Jul 25, 2011

Preying on parks

Database of parks, open spaces, and green belts must be notified and made accessible to the public

By Dr Noman Ahmed

A few weeks ago, two fishermen activists were killed in Karachi in cold blood. They were allegedly eliminated due to their involvement in campaigning to safeguard the mangrove forests of the city. And this is just one reflection on the state of environmental issues.

The environmental assets of the metropolis have been under threat. Unscrupulous elements want to transform them into private ventures for commercial benefits. Whosoever tries to question the status is confronted with dire consequences.

It is disappointing to observe that no worthwhile response has been given by the city administration to protect these precious assets and lives of people who raise their voices for saving the environment.

From a historical perspective, it has been established that Karachi was a city with an abundance of parks, playgrounds, open spaces, green belts and peri-urban land allocations for greenery.

Planners for Karachi and various administrators have made periodic contributions to ensure that the city continues to retain a large proportion of spaces under active landscape. For instance, the Karachi Development Plan (1973-85) which was undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive planning exercises done for the city, proposed to conserve all the existing parks with an upgraded landscape status.

A meticulous framework was laid down to incorporate related land uses for horticulture, urban agriculture, green islands and buffer zones. It is obvious that no landscape or horticultural activity can sustain without a corresponding allocation of suitable land for the purpose.

It is saddening to note that during the past three decades, organised attempts have been made by certain quarters with vested interests to encroach upon these previous public assets of the city. In addition, several development projects have affected the status and existence of parks and open spaces.

Road-widening schemes, commonly initiated to increase road-width, have been executed at the expense of trees and road shoulders spaces. This land allocation has been kept for environmental balance, visual aesthetics and ground water re-charging purposes.

One finds that increasing car ownership has forced city administrators to create greater room for vehicles at the cost of trees and pedestrian spaces. Rashid Minhas Road, University Road, Abul Hasan Isphahani Road, Preedy Street, Shahrah-e-Pakistan, and Shahrah-e-Ibne Sina are only a few mentions in this regard.

Organised encroachment of park land and green spaces is also undertaken by clandestine mafias. The campaign of Gutter Baghicha in western part of Karachi is an example. A brave activist, Nisar Baloch, who was actively campaigning to safeguard this vital landscape, was murdered in November 2009.

Office-bearers of a well-known non-governmental organisation were threatened of dire consequences for their public service litigation efforts for protecting green spaces. The incident of Kidney Hill in societies area is an example. Many land use conversions have been done in blatant violation of law.

Foundation-stone of a hospital has been laid on a large piece of land in Block-7, Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Surveys and investigations conducted by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) inform that more than two dozen plots in formal planned schemes have been illegally grabbed by different interest groups.

A five-acre park/playground plot on Kashmir Road has been converted into marriage gardens. The Webb Ground in the Lines Area is being taken over by a store. The matter has been subjudice. Many neighbourhood parks in North Nazimabad, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Orangi Town and Gulistan-e-Jauhar have been converted into residential plots, commercial high rises and other prohibited land uses.

NGOs, lawyers, and other professionals have made efforts to protect city landscape from encroachment and conversion. Different approaches have been adopted by these people to fulfil the most vital civic responsibility. Dialogue with politicians, administrators and decision-makers can be one aspect to ameliorate the situation.

Experience has shown that activism cannot succeed unless reinforced by mobilised support of the masses and other stakeholders. There are several vital measures that must be initiated without delay. Database of parks, open spaces, green belts and other category of environmental assets must be notified and made accessible to common public.

This shall ensure public scrutiny and consequent public action. The print and electronic media must give wider coverage to violations of land use rights. Times have proved that this is the single most important input to pressurise those going for vested interests. And corporate stakeholders should extend a helping hand through the business clout and financial assistance. With an objective and fearless cadre of public activists, park and green spaces in the city can have a much better future.

Backward in Balochistan

Target killings of teachers in Balochistan have forced them to stop performing their duties

By Syed Zubair Shirazi

The modern world which leads us in every field of life achieved its goals mainly because of their education system which guarantees a secure and prosperous future to their generations by making them a productive component of society. But, sadly, when we take a look at the affairs in Pakistan we have to regrettably observe that education sector, undeniably the only key to success, has not got the attention, which is evident from its share under the country’s annual budget.

Among South Asian countries, if we would have followed the example of Sri Lanka, plight of our education sector had not been deplorable to the extent as we witness at present .Sri Lanka is a very small country which remained confronted with a civil war over three and a half decades. Having personally observed the competence of Sri Lankan education system which I did during my ten-day visit to Sri Lanka to attend a Conflict Reporting workshop in June 2008, I found it exemplary organised for national building.

Today, literacy rate in Sri Lanka stands at 98 percent, the highest among South Asian countries and its major export is skilled human resource that earns a huge foreign exchange by rendering services in Middle East, Europe and even US.

Balochistan, which enjoyed an independent status until it voluntarily ascended to Pakistan in 1948, is the largest province of Pakistan in terms of land mass besides having a unique geography with over 720 kilometers long coast.

The insurgencies by the aggrieved Baloch were the result of resentment caused by utter negligence on the part of central government, which is amply evident from its backwardness in every field of life than the other three provinces.

The plight of social sectors, including health, education, agriculture, clean drinking water, etc, grew further following the insurgency that erupted in 2004. Of these, the education sector suffered the most due to deteriorating law and order, particularly in areas where ethnic Baloch community is dominant.

Target killings of teachers forced the community to stop performing duties at schools to save their lives. Principal Cadet College Mastung, Maqbool Hussain, Balochistan University Professor Nazma Talib of Mass Communication department, Vice Chancellor designate of the University of Balochistan Professor Safdar Kiani, Principal Tameer-e-Nau College Professor Fazal Bari, Principal Commerce College Quetta are few of the many renowned educationists who fell prey to targeted killing.

A majority of the workforce rendering services in various provincial government departments comes from cities close to the province’s border like Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Dera Ismail Khan, and others who settled in Balochistan in view of easy access to employment opportunities in public sector departments.

Same is the case with Balochistan’s education sector, which employees over 60, 000 teachers of various categories, i.e, primary, middle, secondary and higher secondary, lecturers and professors, a majority of whom belongs to Southern Punjab. Public sector educational institutions serve as the only educational outlets across the province, a majority of them are stated to be settlers, a term used for people who have settled in Balochistan from other provinces.

Balochistan consists of 31 administrative districts of which 21 are districts where different ethnic Baloch tribes form a majority, including Awaran, Barkhan, Chaghi, Dera Bugti, Gwadar, Jaffarabad, Jhal Magsi, Kachi, Kalat, Kech, Kharan, Khuzdar, Kohlu, Lasbella, Mastung, Naseerabad, Naushki, Panjgur, Sibi, Washuk and Dalbandin.

According to School Census 2009-10 by Balochistan Education Management Information System, some 632241 out of total 1029461 boys and girls students enrolled in Balochistan government primary, middle, and higher secondary schools belong to Baloch-dominated districts.

Another reason that serves as a major impediment for students to pursue their education is lack of educational institutions. For instance, in Awaran district there are primary schools with a capacity of 162 boys where some 6613 students are currently enrolled while there are only 13 middle schools for boys across the district.

The question arises how such a limited number of schools can enable a large number of students from primary schools to continue studies? As a result, very few numbers of students are able to complete their middle school education and fewer among them can complete their high school education for which they would have to travel for tens of kilometers daily.

