdullah, the state’s beleaguered chief minister, for a dilution in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA). Nobody imagines that a change in the law would ease Indian repression in Kashmir, but even such a purely cosmetic measure was vetoed by the Indian armed forces.
An even harsher crackdown against the civilian population is now imminent. The Indian authorities have begun deploying the army to support the state police in enforcing the curfew and to prevent popular protests against the Indian occupation. Large numbers of “miscreants” are being rounded up and a manhunt has been launched to arrest Masarrat Alam Bhat, deputy leader of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, who has played a key part in organising anti-India protests.
The international community has been a silent spectator to the reign of terror unleashed by India. One reason is to be found in the geopolitical plans or strategic interests of the US and other countries of the West. The last time Obama uttered the K-word was nearly two years ago. The Indian reaction was immediate. Since then the US president has carefully steered clear of Kashmir.
Another reason, one even more deplorable, for the indifference of the international community to India’s brutal repression of the Kashmiris, is the failure of the Pakistani government to raise the issue at the international level. In his recently published memoirs, former British prime minister Tony Blair recalls his surprise when during his visit to Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks Musharraf asked him to resolve Palestine rather than the Kashmir issue. The present government has also given the same low priority to Kashmir. In fact it is doubtful if it has a Kashmir policy. Its only response to the recent earth-shaking developments has been to issue two blandly worded statements. One of them calls for “restraint” by the Indian government, suggesting that if less force were used Pakistan would have no objection. The other statement refers to the occupation forces as “security forces” as if they were engaged in a legitimate activity to provide security.
Issuing statements from Islamabad will not be enough. The government must also devise a proactive policy to mobilise international support for the peaceful Azadi movement in the occupied state. Its failure to do so is unforgivable. As an immediate step, the government must forcefully take up the issue at international fora and bilaterally with Washington and other key countries. The prime minister (but please not Zardari) should address the UN General Assembly during the general debate beginning this Thursday and urge the international community to take steps to safeguard the human rights of the Kashmiris. The prime minister should also write letters to key heads of government. In addition, the foreign minister should address the Human Rights Council meeting currently in Geneva. Like the government, our parliament and political parties should also wake up to their responsibility to the people of Kashmir as they face the onslaught of the 700,000-strong Indian occupation force in the state.

While Rome burned…

Dr A Q Khan
The Roman Empire was at its peak, Christianity had just started, when a boy was born on Dec 15 in 37 AD in a suburb of Rome. He was later to become the infamous Emperor Nero. On his maternal side he was related to Caesar. In those days intrigues, murders and scheming was quite common within the royal family and it was by these means that Nero became emperor at the age of 16. There are many stories about Nero, and he is even accused of murdering his mother. Historians accuse him of being the most cruel and tyrannical intriguer of all the Roman emperors. On July 18, 64, when there was a huge fire in Rome that originated in a fireworks shop. At the time the fire raged, people found Nero playing the fiddle in the royal park. There was even rumour that Nero himself had the fire started in order to level the area for the construction of a huge new palace complex. It is said that, in order to divert the blame from himself, he accused the new Christian community of arson. They were subjected to extremely cruel and inhuman treatment, like being thrown to ferocious, hungry wild dogs, nailed to crosses and burned alive.
However, there are also historians who credit Nero with fearlessly roaming around in the burning areas and opening up his palaces for the displaced victims and feeding them. It is also said that he built new spacious houses for citizens at greater distances from each other in order to protect them from future fires. He is also praised by some for providing liberties to his subjects and safeguarding them.
Because of his cruel and brutal murder of Christians, the public turned against him and the Senate condemned him to death by lashing. In order to avoid this public humiliation, Nero chose to drink poison. He died on June 9, 68, at the age of 31.
The main reason for cruelty and misbehaviour by such rulers is the absence of checks and balances. Characterless leaders, after gaining power, become totally oblivious to the pains and troubles of the common man and consider those who point out their misdeeds and shortcomings to be their worst enemies. Let us look at the precarious situation prevailing in our country. The rulers are totally ignoring the interests of those who voted them into power. That same public is being mistreated with impunity and the police are allowed to carry out cruel baton-charges. Hundreds of thousands of hungry, homeless flood-affected people are being treated as pariahs. All our leaders do is undertake a brief helicopter flight to a predetermined area, properly secured and surrounded by well-fed and quickly assembled supporters. Photos of these excursions are shown on TV and published in newspapers. And then the leaders carry on with their daily lives, as if nothing has happened. They forget that the public never forgets such attitudes and take revenge at the first opportunity offered.
This poor country of ours has been subjected to successive oppressive and tyrannical rulers, both civilian and military. Starting from the deranged Ghulam Mohammad, through Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Gen Zia and, last but not least, to Gen Musharraf, all played havoc with the country that gave them so much. We have only to recall the Musharraf era to be reminded of the betrayal of benefactors, the selling of the sovereignty of the country at a phone call from a foreign power, the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the burning and killing of men, women and children in the Lal Masjid affair and the murder and burning of innocent people in Karachi. Would the people not have been justified in branding him as the Nero of Pakistan?
Nowadays our Nero-like leaders are allowing the merciless beating of starving, thirsty, half-naked flood victims while they patronisingly pat old ladies on the head as if they were little children. The whole world has branded our leaders and the government as corrupt, and their corruption has been mentioned in terms of “percentages.” Contrasted to the official lethargy is the sincere and efficient help provided by the personnel of the armed forces, NGOs, social workers and the media. But for their help, many more human lives would have been lost. No wonder, then, that MQM leader Altaf Hussain has suggested draconian measures, similar to those used under martial law, for the solution of the problems of the country. However, he should be giving practical assistance here, and not armchair advice from London. Even those politicians of the so called “friendly opposition” are not free of blame, as it is indirectly through them that the present clique can remain in power.
Equally painful is the fact that the judiciary has totally failed to deal with the criminals involved in corruption, fraud, loan defaults and political murders due to lacunas in the present penal codes. These loopholes made it possible for all sorts of mischievous means to be used for defiance of judgments and avoidance of penalties. The compulsory appearance of a witness to give evidence makes a mockery of the whole system as no witness dares to come forward for fear of repercussions, even though, in many cases, there is clear TV footage of the crimes committed. The old qazi system was much more efficient. Under that system, criminals would never have been allowed to go scot-free.
Our leaders enjoy foreign trips and luxurious lifestyles, paying only lip service to the poor and their suffering. Meanwhile, all the political intrigues and misbehaviour continues unabated. This cannot go on forever. Almighty Allah has ordained: “Deaf, dumb and blind they are, hence they are void of wisdom. Deaf, dumb and blind they are, hence they do not see. Deaf, dumb and blind they are, hence they don’t understand.” In Surah Ibrahim we have been warned: “Think not that Allah does not heed the deeds of the wrongdoers. He but gives them respite against a (fixed) day when their eyes will fixedly stare in horror.”
Our leaders have before them the examples of their predecessors. Did they not all plan, scheme and intrigue? But all in vain, for Allah is the best planner. They ended up either in graves, were disgracefully banished from their homeland or chose to live in exile. If our leaders cannot learn from such a recent past, their fate will be no different and they will become homegrown Neros along the lines of the Roman Nero. They will simply disappear and be replaced by others who, hopefully, will have learned from history and will thus do a better job.

