May 9, 2011

Finer aspects

At the International Dance Day, the performances truly reflected the current trends all over the world

By Sarwat Ali

It is always a matter of surprise, and a pleasant one, when a dance performance is held in the country -- as it was on the International Dance Day last week at the Avari Hotel in Lahore under the auspices of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts.

The items on the International Dance Day included ‘Yeh Rang Hai’, contemporary pieces ‘Raaga Rock’ ‘City Lights’ and Salsa as well as the more traditional ‘Peacock Dance’, including dances based on folk songs, a film song and on a poem of Faiz. Also included were Kathak and Anarkali, the two numbers approximating the classical versions.

Dance in Pakistan has developed in all possible directions. In the absence of any mediated design it has borrowed and imitated with impunity from all sources to have a variegated shape all its own. It has been ironic that while the censors permitted dance in film it was not permitted on the state-sponsored television or by the arts councils, which too depended for finances and directions from the government.

In Pakistan film is meant to be for the masses. Much is done to please the gallery, while television and arts councils are supposed to be arbiters of taste. In films, dance is borrowed from all sources most of all from the Bollywood and is presented with much less finesse.

The choreography in Bollywood too is not very original. There is much that is borrowed from all over, especially the West. And the more popular and current forms of dances, and its impact on Pakistan, can be said to be twice removed. Only that the final touches are absent and it all seems rather half done -- it does not have the maturity of moves which years of practice bring.

Recently, some music videos have hit the market with unprecedented success, which besides the music contain rapid bits of dance, inserted at great speed and regularity. If one is generous then one can say that it is the beginning of a new form made possible by the video and the computer. Technology has propelled or initiated many a new form in the arts and this one seems to be going through its birth pangs right now.

The exposure to the world performing arts through the media (the satellite channels) has made the task of sticking to a purer tradition all that difficult. It was therefore not surprising that the number of dance performances at Avari were varied in style, keeping the door open to the current trend in dance all over the world.

The National Performing Arts Group was initially set up in Karachi on the rump of the PIA Arts Academy of the 1970s. Two more chapters were opened in Lahore and Islamabad; the Lahore chapter started functioning in 2006 and has been nurtured by Roshan Ara Bokhari, the choreographer, and Zafar Dilawar, the dance master. A total of 16 dancers, equally divided between men and women, have been on the pay roll. Nadia Iqbal, Rozina Iqbal, Sobia Ayaz, Farah Naz, Laaraib, Samia Saleem, Uzma Ashraf, Nazia Ramzam, Yasir Abbas, Imran, Rehem Ali, Najmul Hasan, Ehtisham, Arsalan, Muhammed Jameel and Imran Masih are supposed to clock in at 10am, five days a week, to learn and practice for three hours. They have performed over these five years in the country and abroad, both for state-run organisations and in the private sector.

The programme also included a number of music numbers. Muzaffar Akbar Khan played raag des on the sitar while Nayaab Ali Khan sang raag purya dhanasari, both accompanied on the tabla by Shabbir Jhari.

Like in music, the classical dance tradition has suffered the most. And the lack of a reference has allowed dance to adopt a freewheeling approach which has not really had time to find a maturity of form. In this age of globalisation the most difficult aspect is to bring it into any kind of discipline and order all the various influences that one is subjected to all the time.

Dance was probably the last major discipline to be taught at the Alhamra. Feroze Nizami and Khalid Anwer taught the shagirds the finer aspect of classical vocal music while Sharif Khan toiled with his veena and sitar in an effort to pass on the intricacies of string instruments to the next generation. Dance classes started in the 1970s when Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak took up the assignment with his usual flair. Naila Riaz was one of the first shagirds of the Maharaj, and after his death, she took up the responsibility of teaching the shagirds the finer aspects of kathak.

The few dancers around have faced an uphill task. Naheed Siddiqui, starting as a young enthusiast, found her first ustad in Ghulam Hussain Kathak in Lahore. After her sojourn with Birju Maharaj in Kathak Kander in Delhi, her true potential found the right expression and style. A traditional kathak dancer, with the stamp of the Lucknow ang visibly printed on her style, she has mostly performed abroad. While Sheema Kirmani and Nighat Chaudry had to battle it out, fighting more the adverse circumstances than paying due attention to their creative work, it carved some space for dance at the expense of their own work.

It appears that the National Performing Arts Group has catered more to group dancing than solo numbers. But with the passage of time, hopefully, the group will concentrate on grooming individual virtuosos.

Lost in transition

The question of choice between art and life has an immense value, only if we care to think

By Quddus Mirza

This is a story about a friend who was with me in the art college. Let’s presume his name is Zahir Shaheed. Shaheed was an enthusiastic and creative art student. Experimenting in various mediums, he showed a great deal of promise and was awarded distinction for his degree show.

After graduation, keen to establish himself as an artist, he participated in a few exhibitions, did illustrations for a magazine, kept himself updated on all important shows and art events. He was on friendly terms with fellow painters and writers and musicians of his generation.

Shaheed’s life as an upcoming artist began just like any other artist, with the exception of one detail. He had an old mother suffering from a major disease. Being the only child and the sole bread-earner, he needed the job to support his family and had to spend time looking after his ailing mother. As an exemplary son, he managed both the tasks well. With the passage of time, the hours required to be with his mother increased, to the extent that he had to leave the job. During this period, Shaheed’s dreams of emerging as a painter started to diffuse because the activity of art-making demands constant involvement of the artist.

Shaheed could not afford pursuits such as art making, as the necessity to be near his mother all the time was on the rise. Sadly, his mother did not survive, leaving a question that is relevant to him and to several other creative individuals: That as an artist, Zahir Shaheed had two choices -- whether to abandon his sick mother (she had cancer) and concentrate on his work as an artist, or to leave his art practice for a while till his mother does not need him by her side. Once the second course is selected, like he did, one realises there is no possibility of going back into the lost time and resume from the same stage. Because the world of art does not stay static nor does it wait for people. So if you are out of this moving circle, there is no way you can reclaim or retain your previous position.

Anyone caught in the unfortunate scheme of things has to deal with this dilemma: the divide between the ethic and the aesthetic. In history, artists, writers and intellectuals have faced this question. Some of them did not care for the family as they were more keen to follow their artistic and intellectual drives. For example, Karl Marx kept working on his major work Das Kapital despite the conditions of his wife and family. Likewise, Paul Gauguin deserted his wife and children in his passion of becoming a painter. There are cases, closer to home, where writers and artists abandoned their parents, wives or children for the sake of their artistic and literary careers.

Today, we acknowledge Marx and Gauguin and hardly anyone regards their response towards their families as ‘immoral’, largely because they were successful in achieving what they were aiming for. Imagine if they had failed. Their act of forsaking their families would then have been considered criminal and inhuman. Today we appreciate the canvases by Gauguin and admire the intellectual depth of Marx’s study and analysis. One can imagine the scenario, if they had found some menial employment to meet the needs of their families. The world would have missed a great body of philosophical work (that led to revolutions, communists parties, social realistic art etc. as a consequence) and the significant pieces of painting that generated art movements and influenced a large number of painters across the globe (including Amrita Sher-gill in our midst!).

Hence the question of choice between art and life assumes an immense value. Actually there is a subtle difference between writers and artists in this regard. Because a writer, even if he or she is occupied with family matters, may still be able to produce a poem or a short story, because all that is required is a sheet of paper and pen and a thought process of course. But it is impossible for artists who require a number of tools, materials and some work place to be able to create a work of visual arts. So artists who decides to look after their ailing parents or family members are basically sacrificing opportunities of making works, a step that not only concerns them but the world of art in general.

We have a number of these ‘possible’ great artists amongst us, who are in our surroundings, trying to serve their families and save lives against the danger of approaching deaths. They are busy with an old father at a physiotherapist’s clinic, on the bedside of a sick mother at hospital, or providing food to parents, sisters, brothers, wife, siblings and other dependants. They could have been great names of our art but were unable to make it.

Alliance of necessity

For the time being, the PPP-PML-Q united front has created political stability of sorts

By Adnan Adil

The original script of PPP-PML-Q alliance was written in 2007 and has been realised in 2011. In 2007, President Gen Pervez Musharraf alone could not fight the so-called Islamic extremists and lacked the required mass support to seal an agreement with India over Kashmir. The king’s party, PML-Q, was not popular enough to help the general. The influential US lobby in Pakistan saw to it that Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto came to terms. The PPP was promised power-sharing with Musharraf following the 2008 general elections and the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was promulgated to pardon the corruption cases against the PPP leaders to pave their safe return to the country. The plan fell apart as Benazir Bhutto became victim to the Taliban in December 2007 and Musharraf sagged under the pressure of the judicial movement.

Now, with the next federal budget around the corner, the minority government of the PPP, with just 127 members in the house of 342, faces a desperate situation having already lost the support of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUIF (8 seats) and is struggling to keep on its side the flip-flop MQM (25 seats.) If the party does not get the National Assembly’s majority vote for the budget, it would amount to a non-trust vote in Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

So far, the PPP government survived because the PML-N (90 seats) flatly refused to join forces with the other opposition parties or bring a no-confidence motion against the government. After PML-N’s alienation, an alliance with the PML-Q, having 50 seats in the National Assembly, would bring the PPP in a comfort zone.