For them, college and university level education is a dream. The same situation prevails in the rest of Balochistan districts, compelling parents to make their children apprentice rather than sending them to schools. A place like Balochistan, where boys’ education system is in a deplorable condition, girls’ education is in a very poor state.

Poor law and order situation in the wake of the military action in Balochistan in 2005 left a very bad impact on the overall education sector of the province.

According to a report, over six thousand teachers submitted applications for their transfer to other provinces while the number of teachers who demanded for their relocation to schools in Pashtoon-dominated districts of Balochistan is higher because law and order situation is comparatively better there.

If a comparison is made between the education sector of Balochistan with that of the other three provinces the disparity would be huge. Balochistan has only one medical education institution, Bolan Medical College, Quetta which has not yet been granted post-graduate status. There is only one University of Engineering and Technology Khuzdar for over 10 million population.

When the government’s attention is drawn towards backwardness of Balochistan it simply holds its vast area and scattered population responsible which is not fair. There is a long list of injustices done to the province. Quetta has very few numbers of private schools.

This is, indeed, a high time for mainstream political leadership to sit together and draw an effective strategy for amicable resolution of Balochistan issue in order to restore peace to the province.

Connecting the dots

Use of social media acted as a catalyst and an effective tool of communication in countries where formal media faced restrictions

By Ahmad Nazir Warraich

On 17th December, a young man doused himself with fuel in front of a police office in Tunis and set himself on fire. This self immolation was triggered by police high-handedness. This single act of ultimate defiance and protest set ablaze a revolution that ended in the removal of the Tunisian government. But it proved only to be a first step, the fire leaped across the region to Egypt, and Libya, and beyond, on to Bahrain, Syria, Jordan and many other Arab states, with varying degrees of intensity and results.

In recent history, the Arab World is not known for its progress in the field of human rights, democracy, and freedom of press and independence of judiciary. In many cases their last acts for achievement of civil rights were getting rid of the yolk of the coloniser. Across the region, people had no voice as there was no forum for open discussion. Arab states suffered from repressive, non-representative regimes, lack of a free media and independent judiciary. Resultantly, the Arab political scene had become stagnant, which perhaps explains why the region has been set alight like a tinderbox.

The communication revolution of the last century has converted the world into a global village where ideas, cults, and political philosophies have global reach. So the common Arab knows that there are vast parts of the world, with fully functional democracies, free press and independent judiciary. As a proud people, with a glorious history, they yearned for the same.

The reality on the ground was, of course, different. For example, an indication of the state of press freedom in these countries can be gauged from the press freedom index of Reporters Without Frontiers, 2010, which ranks Egypt, 127th, Libya, 160th, Tunisia 164th and Syria at 173rd in the world. It is because of this state of the press freedom that some of the rebels turned to social media, as a tool to organise themselves because the print and electronic media were under heavy governmental control and censorship.

Protests in these countries have borrowed from the classical twentieth century armour of civil disobedience, by using protests, strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies, however, the new tactic used here for perhaps the first time in the Arab world, is the use of social media. This was effectively used for organising, awareness creation, and communication, thus bypassing the established communication networks and censorship.

The use of social media acted as a catalyst and an effective tool of communication in countries where the formal media faced restrictions. It also kept the outside world informed about what is happening within and giving an alternative view to that postulated by incumbent governments.

Social media has the advantage of being able to bring together otherwise remote and disparate groups. Second, by bypassing the state controls they can tell their own people and the outside world of what is going on. The various digital tools used by the revolutionaries have included videos, blogs, face book, mobile messaging etc.

A video provides immediacy and involves the viewer. It is also low-cost and easy. Blogs are very effective, and at the same time easy to develop. They also help create an environment of trust. E-mails are very easy to share with the increasing reach of internet and computer and mobile facilities.

Social media has, thus, advantages that have made them useful in these revolts of the people. They are cheap, easily accessible, and allow even private individuals to share information. It has the advantages of reach; which is potentially global, accessibility; people can start them with little expense, anybody can use them with the minimum of skill and training. It has the advantage of immediacy; there is no time lag, the moment you send, it is received, if it is a blog, the moment you post something, anybody who connects, can read it, if it is a video on YouTube, all you have to do is record on any device, post on YouTube, and the intended recipient can access it.

In the words of one Egyptian activist, “We use Face book to schedule protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” In the world of Omid Memarian, an Iranian journalist and blogger, “I think it is becoming more and more difficult for the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East to dominate their narrative of events. They cannot be any more the only source of news and legitimacy.” In Tunisia, the social media was used to keep the outside world updated about events in the country. In Syria, where foreign media is tightly controlled both with regard to entry and movement it is videos posted on YouTube and other such social media, which is keeping the outside world informed about events.

However, no one is of the opinion that social media in itself caused the revolution. It is a tool, no matter how important. The people of these countries were fed up for a variety of reasons, but the use of social media provided the ability to revolutionaries to circumvent the classical governmental strategy of keeping people separate and isolated, and therein lies the usefulness of the social media to this Arab Rising.

It’s a lot easier to get together a critical mass of people because there’s been an increase in the number of people on Facebook and Twitter and mobile phones. The role of social media is accepted by most people, including by Barack Obama in his recent Middle East Policy speech. However, there is some debate as to the exact role of the social media in these ongoing revolts, whether the revolts would have still happened or would they have happened later in time, is another question, and can never be authoritatively answered.

Opportunities and challenges

Drastic but consistent economic measures need to be taken to achieve fiscal targets

By Dr Syed Nazre Hyder and Faisal Nadeem Gorchani

Never before, it seems, had the country ever experienced such a grave financial situation when the economic managers might have felt that budgeting of economic resources is beset by so many challenges and complexities amid very few available options to pull out the economy from the edge.

In today’s context of the country, which involves lowest growth of GDP, an all-time highly declined investment in Public Sector Development Programmes (PSDPs), energy crisis, and high incidence of circular debt will significantly impact the budget decisions.

Other factors, which are not so much of our making, such as the quantum rise in the prices of petroleum and its products, vagaries of nature in the form of most devastating 2010 floods, and heavy expenditure due to war against terror have further complicated the state of economic affairs.

However, despite all these serious challenges, the problems are not so much due to lack of resources but because of poor governance and increased volume of non-productive expenditures besides lack of desired level of competence and a missing commitment of concerned government functionaries. These are the key factors responsible for country’s abysmal economic situation which need to be addressed in the budget.

The fiscal deficit, which had been most adverse during the recent years, is again found widening much higher than the original and revised targets despite taking some measures to strengthen the budget execution.

Although significant reforms in the tax administration regime have been taken to improve the volume of tax collection, these are not only short of targets but also have led to form the lowest tax-GDP ratio as compared to other developing countries.

This is one of the prime reasons of widening the gap between the volume of revenue collection and the size of expenditures, resulting into fiscal deficit and weak macro-economic framework. There is an apprehension that the fiscal deficit is likely to end up by 6.2 or around of GDP which may not only have very adverse effects on the economy but may leave a very damaging impression on the credit agencies.

The devastating 2010 floods, payment of heavy inter-corporal debt in the energy sector and very huge sum expenditure to maintain law and order, including war on terror have also a very negative impact on fiscal deficit. Subsidies to the public sector enterprises and recent efforts to keep petroleum prices lower in the country have also proved instrumental in budget deficit.

