Aug 17, 2011

Ramazan’s lost chance for an Afghan truce

by Dr Maleeha Lodhi
The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

A slew of questions were raised when a Chinook helicopter was shot down on 6 August in Afghanistan’s Wardak province killing 30 US servicemen – most of them elite Navy seals – and eight Afghans.

Will the heaviest loss of American lives in a single incident since 2001 heighten doubts about the Afghan mission among an already war-weary American public and Congress? Does the downing of the helicopter show the limits of America’s changed war effort that increasingly involves special operations missions? Will the blow signal a psychological shift in the war or was it a one-off? Does the incident dramatise the fragility of the transition underway, in which security responsibilities being transferred to Afghan forces have to be completed in 2014?

Most importantly what this development laid bare is the continuing tension in US policy between the declared goal of pursuing a negotiated political settlement and a military strategy still centred on kinetic actions. By the time the planned international conference convenes in Bonn this December, Washington wants to be able to announce that serious negotiations with the Taliban are in progress to end the decade long war. But are its military actions in Afghanistan serving this goal? Or are they undercutting the start of serious talks?

The answer is clouded in confusion. The helicopter incident came in the midst of escalating violence in Afghanistan. Recent months have seen a series of assassinations of high-profile Afghan officials and aggressive military actions by US/Nato forces targeting the Taliban in Kandahar, Helmand and extending to eastern Afghanistan. This cycle of violence has intensified even as trilateral meetings of the so-called core group – Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US – have been underway to discuss how to reach out to Taliban leaders and engage them in negotiations.

The Taliban’s hit and run tactics have increasingly taken the form of assassinating top Afghan government figures. Since March, several officials have been killed including President Hamid Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai in a campaign that has especially unsettled Kandahar.

Meanwhile US Special Forces have been conducting an intense campaign of kill-or-capture raids to eliminate mid-level commanders and degrade the Taliban. These have entailed controversial night raids, which have provoked sharp criticism from President Karzai and calls from Afghans for an end to the deadly operations. Nato officials say that between April and July there were around 2,832 special operations raids. The mission in which the US helicopter was shot down was one such operation.

Meanwhile the renewal of Drone-fired missile attacks into North Waziristan is part of the same US strategy of killing as many Taliban commanders as possible even as American officials accept that all Taliban groups could potentially be part of the peace process. Confusion abounds over what the US hopes to achieve by simultaneously wanting to target and talk to Taliban leaders. In this ‘kill-capture-or-reconcile’ strategy, the US expects Pakistan to assist by facilitating contacts and at the same time take action against Taliban leaders unwilling to ‘reconcile’. And this while the US itself continues to ramp up military actions against the Taliban.

This approach will produce more not less violence, and is hardly a promising setting for serious talks. The cycle of revenge killings by both sides will hinder not help the start of meaningful negotiations. That is why a change of course is essential especially as there are indications of Taliban interest in a negotiated settlement – reflected in recent statements posted on its website. Instead of pursuing the current fight-and-talk approach, Washington in fact had the opportunity to offer a Ramazan ceasefire to help prepare the ground for negotiations that it acknowledges is the only way to end its violent entanglement.

Such an offer, whether confined to selected areas or signalling an end to night raids, would have tested the Taliban’s interest in peace and given a sharp focus to the trilateral process. A halt in fighting during the holy month would have helped to ascertain who among the Taliban could be brought into the reconciliation process and which elements opposed talks. Instead violence this Ramazan has far surpassed that in the same month in previous years.

The US unwillingness so far to consider any interim confidence-building measures – suspending nighttime raids in return for the Taliban’s cessation of assassinations – may reflect the continuing lack of clarity in the Obama Administration about how to proceed in Afghanistan. Different parts of the administration seem to want different things. While the White House and the State Department appear to want the reconciliation process to accelerate and military strategy recalibrated to support that goal, it is not clear if the Pentagon and the CIA are fully on board. The US military still seems to balk at talks with the Taliban, regarding them as an admission of failure to win the war. Where the CIA stands on this is signalled by its continued use of Drones to hammer the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

Whatever the internal dynamics in Washington, operational US strategy is still at odds with its declared objective of seeking a negotiated end to the war. A ‘pause’ in fighting – effected through a Ramazan truce or by one later – can open the diplomatic space and generate the momentum to speed up peace talks. Escalating special operation missions provide the Taliban an incentive to continue fighting and not abandon it in preference for talks.

The notion that more fighting will force the Taliban into negotiations means pursuing elusive battlefield gains without the assurance that the Taliban will respond to these methods. Bringing military pressure to bear in an effort to soften the adversary’s negotiating stance is a well-rehearsed tactic. But there comes a point when this runs it course and a pause in fighting is essential to pave the way for negotiations. That moment arrived when the Obama Administration declared months ago that it sought a political settlement and supported Afghan reconciliation.