Crisis is unprecedented, response can be no less

Andrew Mitchell
Pakistan has been devastated by floods. Ten years of rain fell in just one week. More than six weeks in, dozens more towns and villages are still being flooded.
On Sunday September 19, the United Nations brought donors to New York, to call for more international support and set out the next steps on how to help Pakistan begin to recover from the disastrous floods.
Over 20 million people in Pakistan have been affected so far — that’s greater than the combined total of the 2004 Boxing Day Indian Ocean tsunami; 2005 Pakistan earthquake; 2005 Hurricane Katrina; and 2010 Haiti earthquake. Valerie Amos, the new UN Humanitarian Chief, said on Pakistan “a new disaster is happening every few days”. The international community has committed more than $1 billion. Some have contributed noticeably more than others. A few wealthier countries could no doubt have done a lot more.
Nearly two million homes have been destroyed or damaged; more than a million cattle and other livestock killed; food supplies and harvests ruined; livelihoods and businesses wiped out; hundreds of bridges, roads, electricity pylons destroyed; and more than 8,000 schools damaged — with thousands more still being used as refuges for people who have lost their homes. The UK was at the forefront of the international emergency response. Within days we had sent thousands of tents, and we’ve now provided shelter for more than 110,000 families; safe drinking water and sanitation for millions of people; help for half-a-million malnourished children and pregnant/ breastfeeding women; funded 12 planes delivering vital aid; and accelerated a bridge-building programme to re-open vital access routes — ten bridges are already on a boat from the UK to Pakistan.
I travelled to Pakistan soon after the floods started. In Pir Sabaq, a village in the northwest, I met men, women and children who had been driven from their homes, many left with only their clothes on their backs. The town was devastated; all rubble and ruin. I saw twelve-foot high watermarks on one wall left standing. The villagers now live on higher ground outside the town in tents provided by the UK. It is hard to comprehend what these people have been through and lost. From Pakistan I went directly to the last United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the Pakistan Floods, where I announced the UK would double its contribution to £64 million and I urged other nations to reach deep into their pockets. Some did, others have remained conspicuous by their silence.
As media interest wanes and dramatic pictures of the suffering in Pakistan start to fade from UK televisions and newspapers, people may be forgiven for thinking that the worst is behind Pakistan. This could not be further from the truth. In the south, towns are still being flooded and water is not draining away; people still need life-saving help and a major public health crisis remains a very real risk. And grave challenges lie ahead as Pakistan begins to recover: over one million large animals and six million poultry are lost; three-and-a-half million hectares of standing crops are damaged or lost. With around 80 per cent of those affected by the floods dependent on farming, it is vital that we replace lost seeds, grains, and tools before the critical planting season next month and November.
The revised Pakistan Response Plan, published on Friday, has quadrupled to some $2 billion, reflecting the huge increase in magnitude of the disaster. Aid so far has kept people alive. We now also need to start helping people to get back on their feet.
The UK will continue to do everything it can. We will always be by Pakistan’s side to help people rebuild their lives, and to get their children back into education. This is the benchmark against which future disasters will be measured, and by which individual countries’ responses will be remembered and judged. It is clear we all need to now look at what more we can do. The scale of this crisis is unlike anything we have seen before. The response of the international community can be no less.
The writer is the UK’s secretary of state for international development.