On the other hand, the PML-Q was in disarray as the party consists of local political notables of Punjab and Hazara who have no tradition of staying out of power for long. More than 40 members of the party have defected to form the Unification Bloc, which supports the PML-N government in Punjab. More than 25 members of the National Assembly were ready to part ways and support the PPP government. Already, the party has split at the national level with Hamid Nasir Chattha leading the Like-Minded Group that also includes Salim Saifullah, Humayun Akhtar Khan, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Gohar Ayub Khan and Kashmala Tariq. Only the support of government patronage could save the party from further meltdown.

Nawaz Sharif has taken a hard line position against the Chaudhrys who ditched him to support Gen Musharraf. He stubbornly declined to take them back. Nawaz Sharif reportedly said “Curse the government for which I have to join hands with the Chaudhrys.” That left no option for the Chaudhrys to seek other alliances.

An urgent, pressing issue for the Chaudhrys of Gujrat was the arrest of Chaudhry Pervez Elahi’s son, Moonis Elahi, on charges of a multi-billion rupee corruption case. Desperate in search of allies, the federal government helped the Chaudhrys by transferring the investigation officer who was aggressively pursuing the case and on whom the accused had shown their distrust.

For the time being, it is a win-win situation for both the PPP and the PML-Q. The PPP would survive the budget approval in the National Assembly. Moreover, if the Chaudhrys succeed in luring back their defected 40-plus members in the Unification Bloc, the PML-Q and the PPP can form a coalition government in the Punjab dislodging PML-N’s Shahbaz Sharif. Another major relief for the PPP is that it would get rid of the daily blackmailing by the MQM. Soon after the PML-Q joined the federal cabinet, the MQM, which was staying away on one excuse or the other, fell in line and agreed to accept ministries.

If the PPP-PML-Q united front lasts, it may lead to significant gains for the two parties at the local body polls, Senate elections in 2012 and the 2013 general elections. The combined strength of the two parties, popular appeal of the PPP and the local heavyweights of the PML-Q make a good winning combination at least in rural Punjab, provided some spontaneous wave in support of some other politician does not upset the traditional electoral arithmetic.

The major disadvantage for the two parties is that this alliance has started causing resentment within their ranks and may cause major defections. The PPP’s leadership in Gujrat has been a victim of the Chaudhrys for long and has spent almost 40 years opposing them at the local level and suffered immense victimisation at times during the days of Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf. It seems hard they would reconcile with the new alignment as PPP’s Nawabzada Ghazanfar Gul has already said he would not support this alliance in his life. PPP senator Raza Rabbani has resigned from the federal cabinet. PPP’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi has condemned the new marriage.

Within the PML-Q, a group of senators have turned to PML-Q’s like-minded faction, led by Senator Salim Saifullah. These detractors allegedly include Senator Tariq Azim, Naeem Hussain Chattha, Jamal Leghari, Javed Ali Shah and Gulshan Saeed. The group is also trying to get the support of senators SM Zafar, Muhammad Ali Durrani, Muhammad Khan Marri and Nilofer Bakhtiar.

However, if one goes by history, the attraction of power is so great that minor defections would not make much difference to both the parties and many defectors would return to their parties when the crumbs of power are thrown to them.

The major setback of the PPP-PML-Q partnership could be to the PML-N and the Sharif brothers. Nawaz Sharif is seriously ill, recuperating from his open-heart surgery in London, and is not likely to take the pressures of practical politics in near future. His two sons, Hasan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, are not interested in politics and are busy in their businesses in the Saudi Arabia and London. Shahbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz are minding the store. The PML-N is facing inside groupings with Chaudhry Nisar, Javed Hashmi, Ahsan Iqbal, Pervez Rashid, Zafar Ali Shah and Raja Zafarul Haq having their own areas of influence within the party.

Nawaz Sharif’s political stand solely relies on his popularity in Punjab, especially in urban areas. That support base is too threatened by Imran Khan’s rising popularity in urban areas of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. If Nawaz Sharif does not get his act together in the days to come, his party may be the major victim of the new political alignments. If PPP and PML-Q move to carve Seraiki province out of southern Punjab, the PML-N is likely to be confined largely to the central and northern Punjab unless Nawaz Sharif manages to create some strong waves in his favour.

In Pakistan, pragmatism and rank opportunism has proved much stronger than any ideological rhetoric and it will keep the two parties united and satisfied. For the time being, the PPP-PML-Q united front has created political stability of sorts and enhances the chances of the sitting assemblies completing their five-year tenure.

Six appeal, mass appeal and the IPL

By Ignatius Albuquerque

The euphoria over the World Cup victory by the Indian team brilliantly marshalled by Captain Cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni has not yet dissipated, although life has returned to normal for all of the Indian team members. In fact, most of the Indians and a good portion of India’s cricketing aficionados are now fully engrossed with the Indian Premier League, as Warriors, Kings and even Super Kings battle it out, day after day to provide millions of fans their daily fix of cricketing thrills.

With its diet supremely rich in sixes and boundaries, the IPL has for sure enthralled their many fans but there is no denying that there is immense money being ploughed in, day in and day out in the illegal betting that is thriving all over India. Of course, add to the huge amounts of money the legal betting in England and Europe, and one can safely say that there is tons of money in this slam-bang version of the game, with the bookies at the end of the day making a huge killing after each game is played out with its accompanying drama and action.


As if all this was not enough, you have the return of Bengali Tiger Saurav Ganguly who will be turning out for Pune Warriors. Ever a fighter, Ganguly will have to perform out of his skin as the Warriors losing skid stands at seven games with little or no hopes of advancing further, whether the great Ganguly dons their colours or not in the future.

In fact the newest entrants to IPL IV, both Warriors and Kochi Tuskers have not much of a hope to make further progress in this tournament, which has more than witnessed its bit of glamour, thanks to Bollywood actors Shahrukh Khan, Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta. It is common knowledge that SRK as Shahrukh is popularly called has taken a long hiatus to be with his boys the Kolkata Knight Riders even as the pretty Priyanka Chopra is sometimes seen supporting the Riders. SRK the part owner of Riders has this year seen his stellar presence do wonders for KKR who are doing well, although Shilpa with more than a little help from Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Hurley who is Royals team captain Shane Warneís girlfriend has not done much for Rajasthan Royals, with Preity Zintaís team Kings Punjab XI is in the dumps. So much for star quotient!

According to ‘Hurley-burlyí sources, Warne is presently playing his final IPL season and is due to retire at the end of IPL IV and henceforth will be seen only as a consultant for the Royals.

Sure bowlers like Mumbai Indiansí peerless Lasith Malinga and Sachin Tendulkar have enhanced their already considerable reputations with splendid displays but what about guys like Kings XI Paul Valthathy and Ambati Rayudu who have done their reputation a world of good with consistent performances.

Amidst all this IPL glam-sham, there is of course the odd cry emanating this time from of all places, Sri Lanka about match-fixing. And the whistle blower this time is former Lankan skipper Hashan Tillekaratne who has said he will only announce the names to ICC. No doubt Hashan got able support from former Pakistan wicket-keeper Rashid Latif who said that match fixing is rampant. Whether or not there is any element of truth in what Hassan says will only be known in the future, but the mind goes back to one of Pakistanís pre-eminent whistle blowers Sarfraz Nawaz who affirmed that match-fixing was very prevalent both in the ODI and Test arena. No doubt, the many fans used to take Nawazís much-reported comments with more than a pinch of salt, but it will interesting to stand and watch from the sidelines what comes of Hashanís accusations.


Meanwhile, chief protagonist in the Commonwealth Games scam, Suresh Kalmadi who is now cooling his heels behind bars had a sad birthday. No doubt, he was given a separate cell in the terribly overcrowded Tihar jail which presently is housing many big names in its precincts. Kalmadi arrested on charges of cheating, conspiracy and corruption in the award of Games related contracts, was sent to 14 days’ judicial custody by a Delhi court.According to a prison official, Kalmadi along with the other two accused organising committee officials ó- Surjit Lal and ASV Prasad -- were allotted separate cells unlike other high profile accused who share their cells with other inmates.Anyway, it is high time errant sporting officials and their tribe is always on the increase are brought to book, and Kalmadiís arrest can thus be viewed as a step in the right direction.



One of the highly fruitful Indo-Pak partnerships, the tennis pairing of Pakistanís Aisam-ul-Haq Quershi and Indiaís Rohan Bopanna have soared to ATP ranking of six. The pair who go by the name, Indo-Pak express, have recently carved out a string of superlative displays including a win over the highly-acclaimed Indian pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati. Not to forget the bouquet of accolades got from the media for their humanitarians goals in bringing the two countries closer.


Okay, okay, the high-octane clash between India and Pakistan recently witnessed at Mohali in the World Cup semifinal gave fans much to cheer about, prepare yourself for another clash between the neighbours in the Indian national game which is hockey. Come May 11, India and Pakistan who are presently struggling internationally, will cross swords at the Azlan Shah Cup international tourney in Malaysia.

There have been talks of reinstating sporting ties between the nations with hockey being the stage for such a rapprochement in the future. Letís wait and watch!

There may be intense rivalry on various sporting fields between the two nations but more than anything sporting ties as and when they take place will only be for the best for both nations, and given their fabled history, one can only wait for a positive outcome in this regard. In a scenario laden with mistrust, more than anything, sports can truly heal!

The incessant turmoil

By Dr Nauman Niaz

I reflect back to the late Omar Kureishi’s flirtations with cricket writing and management, the year 1950 was a watershed for him. He felt palpably his freedom from the narrow questions of imperialistic ideas which had, for so many years, absorbed his energies. At the same time his intellectual confidence was secure, rooted as it was in his mastery of the philosophical foundations of his ‘AH Kardar’ perspective.