The historical record of peace processes suggests that they start with some form of agreed stand down leading to a negotiated cease-fire. Pakistan has long advocated the need to advance the reconciliation process by peace building measures. It has stressed the importance of properly sequencing the steps necessary to secure a negotiated settlement. In recent exchanges with the US, top Pakistani military officials have said that the concept of ‘Afghan reconciliation’ needs to be turned into an operational plan. This means ensuring that the political strategy determines the military mission and steps taken in that regard advance a political settlement.

Pakistan has argued that a mutual reduction of violence will help to create the political conditions for dialogue. It has proposed a roadmap for an Afghan-led peace process that involves three phases and starts with a reciprocal de-escalation of violence to create the conditions for peace efforts. This is seen as setting the stage to persuade the Taliban to renounce Al-Qaeda – the most important strategic goal shared by the core group. Once this is achieved talks can make real progress. The third and final phase aimed at securing acceptance of the Afghanistan Constitution can follow later in a process in which the Afghan parties can discuss modifications to arrive at a new constitutional consensus.

It remains to be seen how the three parties in the core group are able to evolve agreement on translating the reconciliation objective into an implementable plan. What can give the early stage of this process a decisive impetus is if the US accepts mutual cessation of violence as a necessary starting point. A plausible and credible plan can then be crafted for a peace process that can over time deliver a negotiated settlement.

Why Azad Kashmir lags

by Zulfiqar Abbasi
The recently formed People’s Party government in Azad Kashmir has to confront several challenges, but two prominent issues seek close attention. The first is the stalled process of reconstruction of earthquake-hit areas of the northern part of Azad Kashmir – Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawalakot. The second is the resettlement of those affected by the construction of Mangla Dam. This poses a potentially serious socio-political challenge to the PPP government in Mirpur division, where the victims are resisting the refilling of the dam until their complete resettlement.

Apart from these issues, the new government has to address the growing sense of alienation and deprivation among various segments of the society such as youths and women. According to available statistics, youths form 65 percent of Azad Kashmir’s population (25 percent of the young people are below the age of 25) and are mostly unemployed. Even qualified women are jobless due to the limited scope for employment in the public sector. While the already shrunk private sector has been unable to cope with the emerging needs and challenges of employability due to the short-sighted polices of the successive governments in the past.

Current estimates show that around 300,000 jobs are required to cater to the needs of these promising youth in the next five to seven years. In the present scenario, the state does not have the capacity to create even 3000 jobs as the private sector has not been allowed to develop and nourish in the state.

There is no denying the fact that the government’s hands are tied under the constitutional arrangements between Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. A brief look at the territory’s Interim Constitution Act, 1974, reveals that all major areas of economic potential fall under the jurisdiction of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council, which is headed by the prime minister of Pakistan. These include hydropower generation, banking and finance, stock exchanges, telecommunication, oil and gas, tourism, mines and mineral exploration, aviation and air travel, state property, leasing and insurance and levy of tax on all incomes. In these areas the Azad Kashmir government has no say in policymaking.

The stringent control of the Azad Kashmir Council over the last 37 years has resulted in the poor state of development in the territory. Operationally it did not let Azad Kashmir’s governments formulate policies to undertake developmental initiatives in these critical sectors. The unfair policies of the Azad Kashmir Council have not only slowed down economic development but also resulted in widespread unemployment, poverty and lower living standards.

On the other hand, the successive governments of Azad Kashmir have performed better than the provinces of Pakistan in the subjects left with them, like health, education, electrification, local security, roads and communications, provision of clean drinking water, local government, rural development, and population welfare.

The council never tried to attract private investment for the industrial development of Azad Kashmir. Nor did it seek support from the Kashmiri diaspora. Nearly a million Kashmiris settled in the UK own assets worth billions of dollars and maintain bank deposits of around Rs2,000 billion in Pakistani banks. Lamentably, these commercial banks have never advanced even one percent of these deposits to support economic activity in the region. The Azad Kashmir Council has totally failed to devise a comprehensive policy to encourage banks to make investment in the employment generating sectors such as hydroelectric power, tourism and infrastructure-building projects.

The private sector is shrinking against the swelling public sector. Instead of encouraging the private sector to provide employment, the government has created ten districts and 28 subdivisions within an area of 5,134 square miles for a population of 3.5 million. Successive governments employed 125,000 persons in the government sector, which crippled the already slowed economy as the meagre resources available for development are spent on salaries and other privileges of government servants. These flawed policies led to the decay of local industry in the past one-and-a-half decade, leaving 40,000 people unemployed.