There are key challenges of efficient use of resources and their allocation along with improvement in governance which is at its lowest ebb. According to one estimate, at least Rs300 billion can be saved by plugging leakages and irregularities in public sector expenditures.

The budget deficit is one of the most significant factors responsible for inflation which has crossed 15 percent so far, and is believed to have eroded the purchasing power of the country by sixty percent during the last three years.

The development expenditure has been ruthlessly curtailed in an attempt to control the size of fiscal deficit while badly affecting the growth rate. The IMF is reported to be insisting that the budget deficit should be curtailed within the range of 4.3 percent of GDP in the next financial year. It will be a challenge to the economic managers to find ways to stick to this target and also protect allocations to be made to the PSDP.

As regards the debt position, the country is again found slipping into a quagmire of heavy debt. The rising trend was found as its amount rose from Rs7277 billion (57.1 percent of GDP) at end June 2009 to Rs8160 billion (55.6 percent of GDP) as at end June 2010 and to Rs.9470 billion (55.3 percent of GDP) by the end of December 2010. The external debt has increased significantly and a huge amount is being paid to retire foreign debt showing an increase in a short period by 48 percent from the amount paid during the first quarter of the current financial year to the second quarter. The principal amount paid against the total amount and the interest thereon is mounting.

It is a matter of concern that the total debt liabilities have increased manifold. Resultantly, Pakistan is classified as highly indebted country in the region. Indeed, financial assistance provided by IMF has solved the immediate problem of correcting the extremely adverse balance of payment situation along with some positive impacts on the economy but escalating public debt does not bode well for macro-economic growth in medium and long run.

Even at present, the repayment of debt costs about one fourth of the revenues collected by FBR. There is a strong likelihood of further burdening of economy by the incidence of debt when repayment of the existing loan under the Stand-By Agreement will commence in 2012.

During the current financial year, while the economic indicators like the fiscal deficit, growth rate, and inflation are showing negative trends, the data regarding current account balance and the exports receipts are encouraging. The economy posted a current account surplus of $ 748 million during the first ten months of the financial year against a deficit of $ 3.456 billion in the corresponding period a year ago.

The surplus resulted on account of increase in exports despite serious power outages and law and order situation along with the historic record of the overseas workers’ remittances which is over 11 billion so far during the current financial year while the country have no significant policy measures for enhancing the remittances.

It is high time that the economic managers should develop some policy and institutional mechanisms to capitalise such encouraging trends which can ultimately lead the country towards economic betterment and independence. No doubt, it should not be taken as sustainable source for improving current account.

Even in the normal economic circumstances, the budget is considered a most important instrument to give direction to the economy, provide macro-economic stability and determine the growth along with the pattern of distribution of its gains. In the present circumstances, when the economy is passing through a most critical phase of its history today, the nation is looking at the budget whether it may end their economic and social sufferings or may add to their woes. Amid the odds, it is to be seen how the opportunities are carved out by economic managers to ensure optimisation of available resources and from some favourable economic trends emerging recently.

The solution of economic ills should be addressed in the budget through adopting sound and scientific fiscal policies. Unless there are conscious efforts to widen the tax net, instead of focusing on current approach of reinforcing rigorous taxation on existing tax payers, there is hardly any chance of improving the financial resources.

Stringent measures are needed against those evading taxes and submitting false returns to hide their real income. Although the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is said to have prepared a list of 700,000 tax-evading people among the high income groups but the success in bringing them into the tax net requires strong commitment of government machinery.

No easy targets

Sindh government has a lot to deal with in the provincial budget after the passage of the 18th Amendment

By Shujauddin Qureshi

After announcement of the federal budget, the provinces are also busy in giving final touches to their annual budgets to be announced in a week or so. Sindh Minister for Finance, Syed Murad Ali Shah, will announce the 2011-12 budget in the provincial assembly. In Sindh, the main challenge for the provincial government’s financial managers would be increase its revenues through provincial taxes in the post-18th Amendment devolution scenario and allocations of adequate funds for development and running the government.

Poor governance and rampant corruption in the provincial set-up has already marred development efforts in the province and under-utilisation of the earmarked funds for development is a persistent problem in the province.

“Bad governance, corruption, and inefficiency are the main causes of lack of development in Sindh,” says Jami Chadio, a development activist in Sindh. “You can see a number of incomplete projects in all districts of Sindh, which is a proof of bad governance, inefficiency and lack of transparency,” he adds.

The urban-focused development in the past has always kept Sindh’s rural areas backward with rampant poverty, decayed public infrastructure, absence of basic civic facilities like safe drinking water, and health facilities. The existing public infrastructure is a decade old and political considerations in initiation of new schemes have caused slow development and increase in poverty.

The cash-strapped province is facing a big challenge of increasing its revenues. For the next budget, tax collection would be the main focus for the finance department of the province, particularly in the post-7th NFC Award period when the province has to also collect General Sales Tax (GST) on services, the demand of Sindh accepted by the federal government after latter’s prolonged resistance and reluctance.

The provincial government has recently announced that it would pass a bill for collecting GST on services from the next financial year 2011-12. Presently, the main income sources of Sindh government are six provincial taxes collected by its excise and taxation department, and some other levies/taxes like stamp duty, land users charges, water tax, license and tender fee collected by the Sindh Board of Revenue.

The economic team of the province will face another big challenge after transfer of major departments to the province previously listed on the federal concurrent list as a result of the 18th Amendment. The provinces have yet to make relevant laws to make these devolved departments functional after completion of the devolution process by June 2011.

About 20 ministries/divisions, and 100 autonomous bodies are to be transferred to provinces by that date, but so far 10 have been transferred to the provincial governments.

The share of the province from the NFC Award would be less this year as the federal government has already indicated to the provinces that this year they would receive 22 percent less amount in their share due to transfer of funds on security and law and order.

To meet their budget deficit the federal government has advised the provinces to impose agriculture tax in their respective provinces. But this gigantic task is another big challenge for the provinces, particularly for Sindh, where a majority of legislators are landlords and feudal chiefs.

Urban legislators, belonging to the MQM, however, have been supporting the demand for agriculture tax.

With a major share of 21 percent in over all GDP of Pakistan, the contribution of agriculture sector in the income tax is quite negligible. For example, the total collection of agriculture income tax during 2009 was Rs1.8 billion, which included Punjab’s around Rs1 billion, whereas Sindh’s share was about Rs200 million. “Agriculture contributes around Rs3000 billion in the GDP, so there is a potential of recovery of Rs300 billion as a tax,” says Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, a senior economist.

In a dismal tax recovery scenario, the major challenge for Sindh government would be to finance its development budget. Sindh’s public infrastructure was mostly damaged during heavy floods in many districts, particularly at the right bank of River Indus, including Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Kashmore-Kandhkot, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Larkana, Dadu, Jamshoro and Thatta. Over 7 million people were affected due to floods and their rehabilitation is still a big challenge for the government.

According to provincial government’s Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the next fiscal year, restoration and construction of houses, roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure will be the top priority. Water, drainage, agriculture, irrigation network, health, education, poverty alleviation, rehabilitation of flood-hit areas, and broken road networks would be included in the next financial year’s development spending.

The development budget would also focus on completion of on-going projects besides start of some new projects. Last year, Sindh government had earmarked Rs115 billion under its development plan, but that amount was slashed to Rs77 billion due to slash in annual Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of the federal government and diversion of funds towards flood relief.