It was reflected in the breadth and urgency of Kureishi’s later writings; and in his exploration of new questions-questions of art, professionalism, culture and aesthetics all amalgamated in cricket.

Although in some ways he was returning to the themes of his early years, his approach was deeply marked by the new and original conception of modernizing and equipping cricket which he had developed by the end of his stay in England. He could foresee that Asia would stand out, the players having more flair and flamboyance however he could also perceive cricket becoming a ‘merchandize’. At the centre of this vision was his recognition of the creative energies of ordinary cricketers and their critical place in the Pakistani game as the force for recognition and product development.

If the conventional cricket and political work Kureishi had carried out in Pakistan had brought him to this point, it was, above all, his experience of having attended Harvard University which changed his mature perspective on international cricket and the paradigm shift he could contemplate so early in his life. What Kureishi had discovered in Pakistan cricket was that the question he considered to lie at the heart of development process itself -- the relationship between the players and their highbrow captain AH Kardar, absolute control of a captain who couldn’t ever be wrong, the relationship between individual freedom and social life-was most starkly posed; Kureishi was Kardar’s close friend and liked his authoritarianism; actually he didn’t support his ‘authoritarianism’ but the method with which he executed it and controlled the environment; inside his heart Kureishi was convinced that the success that Kardar’s captaincy had brought to Pakistan, it was purely ‘individualistic’ and not a ‘system’ that could echo in future once he wasn’t there; it exactly happened like that?

What Kureishi tried tutoring me, I acknowledge, I understood the movement of the modern cricket to be one of increasing commercialism and less integration. The growing interconnectedness of things through the expansion of financial markets, the centralization of capital within India, the accumulation of knowledge, the breakdown of work ethics, was mirrored in my view, by the increasing denigration of scruples and national pride and high influx of money and sponsorship into cricket. The personalities of the players unlike that of AH Kardar or an Imran Khan, never before had individually been so fragmented and restricted in the realization of their creative and ethical capacities.

In my writings, I tried uncovering in Pakistan an intense desire among people to bring the separate facets of their experiences into an active relationship with cricket, to express their full and free individuality within new and expanded conceptions of social life, a social life that had effectively become asphyxiated, intense and marred by rising inflation and financial incompatibility hand in glove with geo-political and democratic frailties. To them cricket was ‘the struggle of happiness’.

Nonetheless, virtually day to day there were happenings that only added pain to the people of Pakistan to whom cricket could be a struggle of happiness. Mohsin Khan, PCB’s chief selector threatened to resign if the differences that he had developed with his colleagues over the selection of the fifteen-man team that was picked for the two Tests in the West Indies were not resolved. It was always surprising that Mohsin who mostly seems to be ‘gentlemanly’ could last with an intractable and highly dictatorial, ostensibly rigid and virtually unforgiving Ijaz Butt, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board? At times Mohsin had tried defending the indefensible PCB on the verge of looking obtuse, dialectically giving reasons which even the reasons didn’t understand.

I tried talking to Mohsin on telephone on Tuesday inquiring why he was enraged and he as usual didn’t reply candidly, emphasizing that I could know once he went to the press that he was contemplating the pros and cons and he was more than eager to reveal that it wasn’t just the PCB but some other ‘factors’ had also coerced him to get disillusioned. As reported, there had been an argument over Adnan Akmal’s exclusion and preference of Mohammad Salman. Salman’s show in the One-day Internationals against the West Indies was unblemished whilst Adnan had performed creditably in the four Tests he had played against South Africa and New Zealand.

Previously Salahuddin Ahmad, Aamir Sohail, Abdul Qadir, Iqbal Qasim and Wasim Bari had all been marginalized tactfully; Aamir resigned though events were manipulated knowing fully the type of personality he had; Qadir was also ‘tempered’ and ‘tampered’, Iqbal Qasim showed ‘finesse’ whilst Wasim Bari meekly responded to the calls of shifting from being concurrently the chief celector and the chief operating officer to a lower designation at the PCB, not showing the ‘grace’ that Qasim had delineated; Adnan to Mohsin had been hard done, as alleged since he had picked eight catches in a Test in 2010. Qasim was unconvinced about the farce of ‘rebuilding’ as there were players included in the line-up close to 30 years of age and termed as ‘youngsters’? I acknowledge that Qasim’s remarks were most appropriate; what happened to Danish Kaneria was also a mystery in itself; he wasn’t cleared by PCB’s ‘Integrity Committee’ whilst Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik were excused; interestingly no charges against Kaneria were proven even in England?

How India from a pedestrian team developed into the world champions was their creative power, the democratic desires, the expansion of personalities, the record of their achievements that was a ‘silent’ revolution. In contrast Pakistan’s product was eroded because of the repressed democracy and primarily because of intractable people like Ijaz Butt.

It hurts me more, as I had been part of Pakistan cricket’s management once, and I am aware of these tensions all around, it is to be seen nowhere more clearly than in the contradictory position of country’s team, their integration (patchy) and disintegration (incessant), within a culture that has dilapidated.

Going downhill

After peaking in their emphatic World Cup quarterfinal win against the West Indies, Pakistan have become largely unimpressive. Why?

By Khalid Hussain

On March 23, in front of a vocal crowd at the Shere-Bangla National Stadium on the outskirts of Dhaka, it seemed that Pakistan were capable of beating any team in the world. With their captain Shahid Afridi on fire, Pakistan toyed with the West Indies before thrashing them by ten wickets as thousands of mostly Bangladeshi fans cheered them all the way in the World Cup quarterfinal. The emphatic victory came soon after Pakistan had topped World Cup Group A ahead of defending champions Australia and tournament co-hosts Sri Lanka.

On May 5, at the Providence on the outskirts of Georgetown (Guyana), it seemed that Pakistan were capable of losing to any team in the world. Afridi and his men were slaughtered like lambs by a second string West Indian team in the fifth and final One-day International with the hosts cruising to a ten-wicket triumph after flooring Pakistan for just 139 runs.

The loss at Providence was a disappointing end to the ODI series for Pakistan, who were at one stage looking set to record a whitewash after securing a 3-0 lead in Barbados last week.

The back-to-back defeats against the West Indians in the last couple of one-dayers might have come in ‘dead rubbers’ but the results are enough to highlight the fact that, due to one reason or the other, Pakistan remain a highly vulnerable team.

Some might argue that Pakistan did win the series and that the defeats in the last two games didn’t matter much. But the fact is that winning the series isn’t enough considering the fact the West Indians, who are already a low-ranked team, played the series without several of their leading stars including Chris Gayle. Pakistan should have won the series 5-0 with an effortless ease.

There were early signs which indicated that Pakistan might not have enjoy a cake-walk in the Caribbean in spite of the fact that the odds were heavily stacked in their favour.

In the World Cup, the primary reason why Pakistan managed to top their group before making the cut for the semifinals was Afridi’s stunning form as a leg-spinner. When he scalped four victims in the quarterfinal against West Indies, Afridi raised his tally to 22 wickets in World Cup 2011. He finished with disappointing figures of 0-45 in the defeat against India in the semifinal at Mohali.

Having played non-stop cricket in the World Cup and before it, Afridi wanted to skip the tour of West Indies to get some rest. It wasn’t a bad idea as it was pretty clear that like Umar Gul – Pakistan’s second-most successful bowler at World Cup 2011 – Afridi, too, was left drained by the rigours of international cricket.

Afridi did announce soon after the World Cup that he wanted to miss the series against West Indies. But soon decided to change his mind and made himself available for the tour.

It was a bad choice. Afridi’s personal performance took a nose dive in the Caribbean.

Since the quarterfinal in Dhaka, Afridi has just taken just two wickets from six One-day Internationals. His poor run with the ball must have put added extra pressure on the seasoned allrounder, who has completely flopped with the bat in recent times. From his last 16 ODI appearances, Afridi has just fetched 184 runs at 14.15. He was expected to do much better in the Caribbean against a below-par home attack but Afridi just managed to get 28 runs in the five-match series.

Even as captain, Afridi is now making enough mistakes to keep his critics busy.

One glaring example is his persistence in the case of the young Ahmed Shehzad. Afridi keeps showing faith in the opener, who was one of the biggest failures of the World Cup.

It was widely anticipated that after the World Cup, one of the players getting the axe will be the 19-year-old Ahmed. But he wasn’t just retained in the touring party for the Caribbean Ahmed was given a regular role in the limited-overs series against the West Indies. He did hit a century but flopped miserably in the other five games including the tour-opening Twenty20 International.

Ahmed has so far played 19 One-day Internationals for a tally of 477 runs at 26.50. Of the 19 games, he has crossed 20 in just seven matches. He hasn’t reached doubles figures in eight of the matches he has played so far.

However, Shehzad has returned home along with Afridi and few others as they are not part of Pakistan’s Test squad. The tourists will now be playing in the two-Test series against the West Indies starting in Georgetown from May 12.

Back home, fans were once again given a glimpse of the sorry state of Pakistan cricket. Mohsin Khan, Pakistan’s chief selector, threatened to resign after dropping strong hints that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) overruled his recommendations while announcing the 15-man Test squad. Mohsin, a former Test opener, even called a press conference only to cancel it at the last moment after getting summoned to Lahore by Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman.

Butt didn’t make any changes to the Test squad but still managed to assuage Mohsin, who will now continue as chief selector in spite of the fact that team that will be representing Pakistan in the brief Test series in the Caribbean wasn’t really picked by him and his fellow selectors.