Sep 19, 2010

The only way out

There are spaces in international laws that can be invoked as legal justification to demand cancellation of debt

By Abdul Khaliq

Pakistan is facing the worst-ever natural disaster of its history. About 20 million of its population is displaced due to recent huge devastation caused by the angry floods. Major infrastructure is totally destroyed in major parts of the country. The economic loss is in billion dollars. Foreign minister has put it as not less than $43 billion. This initial estimation may go up and above $50 billion after the final assessment report.

A debt-ridden Pakistan is totally unable to cope with this horrific calamity and its long term impacts on economy. This is the time, instead of seeking moratorium or rescheduling on Pakistan's debts, Pakistan must stand up and declare unilateral suspension of repayment of foreign debts, owed to IFIs, donor countries and clubs.

The current external debt of Pakistan stands at $55.5 billion. That figure will jump to $73 billion in 2015-16, as debts that were rescheduled after 9/11, in exchange for Pakistan's co-operation in the "war on terror", will come back into play. Besides this, Pakistan is paying over $ 3 billion on debt-servicing every year on average. That means Pakistan pays Rs.710 million daily and Rs.30 million every hour to foreign creditors.

As our present foreign debt of $ 55.5 billion will be further increasing after latest loans from World Bank ($1 billion) and ADB ($ 2 billion) the ratio of debt servicing will automatically up by the same ratio. Under the prevailing critical circumstances, the government of Pakistan should take radical stance to cope with this severe debt burden.

Various laws, resolutions, precedents and international protocols favour Pakistan if it demands debt cancellation and dares to refuse to pay foreign debts right now, especially under the critical circumstances it is passing through. To refuse payment of debts is not a new thing; many poor countries had already exercised this lawful right in the past.

There are spaces in international laws, resolutions and protocols that can be invoked as legal justification to refuse the external debt and demand cancellation. One of these justifications is called rule of "State of Necessity". This rule is characterized by a situation that jeopardises the economic or political survival of a country such as the situations which creates the factor of impossibility of fulfilling the very basic needs of the populations (health, education, food, water, housing etc). The "State of Necessity" justifies the repudiating of debt, since it implies the establishing priorities among different obligations of the State.

A natural calamity-like the one hitting Pakistan has given birth to the very factor of "State of Necessity". Besides this the UN Human Rights Commission has adopted numerous resolutions on the issue of debt and structural adjustment. One such resolution was adopted in 1999, asserts that "The exercise of the basic rights of the people of the debtor countries to food, housing, clothing, employment, education, health services and a healthy environment cannot be subordinated to the implementation of the structural adjustment policies, growth programs and economic reforms".

Then there is resolution of UN commission on International Law 1980, which says, "A state cannot be expected to close its schools, hospitals and universities, abandon public services to point of chaos, simply to have money to repay its foreign debts".

The rule of moral responsibility is also worthy to be mentioned. It is immoral to demand a calamity-hit poor country devote what available resources it has to repay creditors rather than satisfy fundamental needs of its people in misery. From moral point of view, the rights of creditors are insignificant in comparison with fundamental rights of populations.

Pakistan is bled of resources every year to repay borrowers who extended unjust loans to the dictators of country over decades. It is vital that desperately-needed emergency aid is not effectively swallowed up in debt repayments.

Pakistan is no more able to fulfill fundamental human needs of its 20 million flood-hit population. Therefore, Pakistan is simply unable to repay or service its debt responsibilities. IFIs and the creditors should not expect Pakistan to continue debt repayments, leaving its people hungry, shelterless and close its schools and hospitals, etc, creating chaos and anarchy.

Under the prevailing conditions, Pakistan must be able to mobilise all available resources towards relief and rehabilitation. Instead of sending billions in debt service out of the country, Pakistan should be able to divert those resources towards rehabilitation of its people. The international community should provide grant support instead of give new loans that will push Pakistan further into debt trap. Early estimates suggest that Pakistan would need 10 years to rebuild and at least 43 billion. So far, only a fraction of the needed assistance is poured in from the international community.