This year the provincial government plans to keep its development budge in the range of Rs87-90 billion (with about 10 percent increase). This would include some mega projects like construction of new city, Zulfiqarabad, near Jhirk in Thatta district, providing plots to flood-affected people in each town and about Rs10 billion would be earmarked for the scheme.

The provincial government is keeping an eye on receipt of $400 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for improvement in Sindh’s public infrastructure, particularly after floods and repair of the decades-old irrigation system.

Over 11,000 villages were affected by last year’s floods, but the provincial government has planned to reconstruct big villages with a population of more than 100 houses. 40,000 houses in 200 villages would be constructed under post-flood rehabilitation programme during the year 2011-2012, according to sources at provincial P&D Department.

Besides funding projects from its own resources, the provincial government plans to initiate projects with public-private partnership. These projects include construction of four motorways, connecting major cities of the province.

The provincial government plans to build six modern highways with public-private partnership, which will be completed in three years. A motorway linking Badin with Hyderabad city and two bridges on River Indus, one near Jhirk and the other near Kandhkot are also in the pipeline.

Through development of public infrastructure and establishing roads network, the provincial government expects to attract foreign investment, particularly in coal, wind, and solar power generation.

The real dynasties and cults

Pakistani politics will move on from dynasties and cults only when the
contradiction between the values and ideals that the state purports to represent and what it actually does is resolved

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

Rich and educated Pakistanis — both within the country and in the diaspora — spend lots of time pontificating on the cause of the country’s myriad social and political ills. More often than not, ‘landlordism’ or alternatively ‘feudalism’ is decried as the bane of our existence. ‘Feudal and tribal lords’ supposedly keep ‘their’ people ignorant by preventing the building of schools and the introduction of modern technologies. In short, a handful of incredibly powerful despots espousing medieval values have kept Pakistan locked into a time-warp.

These days the most vilified ‘feudal’ of the lot is President Zardari. Following the recent death of Hakim Ali Zardari, the president reportedly announced that his son Bilawal would take over as ‘chief’ of the Zardari ‘tribe’. Even though events much more important than this one are unfolding in Pakistan on an almost daily basis, Bilawal’s accession to the ‘tribal throne’ elicited substantial reaction from the chattering classes. Needless to say, most of our enlightened arm-chair critics were spitting fire.

I am hardly a fan of the president. I do, however, recognise Asif Zardari’s mandate to occupy the presidency given that he was voted into office by the people’s representatives in full glare of the many doubting Thomases throughout the country. I also find remarkably shallow our chattering classes’ analysis of the problems that we face and their proposed solutions. Three years since Zardari and his party came to power; there is still a resounding body of (educated) opinion in this country propagating the notion that all will be well in the land of the pure if and when Zardari is ‘removed’.

That Pakistani politics is saddled with an abiding colonial legacy is a no-brainer. The British did create and sustain a class of so-called ‘feudals’ in the interests of maintaining order throughout what was then a largely agrarian society. Many of the families that prospered through the colonial period continue to be economically and politically powerful in today’s Pakistan, and their cultural entrenchment will not be undone just because the chattering classes think it should. But the typical analysis implies that very little has changed since the middle of the 19th century, and so grossly overstates the extent to which the old ‘feudal’ clans still dominate the polity and economy.

Our chattering class (unwittingly?) speaks the language of our militarised state when they decry ‘tribal’ sardars in Balochistan for fomenting unrest, depriving their own people of basic human rights, and preventing development from taking place. They refuse to recognise that state and many ‘feudals’ have been hand-in-glove for as long as Pakistan has existed. Those ‘feudals’ that break with the established order tend to represent a politics that emphasises change rather than status quo.

The Zardaris are a Baloch ‘tribe’ that is settled in interior Sindh. They actually speak Siraiki in their homes, and have never been in the category of big landlords. They made money through their businesses and Hakim Ali Zardari was one of the founding members of the Awami National Party (ANP). Is Asif Zardari’s family part of the dominant classes that are the primary beneficiary of the existing social order? Without doubt. And to that extent alone so-called ‘feudals’ like Zardari should be considered responsible for Pakistan’s plight. But is it at all accurate to suggest that ‘feudalism’ or ‘landlordism’ is our country’s most suffocating structural constraint and the main cause of our woes? Not in the least. ‘Feudalism’ does not even exist in the caricatured form that our chattering classes continue to project.

I am just as keen as any other political worker to see an end to the dynastic practices that colour our politics. But I refuse to reify an image of cruel despots that maintain private jails and hold the law and state to ransom. Such images may contain elements of truth but they greatly misrepresent the structure of power and, therefore, undermine attempts to challenge this structure.

Our state — since British times — has consistently depicted itself as the repository of modernity in a ‘backward’ society. That this state has invented customs, instrumentalised religion in the most retrogressive way possible, and shielded itself from ethnic rebalancing and democratisation has been conveniently ignored both by ‘enlightened’ autocrats such as Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, and Pervez Musharraf, as well as the rich and educated in society.

A reading of history permits explanation of the patronage-based political order that persists in this country. Instead of viewing the ‘poor’ and ‘illiterate’ masses as being in a state of perpetual subservience to omnipotent ‘feudals’, our rich and educated classes need to recognise that our state institutions — and the military in particular — have kept the spectre of the ‘feudals’ and ‘tribals’ alive as a means of warding off the necessary political transformation that usually accompanies the kind of social transformation that has taken place in the past few decades.

Even when the military ‘saviours’ to whom we are regularly subjected marginalise certain clans, it so happens that these same clans reappear when the general in question is eventually forced to step aside. The Bhuttos (and Zardaris, I guess) are perfect examples of a so-called ‘feudal’ family that never falls by the wayside. The Bhutto phenomenon cannot, of course, be conflated with the case of ‘feudals’ more generally. But it is instructive because it should force the chattering classes to consider why a set of ‘feudals’ is able to maintain the loyalty of so many ordinary people, not all of whom are ‘illiterate peasants’.

It is high time that we recognise that while the so-called ‘feudals’ and ‘tribals’ fall into the broad category of dominant classes, they neither dictate terms to the arbiters of power in this country (and the state’s external patrons), nor are ordinary people beholden to them in the way that one could argue was the case in the colonial period, or even in the first couple of decades after the state’s inception. Pakistani politics will move on from dynasties and cults only when the contradiction between the values and ideals that the state purports to represent and what it actually does is resolved. Perhaps our chattering classes should start paying attention to the dynasties and cults that have been established by those who project themselves as the champions of modernity.

Beggars can be ghairat mand

While rejecting foreign aid, the PML-N has failed to present a viable plan for raising alternative resources

By Zaigham Khan

Ghairat (loosely translated into English language as honour) may not be the last refuge of a politician, but it surely is a good cover to hide behind. Under fire from many directions, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has flexed its ghairat muscles by announcing to renounce all foreign support in Punjab. Almost as an afterthought, the provincial government explained a couple of days later that soft loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank remained kosher. Will this announcement make people of Punjab dance with joy?

The gesture was apparently meant to counter ultra-nationalist, anti-American parties and groups that are baying for the blood of the two largest political parties and have sights on the League's vote bank. This announcement is certain to please the party's core constituency in urban centres of relatively well-off Northern Punjab where the level of anti-American sentiment, whipped up by the electronic media, is quite high.