In spite of all the doom and gloom, there is a small piece of good news. Off spinner, Saeed Ajmal broke into the top-three of the ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers for the first time in his career.

The 33-year-old from Faisalabad, who took six wickets in the series against the West Indies, has improved 16 places and now sits in third position, just five points behind Zimbabwe’s left-arm spinner Ray Price. His rise means the top four spots in the ODI rankings are now occupied by spinners with New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori leading the field and England’s Graeme Swann placed in fourth position. While Saeed has catapulted himself to the third spot, Afridi has slipped five places to 14th position after a disappointing series against the West Indies.

Is export growth sustainable?

Pakistan continues to have a narrow export base and remains mainly an exporter of low value-added products

By Hussain H. Zaidi

The first nine months of the current financial year (FY11 July-March) have seen an improved performance on external account. The current account deficit fell to $362 million (0.1 per cent of GDP) from $3.45 billion (2.4 percent of GDP) during the corresponding period of the preceding financial year. For the full FY11, the current account deficit is projected to be less than 2 percent of GDP compared with 2.3 percent in FY10.

The two principal components of the current account are remittances and trade balance. Remittances have registered remarkable growth during the last few years. However, trade deficit has remained a problem. In FY09 trade deficit was $12.62 billion, which was reduced to $11.53 billion in FY10. During July-March FY11, $8.01 billion trade deficit was registered, which was $184 million less than that for the first nine months of the previous fiscal year.

The good news is that the trade deficit has been brought down not by curtailing imports but by increasing exports. Imports went up from $22.54 billion in FY10 (July-march) to $25.95 billion in FY11 (July-March). Exports rose from $14.34 billion to $17.95 billion during this period by more than 25 percent and are projected to touch $24 billion for the full year. The important question, however, is whether the current export growth rate sustainable.

To answer this question let us begin by looking at the composition of exports. Textiles continue to be the major item in Pakistan’s export basket. In FY11 (July-March), textiles export reached $9.28 billion accounting for 52 per cent of the total exports. Within the textiles group, the major exports are of knitwear ($1.99 billion), fabrics ($1.72 billion), bed wear ($1.45 billion), yarn ($1.18 billion) and readymade garments ($772.85 million). The share of value added textiles (knitwear, bed wear, readymade garments, towels and made-ups) was $4.93 billion, while that of non-value added textiles (cotton, yarn, fabrics, tents & canvas, and synthetic textiles) was $4.34 billion.

The second major exports were of food items ($2.80 billion), including rice ($1.55 billion), fruits and vegetables ($402.37 million), wheat ($219.58 million) and fish ($188.84 million). Other main export items include petroleum products ($1.01 billion), leather products ($651 million), sports goods ($335.37 million), plastics ($343.80 million), engineering goods ($314.63 million), cement ($353 million), and medical equipment ($231.57 million).

A similar pattern has been observed over the years. For instance, during FY10 (July-March), out of total exports of $14.34 billion, the share of textiles was $7.49 billion, which was 52 per cent. Within the textiles group, the major exports were of knitwear ($1.50 billion), fabrics ($1.38 billion), bed wear ($1.20 billion), yarn ($917.34 million) and readymade garments ($719.5 million). The other major exports were of food items ($2.37 billion) including rice ($1.51 billion), fruits and vegetables ($270.34 million), and fish ($147.04 million). Other main export items included petroleum products ($851.7 million), leather products ($499.23 million), sports goods ($269.17 million), plastics ($247.98 million), engineering goods ($217.41 million), cement ($380.21 million), and medical equipment ($206.82 million).

In FY11 (July-March), the share of top 10 products -- knitwear, fabrics, rice, bed wear, yarn, petroleum products, ready made garments, leather products, synthetic textiles and fruits and vegetables -- in total export basket was $11.18 billion, which is 62 per cent. In FY10 (July-March), the share of top 10 products -- rice, knitwear, fabrics, bed wear, yarn, petroleum products, ready made garments, leather products, synthetic textiles and fruits and vegetables -- in total export basket was $9.12 billion, which is 64 per cent.

This means Pakistan continues to have a narrow export base and remains mainly an exporter of primary or low value added low technology products. Pakistan’s export pattern continues to be diametrically opposed to the world’s. Engineering goods make up nearly 60 percent of the global trade, while textile and garments constitute only 5.8 per cent of the global trade. In contrast, engineering goods have a very low share in Pakistan’s export basket. In FY08, export of engineering goods was $325.24 million (1.59 per cent of total exports), in FY09 $347.49 million (1.81 per cent of total exports), and in FY10 $300.77 million (1.52 per cent of total exports). In FY11 (July-March), engineering goods worth $314.64 million have been exported, which represents 1.75 per cent of total exports. Thus the share of engineering goods in total exports has remained less than 2 per cent.

The robust export increase during the current financial year is mainly due to significant rise in international commodity prices and partly due to increase in aggregate demand in the major export markets as economic activity picked up after two years of global recession. Based on data for July-February FY11, export quantity of some textiles products went down though their export value went up due to higher per unit price. For instance, export quantity of raw cotton, yarn and bed wear declined by 45, 20 and 3 per cent respectively while their export value appreciated by 13, 45 and 17 per cent respectively and per unit price increased by 106, 81 and 20 per cent respectively over the corresponding period of the preceding fiscal year.

Simultaneously, the rise in world commodity prices has also gone to our disadvantage as imports have gone up from $ 22.54 billion to $25.95 billion by 15 per cent during the above referred period. As the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) notes (2nd Quarterly Report FY11), import growth is likely to outpace export growth in the remaining months of the current financial year mainly due to continuous rise in world petroleum and palm oil prices and partly due to domestic shortage of some key commodities such as sugar and cotton.

A country’s export performance reflects its state of industrial development. Pakistan has a narrow export base and is an exporter of primary and low technology products, because this is what the domestic industry offers. Hence, industrial development is arguably the most important factor for sustained increase in exports. A capital scare and technology deficient country like Pakistan needs foreign investment in the manufacturing sector to expand and upgrade its industrial base. Unfortunately, though during the last few years, Pakistan has received a lot of investment in the services sector, such as financial services and telecommunications, there have been meager FDI inflows into the manufacturing sector, particularly the textiles sector.

The industrial and export constraints of Pakistan are well brought out by its persistently low ranking on global competitiveness index--91 in 2005, 94 in 2006, 92 in 2007-08, 101 in 2009-10 and 123 for 2010-11.

In follows that in order to achieve sustained increase in exports and thus reduce trade deficit, Pakistan needs to widen its industrial base and shore up its export competitiveness. In case we continue to rely on export of commodities and manufactures thereof, we will remain vulnerable to price fluctuations in the world commodity market.

The missing link

The government must unveil its pro-growth ‘national tax policy’, if it has prepared any

By Huzaima Bukhari and Dr. Ikramul Haq

Over the period, our tax system has become unjust and target-oriented. There is a need to discuss the philosophical framework and principles that should be the main concern of our tax policy. Our revenue potential for 2011-12 is not less than Rs4 trillion provided the tax base is broadened, equitable and rational policies are devised with the backing of stakeholders, tax machinery is completely overhauled, and all exemptions and concessions available to the privileged sections of society are withdrawn.

Now that the Finance Minister, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, has spoken his mind about fundamental changes in the tax structure and only few weeks are left before the national budget for fiscal year 2011-12 is announced, the government must unveil its pro-growth ‘National Tax Policy’, if it has prepared any. Presently, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is performing the role of legislator and policymaker, which is not only highly lamentable, but a transgression on the powers of a sovereign parliament. It is the duty of the elected parliament to make laws and policies while FBR should only be implementing them both in letter and spirit.

During the last many years, before the annual federal budget, a plethora of proposals are solicited by FBR from trade and professional bodies, tax bars and industry’s representatives. This practice, serving only the vested interest, should be stopped. The Parliament should immediately amend Federal Board of Revenue Act to establish a new Board of Directors having 50 percent representation from the public. The task of preparing tax proposals should be the exclusive domain of Select Parliamentary Committee on Finance and Revenue. It should receive proposals -- both from the FBR and the public at large -- for making recommendations to the House. The House and not FBR should prepare the Finance Bill.

It is an unfortunate fact that during the last decade, FBR introduced an avalanche of mindless changes in the tax codes having no meaningful impact on much-needed industrial expansion and economic growth of the country. The existing process of initiation of budget proposals and making of revenue policies by FBR is against democratic norms. In a true democratic set-up, tax proposals are prepared through parliamentary processes, and implemented after thorough public debate, whereas in Pakistan it has always been a bureaucratic prerogative, authority vests in the official kingdom sitting in Ministry of Finance and FBR. This is the root cause of failure of our fiscal and revenue policies. One hopes Hafeez Shaikh would change this scenario and rely more on “people who know” than the “all-knowing tax baboos of FBR”. National Tax Policy should be prepared after taking input of all the stakeholders, opinion of a committee of experts in the field and FBR’s point of view. It must be growth and welfare-oriented and not just target specific.

Since all governments in power gave tax bureaucrats an absolute hand, FBR has been resorting to regressive and unfair tax regulations to show “wonderful performance”. In reality, these measures and policies have caused a dampening effect on the industrial and business growth. Had the successive governments concentrated on economic growth and industrial expansion, there would have been consequential substantial rise in taxes today.