The first and foremost thing in such circumstances is the fulfillments of all fundamental human needs of the population hit by natural calamity. So, this is high time for Pakistan to stand up to its creditors and say a big no. Pakistan had already missed one such opportunity in 2005 when devastating quake hit Kashmir, leaving millions of people in misery. This time, it is a bigger calamity. We have a number of precedents in history when democratically elected governments in debtor countries refuse debt payments on account of "State of Necessity". Latin American countries, including Argentine, Burkina Faso, Peru, Mexico, Paraguay, and Ecuador took such positions in the past.

In July 1985, the government of Peru decided to limit debt repayments to 10pc of export revenues. This led to severe resentment of IMF and World Bank, calling Peru's banishment from international community. Just after only three months, the situation become normal and creditors had no choice but to add the Peru's arrears on interest ($ 5 billion) to debt stock.

Recently, IMF had to cancel all its debt (US $ 268 million) owed by Haiti, after earthquake-hit Haiti in January 2010. The cancellation is given via the newly established Post-Catastrophe Debt Relief Trust Fund, which was set up for this purpose and which can now be accessed by other indebted countries hit by disaster.

Another example is Argentine. The country went into serious crisis after 2001 economic crisis. Though Argentine leaders had always implemented unpopular policies dictated by IMF, it was the people of Argentine who come on the roads in 2001 to protest debt domination. This popular action succeeded in altering history. As a result, country's president announced the biggest unilateral suspension of foreign debt in history, a total of more than $80b owed to private creditors, countries and Paris Club. Thus, Argentine demonstrated that a country could stop debt repayments for a lengthy period of time.

Burkina Faso is another country which stood against IFIs and refused payment of debts. In 1987, its President Thomas Sankara announced unilateral suspension of foreign debts. He said. "The debt cannot be repaid, firstly because if we do not pay, the creditors will certainly not die, on the other hand if we pay, we will certainly die. Those who have led us to debt trap have gambled as though in casino. When they were winning there was no debate. But now when they have lost through gambling, they demand that we repay them. No! According to rules of the game we cannot pay and refuse to pay all foreign debts."

Pakistan's total debt-to-GDP ratio has crossed 61 percent this fiscal year, breaching the 60 percent limit set under the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act. According to WB, if debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds the limit of 80 percent, default is sure. World Bank's recent announcement to provide new loan to Pakistan of $900 million and the Asian Development Bank's announcement for a $2 billion emergency loan is highly condemnable. Pakistan already owed huge amount of about $24 to Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. Further loaning, without any doubt, will lead an already debt-trapped Pakistan to a worst economic wilderness.

Instead of accepting new loan offers, the democratically elected government of Pakistan should request communities for help and grants at the same time demanding total and unconditional cancellation of its foreign debt. Time and again, countries facing tragedies are forced by International Financial Institutions and donor countries to mortgage their future as they borrow for relief and recovery efforts. Thus, the tragedy is magnified for years to come.

Such borrowings would simply add to the country's long term debt burden that could hinder future development. The government of Pakistan must tell the IFIs in clear terms that it is not ready to accept loans but only grants. Extending loans is tantamount to further enslaving the people of Pakistan. We want to tell WB, ADB and IMF to please do not rub salts on the wounds of the calamity-hit, debt-ridden people of Pakistan by extending such loans.

The government of Pakistan must realise that moratoriums and rescheduling would not be helping it much to cope with this extra-ordinary calamity. In view of the magnitude and degree of the devastation, call for a total and unconditional debt cancellation is the only way out.

If Pakistan is to re-build the infrastructure to withstand such appalling disasters in future it must be freed from its debt trap. A debt audit is needed -- and those debts found to be unjust and unbeneficial must be cancelled immediately to give the country a fresh start.

Consumer is right

Consumer Courts and District Consumer Protection Councils have been established in eleven districts of the province

By Shahid Mahmood Butt

Humans always depended on each other for necessities of life and day-to-day work and that dependence led to formulation of a society. Every individual adopts a profession to earn his livelihood. Either he renders some services, e.g. medical, engineering, legal, educational, architectural, transportation, etc., or adopts occupations like agriculture, trade, manufacturing businesses for the provision of products from soap to clothing, from needle to airplanes, from eatables to electronics and other household items. In this scenario, all human beings are consumer who avail different services.

In a society, every person has rights and corresponding to those rights liabilities and obligations are imposed on others. Now, as a matter of fact, if all human beings carry out their duties in a smooth and lawful manner, according to norms and laws laid down by society, this world will become a heaven. When people want to avail their rights but do not carry out their duties they cause problems for their fellow human beings.

Those societies are considered to be ideal ones where consumer rights are given preference and protection in true sense. In 1985, United Nations approved resolution No. 39/248 recognising eight basic rights of consumers which are as under;

1. Right of protection.

2. Right of representation.

3. Right of Compensation.

4. Right of information.

5. Right of healthy environment.

6. Right to choose.

7. Right to basic necessities.

8. Right of education.

Pakistan, being a member state of the UN, adopted the said resolution. Consumer protection, being a provincial subject, falls into the domain of provincial government. Hence, Punjab government has taken a welfare-oriented step for the protection and promotion of consumer rights and interests by enacting Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005 and enforcing it in a true letter and spirit.