Over the last 37 years the tax collection authority of Azad Kashmir has failed to optimise tax collection, ignoring the biggest revenue-earning corporation like Wapda which are collecting sales tax worth billion of rupees on electricity generated by Mangla Power House located in Azad Kashmir but not depositing it into Azad Kashmir’s exchequer, causing huge financial losses to the territory.

Similarly, the net hydel profit of more than Rs120 billion is recoverable on account of the Mangla Powerhouse. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was recently paid Rs120 billion for Tarbela, Punjab Rs28 billion for Ghazi Barotha and Balochistan Rs120 billion as gas development surcharge for Sui gas. But Azad Kashmir has yet to get its outstanding amounts from Islamabad.

The PPP government in Azad Kashmir is in an advantageous position in the prevailing circumstances as the ruling party in Islamabad would not let it down if it makes a strong case before it.

The writer is president of the Jammu and Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of the Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms.

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.

Illegal presence

Non-registered vehicles pose a serious security threat in the Malakand division

By Arshad Yusufzai

Recently, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government sought help of the federal government to solve the issue of nearly 1.45 million Non-Customs Paid (NCP) vehicles that are plying in the Provincially Administered Tribal Area (PATA) of Malakand division without registration or payment of customs and excise duty.

Most of the non-registered vehicles are brought from Japan to Afghanistan and then smuggled into Pakistan via different routes. The cost of these automobiles ranges from one-third to half of the actual price of the cars of the same make and model in the Pakistani market.

The precise details about the total NCP cars, their make and models are not known. According to estimates of the seven districts that make up the Malakand division, Swat has the highest number with about 450,000 NCP vehicles. The districts of Buner, Chitral, Malakand, Shangla, Lower Dir and Upper Dir have each from 150,000 to 200,000 non-registered vehicles.

The provincial transport minister, Liaqat Shabab, told reporters that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister, Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, has shown personal interest in solving the issue of NCP vehicles. “The Chief Minister intends to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the issue. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani during his visit to Malakand division last year talked about a special package for the people of Malakand with regard to the registration of NCP vehicles. We want him to fulfil his commitment,” he said.

Liaqat Shabab points out that illegal vehicles use services like roads. “Bringing these vehicles under the tax net would not only raise billions of rupees in revenue but also help law-enforcing agencies in improving security situation in the Malakand division,” he argues. “On many occasions in the past, non-registered vehicles have been used in terrorist activities and other crimes in the Swat valley and in the rest of Malakand division. Registration of these vehicles would help police easily identify owner of any vehicle,” the Transport Minister adds.

Non-customs-paid vehicles were previously given temporary registration and number-plates on the basis of owner’s residence in a union council. However, the system had loopholes as many vehicles were reportedly used in law-breaking activities.

In a bid to check misuse of NCP vehicles following Taliban insurgency in Swat, a new registration system of listing all such vehicles was introduced to register the vehicles with the concerned police station, the District Co-ordination Officer (DCO) and the District Police Officer (DPO) offices and number-plates were issued according to the name of the police station.

Talking to TNS, District Police Officer (DPO) Swat, Qazi Ghulam Farooq, says although the system is better than the previous practice there is still need for properly registering vehicles as changing the number plates and registering the same car at different police stations is not a difficult job for law-breakers. “The government should design a computerised system to store the engine and chassis numbers of all vehicles in a database. Each vehicle should be given a registration number according to the district to which the owner belonged at a nominal cost,” he says.

Excise and Taxation provincial secretary, Sajid Jadoon, says Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) shows lack of interest in solving the issue in response to the provincial government’s request of giving a customs package for the registration of such vehicles. “We requested the FBR to give owners of the NCP vehicles up to 60 percent relief in the registration and taxation process, but the federal government is unmoved,” he says.

It should be noted that the registration of non-custom paid vehicles was initiated by the FBR on two different occasions in the past decade. However, the FBR observed that more and more illegal vehicles were smuggled into the country after the registration process.

Although the non-registered automobiles are a familiar sight in the seven districts of Malakand division, the owners are not allowed to take the vehicles beyond the boundaries of PATA into the settled areas as they do not have registration documents.

This is one reason that owners and users of the NCP vehicles want the government to initiate the process of vehicle registration. Ali Raz Khan, who owns a 1999 Toyota Corolla car in Swat, tells TNS he cannot drive it to the settled districts outside Swat and rest of Malakand division, “Many people will benefit from vehicle registration as we would be able to travel to settled areas. During emergency situations, we often hire registered vehicles to take us to Mardan or Peshawar.”

Currently, NCP vehicles are confiscated at the excise and customs checkpoints functioning at the entry and exit points to the Malakand division because use of unregistered vehicles in the settled areas is not permissible.