Over-taxing economy, as has been done in Pakistan, destroys the economic growth and expansion leading to unemployment and social unrest. It is well-recognised that private sector regards the problem of dealing with government revenue agencies, in particular the FBR, a major constraint to its business operations and growth prospects.

Successive governments’ onerous tax and regulatory policies have pushed millions of people below the poverty line. We will have to move quickly and decisively to reverse this trend by restoring Pakistan’s undeniable geo-strategic and business competitive position in the region. This article suggests some key areas where paradigm shifts are needed in structural and operation level to ensure not only more tax revenue for the State but also social equity, redistribution of wealth and fairness so that honest taxpayers are not disillusioned.

Countering tax evasion

It is a curious paradox of our situation that while money for worthwhile industrial and business growth and public benefits is scarce, there is colossal unaccounted cash supply circulating in the economy in search of further undercover gains. What is more tragic is that this social evil inherent in the tax system is doubly compounded as it necessitates greater and greater tax burdens on those who are law-abiding. The most crucial problem faced by us in fiscal reform programme is that of devising astute and stringent measures to curb tax evasion so that we can distribute the burden of taxes fairly between different persons in the same or similar occupations.

In the form of section 111(4) of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, unprecedented tax amnesty scheme favouring tax evaders, smugglers, corrupt, extortionists, drug barons and criminals is available. Such schemes mock the honest taxpayers (proving them as most foolish for paying their taxes).

An extortionist in Karachi can decriminalise his ill-gotten money through this scheme but the victim (a businessperson) who paid it due to shameless failure or connivance of law enforcement apparatus cannot even claim it as an expense in his tax return. The situation needs to be corrected. The facilitation of whitening untaxed/undeclared money should be removed or restricted only for genuine industrial investment to bring such capital back into disclosed/formal sector and not for the benefit of criminals, corrupt and unscrupulous elements in the society.

Equity principle

Our tax-to-GDP ratio is one of the lowest (only 9pc) in the world, yet the government is least bothered to tax undocumented economy and check benami (name-lender) transactions. Pakistan’s indirect tax system is aggressive and biased against the poor putting greater burden on the lower income households than the affluent ones.

The determination of a tax base capable of measuring an individual’s ability-to-pay is a major problem of our tax system. This rule is incorporated in the form of progressive rate schedule for personal income tax, estate duty, and property tax worldwide. In Pakistan, we have moved from this policy to unequal sacrifice rule where the mighty civil and military bureaucrats (who are now part of the landed aristocracy by getting State lands as awards and rewards), rich industrialists and businessmen are paying meagre personal taxes while the poor people are compelled to pay 17pc sales tax and ever-rising costs of public utilities and POL products. This is directly in violation of guarantees provided in the Constitution (Article 3). The government must immediately remove these dichotomies. Taxes should be for the welfare of the public at large and to make the State invincible, but certainly not for the luxuries of the rulers and State functionaries.

Benefit principle

According to this principle, an equitable tax system is one under which tax payments are based on the amount of benefits received from government services. In other words, the cost of government services should be apportioned among individuals according to the relative benefits they enjoy. Clearly, implementation of the benefit principle presupposes determination of the incidence of public expenditure before deciding distribution of tax burden. Thus, it encompasses issues of both tax and expenditure policies.

Our governments have failed to convince the people that payment of taxes is their collective responsibility. All the civil and military governments were engaged in wasteful expenditure, not to talk of providing them basic needs of health, education and civic amenities.

Tax policy should be used as a tool 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 could also include subsidized/free medical and educational facilities, low-cost housing, and drinking water facilities in rural areas, land improvement schemes, and employment guarantee programmes. Once people see the tangible benefits of the taxes paid, there would be better response to tax compliance. It is hoped that in the coming budget, the government would announce a rational tax policy.

Holes in Bhutto’s trial

ZAB openly said ‘they’ would not spare him

By S. M. Masud

A presidential reference is now before the Supreme Court of Pakistan to revisit the case of death of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Under Article 186, the president, if at any time, considers it desirable to clarify any question of law which he thinks is of public importance, can refer the question to the Supreme Court.

Before we go any further, certain prerogatives of the Supreme Court are to be kept in mind. First, it is not bound by its own decision. It has in a decision, titled PLD 1962 S.C. 335 in case of Lt. Col. Nawabzada Muhammad Amir Khan Vs. The Controller of Estate Duty, etc. held that this court is competent, no doubt, to reconsider a question of law and indulgence by way of review which may be granted to prevent irremedial injustice being done by a court of last resort. If there is a material irregularity, it has powers to do “complete justice” and is not bound by any technicalities.

The Guardian, in a report from Rawalpindi in its issue of May 22, 1978, published that after the first two days of ZAB’s appeal, it appeared to most disinterested foreign observers that a number of holes had already appeared in the government’s case against him.

Daily Mail reported on April 28, 1978, that the selection of a panel of five judges for the trial court was not a normal move. The two judges Justice Samdani and Justice Mazhar ul Haq, who had earlier heard the case, were not included. An appeal regarding the non-trust on the bench before the Supreme Court was disallowed and it was ordered that the objection be raised before the same bench of the High Court.

Syed Afzal Haider in his book Bhutto Trial has clearly alleged that record was collected by interested authorities much before the military coup`detat of July 4, 1977, and was placed before senior advocates like Barrister M. Anwar and A.K. Brohi who were provided separate rooms in the GHQ for preparation of prosecution case and interview with officials of FSF (Ref. page 400 of Bhutto Trial).

After July 5, 1977, ZAB Bhutto was arrested. On September 13, 1977, Mr. Justice K.M. Samdani of Lahore High Court granted interim bail to him in the murder trial. I was informed by late Ch. Liaqat Warraich, advocate in the High Court, that ZAB is going to be detained again and Chief Justice Mushtaq Hussain was on hotline with General Zia. ZAB was sitting with Sheikh Rashid and some important leaders, including ex-Chief Minister Punjab Sadiq Qureshi in the retiring room of the Registrar for submitting the bail papers when I informed him about his possible detention. He shouted, “Look! What is Masud saying?” Sadiq Qureshi went out to confirm if the report was correct. He came back saying the rumour was ill-founded.

ZAB openly said they would not spare him. The same day he wrote a letter to Begum Nusrat Bhutto which is referred to by many writers in their books. It opens with my name that S.M. Masud today informed him that he was going to be detained. Through this letter, he authorised Begum Nusrat Bhutto that the Pakistan’s People’s Party, in the event of his detention by any preventive law or martial law which may be issued by General Zia, should take delegated steps. He also expressed his fears that Zia wanted to perpetuate himself by using the name of Islam and also by effectively creating a divide in the party. Begum Bhutto used her delegated authority under this letter to expel Maulana Kausar Niazi from the party.

ZAB’s defence was completely ignored. Rao Rashid suffered all consequences for giving affidavit in favour of ZAB and suffered detention during trial on refusal.

Cross examination was limited, contradictions in evidence were ignored, “hearsay evidence” and false evidence was brought on record. Justice Shafiur Rehman’s enquiry report was destroyed; its copy from the office of former Advocate General, Punjab, Mr. A.S. Najam, was stolen.

A fresh larger bench of the Supreme Court has been constituted. The apex court is now again been placed with the authority to reverse the verdict. The Bhutto’s trial was significant because for the first time the decision was discussed and criticised publicly in Pakistan. The Bhutto trial was seen as a travesty of justice and the manner it was conduced threw doubts into the independence and autonomous character of the judiciary, wrote Mushahid Hussain in The Frontier Post.

Victoria Schofield on page 260 of her book, Bhutto, Murder and Execution, writes: “Perhaps one day there will be a re-trial to set the record straight.”

I wish the Supreme Court could investigate the manner in which the independent opinion of all the judges is written at the conclusion of the judgment.

Swat’s fruits of labour

The Malakand division promises a good yield of fruits and vegetables if a little attention is paid to the area

By Tahir Ali Khan

Swat produces vegetables and fruits of good quality but farmers in the area have not benefited from good quality of the produce for lack of finances, expertise, and marketing techniques. According to the available data, the area accounts for 34 percent of plums, 95 percent of walnuts, and 82 percent of provincial apple yield. It also accounts for 64 and over 50 percent of the provincial production of vegetables and fruit respectively.

Agriculture and horticulture in the area suffer from problems such as low per-acre yield, outdated farming techniques, non-availability and costliness of inputs, etc, to name a few. Years of militancy and last year’s floods have almost destroyed entirely destroyed crop pattern and produce. To improve the situation, it requires short, medium, and long-term strategies.

Among other things, farmers must be provided expert advice and financial support to develop the quality of indigenous fruit and vegetable variety. They also need to be helped in finding out new markets for their products by developing liaison between them and local and/multinational companies.

Improved quality, standard packaging, value addition and good marketing are prerequisites for increasing the incomes of farmers and attracting more and more people to farming which is threatened by the expanding real estate business.

The problem of law and order bars multinational and national companies to invest in new research and development initiatives, resulting in huge gaps and losses in the sector. All these issues need to be addressed. Farmers are usually too ignorant and poor to adopt new technologies but once their utility is established, they run after it the next year themselves.

Apples from Swat are being exported these days. This was made possible by a project which motivated apple-growers and marketers to shift to attractive paper-packaging instead of wooden ones. When farmers are introduced to a technology, they usually adopt these to their advantage.

The provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement authority (PaRRSA), the body responsible for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Malakand division, is undertaking various initiatives to improve horticulture production and marketing linkages between farmers and local and foreign buyers. These are likely to benefit them if pursued diligently in future.