As a first step, Consumer Courts and District Consumer Protection Councils have been established in eleven districts of the province to deliver justice to consumers at their doorstep. Under the said Act, authority has been vested in the District Coordination Officer of every District to enforce the Act and provide remedy to the public at large against defective products and faulty services.

In this regard, following set-up has been established under the Punjab Consumer Protection Act (PCPA), 2005: Provincial Consumer Protection Council's Secretariat, District Consumer Protection Councils, and District Consumer Courts.

It is advisable to Consumers to observe the following principles to protect their rights: Always check manufacturing and expiry dates of the products. (Section-11, PCPA, 2005).

1. At all times makes it a habit to read ingredients/component parts of the product. (Section-11, PCPA, 2005).

2. To insist on rate list/price catalogue of goods, from manufacturer/trader. (Section-18, PCPA, 2005).

3. Always insist on and get receipt of goods purchased. (Section-19, PCPA, 2005).

4. In case of hiring services, it's the right of consumer to ask for the capabilities or qualifications of the provider of the service along with the quality of the products he intends to use for provision of the service. (Section-16, PCPA, 2005).

If any service provider or manufacturer/trader does not fulfill the above-mentioned consumer rights, the DCO, on receipt of complaint, has power to fine him up to fifty thousand rupees.

If a consumer suffered with some damage caused by a product or service, he has the right to claim damages/compensation. For this purpose, the following simple steps have been devised for the convenience of public at large:

1. First of all, serve a fifteen days legal notice, on plain paper, to the provider of faulty services or defective products as the case may be. Stating therein that he will redress the damage suffered by consumer due to faulty service or defective product and consequently pays damages to the consumer within fifteen days of receipt of legal notice. Otherwise the consumer can file a claim for damages in the Consumer Court in this regard. (Section-28, PCPA, 2005).

2. The legal notice to be served through registered post or courier service and keep receipt of it along with photocopy of the legal notice with you for further proceedings if needed.

3. If the matter does not resolve through legal notice and grievance exists then consumer can file a claim for damages in the Consumer Court along with photocopies of national identity card, legal notice, receipt of registered post or courier service regarding legal notice, any receipt / document regarding product / service. (Section-25, PCPA, 2005).

4. The claim can be filed by the consumer himself or through a lawyer. In case of hiring lawyer it is advisable to attach certificate of lawyer's fee along with claim so it can also be awarded back at the time of decision of claim in favor of consumer.

5. According to the section-30 (5) of the Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005, "The Consumer Court shall decide the claim within six months after the service of summons on the respondent".

6. According to section 23 (2) of the PCPA, 2005, the Authority (DCO) may file a claim before the Consumer Court for declaring a product defective or a service as faulty without proof of any damage actually suffered by a consumer but likely to be suffered.

Any consumer can contact any of the District Consumer Protection Council or Provincial Consumer protection Council for guidance and assistance in consumer-related matters.

Cost of ignoring health risks

The youth of Pakistan are not provided age-appropriate sexual health information through responsible channels

By Qadeer Baig and Ahmad Shah Durrani

Ignorance on the part of our society and government towards sexual health problems of the population has led to a population explosion, adding further strain on our already out-stretched state structure. Sexual health crisis -- after years of being ignored on a social and institutional level -- has attained critical mass and has severely impacted lives of a majority of the population, especially women and children. The issue cannot be ignored any longer, especially after the international recognition of a link between sexual health promotion and poverty reduction in developing countries.

In terms of exposure to sexual health risks, the state of affairs of women in Pakistan is by far the worst, owing to pervasion of discriminatory gender norms that perpetuate gender inequality. Gender inequity, which is defined by the Sloan Work and Family Research Network of Boston College, as, "A social order in which women and men share the same opportunities and the same constraints on full participation in both the economic and the domestic realm", is a common phenomenon in Pakistan. According to one estimate, only 33 per cent of women (above 10 years) have completed primary education and the total number of employed women is nearly four times less than that of men in Pakistan. Discriminatory gender norms -- which restrict mobility, societal representation, and access to health and education services for women -- have the combined effect of objectifying women as means of reproduction, housework, and sexual gratification.

Among the 1,321 instances of gender-based violence reported in the first quarter of 2008 alone, there were an overwhelming number of cases of women being buried alive, tortured, gang-raped and burnt with acid. Similarly, poor access to opportunities in education and employment for women and their socially-defined role as objects of reproduction is the main cause behind the 83 maternal deaths that take place in Pakistan on average every day. It is estimated that over 80 percent of these deaths occur due to wholly communicable causes such as the fact that only 34 percent of all deliveries are attended to by trained health professionals that derive from poverty, illiteracy and gender imbalances. Regretfully, the grim picture painted by these facts is hardly given due attention by both the media and civil society.