By making a show of defiance, the PML-N may also hope to divert attention of the people from damaging revelations made by WikiLeaks and assure its right-leaning voter that it remains as "patriotic" as any Imran Khan. However, by giving up foreign support, Punjab's ruling party runs the risk of angering people in South Punjab where millions of flood-affected families have yet to receive any meaningful support from the government in the wake of one of the most disastrous natural calamities in the nation's history.

People in the South Punjab may feel that they have been ditched by the party ruling in Lahore. In the wake of 2010 floods, PML-N vociferously opposed taking loans for recovery and reconstruction in the calamity-hit areas, insisting that the rebuilding process must be done with "our own resources". This forced the federal government to decline offers of support from international financial institutions (IFIs).

Interestingly, the party had raised no objections when the Musharraf government borrowed billions of dollars for reconstruction after 2005 Kashmir earthquake and Punjab itself is considered a good client by both the WB and the ADB.

Having received generous international help at the time of dire need, people in the flood-affected areas feel less ghairat mand and little xenophobic at the moment. They know that without foreign support their plight would be unthinkable.

Months after the disaster, the areas hit by calamity still clamour for attention and help. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, are still living in temporary shelters. This is how UNICEF Deputy Representative in Pakistan, Karen Allen, elaborated the situation, "I haven't seen levels of malnutrition this bad since the worst of the famines in Ethiopia, Darfur and Chad. It's shocking, shockingly bad."

Schools and hospitals affected by the floods have not been rebuilt so far and the situation of livelihood remains precarious. Worst of all, as another season approaches, flood protection structures remain in a condition of disrepair. In such situations, people in these areas can hardly afford the bluster and 'ghairat' of Pakistan's urban centres.

There is no doubt that effectiveness of foreign aid is an issue that needs to be debated nationally. Experts have noted that aid can create a "resource curse", much like oil or other natural resources, supporting poor governance and removing the pressure to reform. Large aid flows relieve a government from the need to create a responsive, tax collecting civil service. Aid-dependent governments consider themselves accountable to donors, not to their populations.

In Pakistan, successive governments have tried to bribe the influential groups and affluent classes through tax benefits, rents and subsidies with the help of foreign aid while ignoring the plight of the poor. Pakistan has a lower tax-to-GDP ratio than other Asian countries. A recent World Bank study has estimated that non-compliance leads to a loss of 800 billion rupees to the exchequer and half of this loss is due to corporate sector income tax evasion.

To appease its urban-based middle class voters, PML-N opposes measures to increase taxes and lower subsidies. While rejecting foreign aid, the party has failed to present a viable plan for raising alternative resources. It appears that the PML-N wants to make the poorest people of the poorest region in the province pay the cost of its 'ghairat'.

Budget and social democracy

Does the budget 2011-12 adequately address the issue of broadening the tax base?

By Huzaima Bukhari and
Dr Ikramul Haq

Budget, an annual exercise of balancing the books, seems to bring no changes to the economic system in Pakistan, but certainly causes more hardships for the poor. Budget 2011-12 reflects that pattern.

Our budget makers could have followed social democracy model of Scandinavians that deplore extremes of wealth and poverty. But we prefer to follow the American Model, which promotes rich-poor divide and pays little attention for the welfare of the needy.

The Scandinavians, on the other hand, detest the idea that people should remain mired in poverty. They have initiated a number of welfare programmes by taxing the rich to help those lagging behind, enabling them to move ahead economically and socially. They impose high taxes on the rich to redistribute wealth and income in their societies. In Pakistan, the situation is exactly the opposite.

Our IMF-World Bank-imposed economic managers love to extend major economic benefits to the rich and their favourite recipe for growth is selling off profitable assets at throw-away prices to foreign investors.

Professor Ishtiaq Ahmad, in his article, “Towards social democracy” (The News, May 3, 2008) while emphasising the need for social democracy in Pakistan says “…the taxation system should be structured in a way that those who use the facilities of the state — its laws, rules and regulations, bureaucratic machinery, international contacts and facilities and other such services — pay more tax than those who do not. In such a tax regime notorious political-industrial families and other scoundrels would have no chance of tax evasion and there would be no room for contrived defaulters of bank loans. Also, the vast economic holdings and interests of the military should be brought under the jurisdiction of our tax system….”

The culture of favouring the rich, non-payment of taxes by the mighty, wasting of resources (both domestic and foreign) and looting of public money has led Pakistan to debt enslavement and political subjugation. The major reason for massive tax evasion has been lack of trust in the government — abuse of taxpayers’ money for personal comforts and luxuries by the ruling elite comprising indomitable civil-military bureaucracy and greedy politicians.

The State has failed to protect the life and property of the people, what to talk of providing them basic needs of health, education and civic amenities. The government’s yearning for “more taxes” has become a point of irritation for citizens who argue that mere collection of more taxes is no answer to existing maladies. The internal and external debt will keep on rising unless the government goes for all-out reforms.

Voicing this concern, Nadeem Ul Haque, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, in his article, “Reform or face fundamental ascendancy”, observes, “The state must first provide the social contract, i.e., good law and order and security of life. It must dismantle the rent-seeking that protects the rich….. Rent-seeking relies on three main components: state subsidies, licensing and regulation; special perks and privileges for ministers and army and civil service employees and land distribution system that allows the poor man’s land to be acquired for the elite, especially the army and civil service”.

An equitable tax system is one under which tax payments are based on the amount of benefits received from government services — the Norwegian social democracy model is a good example to quote and follow. In social democracies, the cost of government services are apportioned amongst individuals according to the relative benefits they enjoy. In economic terms, this is called “benefit principle” that presupposes determination of the incidence of public expenditure before deciding distribution of tax burden.

Tax policy should be aimed at achieving the cherished goal of distributive justice. The government should launch programmes, financed mainly through taxes, to solve the twin problems of unemployment and poverty. These welfare-oriented schemes may also include subsidised/free medical and educational facilities, low-cost housing, and drinking water facilities in rural areas, etc.

Once people see the tangible benefits of the taxes paid, there will be better response to tax compliance. Taxes cannot be collected through harsh measures and irrational policies. The government must demonstrate to the taxpayers by its actions that money collected from them is spent for collective welfare.

Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has failed to improve the tax-to-GDP ratio. It is going to further decline to 8 percent this year from existing 9.2 percent as FBR will not be able to collect even Rs. 1550 billion — the original target for fiscal year 2010-11 was Rs1680 billion which was later revised to Rs1580 billion.

In 2004, FBR promised 0.2 percent per annum growth in the tax-to-GDP ratio for the next five years while submitting ‘tax projections’ and ‘revenue-to-GDP ratio’ to the IMF on the conclusion of 9th review under the Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PRGF). FBR informed IMF that it would increase tax-to-GDP ratio from 9.2 percent to 10.3 percent in 2008-09. In reality there was a decline of 0.4 percent.

Even the World Bank-IMF funding and “guidance” has failed to bring the desired results. Debt burden is increasing monstrously, fiscal deficit is still beyond control, inflation is crushing the poor, taxes are evaded and avoided on massive scales and whatsoever is collected is mercilessly wasted away.

The rich and the mighty not only evade taxes but also thrive at taxpayers’ expense. The government’s kitty is empty because of unwillingness of the rich to pay taxes, collossal wastage of taxpayers’ money on unproductive expenses and non-exploitation of vital natural and human resources.

Pakistan cannot come out of debt enslavement unless the governments — federal and provincial — tax the rich, confiscate untaxed assets and levy capital gains tax. The federal government has yet not withdrawn exemptions and legal ploys for whitening of black money, which confirms that rulers want to protect rent-seekers, money launderers, and tax evaders.