When asked how PaRRSA is addressing the issues, Shakil Qadir Khan, director general of Provincial Disaster Management Authority and PaRRSA, tells The News on Sunday (TNS) they want to improve expertise and marketing and hoped that the problem of shortage of finances would be solved by tackling these issues, “We have talked to a Pakistan-based multinational company which is importing potatoes from the US for its potato by-products. We asked them to try the Kalam potatoes and they, after testing them, have okayed it,” he says, adding, “Last year, the company made potatoes purchase agreements of 350 tons with Swat farmers. It also provided necessary guidance and support to further improve the quality of production. Unfortunately, due to devastating floods and losses to potato crop and roads, the company could lift only 35 tons of the crop and that also through helicopters. The company will be able to save huge money spent on import of potato while the farmers would get handsome returns for their crop.”

According to the official, “Another $12m package for agriculture is to be launched soon in the area, we have asked various companies if they would like to buy Swat apples, peaches, and apricots. If they agree, they are welcome. If they say it is not according to their standard, then we would request them to come and help the local farmers as to how the gap between the quality of fruit needed and produced locally can be bridged.”

Norway has also expressed its desire to purchase local food products but, for that, the local fruit will need ISO certification. Citing another project, Khan says Swat produced approximately 60 tons of trout fish from its 22 farms, which was mostly consumed locally, but floods destroyed most of these farms.

PaRRSA is not only giving financial assistance to repair these farms and start the business under a USAID project of $1.2mn, it is also contacting big food-chain restaurants both in and outside the country to improve marketing.

The trout fish quickly decomposes when taken out from cool water. Luckily, there is a small injection, which when injected, prevents the fish from decomposing for two days. Now the fish can be transported to farthest areas, even abroad without fear of decomposition and loss of money. Once the efficacy and worth of these injections is proved there would be many fish farms in Swat the next year, hopes the official.

Who would give money for the injections and its related services? PaRRSA would arrange for these injections and provide the information and technical and financial support to fish farmers. Later, they would come to know where to get the technology from and how to use it.

Under the Italian funded Rs800m early recovery of agriculture and livelihood program (ERALP), different inputs and grant have been provided to farmers, according to PaRRSA officials. Thirty three percent funds of another $21m foreign-funded project are also being spent for free provision of inputs and rehabilitation of water channels.

The per acre yield (PAY) of maize in Swat has reached up to 70 maunds (3500kg) against the national average of 57 maunds (2859kg) under the ERALP. In Kabal, where maize production was not allowed by authorities for security reasons, pea and pulses seeds were provided.

Under ERALP, following the model of Akhuwwat Bank Punjab, 25 persons were trained, guided and given Rs30000 to start poultry businesses. The cycle has been completed twice and the third phase would also start soon wherein the money returned by the previous borrowers would be distributed in other 25 persons. The process is being carried out on a small scale for shortage of resources.

Besides, the approval of the USAID-funded Khushhal Kale project of $10mn will also help revive the agriculture sector. Another post flood livelihood recovery project of $1.1mn will support 15,000 households in the honey and some other sectors, according to PaRRSA officials. The institution has also prepared over 20 concept papers in other economic growth areas for Malakand.

“We have prioritised our objectives. Things are slowly but definitely moving in the right direction. We are hopeful that in the next two to three years, these measures would bear substantial gains to farmers in the impoverished region. You will see that several national and multinational companies are directly purchasing fruit and vegetable from the region to the enormous advantages of farmers. The federal and provincial governments as well as the international community are making efforts to revive agriculture and other sectors in the region. However the process will continue for a long time to come,” Khan argues. The agriculture sector has suffered losses of Rs57.4bn, mostly in the Malakand division.

Agriculture and horticulture are means of livelihood for inhabitants of the region but they have not been given enough attention and resources thus far. International donors have pledged Rs15.2bn for the province-wide work-plans of Rs34bn, but there have been no commitments for livestock, irrigation, forestry, governance, energy and mineral sectors.

The area is beset with acute internal and external problems that need to be addressed. Security budget, joblessness and poverty are on the rise. The issues of illiteracy and communication problems are also more acute than anywhere else. It requires huge funds but the international donors usually prefer in-kind support than giving budgetary support.

Ask no questions…

Why some institutions are more sacred than others in this country?

By Abid Qaiyum Suleri

I have no sympathies with Osama bin Laden and feel that he had written his own death warrants through his ‘deeds’. Perhaps the operation leading to his killing might have been carried out differently. However, this is not what I am going to discuss today. I want to share my sheer frustration and disappointment. I am not disappointed of the way the US government treated us, but on how we are getting treated by our own civil and military leadership.

It would not hurt much if the world does not trust us. However, it is extremely painful feeling that our own government, our own army and our leaders do not trust us. Despite this, we the ordinary citizens of Pakistan kept on supporting them out of loyalty, optimism, and hope.

Despite the suicide attacks in our streets, mosques, churches, and graveyards; we kept on saying that it is only the matter of getting caught in wrong place and at a wrong time, otherwise Pakistan is a safe place to live in.

Despite record inflation, worst energy crisis, natural and man made disasters, and increasing economic challenges we agreed to a reduction in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) budgets as we were told such reductions were necessary to beef up country’s defense budget which was a must to ensure our security, safety, and sovereignty.

Despite various broken promises of our civil and army leadership we always gave them the benefit of doubt. We thought they really meant it when they talked of watching national interests; working for economic sustainability through macroeconomic reforms, and not accepting foreign assistance at the cost of national sovereignty.

We really believed that unlike our previous rulers this time the government was seriously interested in curbing religious militancy and getting rid of decade-old “strategic asset”. We were made to believe that after getting rid of militancy menace government would focus on human development and conflict transformation. This was one of the rare occasions when broader society and all political forces were supporting a strict action against religious fanaticism.

But what did we get in return for our unconditional support to efforts towards eradicating militancy? Plain lies. Hang on; even to lie they had to say something. They opted to keep quiet. The head of government and the head of state behaved as if nothing had happened. When President Zardari left for France during 2010, one quarter of Pakistanis were facing storms and floods. However, when Prime Minister Gilani left for France, after Osama’s killing, the whole of Pakistan was facing a diplomatic storm. The bad timing of their visits reveals their “who-cares” attitude.

We trusted them when they made us to believe that the war on terrorism was not imposed on us rather Pakistan was fighting its own war. The death of Osama should have been an important milestone in this war which was very much “our own”. What a pity that our civil or military leadership did not bother to take the nation into confidence and formally inform about the events that led to the killing of Osama.

It is the same silence, due to the fear of extremists’ backlash, which led to the killing of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. This silence proved useless in the past and it would prove useless in future too. The government will have to put its foot down, say enough is enough and show its full resolve against religious militancy. The government may not do so and the reason is that we 180 million ordinary citizens of Pakistan are silent. More than the silence of government, it is the silence of the people which has disappointed me a lot.

Let us believe in the official statement released by the ISPR four days after the killing of Osama. The statement said that Pakistan was not aware of Osama’s presence in Abbottabad; it was unaware of American action against Osama and could not detect and stop the activities of foreign choppers in its garrison city.

Having believed in this statement, let us break our silence and humbly ask if all of the above-mentioned is true then why some institutes are more sacred than others in this country? Why should we reduce our public sector development programme budget to beef up our defense budget? And, finally, if we have proved to be inefficient and unreliable to the US in war on terrorism then on which grounds will we be able to stop activities of Black Water and CIA operatives in Pakistan? Will they not come to capture more high level targets in other garrison towns of Pakistan?


The Americans knew when they made Pakistan into their most precious ally in the ‘war on terror’ that GHQ would not abandon its strategic assets overnight

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

What else could one write about this week than Osama bin Laden (OBL)? As the ‘civilised’ world rejoices, those who consider themselves ‘patriotic’ Pakistanis hang their heads in shame at the fact that the world’s most wanted man was ‘hiding’ only a couple of kilometers from the celebrated Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) at Kakul. I am not sure what all the fuss is about -- indeed, I am not hanging my head in shame. For me this is just the most recent episode of the long, drawn-out televised, globalised serial that is the so-called ‘war on terror’.

In fact, the story starts long before the ‘war on terror’ was even conceptualised. Once upon a time this was the Great Game, eventually morphed into the ‘war against communism’, and only a decade ago took on the name with which we are now all too familiar. It is a story of a garrison state in which militarism is structurally embedded, which was once the ‘sword-arm’ of the British Raj and over the past 63 years has been depicted as a ‘frontline state’ even while it has depicted itself as the proverbial ‘defender of the Ummah’.

The men in khaki have been the primary actors in this story since the late nineteenth century. For the most part, they have been on an elevated plane: endowed with unmatched power by the state and its laws, enjoying unparalleled access to material resources, and considered the cream of society by its subalterns. That the long-maintained charade of this clique’s commitment to the public interest (read: the self defined ‘greater national interest’) is now coming apart at the seams is simply a reflection of the irreconcilable contradictions that have developed between dominant and subordinate social/political groups, the civilian and military elite, and imperial patrons and the militarised state.

It is on this last relationship that I want to dwell. I have been dismayed -- although not surprised -- at the response of certain progressives to OBL’s capture and killing. In short, all of the focus appears to be on the obvious duplicity/incompetence of the men in khaki, whereas as I have already pointed out the story with which we are dealing demands a much more holistic and longer-term analysis.