For Ali Raz Khan and all other owners of non-custom paid vehicles, selling their vehicles outside the Malakand division is not an option due to non-registration while the prices offered by buyers are always below expectation. Ali Raz says he bought his car for Rs250,000 a year ago and was ready to sell it for a loss of Rs50,000, “I can’t sell my car outside Malakand division and here I would be happy if it could fetch me Rs200,000. No buyer until now has made me that offer,” he says.

Another resident from Swat, Bakht Ali Khan, who owns a non-customs paid vehicles showroom, says many people will not welcome introduction of tax system as most cars are more than a decade old and owners would find it hard to pay taxes to register and regularise old vehicles. “No doubt, the tax system will result in better revenues for the government and bring benefit to the owners. However, paying huge amounts as customs and excise duties for a 10-year old car would be waste of money and uneconomical for many car owners,” he says.

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.

Aug 13, 2011

Police lockdown in London to prevent new riots

Police in London flooded the streets on Friday in a move to prevent a repeat of England's worst riots in decades, which left city neighbourhoods smouldering and five people dead.

The number of officers in the British capital was more than doubled to 16,000 earlier this week, and Home Secretary Theresa May said the extra police would stay in place until further notice amid concerns violence could flare up this weekend.

Britain has had two quiet days following four nights of rioting and looting, which led to 1,500 arrests across the country, but politicians and police were taking no chances.

Speaking on a visit to a Sony-owned distribution centre in north London which was torched during the riots, May said: "We will be sustaining the numbers for a period of time.

"We have had some quieter nights but we are not complacent about that."

Police meanwhile said a 68-year-old man died in hospital late Thursday from injuries sustained confronting looters in west London, becoming the fifth person killed in the violence.

Police have arrested a 22-year-old man on suspicion of the murder of Richard Mannington Bowes who was set upon in the affluent London suburb of Ealing Monday as he tried to put out a fire started by a gang of youths.

The other victims of the unrest were three men in Birmingham who were run over as they defended local businesses, and a man in Croydon, south London, who was shot.

The attack on Mannington Bowes "was a brutal incident that resulted in the senseless killing of an innocent man," said Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane of London's Metropolitan Police.

Inquests were due to open Friday into the deaths in Birmingham, England's second city, which saw three young men of South Asian origin mown down by a car as they stood guard against looters outside a petrol station.

As fears of new violence remained high, a row escalated between police and politicians as both sides sought to deflect blame for the crisis.

The police have been criticised for their reluctance to crack down hard on the first riot in the north London district of Tottenham on Saturday. Critics say the cautious approach encouraged unrest to spread across the capital and then to other English cities.

In an emergency session of parliament Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron said police would be given extra powers to prevent future trouble but also voiced criticism of their tactics.

Cameron told lawmakers the police had initially "treated the situation too much as a public order issue -- rather than essentially one of crime."

May, Britain's interior minister, has also said there were not enough officers on duty on Monday, the worst night of the unrest during which police in London arrested more than 300 people.

But senior officers hit back Friday in rare public attacks on political leaders, who last year introduced funding cuts to police forces across Britain as part of a package of austerity measures.

Tim Godwin, the acting head of the Metropolitan Police, pointedly noted that "people will always make comments who weren't there", and defended the policing of the riots in which dozens of officers were injured.

He said in the face of "unprecedented scenes", his force had "some of the best commanders that we have seen in the world... that showed great restraint as well as great courage."

Cameron and May were on holiday when the riots broke out, and returned early this week to take control, but senior officer Hugh Orde, who represents Britain's police chiefs, said their presence was an "irrelevance".

He also criticised a claim by May that she had ordered police forces across the country to cancel all holiday, saying that she "has no power whatsoever to order the cancellation of police leave."

Courts across the country, which have been working round the clock to process cases, faced another busy day on Friday to deal with the more than 500 people charged over the disturbances.

Among those hauled before the courts on Thursday was an 18-year-old girl from London who is a youth ambassador for the 2012 London Olympics. She was accused of throwing bricks at police and stealing from shops.

Summer Universiade 2011 set to open in Shenzhen

BEIJING: Nearly 12,000 athletes and official delegation members from 152 countries will participate in the 26th Summer World Student Games (Universiade) set to kick off tonight in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The Universiade’s opening ceremony will be held tonight at 8 p.m. and the event will extend until August 23, 2011 as some 7,865 athletes compete for 306 gold medals in 22 Olympic and two other non-Olympic disciplines (chess, sports aerobics) in 41 stadiums across the city. Most of the participants will come from China, Russia and Japan, according to organizers.

China’s President Hu Jintao together with the President of Mozambique Armando Guebuza, the President of Bolivia Juan Evo Morales Ayma, the President of Fiji Ratu Epeli Naliaticau, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi, as well as the Prime Minister of Romania Emil Boc will be present at tonight’s opening ceremony, state media reported.