It seems there is nothing in the budget that ensures collection of taxes to the extent of Rs4 trillion — the real tax potential of Pakistan under the given economic conditions. This potential can increase manifold if we achieve rapid industrial and commercial growth, with overall economic growth rate of 7 percent to 9 percent during the coming ten years. Such a growth rate would not only increase tax-to-GDP ratio to 25 percent but eliminate our dependence on foreign and domestic borrowings. Collection of taxes, if properly made and utilised, can also reduce economic inequalities through redistribution of income and wealth — the cherished goal of social democracy for better human society, peace and tranquility.

Jul 1, 2011

Mismanaged state, resilient society

Shafqat Mahmood

Finally, enough is happening on the political front to push security related stories into the background. The Pakistan People’s Party did whatever it took to gain a majority in the Kashmir elections and surprisingly, the MQM decided once again to quit the ruling coalition. Is there any connection between the two?

On the face of it, yes, because the reason given by the MQM leadership is the postponement of polling in Hyderabad and Karachi. But, was this the only reason, considering that more serious matters in the past have not led to such a strong reaction?

It is obvious that some problems were simmering in the background and have come to the fore in this latest disagreement. And it does not require deep analysis to figure out that the political tug of war in Karachi is at the heart of it.

Mr Zardari has a crafty way of undermining his opponents and he must be doing it in Karachi too. This probably includes empowering the Baloch and Pakhtuns and redrawing the Karachi administrative map to reduce the MQM’s hold on the city. There are also rumours that Zulfikar Mirza is on his way back to perhaps the top position in the province. This must be an anathema to the MQM.

There are conspiracy theories too regarding the MQM’s decision. It does not take long in the fraught national atmosphere for people to start speculating that this is the first step in a long anticipated removal of the federal government by the military. But, as in most such theories, there is no hard evidence other than that the country is in a rapid slide downhill.

This too is not new. We have been sliding down for some time but it must be a long slide as the end is nowhere near. Some would argue that actually, on the ground, things are not so bad. The farmers have never made so much money. The banks and industries, by and large, seem to be doing well. And, exports and remittances are up. So, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that while the non-governmental sector is showing surprising resilience, the government is bereft of ideas and is just meandering along. Beset with huge power shortages, inconsistent policies, decaying infrastructure and more, the private sector is still able to stand on its feet and make money.

And, overseas Pakistanis are not ready to give up on their country. Some living here may be seeking alternate citizenships and investing money in properties abroad, but those of our compatriots actually living there see no reason to stop sending their savings back home. This has become an unexpected bonus with remittances this year totalling $11.2 billion.

This strength of the citizenry is not reflected in the government, which dithers on taking hard decisions to improve the economy or governance. Public finances are an absolute mess with a shortfall of over a trillion rupees in the budget and no rescue in sight. The Americans are cheesed off and their assistance has been reduced to a trickle. And, perhaps their anger has given the IMF the autonomy to cut off further financing.

So, how will the gap be filled up and from where? Government borrowing from the banks has already squeezed the private sector and there is a likelihood of further reduction in this. Domestic savings would thus be mopped up by the government. The public sector development programme has been cut to the bare bones. The only other alternative would be the printing of money and that would add to the price hike that is crushing the middle classes and the poor.

This could have been avoided if the government had the guts to tax the elite and this is true for the federation and the provinces. Some effort has been made in Punjab to create new revenue avenues but overall the performance of all governments is below par. Politics and voter backlash are actually hampering any possibility of improving public finances.

The much trumpeted, and rightly so because it is a fine document, Economic Growth Strategy devised by Nadeem ul Haq in the Planning Commission is finding no takers in the government. The top leaders do not have the intellectual capacity, attention span, or even the desire to understand it.

But the real problem is that our economic managers, all fine minds with the right ideas, have little or no political clout. They are new comers to the hierarchy of power at the federal level, and are only tolerated because there is no one in the PPP who can handle economic management. Their ability to push through difficult but necessary measures is virtually nonexistent. The stalemate in economic decision making is thus likely to persist.

The area of governance is a bigger mess with the state’s ability to maintain order, provide justice, and deliver services going down at a rapid pace. Unlike the intricacies of economic management, everyone in power, at some perceptual level, understands this but remains strangely paralysed in doing something about it.

Partly, they don’t know how but there is no shortage of donor money to hire experts to guide them. There are rumours that another Civil Services Commission is being formed to look at the structure of government and suggest ways to make it more effective. Whether this is correct or not, if the fate of this commission is going to be the same as that of earlier such bodies, then what’s the point.

Unless there is a genuine commitment to governance reform, at the federation and provinces, no amount of good advice will have any effect. The problem with structural reform is that it does not have an immediate political impact. It takes time to make a difference and politicians have little patience for that. They would rather build monuments that everyone can see and appreciate.

So, to revisit the point made earlier, the people of this country at all levels have much to offer. Even in these difficult times, with high inflation, a power crisis, decaying state organs, and fear of terrorism, they are not only surviving but through their ingenuity, thriving. If only the political managers of the state had the vision and commitment to top this people’s energy with better governance.

This is a cross we have to bear because there is no choice other than democracy. Elections will keep throwing up people with little understanding of how to manage the state but over time, it will get better. Already, many of the younger people coming into politics are of a much higher calibre and this trend may continue.

The challenge is to survive these difficult and dangerous times and hope that in the long run our democracy will mature and the leadership would have better ability to manage the state. Hopefully, at a state level we can then prove the economist John Maynard Keynes wrong who said that ‘in the long run, we’ll all be dead’.

Endgame in Afghanistan

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The United States has never admitted defeat; this is perfectly in line with its self-image. No super power can ridicule the very notion of its “superness” by admitting defeat. This unwillingness, however, does not change the verdict of history: Vietnam was a humiliating affair; Iraq has been a mixed situation; Bush was able to remove Saddam Hussein but that led to the emergence of the first Shia dominated Arab state in modern history and no one knows how this will change the entire Middle East equation.

Afghanistan is, however, neither Vietnam nor Iraq. Thus when President Barack Obama admitted that American involvement in Afghanistan is no more financially viable – though not in these words – he admitted defeat, albeit American style. For an American president to admit what he admitted, after ten long years, is another characteristic of the American attitude toward the dictates of history.

What the president said after ten long years was already commonly known without spending the hefty sum of 500 billion dollars. History bears witness that no one has been able to rule that rugged country called Afghanistan whose inhabitants have fought outsiders as a profession carried down from father to son for centuries. Afghanistan remained defiant to the British colonisers, it proved to be an impossible land for the Soviets and now the Americans are planning to call it a day.

President Obama is making no concession to the Afghans in his decision to pull back American troops; his second term is his most obvious personal consideration while he has America’s economy as his national consideration. Furthermore, in making his announcement against the desires of his generals, he has proven one more time that America is a country with an army, not an army with a country, as is the case for Pakistan. Wars are hugely costly and after ten years, America has accomplished in Afghanistan is no more than what any other occupier has accomplished there as history reveals.

One has to admit that the ragtag Taliban have once again proven that faith is stronger than weapons; that no one, not even the lone superpower, can overcome those who possess faith. All that Taliban have to do now is bide time and continue to do what they are doing and the future is theirs’. What would they make of that future remains to be seen but one thing is clear: the newly trained Afghan army will collapse like a house of cards and the Taliban will simply sweep through the country just like they did last time. If they have gained any wisdom, they will make much more of their victory this time around.