In particular, I find it deeply disturbing how the shenanigans of our own military establishment are not being linked to the shenanigans of the American military establishment, which, lest one forget, is a big actor in the story as it has played out in the era after the departure of the British from the region. Presumably, this is because the Americans are currently the ‘good guys’ on account of their crusading against the ‘terrorists’, and because Washington has made a concerted effort over the past 12-18 months to distance itself from Pakistan’s security apparatus and the latter’s shady dealings with militant groups.

But this would mean that we take everything that the Americans say at face value, that we have no reason to be skeptical about the spin doctors in the corporate media, and that we have, in fact, internalised the grand narrative that underpins the ‘war on terror’, namely that the world is divided between those committed to the universal values of civilisation and barbarism.

Almost a century ago, the German revolutionary Rosa Luxembourg argued that the world was faced with a choice between two possible futures: socialism or barbarism. Celebrated anti-colonial thinkers such as Aime Cesaire described ‘capitalist civilisation’ as the antithesis of humanity. Have progressives turned the understanding of capitalist modernity of figures such as Luxembourg and Cesaire on its head?

Even if bigger ideological and political questions are put to one side, surely it is time to recognise that Washington’s crying foul about the Pakistani military’s double-games rings hollow in the face of the continuing supply line of dollars that keeps flowing to the latter. Some argue that the Americans are caught between a rock and a hard place and have no option but to go through the Pakistani military, but this is stating the obvious: the American strategy of engagement with the Pakistani state and in the wider region has been motivated by cynical geo-political concerns (in which military force is the primary modus operandi) for more than five decades. It is difficult to take seriously purist claims of a declining empire that maintains 150 military bases around the world and resorts to military action to serve its objectives whenever convenient.

Besides, it boggles the mind that the competence of the world’s biggest and most sophisticated security apparatus is not being called into question alongwith that of Pakistan’s own establishment. It is absolutely ridiculous to argue that the Americans have only just become privy to the ‘double-speak’ of our men in khaki. Let us not forget that the Clinton administration had designated Pakistan a rogue state as long ago as 1998. The events of September 11, 2001 and General Pervez Musharraf’s acquiescence to the new American strategy in the region may have signaled an about-turn in lingo vis-a-vis militancy, but surely everyone and sundry knew that an intelligence community that was hand-in-glove with militant networks for thirty years was not about to disengage with, let alone hunt down, its protégés, just because ‘freedom fighters’ were now designated ‘terrorists’.

In short, the Americans have known exactly what Pakistan’s security apparatus has been doing for the past ten years, just as it has known what General Headquarters (GHQ) has been doing since the early 1950s. Let us not forget that both ‘allies’ have been closely involved with each other for five decades for very different, and often conflicting, reasons. Under the Mutual Assistance Program (MAP) signed in 1954, Washington actually marked weapons given to Pakistan so as to make sure that they were not used against India.

To be sure, the Americans knew when they made Pakistan into their most precious ally in the ‘war on terror’ that GHQ would not abandon its strategic assets overnight. Mainstream analysts like Ahmed Rashid have documented that George W. Bush’s administration was in the know when Pakistan facilitated the retreat of thousands of trained Taliban fighters into Pakistan following the American invasion of Afghanistan. Even now the Obama administration remains true to the Bush doctrine inasmuch as a distinction is made between the ‘indigenous’ Taliban and the ‘foreign’ al-Qaeda.

It matters little who in the Pakistani establishment knew that OBL was lounging in a non-descript Abbotabad neighbourhood. What I am concerned with is the manner in which the history of the American establishment’s patronage of its Pakistani counterpart is being swept under the carpet. Even today, US military aid far exceeds civilian assistance and it is the latter that is always on the chopping block when tempers in Washington fray. Yes, the responsibility of challenging the Pakistani security apparatus is ours but if we think that we can ride the Americans’ coat-tails to political and social transformation we will neither stop the supply-line of OBL wannabe’s nor undo the militarisation of the state.

OBL saga and crisis of governance

Pakistanis want to know real facts and require answers to what our involvement in this operation was

By Raza Rumi

As details of Operation Geronimo unfold, more and more questions are being raised regarding Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. Sadly, millions of Pakistanis are even more confused than the global pundits. Other than the lunatic fringe thriving in the folds of mainstream media, ordinary Pakistanis are dumbfounded at the prospect of the world’s most wanted man living next to the deep state’s power-house, i.e., the Pakistan military academy. If bin Laden was indeed residing in a purpose-built house with extra thick walls and security cameras then how come Pakistan’s most ‘efficient’ institution was unaware of this lethal presence? Furthermore, if they were not involved in the operation then how could a mammoth defence establishment allow such a clandestine operation by a foreign country which violated air space and international laws?

Governance crisis: Some of these questions will be answered in due course and some will perhaps turn into eternal conundrums. Perhaps, the most pressing issue then remains, who governs Pakistan and in what manner? Seemingly a constitutional republic, Pakistan’s representative and relatively accountable institutions surely do not steer the ‘national security’ policies. The latter have their own limitations and imperatives of rent-seeking but they are marginal to core policies. Here is the fundamental disconnect and reasons for the flourishing non-transparent culture.

Crisis exposed: The aftermath of OBL’s demise has displayed the fragmentation of governance even more. From the long hours of silence on part of the elected head of the state and the government to poorly-drafted press releases by the Foreign Office indicate chaos within the way state machinery operated. In this wider culture of incompetence and non-transparency, it may even be the case that parts of the security establishment remained unaware of bin Laden’s location. A typical, overgrown and unaccountable bureaucracy rarely allows for the left hand to know what the right one is up to. Small wonder that the Prime Minister, President, ISI and Foreign Office have said different things, indicating the real malaise of fragmentation of state power. Forget everything else, this lack of a coordinated response by itself exemplifies the crisis of governance in Pakistan.

Institutional limbo: Worse, that section of unregulated media by either denying the whole operation or extolling late OBL is only radicalising the public opinion. Whose interest does this serve? Recent polls have shown that less than 18 percent of Pakistanis supported OBL. It is time for the media to show responsibility and for the dead-duck Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority to issue guidelines on sensational conspiracy theories, and opinions that glorify terrorism need to be arrested for the long term interests of Pakistan. It seems that all institutions were in a state of limbo when such a crisis hit Pakistan.

National security questioned: This is why the role of military efficiency and its complicity or incompetence has for the first time come under public scrutiny. The last time this happened was in 1971 when the media was controlled, its outreach was limited and Pakistanis were traumatised by the break-up of the country. While global analysts and fortune-seeking hacks continue to describe every bit of the OBL saga, what is happening within Pakistan is of immense significance. The last time this happened was during the lawyers’ movement when the obvious flaws of unrepresentative rule became a popular subject. Musharraf’s last days were significant as the popular military base in Punjab for the first time criticised military rule and joined the political mobilisation against Musharraf.

After the elections of 2008, the military leadership by remaining neutral salvaged its image to a considerable degree. The turning point in reviving the martial nationalism narrative came about when in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks in 2008, the nation rallied behind the army in response to the threats relayed by the Indian media. While the politicians stuck together from 2007-2008, their in-fighting on the judges’ issue and other issues of turf and power-sharing allowed the military to resume its central role as the mediator. Thus, the long march by Nawaz Sharif was called off through the intervention of Army Chief. A gradual shift of foreign and national security policies in favour of direct army intervention also took place thereafter. Two incidents confirmed this: first, when the army issued a direct critique of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid legislation (bypassing the civilian ministry in charge) and second when secretaries of various ministries briefed the GHQ in 2010.

The political elites meanwhile ventured to strengthen the constitutional and legal basis for effective governance via agreements on the National Finance Commission Award (in 2009) and later the passage of 18th Amendment, which corrected the anomalies inserted into the Constitution by General Zia and Musharraf. However, the gradual erosion of state legitimacy and its weakening grip, especially at the local levels, has made the task of governing intractable. With insurgencies all across the country -- political in Balochistan and ideological in the Punjab and northwest -- the federal and provincial governments have appeared to the public as inept and unfit to manage basic issues of law and order and maintain reliable delivery of services (energy supplies are the most glaring example).

Game-changer? Until the night of May 1, the rules of the game were clear. It was the army in the driving seat, attending to the strategic dialogues, calling the shots on India and Afghan policies and of course, indirectly influencing the economic policies and perhaps the allocations as well. A surgical operation against OBL has altered this pattern, for the military has gone on the defensive trying to explain to the world that its intelligence systems had failed and to the domestic public opinion that it had no idea about the operation. Either way, it remains at the receiving end. Pakistanis want to know the real facts and require answers to what our involvement in this operation was.

Citizens’ right to know: The 18th Amendment has made the right to information as a fundamental right of Pakistanis. It is half a light year away from being enforced and implemented. Yet, the OBL saga provides an opportunity for citizens to ask state institutions as to what they were doing for all these years, when unmanned drones were attacking homes and installations in FATA left, right and centre? The elected Parliament can no longer make excuses for its lack of pro-active vigilance. A multi-party parliamentary committee should now investigate the conduct of Pakistan’s security agencies in either abetting protection of OBL or at best not knowing what he was doing for years next to a military institution.

A little door may have opened for the weak, fragile ‘elected’ side of the state to show initiative. The chances of them doing this successfully are extremely slim. However, this is the time for the civil society and progressive forces within media to lobby and pressurize them into taking action. Otherwise, the failing state thesis is bound to become a reality. Al Qaeda has openly declared war on Pakistan and now its domestic partner – Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan – has also vowed revenge. This should ring alarm bells for all those who have been milking the cash cow – Pakistan – for decades. Time for putting an end to the senseless renting of the state may have come.