Women are not the only human beings exposed to increased sexual health risks in Pakistan: the sorry state of adolescents is also undeniable and has been highlighted consistently by the Ministry of Youth Affairs as an area of action, although little has been done in this regard. Just as sexual ill-health of women is intrinsically linked with gender norms and cultural practices, an analysis of the root causes of poor sexual health state of young people in Pakistan also reveals the existence of cultural norms as a key factor in young people's prevalent sexual health status. As a result of these cultural norms -- which disapprove of open discussion on sex and sexuality related issues to protect the moral fabric of society -- the youth of Pakistan are not provided age-appropriate sexual health information through responsible channels.

According to a research study conducted by the World Population Foundation on the Status of Sexual Health and Rights of Young People in Pakistan 2010, young people are at an increased risk of, "…abuse, exploitation and disease", which is why it is not uncommon for young people to indulge in a number of risky sexual activities such as having unprotected sex with sex-workers that has debilitating impacts on their sexual, mental and emotional well-being. Another concerning effect of the aforementioned cultural norms is that it legitimises the denial of sexual and reproductive health services to young people, with disregard to their sexual well-being and needs. The same research study concludes that the right to healthcare and health protection is amongst the four most infringed rights of young people in Pakistan.

Despite the strong case that can be made for the provision of education to the youth, there has been strong social opposition towards such ideas in the past: some schools were targeted in August 2009 for providing sexual health education to its secondary-level students, after pressure exerted by right-wing groups. It is highly likely that sexual health counseling will also evoke a similar response.

Hence, it is clear that sexual health of the Pakistani population -- particularly women and adolescents -- is something that needs to be addressed on an immediate basis. The fact that the prevalent situation derives from ignorance and out-dated cultural norms and practices, makes it imperative upon us to extract our heads from sand and initiate open, respectful and informative discussions about sexual health rights issues. This will not only streamline the cultural order, making it more responsive to the needs of women and children, but will also provide an added advantage of making civil society an important stakeholder in the countrywide integration of sexual and reproductive health rights that will have a significant bearing on the success and sustainability of all efforts in the supply and demand mechanisms of the sexual health, including family planning services.

The recent spate of floods has only exacerbated the situation as they have devastated the lives of people. More importantly, 85 percent of the displaced people are women and children, a segment of the population whose sexual health rights are violated even in regular circumstances, who are suffering not only from the usual pangs of hunger but also increased risk of sexual exploitation and disease. Yet, these increased health risks have not been highlighted adequately.

In this backdrop, the WPF, Pakistan and CSO working on RH issues commemorated the World Sexual Health Day (WSHD) in Pakistan on September 4. The aim of this initiative was to initiate open, informative and constructive discussion of sexual health and rights. The World Association for Sexual Health has declared September 4 as WSHD every year. By promoting WSHD in Pakistan, the WPF will begin addressing the root cause of Pakistan's sexual ill-health which is a lack of concerned awareness of general public and policy-makers regarding sexual health and rights issues.

Revenues for rehabilitation

Plans should be made by the government to tax the rich to generate relief funds

By Huzaima Bukhari and Dr. Ikramul Haq

Central and provincial governments seem to be confused about how to generate sufficient funds for flood relief and rehabilitation of people affected by this catastrophe. There are also disagreements about the method and mechanism for distribution of money received locally and from abroad. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, while addressing the National Assembly on September 4, 2010, informed the legislators that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) would decide the issue of distribution of flood relief funds among the provinces. He, however, did not disclose any plans for generation of funds by taxing the rich and mighty to meet the cost of relief and rehabilitation, which according to him, was in the range of Rs300 to 500 billion.

The dilemma of our governments is that they are not willing to impose taxes on the people who are accumulating wealth and doing nothing for the welfare of their fellow countrymen. It is not all difficult to raise funds of over Rs500 billion by introducing new Emergency Tax Amendment Bill 2010, but in the current session of the National Assembly the public representatives appear more interested in blaming each other.

While the government has failed to perform its duty of introducing emergency taxation measures in the House in the form of a bill, not a single member from the Opposition raised this point. This shows the callousness of our legislators towards the masses who elect them and expect them to work for their betterment.

The government is keen to borrow more from local and foreign sources -- knowing well that already debt-to-GDP ratio has crossed the danger mark. It is shocking to note that both the Ministry of Finance and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were not issued any instructions to prepare a new Tax Amendment Finance Bill to levy flood surcharge on importation of luxury items and introduce excess profit tax on sectors that have earned extraordinary profits e.g. sugar, cement, flour mills and the banking sector.

The government's financial managers, instead of doing any work on new tax bill were busy in preparing for talks with the IMF that miserably failed in Washington on September 2, 2010. The Fund refused to give relaxation on the levy of reformed General Sales Tax from October 1, increase in power tariffs and giving autonomy to the State Bank.