Universiades are World Games for students hosted by the Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU) and which run every other year in the winter and summer. It’s the second largest multi-sport event in the world after the Summer Olympics in terms of the number of participants.

The Shenzhen Universiade will be supplied with a surfeit of volunteer hosts. Roughly 1.27 million volunteers will flood the city to provide help to an expected 8 million visitors over the event’s 11 days.

Regardless, the Universiade is expected to be a fun, competitive event bringing together some of the best young athletes from around the world.

Men in hoodies

By Anjum Niaz

Bravo Pakistanis – poor, miserable and starving. Patience is your biggest virtue despite jerked around by corrupt rulers doing their damndest to provoke you into coming out on the streets and looting anything in sight. You must be made of Teflon!

On to the Anglo-Saxon land of England over whose empire the sun never set. Freeze! The hoodies are here. Fear and suspense have gripped the streets of London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol. It’s a looting binge. These cities burn as men dressed in hoodies – sweatshirts with a hood and a very large pocket in front – are freebooting homes and shops.

The word ‘hood’ has been around since Biblical times. Ancient movies like ‘Ben Hur’ and ‘The Robe’ starred lithe heroines donned in long flowing hoods, especially during clandestine rendezvous with their lovers, making them look vulnerable and sexy. Not to miss is the fairy tale of our childhood years where Little Red Riding Hood visits grandma in the woods and gets chased by the Big Bad Wolf.

Today ‘hood’ is a dirty word. “It’s dangerous to drive around the ‘hood’ at night,” says a friend who warns that the criminal element likes to concentrate in one area of a residential neighbourhood where drug dealers and professional thieves hang around wearing hoods to hide their faces. Most of these characters are black. I wonder if the term ‘hoodlum’ is the first cousin of ‘hood’. Rapper Eminem always in a hoodie, shocks us with his vulgar lyrics enticing the rage-filled suburban teenagers who want to shut out the world by burying their heads in hoodies.

Enough of wardrobe blather. My focus in this column is to throw questions out at the readers on the artificial demarcation drawn between the so-called civilised countries like America and Britain and the ‘uncivilised’ nations like Pakistan. As 3rd World citizens, fighting hard against a downgrade to 4th (downgrade quite the fashion here in the US) we’re constantly reminded of our primitive, tribal and barbaric origins. The Renaissance, as the Caucasians boast ushered in a reinvented Europe with the cultural revolution as its arc while the Arabs lost their glory, science and wealth to the Europeans and regressed to the Mediaeval Ages. They have since stayed in that time warp.

True to some extent, but before you let the Renaissance romance you, read on...

It is not a clash of civilisations wrongly predicted by the Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington but a clash of class. The income disparity between the rich and the poor around the world has beaten all records, Pakistan included. Here’s a shocker: 400 Americans are richer than half of America or 156 million people today! The ‘civilised’ English poor, mostly young and unemployed, have risen to snatch whatever they can from the rich. Even the young in Israel are protesting ferociously against the wealth gap. Will never the ‘uncivilised’ Pakistanis rise to reclaim the Swiss Bank money stolen and blocked by rich corrupt politicians and bureaucrats?

Take note of what a Swiss Bank insider, recently retired, says: “Pakistan is a poor country but Pakistanis are not.” According to him “28 trillion (28,000,000,000,000) of Pakistan rupees are deposited in Swiss Banks.” A Pakistani tells me if our rulers were to bring back their money and invest it in Pakistan, the next 30 year budget will be tax free; we can generate 6o million jobs; we can build four lane roads from any village to Islamabad; we can ensure forever free supply to more than 500 social projects; we can provide Rs20,000 per month as financial assistance to deserving citizens for 60 years; we can end our dependence on the World Bank and IMF loans.

Failure to get the loot back by the Supreme Court and the khakis is the reality on the eve of our 64th Independence Day.

Raising Pakistanis

By Babar Sattar

August comes along with mixed feelings. As a child there used to be a sense of festivity and gratitude around Pakistan’s birthday. The gratitude – indoctrinated at some point in school – was misguided for it was largely about not being the other ie not being born Muslim in India where one would be predestined to do menial tasks for ‘evil Hindus’.

Notwithstanding this hangover from the bitterness surrounding the events of 1947, the sense of national pride was genuine. Occasionally tears would well up on hearing the national anthem and ‘mili naghmay’ or watching the national flag flutter over rooftops. That was then. Now August tends to invite introspection. It raises disturbing questions of what our identity means and what the Pakistani brand stands for. And it engenders gloom – if not despondency – over the tragedy of this nation that continues to punch well below its weight.