Before we get to that point, however, there are numerous “ifs” and “buts”. To be sure, the puppet regime will want to prolong its hold. It will offer permanent bases to the departing occupiers; it will raise a lot of helpless cries about the future of the country, but none of this is unknown to the Americans; they know what could not be achieved with $500 billion and 130,000 soldiers will not be achievable with a fraction of that amount both in money and in troops. In addition, even the most protected military base will always remain an easy target of a resurgent Taliban force.

No matter what decision America eventually makes, the entire equation is about to change because the proverbial hen laying golden eggs will depart and with it, a most ludicrous business for the generals in Afghanistan and Pakistan will come to an end. They must now find another paymaster.

In a world dominated by the green buck, no one is going to talk about the human cost of this war, especially of the Afghans. To be sure, the country has been destroyed and its population traumatised. However no one has been counting the ‘non-white’ dead bodies. So, no one really knows the cost of war to the Afghans, but with their faith stronger than the mighty mountains which enclose this beautiful land, their wounds will heal in good time and their villages will gain a degree of tranquillity and stability.

The American pullout from Afghanistan has tremendous challenges for Pakistan. If all goes well, by 2014 Pakistan would already be in the hands of a second civilian government. The authority of the generals would have further weakened and hopefully, there will be a way to reconfigure Pakistan’s political, economic and military priorities in the wake of American withdrawal from Afghanistan. It has been so long that it is almost impossible to imagine Pakistan’s main security and military agenda without the Afghan war. But one must attempt to foresee possible scenarios.

Without a war in Afghanistan and with a reduced animosity with India, Pakistan can drastically cut its defence spending. A wise and stable civilian government may be able to curtail the power of the generals. This power can only be curtailed if there is a strong civilian rule and the judiciary is functioning autonomously. A strong civilian rule requires a very representative parliament not beholden to a lion of Punjab or Sindh and that is exactly what Pakistan is lacking since its birth: it has failed to evolve a political culture which is independent of a political lord. Just like Afghanistan cannot function without war lords, Pakistan has never been able to function without political lords.

There is, thus, an urgent need for a few individuals to come forward and attempt to establish a mechanism through which a new political force can come into existence. All the factors are in place for this new force to evolve: a relatively young and educated population, a chronic political disorder; a sense of hopelessness which can be converted into an action plan, and an opportunity the like of which has never existed before as people are now sick and tired of the faces which have dominated Pakistan’s politics for as long as one can remember.

Misusing the Indus treaty

Asif H Kazi
Prof John Briscoe of Harvard University has identified India’s various unfair dealings with Pakistan in water-sharing. He has said that India must not interpret the treaty with the sole objective of punishing Pakistan.

There is growing feeling in Pakistan that while India is increasingly building dams on its western rivers, it is simultaneously engaged in activities aimed at stopping Pakistan, the lower riparian, from building storage dams on Pakistani rivers. In the case of its upper riparian neighbour, Nepal, India has even deployed heavy artillery to partially destroy dams which were being constructed by the Nepalese. India’s water strategy thus boils down to construction of more and more dams on cross-boundary rivers inside its own territory while obstructing dams in lower-riparian neighbours and destroying those in upper-riparian Nepal.

Pakistan’s farmlands have been deprived of the uses of the waters of three eastern rivers, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. The flows of these rivers were allocated to India under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. Authorities on the subject accept that when rivers and canals in Pakistan’s demarcated area were classified as Pakistan’s assets under the Partition Act, 1947, it meant only one thing: that these rivers and canals were to continue to receive water in the same way as before. Under the treaty, Pakistan was to enjoy the unrestricted use of the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab. However, exceptions were inserted as annexures which allowed India to develop and use certain specified quantities of water of the three western rivers as well.

Annexure E established Indian storage limits on the western rivers, which add up to 3.6 MAF (million acre feet). If Indian dams under rapid construction since then were to impound this storage water during high flood periods, as specifically defined in the treaty, Pakistan could live with the situation. However, India deliberately followed a pattern of filling water behind Baglihar Dam constructed on the Chenab River by impounding flows in the low-flow month of September, a clear breach of the treaty which prescribes the filling period as being from June 21 to Aug 31.

Ironically, the 3.6 MAF of Indian storage share exceeds the sum total of the entire flow of the three remaining rivers entering Pakistan during the low-flow months of December, January and February. Thus the 3.6 MAF of storage creation, combined with its operational control over impounding and releases by India could mean completely drying up Pakistan’s three rivers for as long as three months. The consequences of this will be disastrous.

Obviously, the foregoing was not the intent of the Indus Waters Treaty. And it is precisely for this reason that Pakistan has been insisting that India adopt well-known dam design features, especially for the outlets, which can easily ensure that the reservoir operators would not be able to manipulate flows of the western rivers at their own sweet will. India is opposing this using as an excuse the need for the prolongation of the reservoirs’ lifespan through sediment flushing.

Prof Raymond Lafitte of Switzerland, the neutral expert on the Bhaglihar Dam dispute who gave his decision in favour of India, has acted as a pure professional engineer since he is trained to look at projects in the strictest sense of their operational efficacy and economic performance. Taking it for granted that the upper riparian would not resort to immoral or unethical practices, he failed to take into account the psyches and mindsets of the litigants in the context of their historic rivalry. Had he kept these factors in view, he might have concluded that, in the absence of spirit of cooperation, the only checks on an upper riparian to keep it from doing harm to the downstream country were constraints, as were proposed by Pakistan, in the shape of “minimum needed sizes of water outlets to be located at the highest levels” to prevent emptying and refilling of reservoirs at will.

In respect of India’s Kishenganga River (which takes the name of Neelum when it enters Pakistan), the treaty allows India to construct a hydroelectric project with storage within a certain limit, on a tributary of the Jhelum River. But it does not permit diversion of flows to either another tributary or to a storage such as Wullar Lake on the main Jhelum. Even when the permitted storage dam is constructed on the Kishenganga River, Paragraph 21(b) of Annex E makes it obligatory to deliver a quantity of water downstream of the hydropower station into the Kishenganga during any period of seven consecutive days, which shall not be less than the volume of water received in the river upstream of the project in that period. Such elaborate provisions have been embodied with the sole purpose of causing minimum changes in the natural river flow of these rivers to protect Pakistan’s interests.

In violation of these specific provisions, the proposed Kishenganga project violates the treaty in a most glaring way. Firstly, the hydroelectric plant is not located on the Kishenganga but way off the channel at the end of a long tunnel that discharges into another tributary. And, secondly, the recipient tributary ultimately outfalls upstream of the Wullar Lake, and this completely changes the patterns of the flows of both Kishenganga and Jhelum Rivers.

The position taken by the Pakistani government, as reported by Khalid Mustafa in The News of June 15, will not lead us anywhere. The news item says that whichever of the two countries completed their project first will be the winner in the eyes of the Court of Arbitration that recently visited Pakistan to verify, inter alia, our project status. Such a competitive race is a confusion being created which diverts attention from the real issue, that the treaty absolutely forbids India from undertaking their project.

As regards the Wullar Barrage Project, India again cannot undertake any construction under the treaty that would develop storage for whatever purpose, under Paragraphs 7 and 9 of Annexure E, on the Jhelum Main River. The very basic provision under the treaty is to restrain India from changing the river’s flow pattern (both quantity-wise and time-wise).