This led to another delay of at least three months in the release of next tranche of US$1.7 billion and suspension of the programme till December 2010. They managed to get just US$450 million emergency flood assistance. The visit cost of 17-member Pakistani team was over Rs10 million on three heads alone -- travel, accommodation and food. At that time millions in Pakistan in flood-affected areas were homeless, foodless and suffering from various ailments and many more were preparing to leave their homes.

The federal government is not at all ready to impose excess profit tax for tax year 2009 for which returns are due on September 30, 2010. If this is done we can easily raise substantial funds for relief work. On the contrary, it is planning to levy 5 percent flood surcharge on all imports. According to Press reports, the plan to impose flood surcharge is ready and would be implemented soon. The spokesman of FBR, Mr. Asrar Raouf (Member Direct Tax Policy), when asked about the levy of flood surcharge, told a newspaper that they had not received any instructions in this matter. However, he said that FBR was planning to raise additional revenue of Rs336 billion to achieve the target of the current fiscal year.

It is clear by now that even in the aftermath of the great tragedy, the governments have no plans to tax the rich and mighty. Indirect taxes -- levy of flood surcharge will be part of it -- are increasing inflation pushing more and more people below the poverty line. The provincial governments have also failed to levy agricultural income tax on the rich absentee landlords--it could have generated revenue of Rs. 200 billion. They are demanding funds for flood relief measures from the federal government, but have shown no inclination to generate funds themselves by introducing emergency taxes on the rich people and on unproductive transactions -- buying and selling of plots, currency swaps, luxury cars and other goods, etc.

Mr. Gilani admitted in the Assembly that "no funds have been transferred so far to any province from the PM's Relief Fund, which received donations worth Rs4 billion". The other day, he accused non-government organisations (NGOs) of misappropriating funds, but claiming now that "out of the total $1.03 billion assistance that had been pledged so far, 80 percent would be spent through non-government organizations". He informed the House that Rs40 billion were allocated for providing Rs20,000 to each affected family, while Rs 12,000 each would be provided to flood victims under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) for three months. These plans -- still on papers -- are not only inadequate but also confirm the unwillingness and inability of the government to deal with the challenge. It would have been much better to immediately tax the transactions undertaken by the rich and put money straight into an earmarked fund to be utilised exclusively for the relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected people and areas.

For the current year, the following three measures alone can generate over extra revenue of Rs300-500 billion:

Excess profit tax on cement, sugar, flour mills, banking and telecom sectors should be levied. It would generate extra tax of Rs200-250 billion.

Immediate announcement of one-time de-logging litigation scheme for taxpayers to pay 25 percent tax arrears between 15 September 2010 to 30 June 2011 whereby cases pending before appellate authorities and courts could deem to be settled. In 1998, India, through a similar scheme called 'Kar Vivad Samadhan' generated revenue of Rs900 billion, while disposing huge backlog of cases in the country. Such a scheme with time limitation up to 30 June 2011 would not only generate immense revenue (not less than Rs100 billion if properly drafted and publicized) but would also help win the confidence of taxpayers as well as drastically reduce workload in Tribunals and High Courts.

Section 11(4) of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 protects tax evaders and criminals. This has destroyed the entire social fabric of the society. Genuine taxpayers are discouraged. This should be amended and on certain remittances say exceeding Rs50,000 (poor workers working abroad send meagre amounts) tax deduction of 15% should be imposed. This way huge revenue of at least Rs200 billion could be generated.

The above three measures alone can generate funds of Rs500-550 billion which our Prime Minister is seeking for the relief and rehabilitation work. It would not burden the common people as incidence of tax would fall on the rich and the mighty. On the contrary if 5pc flood surcharge is imposed on all imported items, it will increase inflation, raise the prices of essential commodities and make our exports more incompatible. It is not at all advisable. The provincial governments can also raise substantial revenues by levying taxes on the rich absentee landed class -- guilty of removing and breaching dykes to save their lands while diverting flood waters towards the poor inhabitants living in villages and cities. They should also impose transactional tax on unproductive dealings in real estate and expenditure tax on luxury consumption (people are paying millions to five star hotels for social events).

Back to the basics

Back to the basics

Sanitation is for human dignity otherwise it enhances class isolation since only the lowest classes endure unsanitary conditions

By Ammara Ahmad

About 2.3 billion people (40 pc of the world) do not have proper toilets. Hence, lack of sanitation is a global issue and Pakistan also suffers from it. It has a human and environmental cost that most of us are unaware of.

The first modern sanitation system was implemented in the Indus Valley in 2800 to 2000 BC Mohenjodaro. Toilets were made with bricks and contained wooden seats. In 2500 BC Harrapa, near Ahmedabad, modern water flushed toilets and brick covered drain pipes were discovered that eventually connected to a main pipe. It is ironic that today, South Asia is doing worst in terms of sanitation, health and waste management.

According to the government, though the water supply coverage is 90pc, merely 58pc of Pakistan's population gets sanitation coverage. According to a recent WHO report, sanitation in Pakistan is improving due to the open pits in rural areas. The report said that from 58pc in 1990, open defecation had decreased to 27pc in 2008.