This year brought the happy August back. Shameer, our firstborn, joined our family last week. The excitement of experiencing the miracle of birth can hardly be described. But once the initial euphoria settles down, the mind draws toward all sorts of worries that accompany the joy of parenthood. At the top of this list is the responsibility of raising the innocent child you bring into this world as a decent human being.

But what seems more pressing, in our case at least, is the challenge of raising an honourable, kind, law abiding and confident Pakistani devoid of anger, prejudice and complexes amidst the corrupting influences that afflict our state and society on the one hand and all the negativity that the Pakistani brand attracts across the world on the other. Are these legitimate concerns? Were worries about the ethical health of impressionable children as pronounced for our older generations?

How do you raise a child to develop a strong faith while protecting him from obscurantism and religion-inspired hate? Which centre of religious learning can you enrol a child in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that will imbibe him with universal humanitarian values, narrate to him an objective account of religious history and teach him to practice his faith without judging those who follow other ideologies or epistemologies? How do you teach him not to create ‘us’ and ‘them’ distinctions on the basis of religion?

How do you raise a child who is proud to be a son-of-the-soil and of being raised by honest and hard working Pakistani parents, who worries little about the vocation and ancestry of his forefathers and whether or not one-millionth of his lineage can be tracked back to the Arabs or Greeks or some alien land? How do you raise him to be proud of his roots, ethnicity and clan, however humble or privileged, without being bigoted or apologetic about his identity?

How do you ensure that character and decency is his measure of fellow human beings and not their wealth or pedigree? How do you raise a child to be ambitious, but not crafty or greedy? How do you teach him to view success and achievement as a means to render public service and do some good in life, and not as an end in itself that justifies the employment of all means fair and foul? How do you teach him that the quantum of power and influence that he seeks to acquire as a consequence of professional success is less important than what he plans to do with it?

In a society where the wealthy are admired and derided at the same time and the distinction between good and bad money has been washed away, how do you teach a child that money might be overrated but that there is nothing wrong with having it or wishing to have it so long as it is not ill-gotten? How do you teach a child to value being right more than being successful in an environment where the distinction between right and wrong is largely blurred?

Is perennial violence dehumanising? Even if you calm yourself down with the logic of probabilities and quit worrying about your child inadvertently getting in harm’s way, will growing up in a country where the count of violent deaths runs into a few dozen each day make him impassive to violence or death? How do you raise a child to value and respect rule of law in a country where the ability to break the law and not be constrained by rules is the gauge of one’s power, influence and success?

How do you teach him that waiting in line for one’s turn is a mark of respect and fairness to fellow human beings and seeking the ability to jump the cue or attract preferential treatment neither enhances one’s dignity nor self-worth? How do you teach your child that genuine reverence does not incite flattery and the measure of success ought to be one’s ability to sleep well at night and not the envy of others or praise of sycophants? In a society that shuns dissent, how do you teach him to speak his mind without being offensive?

How do you teach your child to love his homeland without feeding him false history or making him chant the my-country-right-or-wrong mantra? How do you teach him that the events that led to the creation of Pakistan are matters of history and what we do with our country today and tomorrow are the more relevant and essential matters of fact to attend to?

How do you teach him that despite being a Pakistani who is singled out in immigration lines for special security checks or simply denied the ability to travel freely across the world, he is not a lone wolf up against the entire world conspiring against him, and that notwithstanding the hypocrisy and bias defining international politics there exist valid reasons for international community’s concern about the direction and policies of our state? How do you ensure that he understands that just because he finds the policies of a foreign state reprehensible doesn’t mean that the people of such country are evil, and that a gap similar to that between the policies of our state and the aspirations of ordinary Pakistanis also exists in other countries?

The world is becoming smaller and smaller. A first generation citizen of Pakistani origin in the US or Canada or a European country continues to feel the weight of the events that transpire in his country of birth/origin. Pakistani expatriates nervously hold their breadth after each incidence of terrorism and violence anywhere across the globe waiting for it to find links back to Pakistan. Their children are asked difficult questions in schools about their country and religion.

How can we get comfortable with a state of affairs where Pakistan continues to ask for sacrifices, whether from expatriates wishing to associate with their country of origin, students/professionals wishing to return home after getting educated/trained abroad or those who choose to continue living in this place? The concerns about raising a child as a Pakistani will not melt away simply by evading the question or relocating to a different country.

It is about time we realise that while the elites might have led our country astray to begin with, the society at large has acquiesced in living within a predatory state and acquiring a predatory character to survive and thrive. Our parochial instincts, insular vision and lop-sided priorities are transforming our state and society into an inhospitable place for our future generations. And individual fortune, success and effort might not be sufficient to confront the challenges created for the value set of our children by depraved communal ethics and public morality. The cost of supporting reckless policies and hedonism in Pakistan is not all tangible and that much of the damage it is causing might be irreparable.