Several foreign experts have held the view that the highly sensitive and charged water issues between Pakistan and India have emerged out of the way the 1947 partition lines were drawn. A seemingly minor change, but one with far-reaching consequences, was introduced in the partition map, in violation of all principles laid down by the British government. It came about at the very last minute when, upon the insistence of the Indian leaders, the partition award turned over to India three vital districts that were originally allocated to Pakistan, with the sole objective of providing India with access to Kashmir. The three remaining western rivers on which Pakistan now relies upon all originate in or pass through Kashmir before entering Pakistan. In other words, India, after having obtained the waters of the three eastern rivers through Indus Waters Treaty, is now trying to take control of our three western rivers as well.


Harris Khalique
While Karachi remains unstable with political target killing, indiscriminate bombing, land grabbing, businesses paying extortion money, alarming crime rate and economic hardships faced by the struggling underclass, a new factor for increased instability is added as the MQM has once again parted ways with the PPP-led ruling coalition. The hide and seek between the PPP and the MQM in the corridors of power is continuously being played since the 2008 elections.

The MQM gets angry with its senior coalition partner on some administrative step it takes that goes against the MQM’s interest or some unfulfilled promise that was made by the PPP high command when it wooed the MQM back into the coalition at some point or in the present scenario the postponement of elections for Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly on the two refugee seats in Karachi that were bagged by the MQM during the previous elections.

However, the actual issue remains the turf war in Karachi between the MQM, PPP and ANP with the issue of the administrative division of Hyderabad also tagged along. At times it becomes latent but continues to be the main apple of discord between the MQM and its political adversaries. The PPP enjoys support among the citizens of all ethnic and linguistic denominations but its definite electoral support comes from the Baloch, Sindhi and Katchi communities in the city.

Some crime rings in places like Lyari and Malir also take refuge in the PPP folds. But there are other constituencies as well where a large number of those who speak Urdu, Punjabi and Gujarati as their first languages would vote for the PPP. A fresh delimitation of constituencies will increase the PPP seats and consequently its power in the metropolis.

Already in 2008, independent election observers were sceptical about the MQM bagging 17 out of 20 seats in Karachi. The figure fails to reflect the demographic diversity, electoral support and the mood of Karachi at that point in time. But the PPP leadership did not want to take it up because it had cut a deal with the MQM. Also, if the APDM had not boycotted the last polls, religio-political parties may also have claimed a seat or two.

On the other hand, the ANP is predominantly a Pashtun party in Karachi and with the rising population of permanent resident Pashtuns in the city, the party wants a bigger share in power, be it in the local government or provincial and national legislatures. Pashtun supporters of the ANP have huge stakes in both the formal and informal, legal and illegal economic markets of Karachi. It is widely held that the disposition of the financiers and sponsors of the ANP in Karachi is very different from that of the ANP in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But, of course, its voters remain common folk, workers and small traders of Pashtun origin.

The real power that the MQM enjoys is not supported by demographics anymore if we compare it with the late 1980s. There are a host of reasons for that. Rural-urban migration and comparatively small family sizes of middle and lower-middle class urban supporters of the MQM being the first two. The MQM continues to draw power from its ability to bring city life to a halt through its rank and file that consists of armed and cantankerous youth.

The MQM has to revise its political paradigm if it is really serious about countrywide politics. Sitting in opposition as a genuine political party for a change and acting as one rather than behaving like a militant pressure group would do it good in the long run

After the 18th Amendment

Dr Fouzia Saeed
They say that in China you find Chinese, in India you find Indians, in America you find Americans, but in Pakistan you find Punjabis, Sindhis, Baloch, Pakhtuns, and so on. It is one of those quips you find around the world that poke fun at the idiosyncrasies of individual countries. In the case of Pakistan, it’s no joke. Why have we failed to become a nation 64 years after independence?

Things have come to a point many people, especially in Balochistan, are unwilling to fly the Pakistani flag, not even on Independence Day on Aug 14. Then there are those in that restless province who refuse to call themselves Pakistani. A similar situation exists in some parts of the two other “smaller provinces,” Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. There are “freedom movements” with the objective of the secession of the province in question. There are ethnic and other tensions which manifest themselves in the form of violence and militancy. Regional causes become rallying points for people who in many cases are merely voicing resentment against the Centre, and these resentments are used by local political groups for use against rival organisations.

It was centralised decision-making and centralised control over resources that resulted in this resentment against the federation, which often borders on hate now. The federation has increasingly alienated itself from the federating units. It is necessary to view the current process of devolution from this perspective.

The passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was a major step towards addressing many long-standing grievances of the provinces. Provincial autonomy has been a demand for decades, but no one wanted to touch the subject. It is not difficult to see why. The forces that kept the centralised systems intact had grown so big and so strong that no one could oppose them.

The process of the implementation of the amendment showed just how rotten our centralised system had become. Over the past year, we have witnessed leading politicians, bureaucrats and several other players acting shamelessly to undermine the Constitution. They dragged their feet, they picked fights and they launched campaigns of disinformation to stop what a process that had formally become a part of the Constitution. Some of them who continued to enjoy centralised power with the “right” kind of backing were able to save themselves in the last round of devolution.

Overall, we see that massive good was achieved by devolving 17 ministries and shifting several themes to the federal list where now the provinces will jointly take decisions with the federation. Hats off to the parliamentarians of the Constitutional Reform Committee and the Implementation Commission. Senator Mian Raza Rabbani served as an experienced and credible captain who guided his small and vulnerable ship through rough tides and storms and brought it to its destination safely, and on time.

There will still be issues that will require wrapping up. Now is the time for the provinces to take centre stage. It is time for them to prove that they can handle the responsibilities that they had been demanding all this time. The provinces need to strategise, engage their expertise among their people, build their teams, energise them and move on.

Our eyes are now set on the performances of the provinces. We hope that issues of poverty and security have local solutions. We expect to see a process whereby the provincial governments prepare themselves to take on the additional responsibilities. However, it is important at this time for the central government to become a facilitative agent.

It seems that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will show results soon. We hope that its people can set examples for the other provinces. Punjab has expertise and a leadership which is loyal to the province. However, the provincial government’s withdrawal from the devolution process at the very end raised concerns. We hope that they will not only take the process forward with full vigour but will also initiate action to decentralise institutions that have saved themselves from devolution in the last round of cabinet approvals.

We need a good one-year process where provinces mobilise their own experts to make strategies for them. The provincial thinking might come up with more creative solutions to the problems that have persisted for years. It is now the turn of the provinces to show innovation, sincerity and commitment to resolve the issues of their people.

The mindset of the Centre also persists in the provinces. The landlords are not the only ones with a feudal mindset of control and suppression. This is a common phenomenon among politicians, police officials, bureaucrats, religious leaders and male heads of households. Similarly, the centralised mindset is not only the problem of people at the federal level but is also found in many influential leaders in the provinces. It is this centralisation mindset that prevented the provinces from being satisfied. They have stopped all attempts to decentralise their powers. What we expect is not just a shift of centralised thinking from the power base in Islamabad to the power bases of the provinces, we also expect a transformation from the mindset of centralised governance to an appreciation of devolution and empowerment. We have to realise that devolved powers can give us more strength in the long run, and therefore it is the mindset as well as the governance structures that needs to change. We will not get a better opportunity to do this than right now when a major step has already been taken.