"The situation is unaesthetic. Human waste is full of disease-causing bacteria contaminating the air, food and water," said Nazeer Watto, an environmental expert who works for the Anjuman Samaji Behbud (Organisation for Social Welfare) in Faisalabad.

"When waste is generated in the open and remains untreated, it interacts with the food chain through the soil, water and crops. The disease causing bacteria are incorporated in the food we consume, persisting longer and having worst effects by the time they reach humans," says Mustafa Talpur of WaterAid. "Sanitation is for human dignity; otherwise it enhances class isolation since only the lowest classes endure it."

According to WHO, Pakistan loses 52000 children annually, due to diarrhea. The World Bank Strategic Environmental Assessment for Pakistan estimates the total healthcare cost of diarrhea and typhoid, both water and sanitation related diseases, to be Rs112 billion (US$1.33 billion), or 1.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Although the urban sanitation has improved, it is still not up to the safe standard. Inadequate sanitary conditions are prevalent the sidelined and oppressed communities -- the more remote and poorer the village, the worst the sanitary conditions there. Pakistan's entire water system is running from north to south. This means that when waterways get polluted, the water goes downstream. People downstream utilise the polluted water for daily use.

"In hilly areas, water channels get polluted and the water travels downstream. This is not the case in planes," said Faheem Riaz Khan, director at the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency. "In urban areas, the excretion takes place near water pipes. Usually, the sewage and the water pipes are close to each other, with the former contaminating the latter."

Even if a handful of families perform unsanitary practice, the entire community is at risk. Most urban centers in Pakistan include several slums. Lahore alone has 155 registered slums and these do not include the unregistered, illegal settlements. How many tons of biological/ human waste they produce and where does it all go? Is there a data available? Can anyone estimate the invisible cost it has in terms of human health?

Lack of sanitation persists in underprivileged communities. These communities (slums, remote villages ) are not hot spots of political activities. Therefore, politicians are not propelled to improve sanitation and create influence. We see protests on food or power shortage, unemployment and inflation. The government prioritises its budget and policy plans accordingly. Due to the invisible health cost, lack of NGOs and pressure groups and political socialisation, the lack of sanitation is never seen as a national level crisis. Hence, in the provincial and federal budget, there is never any finance reserved to improve the public sanitation.

Mustafa Talpur is an expert working with the Water-Aid, an NGO for social welfare. "We work in coordination with other groups like MUAWIN, PURC, Orangi Pilot Project, and some 12 other organizations," said Talpur. "We give covered sewage lines in urban dwellings, connecting these communities with the existing central sewage system. We sometimes start sanitation from scratch in rural areas."

The biggest brunt is faced by women, another greatly oppressed faction of our society that lacks political representation. The illness of children, their consequent death takes a financial and emotional toll on these women. They lack awareness about the basics of hygiene and how these illnesses can be prevented. Million of women in Pakistani slums and villages persistently forced to bare their privates due to lack of proper lavatories are never discussed in the media.

Since millions of people are in need of proper sanitation, we need a national level policy in order to tackle this problem. Water scarcity worsens this dilemma. Where people do not have water to drink and cook, ablution and sanitation is not given precedence, especially when the awareness regarding its significance is missing. The floods have worsened the sanitation crisis, because the water that infiltrated the dwellings, lands and water table was unclean. Furthermore, people escaping the affected areas are cramped together under unhygienic conditions. Keeping themselves and their abode unsoiled is not one of their priorities. "We need awareness, better and effective ways, community mobilization and government effort," said the director PEPA.

In Kenema (Siera Leon's third largest city) the city council, district council, and NGOs have launched the sanitation campaign to prevent rural community from relieving themselves in the bushes, any water body and house. Indian government gives special awards to communities that stop open discharge and in Nepal children blow whistles, put up shame flags on those who violate the sanitation code. Nepalese NGOs assist communities in converting their waste into "humanure" for crops; and a women's group "calculated" how much waste spoiled the food supply.

An international NGO called the World Toilet Organisation is also working in 58 countries to improve the international sanitation. It has declared 19th November of each year, the world toilet day. WTO now has 235 NGOs as members and is trying to form a network of global support to influence governments. Hopefully, Pakistan will seek WTO's services.

In India, an innovative methodology called the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) has been initiated to mobilise communities against open defecation. Building a toilet is easier than creating an open defecation free community, therefore, CLTS focuses on behavioral reform to make the change permanent. CLTS instead encourages the community to innovate, support and seek local solutions.

There are a few Pakistani NGOs now that are working to improve sanitation. Pakistan lacks a nationwide NGO that is dedicated to resolving this problem. Every village has a different water table, topography, soil order, etc. Dumping standard washroom equipment in each village might not help. However, the fact remains that in a third world country like Pakistan, the community awareness and action like CLTS will be the most successful in bringing change.