Strengthening institutes

By Ismail Khan

Pinnacled to the charts of a celebrity, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar was an instant hit with the Indian media. As if the Pakistani media had just got caught eye of her hidden glamour, it too flashed the glitz of the political icon. From the suave dresses she carried on to the pricey accessories she held, Ms Khar’s style kept the gossip circles activated.

Once back, she was critically evaluated for her job. ‘Ok, fine, she is a fresh face but does she have any fresh thought for a ‘change’ to the external rot?’ – is being asked.

While critique on her performance bursts out of the hype floated earlier, her job is nonetheless tough. As the commentary appearing in the media wants her to be, her challenge will come in balancing the expectation reflecting from her social symbolism against the position a state’s security line – good or bad – is long being treated.

First, the symbolism which glued the media to her very demeanour: at the young age of 34, Ms Khar is Pakistan’s only female and the world’s youngest foreign minister. Both, her gender and age, has the potential of gelling with those Pakistanis who come under the same bracket – that is the young and the women of the country.

It is not to say that her elevation was primarily factored to facilitate women or the young men to the top; certainly her feudal background matters much in Pakistan’s political landscape – a reality that has in any case earned her ticket to politics. However, to discard somebody’s performance or representation, as we often do in women’s cases by associating them as ‘male surrogates’, is unjust to the job they may potentially undertake. For, did Benazir Bhutto and present US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, not inspire women down the line, despite both of them enjoying access to the power corridors? It is in this spirit that Khar’s appointment should be appreciated, if not evaluated.

Similarly, in a country where the young population constitutes the majority of the population, Khar is certainly going to beam many a young face. Those who are making fun of her inexperience are only good at earning applause on TV shows – that’s it; it is advisable for them to engage constructively on the thematic front, if they are informed about it.

That said, many might ask if symbolism is the case, what’s the point of her appointment as foreign minister – why not appoint her as the youth minister? While the point is valid to an extent, a task for Khar is open up space in Pakistan’s diplomatic engagement that absorbs the potential of the women and youth of Pakistan. Notwithstanding the debate on the incongruity between domestic and international affairs, what is obvious is that the Khar-optimist wants her to bridge it. Many other are eager to point out the societal backlash of exercising some instruments of foreign policy. Whether or not the two can be compared is not the point.

For one, the youth bulge of Pakistan is repeatedly being referred to as ‘untapped resource’ which can go either way. Lack of opportunities for them is diverting a greater chunk of human resources away from pooling in the economic productivity of the state.

That is it. Now, consider this: immediately after assumption of charge, Ms Khar spoke of the fear of India hegemony. The Khar-optimists seemed to be surprised, but here was the reality check which they have already known.

For one, what constitutes change remains a debate in Pakistan. Realistically speaking, waiting on for any change is not an individual’s task. Arguably, therefore, it will be much better for her to revive the institutes responsible for framing foreign policy and enhancing the capacity of policy elites who have to take decision on foreign affairs.

Needless to say, where everything else fails, consensus works. It would not be wrong to argue that part of the success behind the Swat operation was the domestic consensus worked before the operation. For much part of our polity, there was polarisation within the society over whether and how to take action against the militants. Even the military is used to saying it cannot send its boys to an adventure, to be booed down by the society upon their return.

Thus, how much of the consensus gets formed in the future is the way to go. Specifically, one must mention the role of parliament’s subcommittees on foreign affairs whose performance, as documented recently by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), is dismal. As their records show, “more than half of the members did not attend committee meetings with average attendance of members at 38%.”

The strength of the subcommittee is its diverse membership including top leadership of political forces. In a country where politicians have earned a stigma ‘manipulating’ violence, the engagements of such a committee will send strong signals down the line – that of ownership of the policies, which may or may not change. Without their involvement, everything is thrown in the garage of the ruling party or the military. Khar certainly can bring it on.

A critical look at the two nation theory

By Kashif Jahangiri

The kind of history that is taught right from the early school years in Pakistan has not helped us a great deal. By the time we grow up, with some of us getting into policymaking roles, we have developed a rigid approach which is India-centric. Be it foreign issues or economic matters, our focus is India rather than our own people, even if it comes at the cost of national prosperity. History should serve the purpose of being a guiding light. We should learn from the mistakes of the past in order not to repeat them. While history cannot be changed, the road to the future can certainly be.

One such tweaking of the history is the Two Nation Theory, which led to the incorrect belief that Pakistan was created as a religious state. The Quaid-e-Azam had not conceived Pakistan as a theocracy, and that is something he clarified on a number of occasions.