There is no alternative to civilian and military accountability in Pakistan. The longer this is denied and elected officials absolve themselves of this fundamental responsibility, the greater the risk of heading towards a completely ungovernable and fragmented state.

The writer is a policy adviser based in Lahore. He blogs at www.razarumi and published webzines and Email:

Questions on the Operation Official Response Public Perceptions

Did Pakistan know about Intelligence failure How could a mammoth

OBL’s presence in Abbottabad? resulted in this oversight state machinery not know

How long was OBL A few months only 5-6 years; his wife

staying in Abbottabad? – not exactly known consulted local doctors

Was Pakistan consulted No CIA denies prior knowledge

before Operation Geronimo?

US choppers were allowed to Stealth helos and blind Covert nature of the operation;

violate Pakistani airspace? spots duration?

Was one of the US choppers Mechanical failure led Due to resistance from the

shot down? to the crash OBL compound

Who gave permission for the Private individuals Government would have definitely

construction of the compound? completed in 2005 known

Who cut power in the local area No Announcements made: people

and asked people to stay indoors to stay indoors

Why have the photos of Too gruesome for viewing; Something fishy about the

Op-Geronimo not been released? fear backlash whole operation

Why did Obama acknowledge The intelligence used was America’s earlywithdrawal from

Pakistani cooperation? received from Pakistan Afghanistan

Why did it take so long to Since we didn’t know, we Incompetence; civil-military divides

inform the Pakistani people? had to find the facts

Different views of Zardari, FO None The civilian government was in dark

and ISI officials?

Why did the White House change None Eyewitness accounts ought to reconcile

initial account after 2 days?

Intelligence failure or Army Chief has called for an Both Gillani and Kayani should resign

incompetence, who to blame? investigation

How can a foreign citizen reside None Pakistan is a sanctuary of terrorists

in Pakistan without a valid visa? No rule of law

May 2, 2011

Once a city of lights

Only the political parties in Karachi can bring peace to the city if they have the resolve

By Salman Abid

One major question that arises after reviewing violence in Karachi pertains to the reaction of leaders and the intelligentsia. Are they looking for any political solution about the increasing violence? Violence in the entire city is increasing day by day and the whole city seems to be under the control of different mafias.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) annual report 2010 shows that only 237 political workers from different parties and 301 citizens have no affiliation with any political group and are among those who have been killed. In the gang wars in Lyari 81 people were killed in different clashes with opponent groups. In March 2011, data shows that some 154 people were targeted in one month alone.

The coalition government of Sindh, led by the PPP and MQM, ANP, PML-F, and JUI-F, is responsible to ensure the law and order situation and governance. Target killing in Karachi bared its fangs once again in 2007-8 when the ANP started politics in Karachi and MQM felt threatened from the ANP. The clashes between the two parties for maintaining power pockets in Karachi resulted in loss of precious lives.

According to the police, 109 people were shot dead in Karachi in the first quarter of 2011. Citizen’s police liaison committee (CLPC) Karachi this year witnessed the largest number of murders in fifteen years according to the CLPC. According to the police, in 335 suicide bombings 1208 people were killed in Pakistan in 2010 but at the same time around 1233 people were killed in Karachi due to target killings.

The people of Karachi want peace and an enabling environment for mobility and business. But, unfortunately, they are living under threat, violence and fear as security agencies have totally failed to protect human life. Interestingly, no one is ready to take responsibility. The inhabitants of Karachi, especially the lower middle class, are paying a heavy price due to bad governance and contradictions within the coalition.

The coalition government is responsible for the whole situation but the coalition partners do not share ownership of the critical challenges in Sindh, particularly in Karachi. The MQM, ANP, and PPP criticise their opponents groups and say these groups. The MQM blames security agencies and establishment forces and says they want to eliminate MQM and their political mandate.

No one is playing a responsible role for bringing peace in Karachi. Land-grabbing, murder, kidnapping, bhatta khori, political and ethnical victimization are threatening the once city of lights.

A few days age the business community showed a strong resistance through protest and rallies against the bhatta mafia. The sad part is that the Sindh government and its coalition partners seem to be directly responsible for the whole issue. Some violent groups are part of the local political parties but no political party has taken action against criminal elements in their ranks.

The striking question is that if the local political parties are not supporting these criminal groups how are they operating in Karachi freely. I think the political parties in Karachi are helpless before these elements. So much so that senior provincial leader of PPP, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, had to resign as interior minister due to a conflict between the interior ministry and MQM leadership.

He presented a list of criminals before the media who have political protection of MQM, which the party denied and demanded replacement of the interior minister. The MQM also pointed towards the ANP leadership and said it strengthened the local mafias for various crimes, including land grabbing.

It is strange that the MQM, which claims to be largest party in Karachi, has failed to manage law and order situation in the city. The MQM complains that administrative powers are not in their hands. If it is true, who is controlling Karachi? It is, indeed, an interesting game; the MQM wants to play double role as they are enjoying the government and ministries and also playing as opposition party.

If the MQM feels strongly that the coalition partners are a major problem for Karachi they should step out from power politics and stand with the masses and resist criminal elements. President Asif Ali Zardari, Altaf Hussain, and ANP leader Asfand Yar Wali Khan seem to have come at a common understanding to work jointly in Karachi.

This is good if parties collaborate and cooperate with each other and relate with the local people and their expectations. The Karachi violence should not be seen in isolation from the overall politics in the country. When the parties indirectly or directly engage in negative and criminal activities peace process is obviously not a possibility.

The political parties should come out from the politics of denial and accept their own mistakes. We need a consensus-based political agenda for Karachi. The parties should identify criminal elements from within their own ranks.

Every no-go area should be open to people. A few months ago the MQM presented the bill for surrendering illegal arms. It should take the initiative and surrender all illegal weapons.

Luring foreign investment

These are testing times for Pakistan that call for radical measures to be adopted to address the present problems.

By Wasif Majeed

An element of political certainty coupled with improvement, albeit marginal, in the law and order situation has provided a pedestal to the government, federal and provincial, to woo foreign investors to invest in Pakistan. Invitations by the governments to delegations from various countries and visits by some of these delegations to Pakistan lend credence to this view. To this effect, the government seems to enlighten the possible foreign investors of the available infrastructure and abundance of human resource in Pakistan, which, if utilised, will help them to make good fortune from their investments. The government in the past has also used tax holidays/breaks or other fiscal incentives as a tool to lure investment in Pakistan.

All such efforts by the government seem to converge primarily on one point -- assuring foreign investors of the decent returns they can make on their investments by utilising the available infrastructure and availing fiscal benefits. However, I have noticed that little preference is given by the government in raising the confidence of potential foreign investors about the safety of their investment in general and in the legal system to enforce rights arising out of their investment in particular. We should understand that the availability of infrastructure and fiscal incentives are important factors that a foreign investor takes into account prior to making a decision of making investment in a particular country, but these are not the only factors.

A foreign investor has various other factors in his list of considerations before making a decision of going ahead with investment in a particular country, for instance, whether the government has the power to expropriate his investment and if so, the remedies available to him in such a case or whether there is an effective legal system to enforce contractual rights in that country? To have an objective assessment of such factors, the international business community has developed various tools -- one being the Doing Business project.

The Doing Business project was initiated by the World Bank in the year 2003 with the aim to providing the international business community, in the form of a yearly report, the objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across world economies. The report considers regulations affecting various areas of the life of a business and ranks the world economies on the basis of its findings on such regulations.

The 2011 report ranks world economies on the basis of their regulations affecting areas of life of a business, which are: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and closing a business. Pakistan ranks 83rd among 183 world economies in the Ease of Doing Business Ranking Index. It is not surprising to note that in the 2011 ranking, Pakistan has slipped eight positions to secure 83rd position from the earlier 75th position it held in the 2010 ranking. This correlates with a 22 percent drop in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Pakistan during the first 10 months of the current year.

During the crunch times, government spending on the development of the infrastructure facilities and its ability to offer fiscal benefits to foreign investors may be limited, however, it may not require enormous funds to improve the world-wide perception of Pakistan as an ‘investor-friendly country’. As a starting point, the government should take initiatives for improvement in the regulations identified in the Doing Business Report.

In this respect, we can at least follow the examples of countries like Colombia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, which have formed regulatory reform committees at the national level that report directly to the president. These committees use the Doing Business indicators as an input to reform their overall business environment. Other countries including India, Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, etc, have formed such committees at the inter-ministerial level. Even a fractional improvement brought about by the recommendations of these committees would be significant, besides showing a resolve of the respective governments to improve their overall business environment.

The creation of an Economic Advisory Council, headed by Dr Hafeez Pasha, is a welcome development in Pakistan. Comprising of eminent economists of Pakistan, including the former finance minister, Mr. Shaukat Tareen, the former industries minister Jehangir Khan Tarin, former State Bank governor Salim Raza and others, the working of the Council appears to be restricted to making recommendations to the government aimed at increasing revenue collection.

Such a framework can also be created for the purpose of recommending measures aimed at improving regulations which affect the doing of business in Pakistan. I can optimistically confirm that the government will not have a problem in identifying volunteers that are ready to offer their services pro bono. As a first step, even the scope of Economic Advisory Council can be expanded until a body is formed to ponder over issues affecting businesses and to make its recommendations accordingly. We must remember that these are testing times for Pakistan that call for radical measures to be adopted to address the present problems.