While reference is made to his presidential address to the historic Muslim League convention of March 1940 where he stated that Muslims and Hindus were ideologically different nations, the fact remains that it was in the context of Muslims being unfairly treated as a minority in British India. One should not forget that the slogans of Hindu nationalism were first raised by some Hindu extremists in the 1920s and 1930s. These included Lala Har Dayal, who in 1925 declared in his statement published in the Pratap of Lahore that the future of Hindus was based on four pillars namely: (a) Hindu Sangathan, (b) Hindu Raj, (c) Shuddhi of Muslims, and (d) conquest and Shuddhi of Afghanistan and the Frontier. These also included Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, whose 1925 book Hindu Pad-Padashahi bemoaned Muslim rule in India and called for an all-India Hindu empire under the hegemony of Maharashtra.

The sole objective behind the demand for Pakistan was to achieve the economic and social uplift of Muslims as much as possible. The objective was not to create a hate-filled divide between Muslims and Hindus. The demand was only for those areas where Muslims were in clear majority. Of course there were Muslims all across India, and not just in the areas covered under the demand for Pakistan. It was therefore implied that even after the creation of Pakistan there would still be Muslims living in India as a minority.

If the sole objective of the All-India Muslim League were to isolate Muslims from Hindus, then in June 1946 it would not have accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan of the British government which had proposed a confederation of United India comprising three provinces. The Muslim League was forced to withdraw its backing to the Plan when Pandit Nehru, on assuming the presidency of the Indian National Congress from Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, stated that Congress could make changes to the Plan after the British left. This assertion defeated the very objective of the acceptance of the Plan and the Muslim League was left with no option but to move on with its demand for Pakistan. It can therefore be said that Pandit Nehru partly contributed to the creation of Pakistan. Thus, the Two Nation Theory or the false notion of Muslims not being able to live with Hindus or the setting up of a Muslim theocracy had nothing to do with the creation of Pakistan.

Even if it is assumed that the Two Nation Theory was the basis for the creation of Pakistan (which is something going against the facts), should the State of Pakistan become a hostage to this concept in today’s world? The creation of Pakistan is now an established fact that cannot be just undone. We now need to move on.

We need to put this so-called theory to some logic test and see where it takes us to. The following questions spring to mind:

1. If Hindus and Muslims could not live together under any circumstances, why did it take Muslims a few centuries to realise this fact? Where was the Two Nation Theory when India was being ruled by Muslims?

2. If the Two Nation Theory was to be followed, why were there Muslims left in India to live under Hindu rule?

3. If the Two Nation Theory is still applicable, what is the status of Hindus living in Pakistan today? Why do we issue them National Identity Cards when they are not to be considered part of the same nation as Muslims? And why do they have representation in the Pakistani parliament?

4. Aside from the Two Nation Theory, are Muslims one nation themselves? If Muslims were one nation, why would the more wealthy Muslim states not grant nationality to less privileged Muslims from other countries, including Pakistan? On the contrary, why would Pakistan have a visa requirement for a Muslim from another country – including India?

5. If the Two Nation Theory was the binding force, why did East Pakistan secede to become Bangladesh?

Clearly, it takes more than religion to form a nation.

It would also be useful to see other examples of Two Nation Theories and related geographic divides in world history.

The idea of a Two Nation Theory was previously used by Thomas MacKnight in his book Ulster As It Is in 1896, where he tried to establish that the Protestants living in the North of Ireland were a nation distinct from the Catholics living on the rest of the island. The so-called Two Nation Theory was then pursued by many, including the writer W F Monypenny in his 1913 book The Two Irish Nations: An Essay on Home Rule. Interestingly, the Two Nation Theory was also supported by Arthur Clery, one of the Irish Republicans leaders. Mr Clery backed the theory to secure independence from British rule, perhaps feeling that independence from the British was not possible until the Protestants living in the North of Ireland were divorced from the Irish nation. Mr Clery’s test of Irishness was based on the Gaelic language and Catholic beliefs. The Irish Two Nation Theory matured over time and resulted in the creation of Northern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act passed by the British Parliament in 1920. The Act then led to the formal division of Ireland in 1922 with 26 counties forming the independent Republic of Ireland and six counties of Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom. The division on the island of Ireland caused by the Two Nation Theory still carries its bitterness after 89 years of the divide. Even after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, violence still revisits this lovely island to haunt its inhabitants.

In his historic speech of Aug 11, 1947, the Quaid-e-Azam had stated: “In course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of the individual, but in the political sense as the citizens of one nation.” With this statement, the Quaid-e-Azam clarified that he did not see religion playing any role in the future politics of Pakistan. This statement of the Quaid-e-Azam should be enough to set aside the Two Nation Theory in the sense it is understood by many in Pakistan.